I have a new friend going to Hawai'i and so hopefully she will take my advice and go to at least half these places!
I decided to re-post this from 2009, every one of these choices is still valid with the exception of #5 in Kailua, I originally posted Boots and Kimo's and they are still great, but they moved to a larger location and now there are buses that deliver tourists there.....long wait times! Call ahead to check the best time.
I am changing my pick (here) to Times Coffee House in Kailua (check out their facebook page, here). It's a small diner with good food and regular or decaf coffee, no frills. Local favorite without the tourists.
There is a song that makes me smile called Honolulu City Lights by Keola Beamer. It represents a moment for me when I am flying away from "home" and watching the lights as my plane takes off for the "main land". I now live in Pittsburgh, PA and whenever possible love to fly in or out in the middle of the night so I can see this type of beautiful.
Get a pair of Slippahs as by the time you leave you will get a sign like this as a souvenir:
I was speaking to a friend of mine from Canada and he is not the first person to say to me: "I am going to Hawaii, will you tell me some places to go?" I thought about it and decided I would post a Cheers to his luckiness to go to my hometown,....a little jealousy also. =) "Cheers"
If you are in Waikiki and are staying in Waikiki....Walk around, don't drive. Everything is walking distance....some further than others, but its not a horrible walk. If you are leaving Waikiki than it might be a little further than you expected. Take a hotel shuttle, drive or even the bus system. It was rated number 1 in the US...how bad can you be if you are on an island? Called "The Bus". (click for link to their website) Decide what you want out of your trip.....you might not need a car at all. Write down your musts and your goals for the trip and you can call your hotel and usually they are pretty helpful with giving you tips.....also check out the goHawaii.org as they are the visitors bureau site and can have links to things I don't mention.
(my top 10)
By the way, you should go on a diet before and after the trip. During your trip....wear some elastic. =)
1. Dukes in Waikiki/or Hula Grill Waikiki
Dukes is downstairs and has a more laid back "slippahs" atmosphere and Hula Grill is directly upstairs from them, with a little more of a dressed up atmosphere, I believe they would not turn you away though, if you had on the slippahs. If you are in Waikiki anyway, then by all means this is where you will have a good time, enjoy good food, and walk back to where you wanna go, or take a cab (parking is expensive).
My Menu Picks:
Dukes:CHINESE STYLE BEEF SHORT RIBS in a Ginger braised with fresh pineapple relish 18.95....You're on Vacation so you're gonna spend a little money on a dinner, might as well be this one. =) Okay, so maybe this isn't a pupu, but go ahead and share it and don't get anything else....you'll be okay with that.
Hula Grill: SCALLOP AND LOBSTER POT STICKERS w/ a Guava Plum Sauce 10.50
"I would pay 10.50 for just the guava plum sauce!" I don't care for lobster, but this is the best representation of lobster I have ever had....don't share it! =)
2. Top Sushi Pick: Genki Sushi
This is my favorite for someplace local, laid back and reasonably priced. I always went to the one on Kapahulu Ave (even though it was a fight for parking.)....But it is worth it. This location is an old bank so you will see little left overs from its earlier business, like the bank vault doors.
When you go you will be given a table and along the side of the table there is a conveyer belt. The conveyer has your favorite "fast food sushi" already made up. Pick up your plates and stack them on the table when done. Each color plate has a price associated with it, so when done you might have 10 plates at 1.10 per plate, but you are totally satisfied. Don't worry you will have a picture menu to match what you want to eat, and if you don't see it, ask and they will get it for you. It is good sushi, so don't worry about getting sick! My favorite is pretty simple: the tuna sushi (rice, nori and tuna like in a tuna salad sandwich)believe me, it is yum!
3. Top Local Style Plate Lunch (two picks)
Irifune: Totally slamming Garlic Ahi(Tuna fish) Fried Rice! But you can only get it at lunch time (at least that is the way I remember it) Give them a call and tell them you want to know when they are making it. Sorry, no website.....yes it is totally local. Get it to-go and take it to the beach or beach park down the road (Kapiolani Park)....If my friend Pete is still cooking there, tell him I said "howzit!"
Honolulu, HI 96815
L&L Drive in (pull up, go inside, pick your item at the counter, pay and sit or go)....I know I know, this is so popular if you are anywhere in California they are popping up as Hawaiians migrated and HAD to take it with them. These are all over the island so you won't have too much trouble getting to one. I would suggest the one at Ala Moana Shopping Center if you are doing a day of shopping, if you are in Waikiki, there is one there too on the main beach front.
I ALWAYS order the Chicken Katsu Mini plate (not so mini) Scoop Rice, Scoop Mac Salad, and lots of Katsu style chix deep fried......and don't forget the secret recipe Katsu Sauce! this is under $5.00 and the tasty yum yum yummiest straight to your waistline type food....I did say to where elastic, right?
