Oahu and Hawaii have become two words synonymous with delicious foods sure to excite your palate; foods like poke, shave ice, malasada and ube are sweeping the islands off their slipper-wearing feet. (By the way, in Hawaii we drop the “d” in shaved ice and flip flops are slippahs). Hawaii’s location in the Pacific draws influences from all over the world, primarily Asia and Polynesia, giving food creations a unique fusion flare.
I lived on the island of Oahu since I was 17 years old, and grew up visiting my grandparents four times a year since I was two (my Grandma’s side of the family is born and raised on Oahu.) I’ve spent a great deal of time tasting what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s been around for 50+ years, and I am happy to report back that Oahu’s foodie scene is alive and well and taking over a neighborhood near you. With the local farm-to-table movement sweeping the nation and self-proclaimed foodies Yelping and Instagramming everything, Oahu cares about sourcing locally and using fresh, organic and natural ingredients.
In this post I bring to you my favorite places to eat on Oahu as a local, including happy hours, sweet treats, hidden gems, where to find the best acai bowls and poke, and the newest, hottest cafes & bars, along with insider tips. Speakeasies on Oahu? We’ve got it! 12-hour roasted kalua pork? We’re on it. Ice cream sandwiches with ube ice cream? Yep, all over that. (If you don’t know what ube is, you will after this post and you’ll be headed straight for the nearest café or ice creamery that serves it to try some of your own naturally-colored bright purple goodness.)
I present to you The Ultimate Foodie Guide to Oahu, complete with mouth-watering food photography taken by yours truly. All photography is my own, shot with a Nikon D3300. I’ll be updating this post frequently to include new restaurants and remove any that may go out of business to maintain fresh content for you to reference! Please share this post if you like it!
If you’re planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands (or are a local in search of other islands to visit!), be sure to read my blog post on How To Choose Which Hawaiian Island To Visit.
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How to Navigate This Blog Post
All eateries are categorized and listed in alphabetical order within each category.
Click on the category below to jump to that spot on the page.
1) Bakeries, Cafes, Juices, Acai Bowls, Shave Ice, and Ice Cream
3) Farm-To-Table Lunch & Dinner
4) American Fusion
6) African/Middle Eastern/Indian/Mexican/Ethnic
9) Bars & Speakeasies
10) Vegan & Vegetarian
Are you ready? Let’s dive in to the best Oahu eateries!
BAKERIES, CAFES, JUICES, ACAI BOWLS, SHAVE ICE, & ICE CREAM
9 Bar HNL – SALT at Our Kaka’ako
This is our favorite Sunday morning local spot to grab a unique coffee drink (they have nitro on tap, along with many other inventive beverages). Our favorite is their breakfast burrito; get it with sausage, which they home-make into delicious and savory patties and pack full of goodies, such as souffle eggs, avocado, sour cream, black beans, and a home made spicy salsa. Service is always friendly and the space is hip and comfortable. What’s up with the name? 9 bar is the unit of pressure to pull an espresso shot.
By the way, Kaka’ako is the newly gentrified “hot spot” for eateries, cafes and street art on Oahu. You can learn more about Kaka’ako, POW WOW!, wall art murals and all the best food in the area in my Kaka’ako – Oahu’s Vibrant Arts & Foodie Neighborhood blog post.
Ars Café – Monsarrat Ave.
If a European café and a small art gallery had a baby, Ars Café would be it. In my opinion, they have THE best avocado toast on the entire island. Yes, that’s a big statement. 🙂 Also be sure to try the kalua pork eggs Benedict with poi on top!
Bee & Tea – Kailua (boba tea, smoothies & acai bowls)
Blue Tree Café – Kapiolani
Chad Lou Café – Kailua
This is where you can find the vibrant purple ube ice cream sandwiches. And yes, it’s naturally that purple!
They also do a ham & cheese croissant quite well.
Coffee Gallery – Haleiwa
Da Cove Health Bar & Cafe – Monsarrat
In my opinion, they serve the best acai bowl on the island (get it with pitaya, pai’ai or bee pollen).
HI Blend Health Bar & Café – Keeaumoku
Honolulu Coffee Company – Next to the Moana Surfrider Hotel in Waikiki
Honolulu Cookie Company – multiple locations
The famous pineapple-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate. Also available in Hawaii Costcos!
Island Vintage Shave Ice – kiosk at Royal Hawaiian Center, Waikiki
They use real fruits for their natural syrups.
