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Majestic mountains, azure waters, white-sand beaches, and beautiful Hawaiian resorts are just the beginning of what you’re in for on a trip to Oahu. But don’t forget one of the most important components of a good vacation – delicious food!
Call me biased, but I’d say that Hawaii has some of the best food in the entire country. Between the ridiculously fresh seafood, the locally-grown fruits and vegetables, and the unique flavors of a real Hawaiian plate lunch, it’s hard to go wrong. Put together with the incredible views that many Oahu restaurants are blessed with, the result is a masterpiece for anyone who loves food.
We’ve already written about the best restaurants in Waikiki, but anyone with a car will find a treasure trove of local restaurants from the east side all the way to the North Shore. Going to other parts of the island is the best way to try the true traditional Hawaiian dishes, too.
Between dozens of scrumptious restaurants, miles of sand, and all of the stunning natural scenery, you’ll never run out of things to discover and things to do in Oahu. As you’ll see, one of the toughest decisions you’ll face on your trip is which of these to skip. Read on to see some of the most popular restaurants in Oahu for locals and tourists alike.
- Best Restaurants in Oahu
- 1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food
- 2. Duke’s Waikiki
- 3. Koko Head Cafe
- 4. Sushi Sho
- 5. The Beet Box Cafe
- 6. Ono Seafood
- 7. Diamond Head Market & Grill
- 8. Mud Hen Water
- 9. Mai Tai Bar
- 10. Marugame Udon
- 11. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
- 12. Waiahole Poi Factory
- 13. The Sunrise Shack
- 14. Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican
- 15. Liliha Bakery
- 16. Michel’s at the Colony Surf
- 17. Highway Inn
- 18. Roy’s
- 19. The Pig and the Lady
- 20. Leonard’s Bakery
- 21. Eggs ‘n Things
- 22. Side Street Inn On Da Strip
- 23. Pounders Restaurant
- 24. Musubi Cafe Iyasume
- 25. Lappert’s Hawaii
- 26. Matsumoto Shave Ice
Best Restaurants in Oahu
1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food
Address: 1240 N School St, Honolulu, HI 96817
It’s only appropriate to start with a restaurant that serves traditional Hawaiian food, like Helena’s. This hidden gem in the Liliha-Kapalama neighborhood has been a local favorite for many years, and visitors who are willing to go off the beaten path can get a real taste of Hawaii here.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food has won the James Beard Award for its outstanding homestyle recipes. However, it isn’t always obvious to tourists what exactly they are ordering when it comes to local cuisine. Therefore, if it’s your first time trying true Hawaiian food, don’t hesitate to ask for a quick introduction to the menu to ensure you enjoy it.
To summarize, you can order dishes à la carte or in one of the combination meals referred to as plate lunches in the islands. A favorite for tourists and locals alike is kalua pig, which is slow-cooked pork roasted in a smoky pit to perfection.
Pipikaula is a smoky version of braised short ribs, which any meat-lover is sure to enjoy. And if you like coconut, don’t pass up on a piece of haupia.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food is undoubtedly one of the best Hawaiian restaurants Oahu offers for those willing to make the short diversion off the tourist route. If you plan on visiting the Pearl Harbor historic sites, Helena’s is the perfect stop for lunch along the way there or back to Waikiki.
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2. Duke’s Waikiki
Address: 2335 Kalākaua Ave #116, Honolulu, HI 96815
Next is another famous establishment beloved by locals and tourists alike: Duke’s Waikiki. Located on the world-famous Waikiki Beach, this classic bar and grill is named after the famous Hawaiian surfer Duke Kahanamoku, who is often credited as the father of modern surfing.
Duke’s has an unbeatable view, as the open-air dining room is at the foot of the sand. Guests lucky enough to be seated along the edge get panoramic views of Diamond Head, the vast beach, and the surfers riding the waves in the distance. Therefore, it’s important to book ahead and request a great table for the best experience possible.
The menu at Duke’s is a classic American one with extensive local touches. The entrées like steaks and huli-huli chicken are excellent, but my preference is to order a bunch of pupus for the table, like poke tacos and Korean sticky ribs.
