Adventurous diners will find much to discover and learn about local-style Honolulu cuisine on their Oahu vacation. The Hawaiian Islands’ cosmopolitan capital city presents a veritable buffet of cross-cultural cuisines and cooking styles. If you like the excitement of sampling exotic foods from around the Asia-Pacific Rim, you won’t be disappointed by Honolulu’s dining scene. What’s more, you can find the best Honolulu restaurants on a limited budget.
Hawaii’s Varied Cuisine
Hawaii’s diverse cuisine reflects its melting-pot population. Many of the exotic flavors and dishes have their origins in the thousands of immigrant laborers who came to Hawaii from the 1850s onward. Along with native Hawaiians, these Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese and later Southeast Asian immigrants, all lent their influences to the evolvement of Hawaii’s regional cuisine.
One staple, the ubiquitous Hawaiian plate lunch, is an institution. It consists of two scoops of rice, a scoop of macaroni salad, and a meat or fish entrée. The variations are almost endless but reflect Hawaii’s unique cross-cultural blending. Plate lunches are generally inexpensive, ranging from $5 to $7 and up, and are available at take-out lunch counters and restaurants around Honolulu.
Here is a Honolulu restaurant guide featuring favorite plate lunch and island-style eateries, where you can sample genuine Hawaiian cuisine that makes Honolulu a diner’s delight.
A traditional Hawaiian plate lunch.
Courtesy of the OVB
Ono Hawaiian Foods
Ono Hawaiian Foods, a small hole-in-the-wall place, serves up authentic Hawaiian-style plates including kalua pig, lau lau, chicken long rice or combinations. “Ono” means delicious in Hawaiian. It’s well worth the wait for a table.
Ono Hawaiian Foods, 726 Kapahulu Ave., tel.808-737-2275. Hours: Mon. to Sat. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. http://www.travelmuse.com/ext/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5nZW9jaXRpZXMuY29tL25hcGF2YWxsZXkvOTg3NC8=
Kapahulu Poi Shop
This is a small unpretentious place—take-outs only. Choose from combination plates with kalua pig, lau lau, chicken luau, pipikaula, chicken long rice and more. Create your own plate and enjoy some real Hawaiian food.
· Patrons of Ono Hawaiian Foods take a pause from their Hawaiian feast of lomi salmon, poi, beef stew, watercress pork and taro leaf-wrapped pork.
Kapahulu Poi Shop, 3110 Winam Ave., tel. 808-737-8014. Hours: Mon. to Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Rainbow Drive In
Rainbow Drive In is an old-fashioned drive-in that has a lengthy menu of island favorites like beef teriyaki, boneless chicken, roast pork, shoyu chicken and more. There is limited table seating outside, or opt for take-out.
Rainbow Drive In, 3308 Kanaina Ave., tel. 808-737-0177. Hours: daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. http://www.travelmuse.com/ext/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5yYWluYm93ZHJpdmVpbi5jb20v
Next: Restaurants in Kaimuki
Big City Diner
Big City Diner is a busy sit-down diner that boasts a menu of many famous local creations. Try Uncle Danny’s fried rice, or sample the spicy savory Grandma’s incredible kimchee fried rice, Chinatown chow mein noodles or baby back ribs with guava barbecue sauce. There are many more choices at this popular combination sports bar and local-style eatery. Other locations around Honolulu include Kailua, Waipio, Pearlridge and Ward Warehouse.
Big City Diner, 3565 Waialae Ave., tel. 808-738-8855. Hours: Sun. to Thu. 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. 7 a.m. to midnight. bigcitydinerhawaii.com
This small lunch counter offers a large variety of local-style plate lunches. Choose from things like chicken katsu curry, mahi mahi, shoyu roast pork, mochiko chicken, Teriyaki beef and many daily specials. Eat in or take out. There are other locations in Makiki and Aiea near Pearl Harbor.
Grace’s Inn, 2919 Kapiolani Blvd., tel. 808-732-0041. Hours: Mon. to Sat. 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
This local-style eatery transforms the humble plate lunch to upscale and gourmet. Try the Korean kalbi ribs, mixed island barbecue plate, sweet chili chicken or any of several daily plate specials. This is casual fine dining in a Styrofoam takeout box, however table seating is available.
Uncle Danny’s fried rice at the Big City Diner.