4. Best Shave Ice: (Two Picks)
Matsuyamas Shave Ice, Haleiwa
If you take a drive to the North Shore, than you might as well head over to Haleiwa (pronounced: Hah-Lei-Eve-Ah) because you are already there. The Shave Ice is light and melts to the touch, topped with your favorite flavors......I need a shave Ice machine! You will head here if you are looking for some surf action......to watch. These are big waves people so unless you are a pro, check with your nearest lifeguard on whether you are clear to get in, you will see the "Don't go beyond this point" "Dangerous Waves" all over the beaches here. Its nice to sun bathe and check out some hotties (girls and guys). Check with the local papers to find out if there is a surf competition going on while you are in town. You may want to see it, or avoid the crazy parking situations. (I think its worth it to go)
Island Snow, Kailua Seriously, You have to get Shave Ice. If you don't make it to the North Shore, than you gotta go to the Windward side. Island Snow is the best place to get it over this way. My family all lives in Kailua and it is my favorite place to go. Relaxing, Welcoming, Beautiful. Go to Kailua Beach (boat ramp or Lanikai-Mokulua Isles).
5. Best Breakfast spots: all second to Moms cooking of course! One for the Tourists and one for traveling to my favorite neck of the woods:
In Kailua: Boots and Kimo's
...My favorite and the reason to go: Macadamia Nut Pancakes....not just any mac nut pancake, the vanilla cream butter topping and mac nut chunks throughout are to die for. This place is small so be willing to wait cause its a local favorite and worth it.
Waikiki or "Waiks" as we like to call it:
Wailana Coffee House
(24 hour-better than most)
Address: 1860 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96815 808.955.1764
Close enough to Waiks between Waiks and Ala Moana Shopping Center. I used to live a couple blocks from here. Super good at any hour. For my friend, you can walk here from where you are staying.
6. Best Burgers:
Teddy's Bigger Burgers Kapahulu (Waikiki)
Check out the website. These are definitely bigger and better then the norm. Tastier too......get the sauce!
7. Best Bakery:
933 Kapahulu Ave., 737-5591
This Bakery is a family MUST. You have to get the tasty donuts called "Malasada's". This place is so good, it even made it on the Food Network for top ten Donuts in the U.S. Yup Top Ten. And it wasn't the bottom of that list either. Hawaii, Represent!
8. Best Desserts:
Don't get this mixed up with Leonard's and the Malasada's...Malasada's aren't counted as desserts in my book....its a staple. If you want to celebrate with a nice flavorful Island style cake, get it from them.
515 N. Kuakini St., 531-1651
The famous Coco Puffs (yum) or the Guava Chiffon(favorite) or the Chocolate Haupia Chiffon(other favorite) or....you get my drift. go to this place. I don't care if you are visiting, you can take it to your conference or meeting to share with a couple of friends.......seriously, you'll get a promotion!....or eat between the two of you and slice it up and give the rest to the Front Desk Staff at your Hotel....they will appreciate it, really....tourists don't usually do that and it is a customary thing us Hawaiians often do for each other.
9. Best Alcoholic Beverage with a smile
.....Now...this depends. Are you looking for a late night party scene or a quaint sit down talk to each other setting?
(packed with people-college crowd):
311 Lewers St
Honolulu, HI 96815-2344
I decided not to link to their website as it wasn't the best type of organized
I have a few stories NOT to tell you about Kelley's but mostly, its a lot of fun if you are going later like after 11pm. Before than, its laid back and chill(not many people) after that Whoa! you better not give stink eye to the door person and be patient for your favorite beer. If you think this is cool, look across the street at Moose's Bar, and they are pretty packed also. Sometimes, you can't get in. As for me, I am into Kelley's over Moose's, but that was my crowd.
Chill with beach side:
The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian (The Pink Hotel)
. Although it may seem uptight at first, in the hours around sunset this is a local favorite to go to. You can't take your drinks off property (but remember you are in the US and there are still liquor laws in Hawaii)
Overall, drinks are drinks. You can get a good drink with a good atmosphere just walking around and finding something close to where you are staying. walk along Waikiki beach and you will see about 20 beach bars that catch your eye.
10. If you checked out all of the above and you are still looking for number 10, then you are probably going to need another dress size before you go home, or go on the poor diet from spending all your money in Hawaii.
Best Manapua (A.K.A: Pork filled steam buns or baked):
Char Hung Sut-
this link is to another blog called ONO Kind Grindz.....best description of the place....
64 N. Pauahi St., 808-538-3335 Downtown area.
Call ahead and order for pick up early....I mean early, they usually sell out by 6-7 am of the favorites. Be prepared, if you call, they speak quick and "Diner-Like" you better figure out what you want. ask around if you don't know. not typical restaurant or bakery like setting. This place is a whole in the wall "Warehouse" type place. You walk in and think you are in the wrong place. Go to the counter (be aggressive-but don't cut in line) and tell them you want 6 steam manapua's and 10 pork hash, this will feed you and your tag a longs as well as those new friends you met at the hotel. Look at the wall for the full menu, but if you want what I get....order the Manapua & pork hash and ditch out. Filled with Sweet Red Pork. It is delicious! reminds me of a sweat shop.(Chinese food) By the way, if you have befriended people at the hotel you might be able to get them to freeze the left over food, this is often brought over the water to California by my family to those craving the tasty treat.....might be too far for trip to Pittsburgh...sorry!
Hope you liked my food picks....I miss it!