I recently went to Oahu, Hawaii for a friend’s 30th birthday and ate some of the best poke I’ve ever had in my life and some dank loco moco. The food scene in Hawaii is similar to what you’d experience with the locals themselves – relaxed and casual, but on point. It is also more affordable than eating in SF, though that may not be saying much. This list was vetted by my friends, who have been coming to Hawaii annually for the last 6 years and have carefully curated a food list that is committed to spots that are not pretentious, have great food, and are commonly frequented by locals.
In terms of getting to Hawaii from the mainland, there are the traditional ways of looking at flights on Google flights and Kayak, but I recently discovered a new site called JustFly. Similar to Google, you can set price alerts and they will suggest cheaper dates to fly on. Unlike Google though, they found cheaper options and I appreciated how you could book directly on their site.
For housing, we stayed at Park Shore Waikiki and I would recommend it if beach access is important to you and you want to stay in the Waikiki area. Without further ado, let’s get to the food!
Here is my list of must go to food spots in Oahu, Hawaii:
- Ahi Assassins – Their poke was so fresh and as you bite into it it’s so soft in the most perfect way. There’s none of that white tendon that you typically may see in other poke spots. They also give you a large portion of sushi – two scoops was more than enough for me. They tend to run out early though, so try to get there earlier in the day. But don’t take my word for it, you can see how good it is for yourself here on Buzzfeed’s Worth It. They are also generous with their samples, you can try pretty much any one of their flavors (which I unabashedly did). Some examples of their flavors are: shoyu, sesame, spicy, and lunatic.
- Liliha Bakery – Their loco moco is bomb and I love how they don’t skimp on any of the sauce! The hamburger patty was tender and well-seasoned and as an egg lover, I can verify that these eggs added that additional umami to the meal. This is one of Liliha’s classic dishes and you can tell that it is a recipe that has been perfected over time. I would highly recommend this dish. The diner also has a bakery section that you can peruse while you’re waiting to get seated or after your meal.
- Leonard’s Malasadas – This is another culinary institution in Oahu. Leonard’s is most popular for their malasadas, a Portuguese donut that is light, fluffy, and airy. The basic malasada is essentially fried dough dipped in sugar. They also have filled malasadas, which you can get in chocolate, coconut, or custard flavors. My favorite was the basic malasada though, as it’s like eating a fried cloud of sugar.
- Marukame Udon – We went here twice while we were in town. Their noodles are hand pulled in front of you, the broth is rich and savory, and the egg is sous-vide. Need I say more? You can also grab as much tempura to your liking and they have musubis for sale too. My favorite dishes were probably the udon (particularly the broth), tempura, and musubis in that order.
- Helena’s – They’re known for their short ribs and their butterfish collar is a MUST. It isn’t pictured below, but it was so light, flaky, and delicious that we were in constant search of butterfish throughout our trip. The service was quick and friendly and you definitely get those family-owned vibes. It is cash only though, so remember to hit up an ATM if you only carry plastic like me!
Not worth the hype:
- Giovanni’s shrimp truck – I wanted to love this place, I really did. From the picture below, it looks bomb and I would be lying if I said I didn’t eat all of the food. That was more from straight hunger though and less about the taste. This place is much loved on Yelp, but I found the shrimp to be overcooked and their popular lemon butter aka scampi sauce to be a bit lacking in flavor and too reliant on the butter for taste. My friends typically go to Mackey’s Shrimp Truck, but unfortunately they closed down. However, the chef of Mackey’s started her own truck called Jenny’s Shrimp Truck so you may have better luck there.
And that concludes my list of local food spots in Oahu that you must go to! Do you have any recs? Feel free to leave a comment below!
I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about eating pho in Vietnam, swimming under the waterfalls in Thailand, and temple hopping in Cambodia. Aside from this, I am in the healthcare field in the Bay Area! If you’re ever in the area, hit me up 🙂