Best Places To Eat Oahu For Locals – . And what I’m really, really looking forward to. Experiencing the local cuisine is always such an interesting insight into the culture and history and an opportunity to try new things.
Before we went to Oahu ( here’s my guide to the island + best hikes and views ), I made a list that consisted of the Honolulu guide and this hiking trail suggestion, and included hiking/great view suggestions. The only thing I couldn’t find much information about was how “gluten-free” restaurants were “gluten-friendly,” and I was a little concerned that soy sauce is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes (poke, cured meats, salad dressings). But even when I travel, I know that 90% of the time, every menu has several naturally gluten-free options.
Best Places To Eat Oahu For Locals
We stayed at Waikiki Beach, and since it’s the main tourist spot, I wasn’t surprised to see chain restaurants (think Cheesecake Factory, Benihana, Hard Rock Cafe) in the area. Not my style whether I’m on vacation or not.
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With a little digging, I think I found several local restaurants hidden within these blocks (we walked a lot and used our Fitbits to track our steps), and many others on my list of best places to eat on Oahu were just short. to drive away from where they were staying. (I highly recommend renting a car while you’re there.)
1. Koko Head Cafe: Think sophisticated breakfast with authentic Hawaiian flavors at a hip and local restaurant whose chef worked at the French Laundry and appeared on Top Chef. I ordered the Breakfast Congee, a slow-simmered rice porridge with soft poached local egg, greens, crispy bacon, tamari glaze, toasted spices + seeds. It was
2. Goofy Cafe & Dine: Strange name, hidden place, but worth finding. With an open-air, surf vibe, they pride themselves on using local and organic food whenever possible.
Their menu is healthy without being boring. The farm fresh omelet I ordered was fantastic. Made with avocado, charcoal corn, spinach, local goat cheese, served with greens + brown rice. We also enjoyed dinner, but I preferred breakfast.
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3. Rainbow Drive-In: Not a bit fancy, but absolutely delicious. After our sunrise tour of Diamond Head, we went to the original drive-in to refuel. I wanted to order the traditional loco moco, but there was wheat flour in the sauce, so I chose the classic egg and rice plate. And he totally nailed it!
4. Leonard’s Bakery (shown at the top of this post): The famous home of the Portuguese doughnut, a soft and puffy Malasada. My friends in my group loved these and couldn’t stop talking about the fried dough, just slightly sweet and custard-like.
This beautiful, slow-paced area is all about food trucks and roadside stands. Be sure to spend a day exploring! Haleiwa is the main town with a single road through the beach, surf, mountains and ocean.
1. Matsumoto Shaved Ice: Nostalgia! Since 1953, Matsumoto’s has been making its famous shaved ice in a million different flavors. And frankly, no snow cone in the mainland US compares.
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2. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Garlic. Scampi. Shrimp and rice…. so simple, so good. And the constant line of people is there to prove it. The shrimp are incredibly juicy and flavorful.
You’d be wise to get an early lunch opening at 11am, otherwise you’ll probably have to wait around 40 minutes, but it’s worth every minute.
3. Sunrise Shack: If you’re thinking bulletproof coffee and all the superfood trends like collagen, maca, ashwaganda, etc., yes—but only here. Pull it up to the rack and you’ll see some Vitamix, fresh fruit and coffee accessories ready to whip up something deliciously healthy.
We chose these papaya bowls with local honey + granola, banana, nut butter, cocoa, goji berries and blueberries. Ultra refreshing.
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1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food: Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a restaurant by its cover either. Off the beaten path in a Honolulu neighborhood is Helena’s, serving up authentic Hawaiian dishes since 1946. And in 2000, he won the James Beard Award. I ordered the Kalua Pig with Cabbage and Luau Chicken (like a slow-simmered green coconut curry). Wonderful. Don’t miss this place. Cash only, probably a wait.
2. Bills Hawaii: With an Australian feel, this restaurant was very modern, fresh and unique. And I finally found the gluten-free piss! It was served with brown rice, charred long beans and avocado.. the food of my dreams. Order a cocktail too, they are inventive and balanced.