Duke’s is open all day, every day, and has a happy hour and live music twice per day – first in the late afternoon and then in the late evening. There’s a tradition of going to Duke’s on Sundays, so make your reservation well in advance if you plan to partake. While I think Duke’s is best enjoyed on-site, you can order delivery or takeout if the view from your balcony is even better.
3. Koko Head Cafe
Address: 1120 12th Ave #100, Honolulu, HI 96816
While you’ve probably got your trip to Oahu packed full of outdoor adventures, you may want to make time for brunch at Koko Head Cafe once you’ve seen their menu. This casual cafe is tucked behind Diamond Head in the Waialae neighborhood, making it a great stop before or after a morning of snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.
Koko Head Cafe exclusively serves brunch, and they do it right. The cafe is the creation of celebrity chef Lee Anne Wong who developed the Pan-Asian, island-style menu. You’ll be amazed at just how exotic and creative your favorite breakfast dishes can get.
One of the most popular dishes is the Breakfast Congee, which combines the popular Asian porridge with the local delicacy that is Portuguese sausage. I’m a fan of the Breakfast Bibimbap skillet, a heavenly melange of Asian vegetables like bean sprouts and kimchi with garlic rice and gochujang. Don’t forget to order one of their amazing breakfast cocktails, too.
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4. Sushi Sho
Address: 383 Kalaimoku St, Honolulu, HI 96815
Sushi Sho will be the restaurant of choice for anyone who enjoys high-end Japanese cuisine, as this is one of the best sushi restaurants in Oahu. Famous chef Keiji Nakazawa opened this award-winning restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Waikiki Beach just a few years ago, bringing his talents from Japan to combine with the freshest local ingredients.
The dining room at Sushi Sho is highly exclusive. In fact, it’s just a small room in the back of the larger Quiora restaurant, consisting of just the sushi counter and ten seats. Therefore, it’s a very intimate dining experience and not quite appropriate for families with children.
As for the menu, there’s just one option: the 30-course tasting menu prepared for all of the evening’s guests in front of their eyes at the sushi counter. Chef Nakazawa uses only the freshest ingredients and emphasizes local fish heavily, resulting in an indescribable journey for your taste buds.
Despite the price tag of more than $300 per person, Sushi Sho is often booked solid several weeks in advance, so be sure to secure your spot with a reservation at this highly-sought sushi counter. Prepare to have difficulty finding sushi that tops this meal in the future.
5. The Beet Box Cafe
Address: 46 Hoolai St, Kailua, HI 96734
Any vegetarian or vegan headed to Oahu should keep The Beet Box Cafe on their list. This healthy eatery has one location in the trendy east-side neighborhood of Kailua at the address listed above and another in Oahu’s famous North Shore in the town of Haleiwa.
Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu consists of only vegetarian options, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free items as well. They offer delicious options like avocado toast and banana oat pancakes for breakfast. The lunch menu offers fresh salads and meatless burgers and burritos.
Don’t forget to try one of their amazing smoothies or other homemade beverages – with these, you can immediately tell how obsessed with freshness this place is. This is an excellent lunch stop on a trip to the North Shore, but I have an even better suggestion: order for delivery for breakfast to Lanikai Beach after enjoying the incredible sunrise from this spot.
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6. Ono Seafood
Address: 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
One of the local delicacies in Hawaii that has spread around the world is the poke bowl. You won’t believe the difference when you eat one of these in Hawaii, and one of the best places to do that is Ono Seafood in Kapahulu.
If you aren’t familiar with poke bowls, they are similar to sushi, so those who refrain from raw fish will have to pass. A poke bowl is raw, fresh fish, which is usually ahi tuna, cut into cubes and mixed with different sauces and other additions. It’s served on a bed of white rice and may be topped with other vegetables or condiments, depending on the recipe.
There are endless ways to make a poke bowl, but Ono Seafood definitely does it right. My favorite is spicy ahi, but shoyu and limu ahi are close behind, and I always ask for furikake on the rice. A poke bowl is the perfect meal for the beach, on your lunch break, on a date… you’ll see what I mean.
