Honolulu Food Worth Seeking

Beach Honolulu

Waialae Beach was the most recent backdrop for downtown between magical Honolulu meals.

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Oahu has become a hub for Pacific and Japanese cuisines, seafood, and seasonal ingredients. Find 29 places to eat good food in Honolulu, the state capital and the biggest city on Hawaii’s third largest island. Listings appear in alphabetical order, not by preference. Craving a flavorful caffeine boost? Check out my Honolulu Coffee Worth Seeking guide.

Kona Coffee Purveyors / b. patisserie


Pastry Honolulu

Kona Coffee Purveyors owners Raymond and Jackie Suiter partnered with star b. patisserie pastry chef Belinda Leong on this dual concept in Waikiki’s International Market Place. I enjoyed my espresso tonic and of course indulged in Leong’s creative pastries. Her flaky black sesame kouign amann is a caramelized masterpiece with nutty base notes. Her pineapple coconut almond croissant is also unique to this location, a double-baked wonder with island flavors.

MUST ORDER: Black Sesame Kouign Amann, Pineapple Coconut Almond Croissant, Espresso Tonic

Leonard’s Bakery

Donut Honolulu

Leonard DoRego, a descendant of Portuguese immigrants, opened his bakery with wife Margaret in 1952. The original Kaimuki location still sells baked goods like cakes, pies, creme puffs, and pao doce (Portuguese sweetbread). Really though, it’s all about malasadas (Portuguese donuts). Warm O.G. malasadas are sugar dusted, egg rich and almost custardy inside. Don’t sleep on malasadas filled guava custard, an occasional flavor of the month. They also coat malasadas in piquant li hing mui sugar.

MUST ORDER: Original Malasadas, Guava Malasadas

Local General Store

Pastry Honolulu

Honolulu natives Jason Chow and Harley Tunac replaced Kaimuki Superette with a standout butcher shop and bakery. Beautifully flaky, buttery croissants showcase fillings like house-smoked ham & Gruyere and Mānoa Chocolate ganache (and cacao nibs) from Kailua. The same dough fuels pull-apart cinnamon rolls blanketed with vanilla cream cheese frosting. Ka’u orange & hazelnut bread was a sticky, sugar studded hit. Decadent browned butter chocolate chip cookies also feature Mānoa chocolate. House-made charcuterie like ulu scrapple, venison liver mousse (and salami) and mortadella with macadamia nuts tout Hawaiian flavors.

MUST ORDER: Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie, Chocolate Ganache Croissant, Croissant Cinnamon Roll, Ka’u Orange & Hazelnut Bread, House Smoked Ham & Gruyere Croissant, Charcuterie

Miro Kaimuki

Fine Dining Honolulu

Hawaii native Chris Kajioka teamed with mentor Mourad Lahlou on Miro, a high-value fine dining restaurant in Kaimuki. Miro’s 5-course menu costs $100 per person, changes monthly and melds French and Japanese influences. My experience included courses like salt-cured ono with blood orange and fennel; scallop with maitake and cremini mushroom risotto and kale chips; and Washugyu beef two ways with green apple foam and roasted turnip. Miro’s Asian influenced cocktail program is also top tier.

MUST ORDER: Prix Fixe Menu, Cocktails

Mud Hen Water

Restaurant Patio Honolulu

Ed Kenney’s Kaimuki restaurant with a bustling patio houses a crackling kiawe grill that burns wood from Waianae. The seafood is so local that beneath your menu, you’ll find a QR code, which you can scan to discover who caught the seafood, where, when and how. You can even message the fisherman to thank them. Seasonal Hawaiian food is share-friendly, with names that may need translation. For example, Yaki o Pa’i ‘ai involves griddled taro cakes served in nori wrappers with shoyu sugar and sesame seeds. Lup Cheong Madeleines are less traditional, but fun with miso whipped lard. Vegetables are a strength, especially served with kukui nut lavash and koena hummus crafted from spare taro parts. I’a Lawalu stars peppery moonfish belly, an ice cream banana tamale, and market vegetables cooked in a banana leaf buried in coals. For dessert, consider the decadent Chocolate-Kiawe Bean Brownie.

MUST ORDER: Clams, Crudite, Grilled He’e, I’a Lawalu, Lup Cheong Madeleines, Yaki o Pa’i ‘ai, Chocolate-Kiawe Bean Brownie

Nico’s Pier 38

Hawaiian Food Honolulu

It’s no accident that chef Nico Chaize opened Nico’s at Pier 38 where he did in 2004. Sure, the Lyon native found a space next to his stepfather’s fishing store that had spare room. But this also placed him next to the Honolulu Fish Auction, which harvests 3% of the Pacific catch and supplies him with a steady stream of fresh-as-can-be fish, which he shops for daily at 5:45 a.m., fueling seasonal specials. Chaize upgraded from a cafe to a full-scale restaurant and market, allowing for more ambitious fare.

MUST ORDER: Fried Rice, Fish & Eggs, Loco Moco, Seasonal Seafood Specials

Ono Seafood

Poke Honolulu

Judy and Willy Sakuma founded this red market in 1995. Their daughter Kim Brug and her husband Lance now run Ono Seafood, which still meets high expectations. My knockout combo co-starred ruby hued Hawaiian style poke (with kukui nut and ogo) and spicy ahi (with chile, ginger, and mayo). Raid the fridge for silky scallion studded lomi lomi (massaged) ahi and chile pepper water.

MUST ORDER: Combo Bowl (Hawaiian Ahi & Spicy Ahi), Lomi Lomi Ahi

The Pig and the Lady

Fried Chicken Honolulu

Modern Vietnamese food from Chef Andrew Le (the pig) and his mom (the lady) remain popular at Oahu farmers markets. They added a Chinatown restaurant with bird cage lanterns and pig figurines aplenty in 2013. Lunch includes sandwiches like the signature Pho French Dip, though they dig far deeper at dinner. Fried chicken with negligible batter comes dressed with tangy pickled chile, Makrut lime leaves, peanuts, pickled red onions, and fried shallots. House-made noodles may include Pho-Sta, thick pappardelle tossed with pho braised beef, pickled chile, Thai basil, Parmesan, and sprouted seeds. Pot pie with flaky puff pastry crust rotates fillings, but could contain crab fat curry with snow crab or escargot in green curry sauce. Proteins like Kona kanpachi and lemongrass Kurobuta pork chop all benefit from a charcoal grill. Desserts include soft serve sundaes and yuzu guava shave ice.

MUST ORDER: Cha Ca La Vong, Crab Fat Curry, Le Fried Chicken, Pho-Sta, Soft Serve Swirl

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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