Top Restaurants: G to L
There are countless Korean takeout restaurants in the islands, but this spot, owned by sisters Gina Song and Yong Hae Han, stands out for its lasting popularity, incredible value and right-on flavors. Recommended: kalbi, hot fried chicken wings, Korean spicy pork.
Market City Shopping Center, 2919 Kapiolani Blvd.;
735-7964; www.ginasbbq.com. Lunch, dinner. $
GOLDEN PALACE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Look for the crimson and gold pillars on King Street and you’ll find a classic dim sum experience from early morning to mid-afternoon (there are better places for dinner) with some of the most affordable prices in town. Be firm with the ladies handling the steaming carts; as in most old-school dim sum joints, they’ll try to push off plates on you. Recommended: egg custard, beef balls, siu mai, pork buns, joong (rice- and pork-stuffed bamboo leaves).
111 N. King St.; 521-8268. Lunch, dinner. $
GOOD TO GRILL
Synergy is the name of the game for this humble younger sib to Wes Zane’s Laughing Gravy constellation of Formaggio, Formaggio Grill and Good to Go restaurants, offering medium-priced, casual fare dominated by kiawe-grilled meat. The easiest way to explore the menu is to look to the right when you’re in front of the cashier for a short list of combo meals. Recommended: prime rib, pork ribs, salmon.
888 Kapahulu Ave. (Safeway Center); 734-7345; www.goodtogrill.com. Lunch, dinner. $$
GRAND CAFE & BAKERY
The food here takes ’20s-era diner classics and combines them with more contemporary ideas on brunch, lunch and dinner. Recommended: Bananas Foster French Toast, Apo’s Salty Pancakes (Chinese green onion cakes), Apple-Blue Cheese Salad, chicken pot pie, Grandma’s Lemon Cake.
31 N. Pauahi St.; 531-0001; www.grandcafeandbakery.com. Breakfast and lunch (Tuesday-Friday); dinner (Friday-Saturday); brunch (Saturday-Sunday). $-$$
A throwback to island-style okazuya of yesteryear, the second-generation Gulick is typical: a bit hard to find, not particularly newcomer-friendly, early hours only, no place to sit, long lines. But, whaddaya know — the food makes up for it all. Recommended: kakiage (mixed) tempura, furikake musubi, pork with green beans, corned beef hash patties, fried chicken.
1512 Gulick Ave., 847-1461; 1936 S. King St., 941-2835. Breakfast, lunch. $
HA LONG PHO NOODLE HOUSE
Pay a visit to the spot that beats most other pho restaurants in decor (clean and contemporary) and in the making of Vietnam’s signature noodle soup, in broth slow-simmered for hours on end. Recommended: Pho tai chin (round steak and brisket), Bun Thit Nurong (rice noodles with barbecue beef).
City Square Shopping Center, 1286 Kalani St.; 845-3687; www.halongnoodle.com. Lunch, dinner. $
HAILI’S HAWAIIAN FOODS
One of the standard bearers for Hawaiian cuisine in Honolulu, Haili’s offers a full range of menu items, including hard-to-find pickled limu, opihi cups, ake (innards) and, in a departure, an excellent Puerto Rican pastele stew. Recommended: kalua pork, the many poke varieties, rice bowls, mango haupia.
760 Palani Ave. (front door on Kapahulu Avenue); 735-8019. Lunch, dinner (closed Monday). $$
The first restaurant to introduce
Honolulu diners to pho, green papaya salad and other Vietnamese standards continues to be popular despite increased competition. Recommended: Imperial Spring Rolls, bun (rice noodles) with fresh vegetables or barbecued pork, French coffee.
1140 12th Ave.; 735-7581. Lunch, dinner. $$
HALEIWA EATS THAI
The bright tile decor in this restaurant may fool some diners, but don’t get it twisted — Haleiwa Eats Thai serves up some really tasty Thai-style food. We say “Thai-style” because the cooking sometimes strays from the traditional. Spice levels can vary here; be sure to clarify with your server what degree of heat you can handle. Recommended: tofu salad or ginger salad, curries (especially pumpkin vegetable), coconut rice.