Kona Coffee Purveyors – International Marketplace, Waikiki
This is where you can find the ever-delicious Kouign-amann, a flaky buttery pastry filled with various sweet and savory fillings. Also, they use Valrhona chocolate for their mochas! Their staff is always really friendly, and, admittedly, many of them now know me by name because I visit so frequently. 🙂 Having this place close to where I work is dangerous!
Kula & Ko Confectionery – Second floor of the International Marketplace, Waikiki
This adorable confectionery makes all-natural pineapple cake bars using shortbread & real Dole Hawaiian pineapples. They caramelize their pineapples for five hours, and each box contains one whole Hawaiian pineapple! They come in a sturdy box, easy for shipping or packing, and they make perfect gifts to bring back home for friends and family!
Fun Fact: Did you know that a pineapple is 87% water?
Leonard’s Bakery – Kapahulu
What is a malasada? It’s a Portuguese donut, often injected with sweet fillings and coated in sugar, served warm. Open since 1952, this long-time local favorite was started by Leonard, the grandson of a couple who arrived on a British sailing ship to Maui from Portugal on a contract to work in the sugar cane fields.
*INSIDER TIP* – on most days (if not permanently), there is a Leonard’s food truck stationed at Koko Marina shopping center on the way to Hanauma Bay.
Moana Surfrider Hotel – high tea at The Veranda at the Beach House – Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki
MoDo Hawaii – Mitsuwa Marketplace inside the International Marketplace (go all the way to the back of the store and you will see the sign.)
Mochi donuts with locally-inspired frosting flavors such as lilikoi, earl grey, matcha and black sesame. Oh, and they’re stackable. 😉
Nana’s Green Tea – inside Waikiki Yokocho (underground at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza)
They use high-quality matcha powder imported from Japan. This is also where you can get matcha soft serve ice cream! They also have locations in Kyoto!
Olive & Oliver – inside the Surf Jack Hotel on Lewers, Waikiki
Sunrise Shack – North Shore & Waikiki locations (inside the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach Hotel)
Finally, a place that’s bringing the chill, laid-back vibes of the North Shore to chaotic Waikiki. This is where you can try the blue algae bowl, naturally blue in color! Everything in this vibrantly orange and positive shop is local, organic, all-natural and compostable! Paper straws? Yes please! No lid, no problem!
The Curb – Kaimuki
We’re always stoked to find new cafes open up in our little Kaimuki neighborhood! Located just a five-minute drive outside of Waikiki off of Waialae Avenue, The Curb will satiate that coffee craving! It’s located in a small space, but it’s a cute spot nonetheless. If you like mochas, order the Dandelion Mocha. Don’t worry, there’s no dandelion seeds or flowers inside; it’s the name of a brand of chocolate that they melt in house and add to the mocha.
Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha – multiple locations
THE best shave ice on the island! They use all natural ingredients and real fruits and organic local cane sugar for their home-made syrups. Also, note the compostable bowls, not styrofoam. Ten points! 🙂
Waialua Bakery – Haleiwa, North Shore
*INSIDER TIP* – they accept cash only. Order a few cookies for takeaway and enjoy it on the beach. They taste great after a dip in the salty ocean. This family-run cafe grows all their ingredients on their North Shore farm, and if they don’t grow it, they source it locally. This is the only place on the island that I know of, that hasn’t raised their prices in 15 years. You can still buy a giant cookie or their delicious banana bread pudding for $2.
Wing Ice Cream Parlor – China Town
This is a small-batch hole-in-the-wall ice cream joint where the owner and his partner come up with all the flavors. They make home made ice cream right there in the shop, and flavors include: Matcha Oreo, black sesame, blueberry lavender, and yes, even garlic! Flavors rotate every few weeks, and there’s even a white board where you can write your vote for the next flavor to be created!
I recommend ordering the flight sampler, which comes with 3 keiki (kid) scoops so that you can try several! They do not provide samples here. Our favorite is the vegan dairy-free Mayan Xocolate made with coconut milk.
Heavenly – Seaside Avenue, Waikiki
Koko Head Café – Kaimuki
Kono’s – Haleiwa, Kailua, & Kapahulu locations
They roast their pork for 12 hours!
Nalu Health Bar – Kailua
Over Easy – Kailua
FARM-TO-TABLE LUNCH & DINNER
These restaurants source ingredients locally and partner with farmers to provide organic foods, following sustainable practices and the concept of local first and organic whenever possible.