3. Mud Hen Water: Hawaiian-born chef Ed Kenney’s modern interpretation of traditional Hawaiian food, and it’s fabulous. Biscuits + mapo sauce is a tasty brunch they offer, and the version of the plate called ‘Seaboard’ includes a selection of locally caught fish. And don’t miss the Miso Butterscotch Rice Pudding!
4. Moku Kitchen: A great locally sourced restaurant specializing in rotisserie-style open fire cooking. Including the most amazing “roasted vegetable” plate ever. It had cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, corn, peppers, butternut squash…. just perfect. The burger was also excellent, with grass-fed Hawaiian beef. And most importantly, crispy fries.
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5. Dean & Deluca: Definitely not a local restaurant as I’m sure many of you here on the mainland know them, but their prepared foods, cheeses and treats are amazing. Just a short walk from Waikiki beach, we had dinner and a picnic while watching the sunset. It was absolutely perfect.
And…….. with this you can probably see that you will not go hungry in Oahu. I know I didn’t write everything down, but we were able to accomplish this in 7 days. Look for local food, your taste buds will thank you!
I’m Amanda, founder and creator of Heartbeet Kitchen. I’m a home cook, like you, who especially enjoys baking sourdough bread and modern gluten-free dishes.MKU: You can’t go past Helena’s Hawaiian Food, a typical mom-and-pop restaurant for home cooking. They are known for their amazing pipikaula [dried beef] short ribs and laulau [pork wrapped in leaves].
CTF: One of the hottest restaurants in town is The Pig & The Lady in Chinatown. The menu is largely inspired by the family’s Vietnamese home cooking, and everyone eats there: locals, visitors, downtown workers. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad meal there.
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MKU: La Mer is a Honolulu institution. Overlooking Waikiki Beach, it combines a sophisticated atmosphere with impeccable service. I love that they use as many Hawaiian products as possible to bring the flavors of the South of France to life.
CTF: Senia, where chef-owners Anthony Rush and Chris Kajioka are committed to using high-quality ingredients and consistently turn food into works of art through thoughtful presentation – they can even make cabbage look good.
MKU: Harry’s Hardware Emporium (1936 South King Street, Honolulu; +1 808 379 3887) is a fantastic speakeasy-style bar. I leave my drink order in the trusty hands of owner Dave Newman.
CTF: I’m a mom, so I’m more of an early morning patroller, but if I’m ever late, Liliha bakery is my favorite. The counter is open 24 hours a day from Wednesday to Saturday and offers local dishes such as old-fashioned charcoal-grilled burgers and kimchi fried rice.
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MKU: Sunday brunch on the beach at Orchids is a must. It’s upscale yet casual and the chefs work hard to serve up a buffet full of the best quality Hawaiian, Asian and American breakfast foods.
CTF: Mina’s Fish House is an open-air restaurant overlooking a beautiful palm-fringed lagoon. This is one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset. Half the menu is seafood – in fact, seafood is so important to Mina’s that it was the first restaurant in the world to employ a fish sommelier. My choice is the chef’s signature, ahi tartare.
CTF: On my days off, I go to Kailua to get brunch at Over Easy. It’s known for one-of-a-kind classics: think French toast dipped in pudding and then coated in Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. My favorite is the Potato N’ Eggs, which is French bread filled with sweet tomato jam, spread with mashed potatoes, then topped with bacon crumbles and a local egg.
MKU: Sushi Izakaya Gaku (1329 South King Street, Honolulu; +1 808 589 1329) is known to chefs and locals, but seems undiscovered by visitors. Don’t miss the traditional izakaya dishes.
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CTF: Are there any secrets left in Honolulu? Even my beloved Ethel’s Grill (232 Kalihi Street, Honolulu; +1 808 847 6467), a hole-in-the-wall in Kalihi, is now on the map. The family-run restaurant has been serving comfort food, such as sweet and sour ribs, for decades. My favorites include the tataki sashimi plate and the Okinawan style taco rice.
MKU: You’ll find the best halibut in town at Ahi Assassins Fish Co. (2570 South Beretania Street, Honolulu; +1 808 439 4045). All fish is Hawaiian and as fresh as can be. And nothing goes to waste – try fried fish bones for something different.
CTF: There is a lot of discussion about this in Honolulu. Alicia’s Market was the place to be, long before the food exploded
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