Hawaii is known as the melting pot of ethnicities and their food scene is a true reflection of this. Choosing the best places to eat in Oahu was no easy task and at times we were overwhelmed by choice. From Asian to American, seafood to sweet treats the island offers the perfect concoction of cuisine regardless of taste or budget. Here are our top picks – the perfect mix of traditional, predictable, exceptional and most of all, unforgettable.
Our best places to eat in Oahu will cover the best breakfast in Waikiki, our fave food truck on the North Shore and a lil’ Oahu favourite called pineapple Dole whip.
Best Breakfast In Oahu
Let’s start our best places to eat in Oahu tour with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Whether it’s pancakes or poached eggs that get you raring to start the day, here’s our top picks.
Eggs n’ Things Saratoga
We were warned by locals to arrive early as Eggs n’ Things are renown for the best breakfast in Waikiki. We arrived before 9 to a packed restaurant and got the last table. Although by the door, we were delighted none the less as we later saw queues down the street and realised we were lucky to be squeezed in! As always, Loz fancied sweet, Daz wanted savoury. Despite the name, Loz rebelled against eggs and opted for the traditional Oahu Acai bowl – the first of many!
If you are looking for cheap eats in Waikiki, Eggs n’ Things will hit the spot as the portion sizes are insane value for money. Although the food was delicious, the fact all breakfasts are served with 3 fluffy buttermilk pancakes as a standard side earn this restaurant’s title as the best breakfast in Waikiki. Not to mention the free coffee refills and charming service (think American diner with Aloha spirit).
Hard Rock Café – Waikiki
Although a more touristy than traditional approach to breakfast, this time bacon rolls meet rock n’ roll. What we love about all Hard Rock Cafés, they always incorporate a local twist. Our waffles were served with edible flowers, so instantly it was added to our best breakfast in Waikiki list for Instagram value alone. Aesthetics aside, the food was delicious and yet again – free coffee refills! The venue, service and novelty factor are the main reasons Hard Rock Cafés are our guilty pleasure when travelling. Overlooking bustling Waikiki Beach Walk it was our last, but one of our best breakfasts in Waikiki.
Sweet E’s – Kapahulu Avenue
If like Loz, you prefer a sweet start to your day then Sweet E’s is one of the best places to eat in Oahu for one reason – French Toast. French toast so good, the landlord had to hire a security guard for the car park as Sweet E’s quickly became the best breakfast in Waikiki for those with a sweet tooth. The car park chaos got so bad, Sweet E’s moved venues to Kapahulu Avenue, athough still expect a crowd, particularly on weekends!
Despite his omelette being big enough to feed a family of four, Daz’s food envy got the better of him and he too devoured the blueberry French Toast. So, we can officially confirm the rumours are true and the French toast with blueberries and cream is not only the best in Waikiki, but likely the entire island. Just don’t eat an omelette beforehand.
Island Brew Coffee House
After what can only be described as the hardest hike of our lives, we really deserved the best breakfast in Oahu. A quick Google search for a nearby cafe resulted in a very average looking parking lot, complete with Pizza Hut and Safeway. A tad confused and ever trusting of the Google Gods we thankfully continued as Island Brew Coffee house turned out to be an unforgettable spot and one of the best places to eat in Oahu for breakfast with a view!
The shabby chic décor felt gave no indication that Island Brew is actually a small chain (3 in total) and the service was so friendly, we felt like locals. Not to mention, the Acai bowl was so photogenic, I nearly didn’t want to eat it. Although we enjoy a free refill, we do crave proper coffee to start the day so head for Island Brew Coffee House if (like us) you enjoy real coffee served with real Oahu vibes.
Best Places To Eat In Oahu For Lunch
Food trucks in Oahu are like tractors in Scotland – you can’t drive 5 miles without seeing one. However with so many, how do you know which food trucks in Oahu are worth the dolla’ and which to avoid? Let us introduce you to not just a food truck, but a dining experience we will never forget and one of the best restaurants on the North Shore.
Aji Limo Truck – Shark’s Cove, Northshore
If you’re travelling as a couple, you will most likely be aware a hangry boyfriend is not one to be messed with. However, on our quest for the best food in Oahu we were so overwhelmed by choice on the Northshore, I’d a very hangry boyfriend on my hands. Cue the rainbow, culinary haven of Aji Limo truck – offering traditional poke bowls, fish tacos and more to hangry boyfriends and friendly locals alike.