Farm to Barn Cafe & Juicery – Haleiwa, North Shore
The name says it all; an adorable little red barn in the middle of a wide open grassy field serving delicious acai bowls, breakfast burritos and fresh juices. Fancy a picnic? They’ve got you covered with blankets that you can spread out on the lawn whilst viewing the backdrop of those beautiful North Shore mountains. There’s plenty of outdoor seating on benches or communal tables; every time we come here we end up chatting with people and making new friends. 🙂
Mud Hen Water – Waialae Avenue, Kaimuki
Though pricey, this farm-to-table restaurant serves up a local Hawaiian twist with dishes such as ‘ulu (breadfruit) and beet poke. Their cocktails are especially delicious!
MW Restaurant – Kapiolani
At first glance of the menu, I wasn’t super inspired because the dishes were not necessarily unique; however, we ordered the five-course menu and everything was delightful! The sauces are excellent, and the service is great. The Chef even came out to greet us!
BLT Steakhouse – Waikiki
If you’re looking for a great place to celebrate a special occasion or splurge on a nice dinner out, BLT Steakhouse will not disappoint. This is also a great place to enjoy a craft cocktail and watch the Friday night fireworks from Waikiki. They offer a prix fixe menu, otherwise everything is ordered a la carte, including sides, which are filling enough to be meals! My favorite was the BBQ corn and truffled mashed potatoes. Their burrata with honeycomb and balsamic appetizer was to die for!
Brick Fire Tavern Pizza – Chinatown
Earl Sandwich – Kaimuki & Kaka’ako locations
The best sandwiches on the island and the most friendly laid-back staff! The Italian is our favorite and will keep you full for half a day!
Livestock Tavern – Chinatown
*INSIDER TIP* – this restaurant is very loud, so it may not be the best place to get together with a large party if you want to hear everyone.
Moku Kitchen – Salt at Our Kaka’ako
Great cocktails and a good place to meet up with friends at pau hana (after work).
Stage – Kapiolani (second floor of Inspiration Furniture store)
Albeit pricey, this classy restaurant is great for celebrations or a nice date night out. Everything is decorated using fixtures from Inspiration, the furniture store it shares a space with.
The Surfing Pig – Waialae Avenue, Kaimuki
Be sure to try their signature cocktail; bacon-infused bourbon smoked in its own chamber. You’re going to love it every time somebody orders this drink, because for a brief five minutes, the entire restaurant smells like a campfire. Get your camera ready because that smoke dissipates quickly!
The Lanai at Ala Moana Center – If a food court had a cool, classy older sister of whom everybody was jealous, this would be it.
Here you can find several casual grab-and-go food options, made to order, including Japanese, Mediterranean, Boba tea, and sandwiches
Fellow Oahu local foodie Rowena from @ragrinds loves the king salmon at Tommy Bahama Restaurant. (By the way, if you don’t already follow her, you should check her out! She has some seriously amazing food photos and knows all the new hot spots!)
Top of Waikiki – Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki
Don’t have a drone, but want to get those birds eye views of Waikiki? Check out the only revolving restaurant on Oahu! Usually for a place with views this good, the food suffers. This is not the case, however, for Top of Waikiki, which serves up delicious local ingredients in a fine dining atmosphere, all whilst watching the world spin around you….literally. Within one hour, the restaurant makes a 360-degree turn to see the city of Waikiki and stunning ocean views from up high.
*INSIDER TIP* – make your reservation for Friday and watch the fireworks at 7:45 PM every Friday, which launch on the bay just off shore of the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. Can’t beat the best view in Waikiki! (Also great for sunset; times vary by season)
Whole Foods – Kaka’ako
This is one of the largest Whole Foods in the U.S. and opened in 2018. The hot bar is extensive and usually has several types of ethnic foods including Texas BBQ, Asian, Indian, and of course, a poke bar.
*INSIDER TIP* – This location has a nice seating area at the bar with lots of televisions showing sports games, as well as outdoor lounge seating, so it’s a great place to hang out with friends. Just grab your food for takeaway and eat it at the bar, order a drink and stay as long as you’d like!
Alan Wong’s (RIP) – South King Street, Honolulu
Alan Wong’s was one of my top favorite restaurants on the island, but sadly they have shut down for good in 2020 due to the pandemic. As a tribute to the long standing icon that Alan Wong’s has been on the island, and for so many of you readers who made special reservations an annual tradition, I am keeping this here as remembrance.
