Honolulu is a hub for Pacific and Japanese cuisines, seafood, and more frequently all the time, seasonal ingredients. Learn about 22 places you should absolutely eat in Honolulu, the capital of the state and the biggest city on Hawaii’s third largest island.
Alicia’s Market has been a Honolulu institution since 1949, when Alicia Kam and husband Raymond started making Hawaiian classics. The matriarch still roams the aisles, as does son Leonard, his wife Gerri, and grandson Christopher. Paintings announce market specialties like roasted meats, poke and prepared seafoods, which pack prodigious display cases.
MUST ORDER: Limu Ahi Poke, Roast Pork, Suckling Pig (Fridays & Saturdays only)
In late 2014, high school friends Matt Hong, Zak Barry, Galen McCleary and Luke Untermann parked their food truck near the base of Diamond Head. The truck’s framed with planters. Across a parking lot, find benches shaded by bamboo tents, and picnic tables shaded with umbrellas. Banán specializes in dairy-free frozen fruit soft serve crafted with either banana, seasonal pitaya strawberry or greens, all available with a variety of toppings. I’d recommend getting banana in a papaya boat, topped with puffed quinoa and lilikoi jam. Greens are also righteous, in a good way, with a frozen blend of kale, spirulina, ginger and mint.
MUST ORDER: Papaya Boat, Banana Soft Serve, Greens Soft Serve
3. Brue Bar [CLOSED: Visit Other Locations]
This specialty coffee bar shares a Kaka’ako space with Paiko botanical boutique and preaches Cognizance • Coffee • Creativity. The space houses a reclaimed wood bar, plenty of plants, and showcases Verve Coffee using a Steampunk and copper Slayer espresso machine. Brue opened in November 2014. Larry and Matt Heim now have four locations total. Try to stick to single-origin coffee, house cold brew, and flavorful teas like Lavenderberry.
MUST ORDER: Steampunk Coffee, House Cold Brew, Lavenderberry Tea
4. Chef Mavro
George Mavrothalassitis, who hails from the French Rivera, opened his eponymous restaurant in 1988, earned a James Beard Award in 2003 as Best Chef for Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, co-founded Hawaii Regional Cuisine along the way, and continues to thrive in Honolulu. The colorful space, set back from Waikiki’s tourist zone, features water colors painted in a nearby botanical garden, hula drums, and vases filled with vivid red Hawaiian ginger. Committing to Chef Mavro’s tasting menu is a smart move.
MUST ORDER: Ahi Tartare with Osetra Caviar, Keahole Lobster Risotto, Dayboat Snapper, Colorado Lamb “Djerba,” Lilikoi Malasadas
This humble concrete structure on a Kaimuki side street dates in 2015, features hand-cranked ice shavers and reclaimed wood bars sporting a “humble by nature” sign. The messaging also promises “No artificial flavors. No added colors. No worries.” This is serious shave ice with colors that don’t look like they were cooked up in a lab. Favorite flavors so far include tart, lightly sweet lilikoi with ground lilikoi seeds, and blueberry with plenty of real berries. Condensed milk is an option if you prefer to pair something creamy with powdery shave ice.
MUST ORDER: Blueberry Shave Ice, Lilikoi Shave Ice