The shaded seating oozed surfer vibes which were contrasted by the sophisticated menu. Aji Limo Truck is one of the best places to eat in Oahu for a side portion of Aloha spirit and the most delicious food, we still can’t believe it was cooked in a truck. I had Sake Misoyake – a sesame crusted salmon with sweet miso and white rice. Put’s a whole new meaning to burger van.
Arvo Coffee – Honolulu
Not gonna lie, the décor is a macramé loving millennial dream – cactus meet retro sun brollies topped off with hipster servers. Although service was a little slow (we received our food before our coffees, a pet peeve) we’ll let them off, as it gave us more time to absorb this real life Pinterest board. If you’re looking for the best food in Oahu for photo factor, our lunch was sprinkled with edible flowers (I did warn, millennial with a capital M.)
Although the menu is limited in a too cool for school type way, Arvo are here for one reason and one reason only – toast. How hipster can you get, huh? The menu is pretty much toast with an array of equally insta-worthy toppings. Arvo is one of the best places to people watch the cool kids, rest after an insane street art tour and enjoy toast that looks prettier than I probably will on my wedding day.
He’eia Kea Pier General Store
This was a suggestion from our Workaway family and is one of those hidden gems that only the locals know about. Situated at the end of He’eia pier, there are several tourist tour boats that come and go, yet the He’eia kea pier general store looks so unassuming from the outside, it’s unlikely you’d stop in by if you hadn’t heard of it. One of the best places to eat in Oahu for traditional food such as Luau Stew, seafood tacos and Loco Moco. Expect no frills, comfort food with friendly, talkative staff.
Best Places To Eat In Oahu For Dinner
Dinner in Oahu offered some of the most unique dining experiences we’ve had on our travels so far. From the Korean BBQ where we grilled our own food at the table, to the traditional Luau complete with Hula dancing. These are the best places to eat in Oahu for delicious, memorable meals that will suit all budgets!
Gen Korean BBQ House
Inside the Ala Moana shopping centre is the Gen Korean BBQ House. It’s making it to the best places to eat in Oahu list (despite being Korean themed) because of the unique dining experience. Essentially, Korean BBQ is the popular method in Korean cuisine of grilling meat, typically beef, pork, or chicken however the dishes are prepared on gas or charcoal grills built into the dining table itself.
This means you pay a one off fee (like an all you can eat buffet) and the raw meat, rice and condiments are delivered to your table, where you then cook it yourself on the BBQ grill. There is a fee if you don’t finish all the food you order so it’s wise to only order a couple of plates at a time. Although we realise the popularity of this dining in so many countries around the world, this was our first experience and it was so delicious and fun. If you’re looking for cheap eats in Waikiki this also ticks the box – all you can eat for $27pp!
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
This makes our best places to eat in Oahu list because it’s another restaurant you’d probably drive past as it looks completely unassuming. The only clue would be the likely queue outside promoting Helena’s popularity. Serving traditional, local Hawaiian food since 1946, this family-owned business is renown to locals and now tourists alike.
It was our first opportunity to try Poi, which is a staple food in traditional Hawaiian food. To us, it looked like purple porridge as it is made from the underground plant stem of the taro plant. It was also our first experience of Haupia, which is a coconut-milk based dessert served in Hawaii, similar texture to a panna cotta. In Helena’s, food is served as several small dishes (we recommend around 3 per person) then we all shared. You can also choose a set menu of select dishes for a variety – one meat dish, one side (either poi or rice) etc. To add, they only accept cash. If you want traditional, no frills food then this is one of the best places to eat in Oahu for just that. Our photos really do not do it justice, if only cameras could capture flavours and smells!
Luau – Polynesian Cultural Center
A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment such as hula or fire dancing. To truly immerse yourself in the Hawaiian culture, a Luau needs to be added to your itinerary. There are so many to choose from, however many are a tourist trap so we really struggled to choose.