Banzai Sushi – Haleiwa, North Shore
*INSIDER TIP* – for a more affordable meal, go for happy hour between 4 – 5 PM Monday – Thursday for great deals on sake and sushi rolls! Seating is available on the floor with a cushion and low tables, or at a normal seated table with chairs.
Izakaya Nonbei – Kapahulu Avenue
*INSIDER TIP* – Go for happy hour from 5 – 6 PM or 9 – 10 PM Sunday – Thursday. The menu is limited but a bit cheaper and not as crowded.
Izakaya Torae Torae – McCully Avenue
This delicious izakaya plays punk rock music and serves sushi and authentic Japanese food. Tucked away on McCully Avenue, it doesn’t look like much on the outside until you step inside. Do expect long wait times during busy periods as the kitchen is quite small. I promise, it’ll be worth the wait.
Lucky Belly – Chinatown
Marukame Udon – Kuhio Avenue, Waikiki
*INSIDER TIP* – Go early (prior to 10 AM), otherwise be prepared to wait in line for up to one hour. They are open from 7 AM – 10 PM every day.
Odoriko – Kapiolani Blvd. right underneath the 24-Hour Fitness
Great for happy hour, where a sushi set, 3 rolls, a drink, and an appetizer costs under $60 for the two of us.
The ahi tuna tartare with avocado is delicious, as is their specialty drink with spritzer water, shochu and a melona bar (honeydew melon popsicle)
Pig & The Lady – Chinatown (Vietnamese)
Shirokiya Japan Village Walk – inside the Ala Moana Shopping Center
As soon as you enter this establishment, it feels as though you are walking through an Asian marketplace. There are several different food stalls serving anything from gyoza to Thai food. The hardest part is selecting the best ramen bowl!
Tim Ho Wan – Waikiki
Dim Sum, second floor of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Waikiki
Tonkatsu Tamafuji – Kapahulu Avenue
Whenever you see a line of locals out the door every night of the week, it’s a good sign! Tonkatsu is a Japanese style of cooking, where they bread meat using 5-day old aged breadcrumbs. The result is a cutlet that is light and fluffy and crunches when you bite into it. It almost reminded me of Schnitzel. You choose your miso soup type (red or white) and your rice type. They then bring out a stone grinder with sesame seeds and you make your own sesame sauce!
The chicken cutlet with melted cheese on top was outstanding. The pork is their #1 seller.
INSIDER TIP: hand-write your name on the list with your cell number and they will call you when your table is ready, just be sure to stick around close by. Wait time is between 30 – 70 minutes, but if you put your name down as soon as they open, you’ll be one of the first people in the restaurant as long as you’re physically there when they call you.
Wagaya Ramen – South King Street, Honolulu
When we traveled to Japan, we ate ramen literally twice a day, every day for two weeks. Wagaya made us re-live our authentic Japanese ramen experiences all over again. Order the black garlic ramen, you won’t be disappointed! This is my favorite ramen on the island.
If you’re planning a trip to Japan, be sure to check out my blog posts:
Cultural Foodies’ Guide to Kyoto
Waikiki Yokocho – underground at the Waikiki Shopping Plaza in Waikiki on Seaside Avenue
Step into a mini Japan with small restaurants selling everything from ramen to udon to green tea and spam musubi.
AFRICAN / MIDDLE EASTERN / INDIAN / MEXICAN / HAWAIIAN / THAI / ETHNIC
Dagon– South King Street (Burmese)
Parking is difficult as there are only a few stalls in back, plus street parking. Reservations are highly recommended, as the restaurant is small and they are constantly turning people away, especially on Friday and the weekends. You can order takeaway, but it does take quite a while. The coconut milk dessert with sweet potatoes and blueberries was very refreshing after delicious pan tay noodles and coconut curry with mahi mahi.
Encore Saloon – Chinatown (Mexican)
This is our favorite place to gather friends for Taco Tuesday. They have $2 tacos and some beers on sale. It’s a great deal and you can easily rack up a $40 bill with tacos alone! Their mezcal cocktails are also a hit.
Ethiopian Love – Chinatown
The first time I tried Ethiopian food was in Los Angeles and I loved it! There’s something about being able to eat food with my fingers that gives me a great sense of connection with what I’m eating. The rolls are similar to a sourdough crepe, and is the vehicle for scooping up all this goodness! Everything is served up on an enormous plate, family style. (You’d better be quick, otherwise it will be gone!)
