When you’re craving an array of delicacies from across Asia and the Pacific, there’s no better place to sample them all than on Oahu. Our unique mix of cultures and international appeal means that Hawaii is home to some of the world’s most creative cuisine. Many of our homegrown favorites have become popular worldwide in recent years, but why not come here and try the best food in Oahu in its native habitat? One thing’s for sure: you won’t go away hungry!
Na Mea’ai o Hawaii Nei
First things first: let’s begin with the cuisine of our host culture. Hawaiian food has gotten a bad rap from those who popularize it as mere tourist luau fare, but Hawaiian-inspired dishes are all over the map for a reason. Helena’s Hawaiian food is one of the best restaurants on Oahu. This is where the locals go for kalua pig, laulau, squid luau, fresh poi, opihi, and more. Stop by after a visit to the nearby Bishop Museum, when you’ll really be in the mood for the flavors of Hawaiian culture. Helena’s gets busy, so come early, be patient about parking, and be sure to bring cash as no credit cards are accepted. You’ll be glad you did!
Next on the menu is something that’s become quite popular on the U.S. mainland, but imitations will not satisfy: poke. This simple dish of cubed fish (poke just means “cut up”) has become very trendy, and even complicated, in places like Los Angeles. But it is in fact quite simple, and the most important thing is that the fish is fresh. While you can get poke in any supermarket on the island, some of the freshest and best food in Oahu can be found at spots that specialize in it. If you’re in Waikiki, check out nearby Ono Seafood on Kapahulu, a tiny hole-in-the-wall that offers not only some of the best and freshest poke in the world, but also has perfect rice to accompany it. Don’t expect any place to sit and eat it, but you won’t be sorry! Another option is Nico’s at Pier 38, a former hole-in-the-wall that has now built a larger restaurant, located right on the pier where the fishing boats come in. While they do have a sit-down restaurant, you can also just get some incredibly fresh poke in their deli.
A morning visit to Chinatown is a true cultural experience: wander around in the markets for the islands’ best selection of fresh produce at bargain prices, and sample fresh fruit smoothies and boba drinks, or pick up some take-out dim sum at Mei Sum. Alternatively, opt for the sit-down family-style dim sum experience at Jade Dynasty Restaurant in the Ala Moana Hotel. For a mini trip to Japan, head to Shirokiya Japan Village Walk, also at Ala Moana, and choose from a mind-boggling array of Japanese dining options in this incredible food court. If you don’t feel like going to the mall, you can also pick up great bento at Don Quijote supermarket just a few blocks away (which is also a lot like going to Japan).
Finally, when you need a cold dessert after the beach in Hawaii, you get shave ice, not ice cream. If you’re out on the North Shore, Matsumoto’s is always a popular option. In town, get the best at Shimazu Store, a family business that’s always made its own flavors. Sample unique flavor combinations with the very best quality of ice shave: so ono!
Enjoy eating your way across Oahu!