Although we had previously dabbled with fire dancing after 2 bottles of wine on the Big Island of Hawaii (you can read about that here) we were excited to see professionals perform it, so in the end our Workaway host family took us to the Polynesian Cultural Center. To be honest, it had definite Disneyland vibes with the themed parades, shows and music, yet we still felt it was excellent value for money and an amazing insight in the Polynesian culture as a whole.
Making it to our best places to eat in Oahu list as the evening Luau was one of the highlights of our entire trip. It featured the traditional Kalua pig (which is usually cooked in sand via a type of underground oven) as well as poke, lomi salmon and haupia. Alongside hula dancers, traditional music and fire dancing – far better than ours.
Hawaii Hot Pot
Any sort of restaurant that let’s you get interactive and “hands on” with the cooking wins our vote again and again. Hot pot dining was a completely new experience for us but made it to our best places to eat in Oahu list for that reason, it was entirely alien to our usual way of dining.
For those also not familiar, hot pot is a Chinese cooking method where a a simmering pot of soup stock is brought to the dining table and you choose a selection of vegetables and thinly sliced meats which you add to the broth thus cooking them by boiling. Very similar to the Korean BBQ restaurant except, the grill is replaced by the hot pot.
There are several hot pot restaurants on the island and we feel it is one of the best places to eat in Oahu if you’re on a budget as they typically follow “all you can eat” pricing. We chose a spicy broth as well as a vegetarian stock and chose mushrooms, meat and a selection of sauces. Each place at the table also had it’s own hot plate to keep your dish warm – a dining experience we will never forget!
Best Places To Eat In Oahu For A Sweet Treat
Some people visit Oahu to sunbathe on the beautiful beaches and others to hike the lush landscape – either way nothing beats a sweet treat in the sunshine to fuel your day. Whether it’s to go with morning coffee or an afternoon pick me up these are the best places to eat in Oahu if you’re partial to a treat or two.
Leonard’s bakery is an Oahu institution, it’s likely you’ll spot the funky striped vans dotted around before the bakery itself situated in Kapahulu Avenue. Leonards Bakery is one of the best places to eat in Oahu for a sweet treat. You must try their speciality Malasadas. Although traditionally Portuguese, these sugary balls of dough have became a staple sweet treat in Oahu thanks to the Leonard’s family!
The Leonard’s bakery in Honolulu is often queued out the door with locals and tourists alike, keen to try the famous Malasadas – and we can officially confirm they are worth the hype. Described as a “doughnut without the hole” they are golden, sweet and crispy on the outside then fluffy and light in the inside. Not gonna lie, I was also a sucker for the cute pink packaging and retro branding. They mix up their flavours often but we opted for cinnamon sugar malasadas and haven’t tried better ones since!
Diamond Head Market & Grill
We’d been away from Gregg’s nearly a month, so our bakery withdrawal was strong. That and the fact we had just hiked Diamond Head so needed an instant sweet fix. We were recommended Diamond Head Market & Grill as THE bakery in Honolulu for their scones. Now being British, we have a very strong opinion on scones so we were intrigued to sample the Hawaiian version. To put it midly, we were blown away.
Firstly if you are looking for a bakery in Honolulu we cannot recommend Diamond Head Market & Grill enough as their scones were pretty much the size of my head. They also had numerous flavours, of which we opted for cream cheese and blueberry and it was insanely good. Seriously puts our British mixed fruit scone to shame. Although the texture reminded us more of a cookie than a crumbly scone, we urge you to visit a bakery in Honolulu and get your hands on one of these – we guarantee they won’t disappoint!
Pineapple Dole Whip
A few years ago we recall seeing a huge queue in Disneyland California for “pineapple Dole whip” utterly naive we didn’t bother trying it. However, as home to the Dole plantation, you cannot leave Oahu without sampling the insanely delicious pineapple Dole whip. With a day to spare we opted for the full tour complete with tourist train ride through the plantation, pineapple history lesson and a go at the “largest maze in the world.”
However there were bus loads of people who were there just for the pineapple Dole whip alone and we don’t blame them. To be honest, the tour and overall plantation was nothing spectacular (the staff were particularly disinterested) however pineapple Dole whip has changed my view on ice cream forever. Dare I say it, I’ve never tried ice cream as good and would happily book a flight back to enjoy it again and again!
For more photos of our adventure in Hawaii, please take a peek at our gallery.
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