No matter where you travel, one of the best ways to experience authentic local culture is to find the locals’ favorite restaurants. That’s certainly true in Hawaii; so, I encourage you to explore Oahu restaurants beyond the resorts to discover some ‘ono grinds that will broke the mouth. When you eat where the locals eat, you not only taste the local culture, you usually save money versus eating at the fancy resort restaurants. Bonus!
So, where are Hawaii’s restaurants that locals love? From all my travels to Hawaii along with some excellent help from my Oahu friends, I can recommend that you try these local faves:
Honolulu Near Waikiki
* Rainbow Drive In at the intersection of Kanaina Avenue and Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu. It’s in the Kapahulu area that’s adjacent to Waikiki Beach. Read my review of Rainbow Drive In
* Leonard’s Bakery at 933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI is near Waikiki. The specialty here is their malasada, a Portuguese doughnut. See my review of Leonard’s Bakery.
* Eggs n’Things at 343 Saratoga Road, Honolulu, Hawaii is great place for breakfast and fairly close to the heart of Waikiki’s hotel area. (Update: a new Waikiki Eggs n’Things has opened up on Kalakaua Avenue at the Aston Circle Hotel.) Here’s their Web site. (Note that it’s close to a post office where you can mail your postcards and your souvenirs.)
* Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice at 525 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI is a great place to try shave ice. See my post on Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice.
Honolulu Away from Waikiki
* Nico’s Pier 38 at 1133 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI. Read my review of Nico’s Pier 38
* Side Street Inn is tucked away at 1225 Hopaka St., Honolulu, HI. I say tucked away because, it seems like it’s down a small alley. If Side Street Inn sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s one of the local spots that Anthony Bourdain visited in Honolulu for his show No Reservations. I’ve not had a chance to write about my experience here yet, but when you go, try the fried rice and fried pork chops. Here’s more local advice on what to try at Side Street Inn. (Thanks to my friend Nathan Kam for this recommendation.)
* Zippy’s restaurants have many locations across Oahu. See my post on trying Zippy’s.
* Liliha Bakery at 515 N. Kuakini St, Honolulu, HI. I’m a huge fan of Liliha Bakery’s coco puffs. My goodness, they are so, so good! Liliha Bakery offers a dine-in, countertop-seating area or you can just pick up pastries to go. Whatever you do, don’t miss the coco puffs! See my article on Liliha Bakery.
* Highway Inn at 94-226 Leoku St., Waipahu, Hawaii (Okay, so this one isn’t technically in Honolulu, but to me it made the most sense to categorize it here.) A restaurant that’s been in business since 1947 has to be good, right? Here’s the Highway Inn website. I’ve heard that either the Food Network or Travel Channel was recently filming here.
* Cinnamon’s Restaurant at 315 Uluniu Street in the heart of Kailua has one of the best breakfasts on the entire island. See my review of Cinnamon’s Restaurant.
* Boots & Kimos at 131 Hekili St, Kailua, HI. Like pancakes? Like macadamia nuts? You’ll love the famous Boots & Kimos pancakes with macadamia nut sauce. This very small restaurant usually has a long wait, so don’t come here if you are in a hurry. Oh, and another tip, bring cash because credit cards aren’t accepted.
North Shore Oahu
* Hukilau Cafe at 55-662 Wahinepee St, Laie, Hi. Want to go way off the beaten path? The Hukilau Cafe is your place. It’s a tiny little restaurant in Laie near the North Shore of Oahu. I’ve had breakfast here and it was pretty tasty.
* North Shore Shrimp Trucks off Kamehameha Highway in Kahuku offer a unique dining experience that attract both locals and visitors. See my post on North Shore Shrimp Trucks.
* Teds Bakery at 59-024 Kamehameha Hwy, Sunset Beach, HI. I’ve never had a bad meal from Ted’s Bakery and I’ve eaten here many times. They are famous for their chocolate and coconut pies. Sadly, I must confess, I’ve not tried them yet. Here is Ted’s Bakery’s Web site
We are fortunate that two local residents, Dave and Alice, prepared a fantastic list of their favorite Oahu restaurants and categorized them in a very convenient format for us. So, please don’t miss their article on the top Oahu restaurants by local residents Dave and Alice.
This list of Oahu’s local restaurants is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but it should give you more than enough choices to plan into your vacation. Have you dined at any of these Oahu local favorites? What other Oahu restaurants would you recommend?