68-079 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa; 637-4247; www.haleiwaeatsthai.com. Lunch, dinner (closed Tuesday). $$
HANK’S HAUTE DOGS
Go ahead, admit it: Sometimes you crave one of those cheap hot dog-and-soda combos from a certain warehouse-style retail establishment. It’s OK. Really. But for the other nine out of 10 times you want a hot dog, Kakaako sausage slinger Henry “Hank” Adaniya is the man to visit. Keep it simple and order the Classic Chicago dog, an all-beef wiener imported from the Windy City and served with all the classic garnishes. Or follow Adaniya’s adventurous lead and try daily specials like alligator, buffalo, lobster or Kobe-style beef. (Be sure to pick up some fries or onion rings with Hank’s specialty dipping sauces.)
Hank’s Haute Dogs, 324 Coral St., Kakaako; 532-HANK (4265); www.hankshautedogs.com. Lunch, dinner. $
A comfortable family place, Hapa Grill satisfies with a varied menu that combines local favorites with a bit of gourmet flair. Owner Shannon Tangonan Putnam carried over several of the specialties from her parents’ Sassy Kassy lunchwagon that operated in Campbell Industrial Park for nearly 30 years. Chief among these: teriyaki beef, chicken and salmon. For breakfast try the Fried Rice Omelet (with pork adobo and kim chee on the side), for lunch, the “I Love You Like a Mango” Salad. Dinner entrees go as upscale as Crab-Stuffed Scampi.
Kapolei Marketplace, 590 Farrington Highway; 674-8400; www.hapagrill.net. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$
HAPPY DAYS SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
HAU TREE LANAI
HEE HING RESTAURANT
Local people love to come to this Kapahulu restaurant for weddings, retirement parties, reunions and all manner of family gatherings. It’s an especially tasty stop during Chinese New Year. Recommended: dim sum and the house specialty, lobster.
Hee Hing Plaza, 449 Kapahulu Ave.; 735-5544; www.heehinghawaii.com. Lunch, dinner. $$
HE’EIA KEA PIER GENERAL STORE & DELI
This pierside food purveyor brings love of community to the table, making the most of the area’s abundance. That means working closely with fishermen, as well as Mahuahua Ai o Hoi and He’eia Fishpond to encourage naturally productive kalo fields and other agricultural production. Hungry diners may not be aware when they’re biting into an oio fishcake loco moco or burger made from Big Island Kuahiwi Ranch beef that they are participants in sustainable food practices. He’eia Kea makes the revolution delicious. In addition to a short list of basic menu items, daily specials might include the likes of pork luau and guava chicken with a dash of five-spice and Hawaiian chili pepper. Ice cake desserts offer a journey back to small-kid time.
46-499 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe; 235-2192. Breakfast, lunch (closed Monday). $
HELENA’S HAWAIIAN FOOD
Craig Katsuyoshi helms the kitchen at Helena’s, maintaining the menu and flavors developed by his grandmother, Helen Chock, who opened the restaurant in 1946. Helena’s is one of the very few restaurants in Hawaii to have on its wall a James Beard Award, recognizing it as Regional Classic for best capturing “the history and character of its community.” Specialties are pipikaula-style short ribs and butterfish collars — a section of the fish between the eyeballs and the gills, served fried crisp or in a stew.
1240 N. School St.; 845-8044; www.helenashawaiianfood.com. Lunch, dinner (closed Saturday-Monday). $-$$
Seiichi and Sachiko Toguchi opened Highway Inn in 1947, when Waipahu was a plantation village. It did have a highway, though, Farrington. Thus, the name. All these years later it’s the same family, same name, same town. The menu is Hawaiian, done simply and done right. Try the combo plate with laulau or kalua pork, add on pipikaula (dry or wet), Pulehu BBQ Short Ribs or Butterfish ‘n Stew Gravy. Also on the menu are plate-lunch standards and such fusion specialties as Kalua Pig & Okinawan Sweet Potato Quesadilla. Bonus: The restaurant has one of the best websites of any local restaurant, offering a great primer on Hawaiian cuisine.