Ono Seafood is a bit of a hole-in-the-wall. You won’t find a website for this eatery, but the Kapahulu neighborhood is just minutes from Waikiki, and you’ll see their red-painted restaurant. Seating is limited, so it’s best to take your bowl back to the beach.
7. Diamond Head Market & Grill
Address: 3158 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
If you like the idea of discovering the local secrets of Oahu, Diamond Head Market & Grill is another great stop just minutes from Waikiki. This market, bakery, and cafe is open all day, every day, serving some amazing takes on American classics along with local favorites.
In fact, this is one of the rare restaurants in Oahu with great food at reasonable prices. Some of the favorites here are their local-style burgers, like the Teri Burger or Kim Chee Burger. But personally, I think that this is one of the best places to get garlic shrimp on the south shore.
The cakes from the bakery are some of the best around as well, and they are served by the slice in the market. Fit Diamond Head Market & Grill into your itinerary by making it a stop for lunch or dessert after a hike up the Diamond Head crater, or order for delivery to Waikiki Beach.
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8. Mud Hen Water
Address: 3452 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
One of the trendiest restaurants in Honolulu is Mud Hen Water, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and just a short drive from the resorts of Waikiki. Couples and groups of friends love coming here for the stylish atmosphere and the creative flavor combinations that are difficult to find elsewhere.
A huge variety on the menu makes it difficult to classify the type of cuisine served here, but it’s safe to say that dishes from around the world are infused with local inspiration. At dinner time, some examples are Chicken Long Rice Croquettes with Japanese Curry, or Lau Lau with Molokai Venison. I recommend getting the Buttered ‘Ulu, or breadfruit, for the table, as it’s an authentic Polynesian item that’s rare to find served at other restaurants.
The breakfast menu is limited to just a few (very tasty) entrées, but the special Sunday Brunch is even better. You’ll find atypical breakfast dishes like Pork Sisig and Miso-Butterscotch Rice Pudding on the more extensive menu, along with a number of bloody marys.
This is a hot place for locals, so try to reserve a table in advance, if possible. There is some outdoor seating which is first-come, first-served as well. If all else fails, you can order for pickup and create your own ambiance.
9. Mai Tai Bar
Address: 2259 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
The Mai Tai Bar at the famous Royal Hawaiian hotel is a must-do for me any time I’m back in Oahu. It’s set between the historic and majestic pink building and the calm water of Waikiki Beach, steps from the sand.
The outdoor seating around the bar is totally covered by umbrellas to shade from the warm Hawaiian sun, and live music fills the air with good vibes every evening. As the Royal Hawaiian occupies what is arguably the best stretch of beach in Waikiki, and Diamond Head is visible in the distance, it will be hard to find a bar with a better view than this.
The Mai Tai Bar is famous for its creative cocktails, especially its mai tais. There isn’t just one, but a whole mai tai menu to choose from. Many were created by the bartenders themselves, some of whom have been behind that bar for decades.
This isn’t just a place for drinking, though, as there’s plenty of delicious food on the all-day menu. As you might imagine, my favorite is the ahi poke, but the truffle french fries are amazing, too.
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10. Marugame Udon
Address: 2310 Kūhiō Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815
When walking down Kuhio Avenue, one of the main streets in Waikiki, you’ll notice a long line of people waiting along the sidewalk. This means you have found Marugame Udon, arguably the best place to get the wonderful Japanese food known as udon.
Udon is a medium-hard flour noodle served in a broth with other flavors and ingredients. It’s very popular in Japan, and due to the country’s close links to Hawaii, it’s also very prominent here. Marugame, which is also sometimes spelled Marukame, has one location in the heart of Waikiki and another in downtown Honolulu.
Several varieties of their namesake dish are available here, and my favorite has always been the beef udon. However, the Ontama udon topped with a hot spring egg is a close second. Since the restaurant is always so busy, it may be difficult to find a table, but don’t hesitate to take your udon to go instead.
11. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
Address: 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
One of the most iconic places to eat in Oahu is an old, graffiti’d-up truck parked on the North Shore called Giovanni’s. The original is in the town of Kahuku, but the most popular to visit is parked across the street from McDonald’s in Haleiwa. Recently, they opened a new location in downtown Honolulu, but Giovanni’s is best enjoyed on the North Shore.
Giovanni’s has been serving its famous garlic shrimp for decades, stemming from the shrimp farms on the shores of Kahuku, where the truck was born. This lemon-buttery, garlicky delight is served with two scoops of rice on a paper plate and is best enjoyed with ice-cold passion orange juice. Simplicity is part of the experience.
As you’ll see, the truck is covered with writing and doodles. The story says that it started with one visitor in the 1990s who wanted to leave his mark, so he wrote his name on the side of it with a marker.
The workers saw it but decided to leave it be. The tradition grew and grew from the very next day, giving the truck its signature look.
Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck has a line every day, but their garlic shrimp is worth the short wait. It’s the perfect meal after a day exploring Haleiwa and its surrounding beaches. Finish it off with a shave ice from Matsumoto’s down the road.
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12. Waiahole Poi Factory
Address: 48-140 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI 96744
So, where do locals eat in Oahu? For those who live on the east side or who don’t mind a beautiful drive, one of the most popular places is Waiahole Poi Factory. This iconic fixture is on the quiet side of Kaneohe, serves traditional Hawaiian cuisine, and has one particularly famous dessert.
If you’re looking for somewhere to try a real Hawaiian plate lunch out in the country, this is it. Lau lau, kalua pig, squid luau, and lomi salmon are all on the menu here. Tourists probably don’t recognize any of those, so be sure to ask if you don’t like a particular type of meat or flavor.
Waiahole Poi Factory’s famous dessert is the Sweet Lady of Waiahole. It’s a slice of warm kulolo (a dessert made from taro with the consistency of fudge) topped with haupia (coconut) ice cream. Even those who didn’t enjoy their Hawaiian entrées will probably like this sweet treat.
This is the perfect restaurant if you’re driving the long way to the North Shore, which I highly recommend, as it’s amazingly scenic. It’s highly necessary to play Sweet Lady of Waiahole by Bruddah Waltah in the car – you’ll see.
13. The Sunrise Shack
Address: 59-158 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
I’d argue that the açai and smoothie bowl trend started in Hawaii, and it’s still the best place for these healthy treats thanks to the abundance of fresh, tropical fruit. In Oahu, the best place to get one of these is Sunrise Shack.
The original Sunrise Shack is across the street from the beach in the North Shore neighborhood of Pūpūkea, where you can either enjoy your bowl on the picnic tables among the resident chickens or take it to the sand to watch the big wave surfers. Recently, they’ve opened another location in the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort if you aren’t going north (or can’t get enough).
While the menu has healthy foods like avocado toast, bullet coffees, and smoothies, I think Sunrise Shack’s best items are their bowls. Choose from blended bases like açai or matcha banana and top it with fruits, granola, nut butter, and more. I always go with the Monkey Bowl; if you like peanut butter, you should too.
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14. Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican
Address: 66-250 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
It’s true that it’s more difficult to find good Mexican food in Hawaii than it is on the mainland. But it’s not the case in Haleiwa, where Cholo’s has been cooking tasty burritos and other traditional dishes for locals and tourists alike for decades.
The owner of Cholo’s is not from Mexico but has always had a great affinity for its culture, traditions, and cuisine. The recipes at the restaurant are absolutely authentic, and certain items have local twists to incorporate the uniqueness of Hawaii flavors. The result is a North Shore hotspot that pleases return customers over and over again.
My usual is the Burrito Plate with Shredded Beef, which comes with rice and beans. Nachos and guacamole for the table are always a good idea, too. The margarita and other Mexican drink menu is extensive for those who want to feel a little loco.
15. Liliha Bakery
Address: 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814
Liliha Bakery has been a local favorite in Oahu for pastries, cakes, coffee, and more for decades. In 2014, more than 60 years after its conception, the owners began expanding with new locations around the island, making it easier to share their tasty treats with tourists and more locals.