*INSIDER TIP* – go on a Sunday when Chinatown is a ghost town and parking is free and easily accessible.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food – North King Street
Open since 1946, this long-running establishment serves authentic Hawaiian food.
Thai Issan – Market City on Kapiolani Blvd. (next to the Foodland in the shopping center).
Don’t let the grungy look of the outside turn you off. Inside this place is clean and lovely with a casual atmosphere. Go early if you want to dine in. Half of their business is takeaway. If you can, bring your own reusable container if you’re ordering takeaway because they use styrofoam and plastic bags. Help to reduce plastic and save the environment!
*The drunken noodles are their most popular dish, and it was our favorite! Their Tom Ka soup and curries are also outstanding.*
Mediterraneo – South King Street
When you enter, it feels as though you are stepping into the home of a local Italian. And the chef is indeed from Italy!
Vino – Ala Moana Boulevard
*INSIDER TIP* – I almost don’t want to divulge this little-known secret because we want to keep it to ourselves, but because I like you, dear reader, here goes: From 5:30 – 6:30 PM, their happy hour is half off the ENTIRE MENU!!! You can’t find a better happy hour deal than that on Oahu! However, they only accept the first ten people in line, so if you snooze, you lose! Arrive early (no later than 5:10 PM) because people start to queue up in line. You must sit at the bar. We usually order four dishes, a wine and a dessert, all for $50 for two of us!
Foodland – multiple locations
If you’re looking for a quick fix, there are Foodlands and Foodland Farms located all over the island. Great for a snack at the beach!
Fresh Catch – Waialae Avenue – just as the name suggests, all the fish here is freshly caught the day of. This is one of our favorite places to get a legit local poke bowl.
Nico’s – Pier 35 & Kailua locations
Bar Leather Apron – Chinatown
Gaslamp Hawaii – Kailua (Speakeasy)
The HI BRAU Room – Queen Street (Speakeasy)
VEGAN & VEGETARIAN
Down To Earth – multiple locations
Though a bit tofu-heavy, the hot bar and salad bar is excellent – always fresh and always delicious. Their vegan baked goods are great, and if you want anything in bulk, this is the place to get it!
Juicy Brew – Kaimuki
Leahi Health – Kaimuki, Aina Haina, and Kailua locations
Peace Café – King Street
Sprout Sandwich Shop – Koko Head Avenue, Kaimuki
Tane Vegan Izakaya – Beretania Street
I’ll be honest, when my friend told me about a new vegan sushi restaurant in town (the sister restaurant of a successful one in San Francisco), I scoffed at it. I love vegan food, but vegan sushi just sounded blasphemous. All I can say is, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I was blown away; the flavors and textures were outstanding, and the prices were fairly reasonable. Try the Point Reyes if you like spicy food. The only roll I would avoid is the Philadelphia roll with smoked tofu and vegan cream cheese. That one tasted strange, but everything else was phenomenal. The decor is chic and Izakaya-esque, which was a surprise based on the outdoor appearance. We spent $50 + tip for 3 rolls, 1 appetizer, and 1 beer between the two of us.
The Beet Box Café – Haleiwa & Kailua locations
This is one of our favorite vegetarian places to eat on the island! Two of their most delicious dishes are the three birds sandwich with “fakein bacon” and the beet burger!
The Loving Hut – King Street
Vegan Hills – Kaimuki
What It Dough – Monsarrat Avenue, Kaimuki
Hawaii’s first plant-based vegan pizza food truck! Pizzas range from $15 – $20 for a large, which you can easily eat all by yourself and not even feel bad because you basically just ate plants. 😉 The crust is crispy and thin, and the toppings are delicious! This is my favorite pizza joint on Oahu, and if you’re not vegan, don’t worry, you wouldn’t even notice the chorizo is made from soy, it’s that tasty! Be sure to check their hours, as they are only open three days a week.
Hours: Friday – Sunday 4:00 – 8:30 PM
Located right next to Banan, another awesome ice cream food truck specializing in desserts made with bananas!
Are you hungry yet? I’m starving just writing this post! Have you visited Oahu and tried any of these places? Are you a local and have a favorite that I missed on this list? Let me know in the comments below! I’m always excited to try new places! Aloha, and happy eating!
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