94-226 Leoku St., Waipahu; 677-4345; www.myhighwayinn.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$
HIROSHI EUROASIAN TAPAS
HOG ISLAND BBQ
Hungry diners can’t miss the scent of slow-cooked, oak-fired pork and beef brisket emanating from the Wam-Turbo pit cooker that sits front and center near the takeout counter here. Hog Island makes the best beef brisket on Oahu, available on a plate or in a French roll sandwich, and you can also order pulled pork and baby back ribs (available on a plate or by the pound). Side dishes such as classic cole slaw with dried cranberries and scalloped potatoes complete the experience.
1137 11th Ave. (behind Big City Diner), Kaimuki; 734-1333; www.hogislandbbq.com. Lunch, dinner (closed Monday-Tuesday). $
HOME BAR AND GRILL
HONOLULU BURGER CO.
Former Hilo resident Ken Takahashi takes a stand for Hawaii island here, serving up 100 percent Big Island free-range, hormone-free, grass-fed beef burgers. Of course, the cost associated with smaller production is higher, but it’s worth it. Some items aren’t 100 percent local, such as steak in the Philly or “The Bull” sandwiches, but the burgers are a guarantee. Recommended: The burgers, potato fries (hand-cut every morning), served plain ($1.99/$2.99), with garlic ($3.99), truffled ($4.99) or with blue cheese ($4.49).
1295 S. Beretania St., Makiki; 626-5202; www.honoluluburgerco.com. Lunch, dinner. $
HOT POT HEAVEN
HY’S STEAK HOUSE
IGE’S RESTAURANT AND 19TH PUKA
With a name like this, you’d think this place is at a golf course. In reality, the Aiea establishment is nowhere near the links, but high above Moanalua Road on the corner opposite of Buzz’s Steak House. What makes this spot appealing is the variety of drinking, eating and seating options. Bring the family or bring your drinking buddies — it’s all good here. Recommended: Hawaiian plate, beef stew.
98-761 Oihana Place, Aiea; 486-3500; www.igesrestaurant.com. Pupus from 3 p.m., dinner (closed Sunday). $
IL LUPINO TRATTORIA & WINE BAR
Though it’s less flashy than some new players, many consider this one of the best izakaya (Japanese tavern) on Oahu with its tiny sushi bar, nabemono (hot pot) specialties, tonkatsu on a stick and Seafood Dynamite.
2626 S. King St. (next to Puck’s Alley); 941-2626. Dinner (closed Sunday). $$$
INDIGO EURASIAN CUISINE
Glenn Chu continues to mine the celestial cuisine of his Chinese ancestry, exhibiting his sense of humor in such menu titles as Fiery Explosions to Heaven Shrimp, and adds contemporary flair in such unexpected combinations as goat cheese wontons. Recommended: the wontons, grilled chive flatbread, lamb chops with tangerine sauce, Ten Thousand Chili Chicken with dark meat; ginger creme brulee.
1121 Nuuanu Ave.; 521-2900; www.indigo-hawaii.com. Lunch (Tuesday-Friday), dinner, late night pupu menu (closed Sunday-Monday). $$$
This critically acclaimed Japanese tavern is now newcomer-friendly (more English-language menu information, welcoming staff, more contemporary decor) while also continuing to serve up high-quality Japanese pub grub. Recommended: sake slushee, karaage (whole, deep-fried) flounder, and ultrafresh sushi (particularly salmon, hamachi and moi).
3108 Olu St. (just off Kapahulu Avenue); 734-5573. Dinner. $$$
A visit to Izakaya Tairyo is like walking into an ukiyo-e print of a Japanese fishing village. Super-flat imagery of fish and ocean waves swirl around the restaurant’s rooftop and exterior, while the interior is festooned with paraphernalia of the fisherman’s trade: nets, glass floats and lobster traps. It’s all about minimalist sushi for beginners here, with the tamest of
offerings: ahi, salmon, marinated mackerel, white fish, shrimp, scallop, squid and ikura. Some of the most impressive dishes are meant to be shared, such as the Fisherman’s Hot Pot featuring salmon, tofu, clams, shrimp, tofu, bean threads and won bok. When you’re ready for dessert, the frozen creme brulee with the texture of cheesecake is a standout.