The original is still in Liliha, a residential neighborhood in central Honolulu. However, you can also find them in Waikiki at the International Marketplace and in Ala Moana Center. The individual menus differ slightly, but all consist of the amazing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bakery items for which this restaurant is locally famous.
In Waikiki, the restaurant includes a bar that serves cocktails, beers, and wines alongside its menu of classic American cuisine with local favorites. And while their entrées are great, don’t forget to sample what Liliha Bakery does best – dessert! You can’t go wrong with anything on the bakery menu, but know that the creation that made them famous is their coco puffs – puff pastries topped with their house recipe for chantilly.
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16. Michel’s at the Colony Surf
Address: 2895 Kalākaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Anyone who wants to do some fine dining in Oahu should prioritize Michel’s at the Colony Surf. This haute cuisine French restaurant sits on the eastern end of Waikiki Beach, at the foot of Diamond Head and just above the sand.
While the ambiance of the restaurant is very elegant, it’s important to make a reservation and request a table along the window. Michel’s has an amazing view of Waikiki from the opposite direction that visitors are used to seeing, and it’s lovely to watch the sunset over the ocean while the lights of the hotels sparkle in the distance.
As for the food, it is some of the best on the island. There is an à-la-carte menu with a variety of steaks, fish, and even Hawaiian Coffee-Rubbed Lamb Chops.
However, I highly recommend trying the prix fixe menu to best appreciate the chefs’ talents at Michel’s. Each of the five courses will leave you satisfied yet anxious to see what’s next, and wine pairings are available.
Whatever you choose, don’t miss the lobster bisque at Michel’s. Real Maine lobsters are flown in, and the meat is flambéed in Cognac tableside before they pour the delicious soup onto it. This is one of my favorite food items of all time, personally.
17. Highway Inn
Address: 680 Ala Moana Blvd #105, Honolulu, HI 96813
If you want real Hawaiian food but don’t want to go too far off the beaten path, or if you simply can’t get enough of it, put Highway Inn on your list. This casual spot serves typical island cuisine on Ala Moana Boulevard in the trendy Kaka’ako neighborhood, just minutes from Waikiki.
The menu here contains every local treat you could want, like plate lunches and poke bowls. My favorite is the kalua pork plate with macaroni salad (usually simply called “mac salad”). You can also sample a variety of modern Hawaiian favorites here, like fried rice or mochiko fried chicken.
If you want to try a bit of it all, there’s the Highway Inn Tasting Plate, containing a bunch of the best traditional Hawaiian foods around. Highway Inn also offers a handy Malihini Guide on their website, Malihini meaning foreigner or newcomer – a great resource to understand the meaning of Hawaiian words and dishes you’ll see on local menus.
If you find yourself craving cuisine elsewhere in Hawaii, visit the Highway Inn’s original restaurant in Waipahu, or the Cafe at the Bishop Museum.
Address: 6600 Kalanianaʻole Hwy Suite 110, Honolulu, HI 96825
Roy’s is one of the best restaurants in Oahu for dinner on any occasion, vacation, or a special night out. Created by celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, his flagship restaurant is in the east side neighborhood of Hawaii Kai, with other locations in Waikiki and Ko Olina.
Chef Roy is originally from Japan but has deep Hawaii roots, opening the original Roy’s in 1988. His creative cooking combines Japanese methods and flavors with Hawaiian fish, meats, and seasonal local vegetables. The result is what’s referred to as Hawaii regional cuisine and is loved by basically anyone who tries it.
The prix fixe menu offers a great sampling of the flavors at Roy’s over three courses. However, especially at the Hawaii Kai location, I recommend getting one of the entrées that include miso marinated fish – one of Roys’s most popular dishes. Chocolate soufflé is the perfect way to finish the evening.
While not exactly fine dining, Roy’s is a more upscale dining experience than many of the other restaurants on this list. However, shorts and an aloha shirt are more than appropriate – it is Hawaii, after all.
19. The Pig and the Lady
Address: 83 N King St, Honolulu, HI 96817
Being in the center of the Pacific and a historical melting pot of cultures, Hawaii has a wide variety of Asian influences, including in its cuisine. If you love Vietnamese food or are open to trying it, The Pig and the Lady is a trendy place to get a modern take on these traditional dishes.