Kaka`ako Kitchen, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., tel. 808-596-7488. Hours: Mon. to Thu. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. to Sat. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Haili’s Hawaiian Foods
This lunch counter is in the busy Marukai Market. Hawaiian plate lunch choices include lau lau, kalua pig, stew, fried fish and combination plates, or create your plate from several items. Eat in or take out.
Haili’s Hawaiian Foods, 1020 Auahi St., Ward Farmers Market, tel. 808-593-8019. Hours: Mon. to Sat. 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. http://www.travelmuse.com/ext/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5oYWlsaXNoYXdhaWlhbmZvb2RzLmNvbS9kb29yLw==
Little Village Noodle House
Among all the eateries in Chinatown, Little Village Noodle House stands out. The menu of more than 100 selections combines the flavors of Northern, Hong Kong and Szechuan Chinese cuisine. Try the signature dishes like orange chicken, eggplant with garlic sauce, sizzling scallops, black pepper beef and Chinese chicken salad. Enjoy take out or table seating.
Little Village Noodle House, 1113 Smith St., tel. 808-545-3008. Hours: daily, 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. http://www.travelmuse.com/ext/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXR0bGV2aWxsYWdlaGF3YWlpLmNvbS8=
[Read our Honolulu Chinatown article for more information on this neighborhood.]
Tsukenjo Lunch House
There is nothing particularly fancy about this small lunch counter operation, but the lunch fare is top notch. Standard menu features include kalua pig and lau lau, pork adobo, meat loaf, shoyu chicken and more. Daily specials vary from curry stew to Korean style chicken to beef tomato, tripe stew, fried noodles and more.
Tsukenjo Lunch House, 705 Cooke St., tel. 808-597-8151. Hours: Mon. to Fri. 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For Hawaiian on the go, grab a Zippy’s Zip Pac. This one features fried chicken, fish, spam and teriyaki beef on a bed of rice with furikake.
With several locations around Honolulu, this chain restaurant has a menu of local favorites. Try Zippy’s signature chili and rice or a plate lunch special ranging from chicken katsu or loco moco to hamburger steak or mahi mahi. There are also daily special plates and much more on the menu. Eat in or take out.
Check the Web site for restaurant phone numbers and locations at http://www.travelmuse.com/ext/aHR0cDovL3d3dy56aXBweXMuY29tLw==.
Chinatown in Old Honolulu, Oahu
Chinatown is hidden in the old section of downtown Honolulu. A walking tour of this historic area is punctuated by a Buddhist temple, Japanese shrine, art galleries and a large open-air market. Walk on your own, or try the Chinese Chamber of Commerce walking tour. Allow at least an hour.Chinatown is home not only to many Chinese, whose families have lived here for generations, but also Filipinos, Hawaiians and newer arrivals from Viet Nam and Laos. The Chinese started arriving in Hawaii in large numbers in the mid 1800’s as plantation workers. Over time, many became successful merchants. Some of the early architecture from this period is still standing, despite the government’s drastic policy of burning of many homes in 1900 in an effort to rid the community of bubonic plague.At night Chinatown presents its racier side, as the once-booming district is still home to pool halls, neon lights, and an entertaining collection of characters.Locals come here to buy leis and eat truly authentic Chinese food. Visitors can watch leis being strung. Shopping is a unique experience where you’ll find unusual fruits and vegetables, herbs, porcelain, fresh fish, and traditional hanging ducks. Many of the shops have been family-owned for generations.The nearby 125-year old Foster Botanical Garden is a 14-acre urban Eden overflowing with orchids, coffee trees, palms, and poisonous plants.Chinatown, hidden just a few blocks from central downtown Honolulu, offers a buffet for the senses with its parade of people, sights, sounds, and exotic smells and tastes.
Yama's Fish Market
2332 Young Street·Honolulu, HI 96826·(808) 941-9994
Serving Hawaii Since 1980
Located in the heart of Moiliili, on Young Street near the corner of Isenberg. Yama's Fish Market is your one-stop for Hawaiian Food like it's meant to be. Fresh daily from our on-site kitchen you can choose from assorted Poke, Lomi Salmon, Kalua Pig, our signature Lau Lau, daily specials, and homemade Haupia, Cookies, and other desserts that will "broke da mouth".
Yama's will cater your special event and offers lunch deliveries too. Contact us for more details.
9am - 7pm Monday thru Saturday