514 Piikoi St.; 592-8500. Lunch, dinner (closed Monday). $$
JADE DYNASTY SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Chinese banquet restaurants have been on the wane, but judging from the crowds here, they’ve been missed. To add elegance to the experience, Jade Dynasty does away with the usual dim sum carts in favor of creating delicacies fresh to order. Servers here are pleasant and let you know they aim to please, something that isn’t guaranteed in Chinatown. Recommended: Greens in Shrimp-Spinach Dumplings, Shrimp-and-Chive Dumplings, Crystal Taro Buns, Deep-Fried Shrimp Toast.
Ala Moana Center, Ho’okipa Terrace; 947-8818; www.jadedynastyhawaii.com. Lunch, dinner. $-$$
Head to Jimbo’s for generous servings of housemade udon (thick, round wheat noodles) in made-from-scratch broth. There are lots of different flavors on the menu here, including curry in a thick broth. Recommended: Spicy Yaki Udon, Cold Skinny Noodle Salad, crab udon.
1936 S. King St.; 947-2211. Lunch, dinner. $
JINROKU TEPPAN GRILL & BAR
JJ BISTRO & FRENCH PASTRY
At JJ Dolan’s, the premise is simple: Serve an honest pint and the best pizza in Chinatown. In a space just mauka of the Hawaii Theatre that used to house a clothing store and cafe, Danny Dolan and co-owner Jay Neibuhr have focused on the basics. Nearly 20 barstools surround the spacious bar that lines the makai side of the room. The pizza is tasty, but at $15 to $17 per 14-inch pie, it’s not the most affordable way to go, especially if you’re by yourself.
1147 Bethel St.; 537-4992; www.jjdolans.com. Lunch, dinner (closed Sunday). $$
This humble little spot in Kapolei does all the Filipino basics well, but it soars with a few dishes: Adobo Fried Rice with its generous chunks of vinegary meat wrapped in an omelet, a peppery oxtail soup and Red Velvet Hotcakes (part of a hearty breakfast menu).
Kapolei Marketplace, 590 Farrington Highway; 693-8778. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $
KA IKENA AT KCC
For culinary students at Kapiolani Community College, each new semester puts them on display. In the Ka Ikena Dining Room, students work on regional cooking skills with a menu that progresses through Mediterranean, French, alpine and Latin cuisines. For diners, this means very affordable meals in the very picturesque dining rooms with sweeping ocean views. Yes, the chefs are in training, but their menus aim high and the instructors who ensure quality are restaurant veterans. Reservations required.
Kapiolani Community College, Ohelo Building, 4303 Diamond Head Road; 734-9499; www.kcc-dining.com. Lunch, dinner (Tuesday-Friday, pending class sessions). $$
An extension of the work taking place at Kahumana Organic Farm in Waianae, which has the lofty aim of serving as a model for sustainability, mindful eating and compassionate living, this cafe offers dishes both healthful and delicious, from the humblest beet and pea soups to plates accompanied by greens fresh from the farm. Tip well, as donations support Kahumana Farms’ endeavors.
86-660 Lualualei Homestead Road; 696-8844; www.kahumanafarms.org. Lunch, dinner (closed Sunday-Monday). $
Chef Darren Demaya has reinvented the buffet at the Sheraton Waikiki. The concept is “farm-to-table,” which slaps down the traditional warming-table image of the genre and replaces it with as much locally grown produce as possible on a menu that represents the cultures that have defined Hawaii’s palate since plantation days. Recommended: Niihau chowder, Misoyaki Marinated Hapu’upu’u, “Kahlua” Drunken Duck, bread pudding with Wild Turkey brandy sauce.
Sheraton Waikiki, 2255 Kalakaua Ave.; 921-4600; www.sheraton-waikiki.com/dining/kai. Breakfast, dinner. $$$$
KAILUA TOWN PUB & GRILL
Kaiwa embraces the principle of “kai wa,” invisible factors that communicate harmony and artistry. Presenting a seamless blend of the best of Hawaiian and Japanese ingredients, this upscale fusion restaurant is geared to the most stylish clientele. In the main room, teppan chefs preside, while sushi is prepared at a bar facing the sleek zashiki room with its floor-style seating. Dishes range from sashimi and a decadent uni and caviar martini, to heavier Wagyu and kurobuta selections. A fully stocked bar offers shochu, sake, wine, beer and cocktails.