Located in downtown Honolulu, the restaurant has a modern, industrial atmosphere with some large communal tables and a bar. The menu is full of Vietnamese noodle, meat, and vegetable dishes, including a number of pho options during lunch. I prefer the French Onion Beef Cheeks, with its gruyere fondue.
This is one of the hottest restaurants in Honolulu, so be sure to make a reservation if you want to try some of these interesting entrées. If that’s not possible, they luckily package them to go for delivery orders as well.
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20. Leonard’s Bakery
Address: 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96816
Leonard’s is another place that has been a local fixture for decades, serving the Honolulu community since the 1950s. Anyone from Oahu, and many visitors, will immediately point you in the direction of Leonard’s if you want to try the best malasada on the island.
A malasada is a Portuguese donut and is arguably what put Leonard’s on the map. Leonard was the grandson of Portuguese immigrants, many of which were contracted to come work on the plantations of Hawaii. When he opened his bakery, his grandparents suggested he make malasadas for Shrove Tuesday, and the quickly became legendary.
Malasadas are fried without a hole, covered in sugar, and filled with sweets like chocolate, coconut, guava, and more. Leonard’s offers deluxe fillings like toasted marshmallow and replacing the sugar coating with cinnamon sugar or li hing powder. Essentially, it’s a handheld piece of heaven if you don’t mind some extra calories, which don’t count on vacation anyway.
The original Leonard’s is on Kapahulu Avenue and reachable easily from Waikiki, where it remains in its retro style and decor. There are also Leonard’s food trucks in Hawaii Kai and Waipahu, with the latter offering delivery via GrubHub if you’re in this area.
21. Eggs ‘n Things
Address: 343 Saratoga Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
There’s one breakfast place not to be missed in Waikiki, and it’s called Eggs ‘n Things. With two locations in Waikiki, one in Ala Moana Center, and another in Ko Olina, there’s bound to be one near you if you’re staying in one of the main resort areas.
Pancakes and waffles are available with all kinds of island fruits and exotic syrups like coconut. Plenty of special Benedicts, burritos and egg dishes are served with savories like Portuguese sausage. I always get the Island Style Fried Rice – a staple in Hawaii that Eggs ‘n Things does very right.
This is another great place to try a local breakfast specialty, the loco moco. It consists of a piece of hamburger steak and a fried egg served on a bed of rice and topped with gravy. Once again, this is a great time to remember that calories don’t count while on vacation.
If you’re staying near the western part of Kalakaua Avenue, like at the Sheraton Waikiki or the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, the location on Saratoga Avenue is most convenient for you. At the other end of the strip, near the ‘Alohilani Resort and the Hyatt Regency, the Kalakaua Avenue location is better. Wherever you are in Waikiki, delivery to your doorstep is available for a worry-free breakfast.
22. Side Street Inn On Da Strip
Address: 614 Kapahulu Ave #100, Honolulu, HI 96815
Side Street Inn is one of the most convenient places for tourists in Waikiki to get off the strip and try a true local favorite. It’s on Kapahulu Avenue, not far from Leonard’s Bakery, creating the perfect opportunity for an out-of-this-world combo.
The dining room has a simple, welcoming atmosphere that’s perfect for groups or families. Food options are wide-ranging and mainly cater to the preferences of locals, with plenty of pokes, Asian foods, and meats available. My favorite is Side Street’s Signature Garlic Chicken, one of their most popular dishes.
While I suggested saving room for a Leonard’s malasada, that’s not completely necessary, as there is an extensive dessert menu at Side Street Inn as well – go for Side Street’s Signature Peanut Butter Crunch. This is a popular Oahu eatery, especially on nights of sports games, so make a reservation to avoid a long wait.