Waikiki Beach Walk, 226 Lewers St., second floor; 924-1555; www.kai-wa.com. Lunch, dinner. $$$$
Eat healthy or drown your sorrows in gravy, go gourmet or go local-boy — the menu at Kakaako Kitchen runs the gamut. Have Masago Arare Crusted Salmon or a loco moco; Furikake Mahi Wrap or shoyu chicken. Chef Russell Siu’s casual alternative to 3660 on the Rise is often described as “gourmet plate lunch,” but a better description might be “gourmet casual” with its salads, sandwiches and sophisticated complete meals.
Ward Centre, ground floor, Kakaako; 596-7488; www.kakaakokitchen.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $-$$
Every neighborhood should have a spot like this, a drop-in and do-what-you-will sort of place: Pick up a quick lunch, choose something to take home and warm up for dinner, join friends for after-work wine and tapas, or linger over a romantic dinner with a special someone. The take-and-heat menu changes daily, the set menu seasonally, and the chefs create daily fish and meat specials with influences from Italian trattoria to California cuisine, Spanish tapas to French bistro. Recommended: Wild boar ragu, Portuguese fish stew, pan-roasted duck breast, kabocha squash “love letters” in brown butter reduction, grilled Waialua asparagus, wine flights.
750 Kailua Road; 262-DELI (3354); www.kalapawaimarket.com. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. $$$
KEO’S IN WAIKIKI
Still the Evil Jungle Prince after all these years, Keo Sananikone and his family offer a full menu of Thai standards in Waikiki. Recommended: Evil Jungle Prince with chicken, ginger string beans and chili with beef, crispy mahimahi with sate sauce, Bangkok duck breast with plum sauce.
2028 Kuhio Ave.; 951-9355; www.keosthaicuisine.com. Dinner. $$$
KINCAID’S FISH, CHOP & STEAKHOUSE
A favorite of business lunchers, celebrating families and pau hana diners, this is a go-to spot for seafood specials such as the annual Copper River salmon run. Solo diners will find the bar proper a perfect place to eat and drink without feeling singled out. Recommended: Pea salad, crab cakes, New York steak in brandy peppercorn sauce.
Ward Warehouse; 591-2005; www.kincaids.com. Lunch, dinner. $$$
This Moiliili institution may not operate in Chinatown or employ the customary serving trolleys, but it does serve some of the best and most varied dim sum in town. Recommended: har gow, siu mai, bao.
2518 S. Beretania St.; 942-1888; www.kirinhawaii.com. Lunch, dinner. $$
KOA PANCAKE HOUSE
Think of the menu at this unassuming little diner as plate-lunch-plus. Yes, you can have a burger or fried noodles or mochiko chicken, but you can also get a decadent salmon steak smothered in lemon-butter sauce, or the house special, sirloin steak with mushrooms and onions (and a free drink!). Regulars swear by the kalua pork.
94-801 Farrington Highway, Waipahu; 678-2529. Breakfast, lunch daily; dinner (except Sunday). $
L & L DRIVE-INN
LA MER AT HALEKULANI
Halekulani’s tranquil, shadow-washed fine-dining room is probably the most formal dining area in Honolulu, but it’s also the most welcoming, with a well-trained staff and million-dollar views from windows that frame Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach. The “Cuisine of the Sun” menu marries island ingredients with classic French technique. Recommended: the eight-course Degustation Menu, from lobster and asparagus soup to a tray of imported French cheeses, from foie gras to sea bass, ending with delicate little sweets called mignardises. Long-sleeved, collared shirt, dress pants and dress shoes required for men; for ages 8 and older only.
Halekulani Hotel, 2199 Kalia Road; 923-2311; www.halekulani.com/dining/la_mer. Dinner. $$$$
LA TOUR CAFE
La Tour has all the simple sort of cafe sandwiches, sides and flatbreads (pizza) you’d want to eat, at reasonable prices. Small, express and simple is all La Tour Cafe is meant to be, although from the street and by virtue of its address in the middle of nowhere, it has the appearance of a destination restaurant. Most people will be quite happy with what they offer, which revolves around your daily bread, whether in the form of sandwiches, grilled panini, flatbreads or tartines (best described as glorified bruschetta). Recommended: quiche Lorraine, pommes frites, turkey panini, La Tour Burger.
888 N. Nimitz Highway; 697-5000; www.latourcafe.com. Lunch, dinner. $
LE CACAO BISTRO
The perfect destination for Blaisdell Concert Hall patrons before a show, Le Guignol is the place to be for contemporary French cuisine. Both three- and five-course fixed-price menus are offered. Recommended: bone marrow with olive oil and sea salt, rabbit with onions and cream reduction, olive oil and black pepper cake with blue cheese ice cream and honey drizzle.
Medical Arts Building, 1010 S. King St.; 591-1809; www.leguignol.org. Lunch (Wednesday-Friday, seasonal); dinner (Wednesday-Sunday). $$$$
LEGEND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
It can get kind of crazy dining at Legend, but the crowds and noise are worth it for reliably fresh and delicious dim sum and Chinese classics. Especially popular with large families on weekends, but pretty much busy all the time. Recommended: bao (steamed, stuffed dumplings), joong (sweet rice richly laced with roast pork), look fun (pork-flecked rice noodle roll), egg custard tart.
Chinese Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St.; 532-1868. Lunch, dinner. $$
LET THEM EAT CUPCAKES
LIKE LIKE DRIVE INN
All are welcome at this nothing-fancy coffee shop — breakfasting families, seniors seeking inexpensive early evening meals, late-night carousers. The menu is heavy on both local-style plate lunch and American diner standards, with many meals served in sets (and with old-school sides like a fruit cup and sherbet). Recommended: saimin with a burger deluxe on the side, hash browns with cheese and gravy, breakfast items, fried rice.
745 Keeaumoku St.; 941-2515. Open 24 hours. $-$$
LILIHA BAKERY & COFFEE SHOP
While most stop here for the unforgettable Coco-Puffs (cream puffs stuffed with chocolate pudding and topped with heavenly chantilly cream), many others choose to wait in line for a seat at the busy counter. Show up after 1 or 2 a.m. and the crowds are almost as entertaining as the food is filling. Recommended: pancakes, grilled butter rolls or cornbread, loco moco, cheeseburger deluxe, grilled mahi-mahi and, from the bakery, cinnamon twists.
515 N. Kuakini St.; 531-1651; www.lilihabakeryhawaii.com. Open 24 hours from 6 a.m. Tuesday to 8 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday). $$
LITTLE VILLAGE NOODLE HOUSE
When Little Village opened in 2001, it was love at first bite. The restaurant has since expanded in size, but you still can’t go wrong with just about anything off the pan-Chinese menu. (And there’s plenty of parking!) Recommended: Shanghai noodle, salt and pepper pork chop, black pepper beef, clams with black bean sauce, blistered green beans.
1113 Smith St.; 545-3008; www.littlevillagehawaii.com. Lunch, dinner. $$$
Don’t be fooled: Despite its name, Lobster King is a fairly typical Chinese restaurant, offering lobster stir-fried with your choice of ginger and green onion, black bean sauce, or XO sauce. The rest of the menu? Chinese standards like minute chicken, kung pao chicken, steamed pork with salted egg, plus soup noodles. Night owls will be happy to find this place is open until 3 a.m. daily, one remnant of the location’s previous life as a bar and karaoke joint.
1380 S. King St.; 944-8288; www.lobsterkinghi.com. Lunch, dinner, late night. $$
LUIBUENO’S MEXICAN & SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
This restaurant is unusual in that its menu is not driven by tacos, tortillas and such typical Mexican fare. The focus is on seafood instead, served mostly in straightforward preparations enlivened by Mexican-style sauces. Worth the drive to the North Shore are the scallops or shrimps in Aguachile (“pepper water”) marinade, brightly flavored with lime and hot peppers. Recommended: garlic-grilled whole fish (a periodic special), fried ice cream.
Haleiwa Town Center, 66-165 Kamehameha Highway; 637-7717; www.luibueno.com. Lunch, dinner. $$-$$$