23. Pounders Restaurant
Address: 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Lāʻie, HI 96762
There isn’t a huge variety of restaurants available in Oahu’s northeastern shore, but one that stands out is Pounders in Lāʻie (say lah-ee-yay). It’s in the Hukilau Marketplace of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is a great place to visit for anywhere from a few minutes to an entire day.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is a sort of theme park with shows, demonstrations, and exhibitions of the cultures of the islands around the Pacific. You can see how the people of Samoa use coconuts for a variety of purposes, learn the lively dance of the people of Tahiti, and experience a real Hawaiian luau here. It’s a great experience if you are interested in these types of things, and even if not, the Hukilau Marketplace is its welcome center just outside the park and doesn’t require a ticket.
That’s where you’ll find Pounders, one of the best restaurants in Oahu for families with a very welcoming atmosphere. It’s a casual place named after the popular beach less than a mile away and serves a variety of island and American favorites using fruits and vegetables grown on-site. There are plenty of tasty fish and meat dishes, pizzas, and burgers, but I prefer the ahi poke nachos and smoked marlin dip – there’s nothing quite like it.
I recommend making Pounders a lunch stop on a circle island drive unless you’re staying on the North Shore, in which case it would be easily accessible for dinner. Parking is free and clean bathrooms are available at the Polynesian Cultural Center, even for those just passing through.
24. Musubi Cafe Iyasume
Address: 2427 Kūhiō Ave., Honolulu, HI 96815
As you’ll see, food is expensive in Hawaii. So, you might be looking for a meal that’s a bit smaller and a lot cheaper. One delicious solution that locals have been making for years is the Spam musubi, available at Musubi Cafe Iyasume.
A musubi is a simple, handheld delight incorporating one of Hawaii’s favorite foods: Spam! It’s simply a slice of fried Spam on top of a bed of sushi rice, wrapped and held together with a sheet of nori, the Japanese seaweed in sushi. Other varieties with meats like teriyaki chicken and eel are popular as well. A great place to try this delicacy is Musubu Cafe Iyasume.
They have six locations in Oahu, including three in Waikiki, two in the Ala Moana area, and one in Kahala. A musubi is the perfect snack to grab on your way to the beach or drive to another part of the island.
25. Lappert’s Hawaii
Address: 2005 Kālia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815
Let’s wrap up this list the same way you should wrap up any meal – with dessert! Waikiki’s favorite ice cream can be found at Lappert’s Hawaii in the Hilton Hawaiian Village, serving ice cream, coffee, and baked goods daily.
Lappert’s has locations on Kauai and Maui as well, making them well-known around the islands. They create local-inspired recipes from scratch, with flavors like coconut macadamia nut fudge, Kauai pie, and banana fudge. My favorite is their Kona coffee ice cream.
Besides their ice creams, sorbets, and sundaes, they also serve some tasty teas and coffees with creative flavors similar to some of their ice creams. There are also smoothies and blended chillers available. But truthfully, you should really be getting the ice cream at Lappert’s.
My top tip to enjoy Lappert’s is to take it to the beach on a Friday night. Every week, the Hilton puts on a free fireworks show from their lagoon that goes perfectly with an ice cream cone. You can also order yours on GrubHub if you’ve already got a good spot down the beach.
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26. Matsumoto Shave Ice
Address: 66-111 Kamehameha Hwy #605, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Again, we’re wrapping it up with a dessert, but this one is on the opposite side of the island and not quite an ice cream. Matsumoto Shave Ice is an icon of Haleiwa and the North Shore and has been a fixture there for decades.
Shave ice is a delicious treat made of ice shavings packed like a snowball. It’s then covered with one or more of the syrups of your choice and served with a straw and spoon. It is the perfect way to cool off under the hot Hawaiian sun.
Matsumoto just does it better than anyone else, as they have dozens of flavors that are house-made. Strawberry, coconut, and grape are some of the traditional ones, while a more adventurous traveler might try pickled mango or li hing mui. The small shop often has a long line, but don’t let that dissuade you from this refreshing treat.
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Woodrow is a travel writer who wants to do and see just about everything. He’s been to 40+ countries, all 50 US states plus Puerto Rico and the USVI, and is currently living in France and exploring Europe. Woodrow is an expert in travel hacking, finding bargain flights, and coined the term “upgrade engineering” referring to his talent to upgrade simple hotel room bookings into suite stays. Woodrow loves SCUBA diving, fishing, and all things aviation.