Best Local Restaurants in Honolulu

Source: Yelp

Honolulu is a very popular destination for travelers looking to enjoy sandy beaches, vast blue oceans, and an overall relaxed atmosphere. Honolulu is the capital city of Hawaii and is the most populated of the cities. It sits on Hawaii’s biggest island of Oahu. There you will find Waikiki beach, which is well known for how beautiful and amazing it is. Honolulu is known to be a laid back, tropical metropolis, and you get that vibe from the way the city is set up. There is also no shortage of cool restaurants there. 

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Nico’s Pier 38

Find live music playing at this restaurant every night!

This is a delightful combination of sea foods. Image courtesy of eHawaii

1129 N Nimitz Hwy | Honolulu | nicospier38.com

Nico’s Pier 38 is a casual restaurant that has live music playing every day of the week. It is a great place to go when you want a loud and fun night out. Nico’s website showcases a calendar with every act that will be on for the entire month. If you’re a music lover, it can really help you decide which night you want to go!

Nico’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast starts at 6 a.m. and offers up fish omelets, steak and eggs, and pancakes. During lunch, you can get chicken katsu, crab cake salad, and grilled ahi sandwich. At dinner, this restaurant’s options include red wine braised short ribs, grilled peppercorn swordfish, and shrimp scampi pasta. You can also get coffee, cold drinks, beer, and wine. 

“I love coming here and eating outside on the pier. They offer a variety of fish and seafood all fresh caught.. They also have live music. In the evening it's sit down and the waiter takes your order.  During lunchtime, you order at the counter. It's a different menu.”–Yelp Review

Rainbow Drive-In

Get traditional Hawaiian foods at an amazing price. 

3308 Kanaina Ave | Honolulu | rainbowdrivein.com

Rainbow Drive-In is a restaurant that has been family owned and operated since 1961. Their philosophy is to serve generous portions of simple and hearty food. The meals typically come with two scoops of rice and a side of macaroni salad. And it all is served at a reasonable price! 

Rainbow Drive-In has been featured in lots of media. It has been on Hawaii 5-0, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and Terrace House. It has received a lot of recognition both nationally and internationally, which is something that keeps its customer base growing. 

This restaurant serves classic Hawaiian foods. On the menu, you can find local favorites like beef cutlet with gravy plate, mahi mahi plate, and a spam and two eggs plate among other traditional Hawaiian options. They serve breakfast, lunch, and specials. They also offer slush floats in different flavors! 

“This was so good! I'm salivating thinking about this food. This is a definite must try! The short rib, the fish, the macaroni salad..For only $11.50 as well?? It's not even about the price but it's also notably impressive, but the flavors! This should have been my first meal in Hawaii. This was what I needed and I didn't know it until now.”–Yelp Review

Helena’s Hawaiian Food

Get some of the best classic Hawaiian food. 

This is a hearty spread. Image courtesy of Thrillist

1240 N School St | Honolulu | helenashawaiianfood.com

Helena’s Hawaiian Food has been serving traditional local seafood since 1946. This humble family owned business captures the interests of both local residents and tourists. In 2000, this restaurant was awarded the Regional Classic Award from the James Beard foundation. It is one of only a handful of restaurants in Hawaii to have received the award. 

Countless families gather at Helena’s on a regular basis. It helped to cement together its community. You can easily see why this is a great gathering spot when you check it out for yourself. Their menu offers short ribs, lomi salmon, and fried ahi among several other things. They offer dine-in and takeout options. 

“I have tried several times to get into Helena's on past trips and finally made it this time. I love Hawaiian food and I make it at home in New York when I can. Helena's is by far the best on Oahu.  My favorite dishes are the pipi kaula, fried butterfish and poke with opihi. It is worth the wait. Try going early to get a table!”–Yelp Review

Moku Kitchen

You will be supporting local and sustainable farming by eating at Moku. 

660 Ala Moana Blvd | Honolulu | mokukitchen.com

Named after the Hawaiian word for “island,” Moku Kitchen is a self-driven concept that echoes a simpler time when food was locally sourced and cooked over an open fire on a ranch. This restaurant brings Hawaii’s rich farming and ranching heritage to urban Honolulu. They like to make sure they keep things simple and tend to serve twists on upcountry specials from their rotisserie oven. 

This restaurant accommodates all kinds of guests from foodies, to families, and travelers. They serve lunch and dinner, and while you can find these menus on their website, don’t expect them to always be the same. Their menus are seasonal and change often. Moku Kitchen is passionate about making handcrafted food, drinks, and a fun environment for customers. They support local and sustainable farming, ranching, and fishing! 

“I gave this place 5 stars because nothing went wrong. The food was great, the Long Island was made perfectly, the service was quick and the waitress was attentive! Honestly, everything I want in a restaurant!”–Yelp Review

The Pig & The Lady

Try traditional and unique Vietnamese foods. 

Any of these plates will do. Image courtesy of Savvy Tokyo

83 N King St | Honolulu | thepigandthelady.com

The Pig & The Lady is the most popular Vietnamese restaurant in Honolulu. It is well known for its unique and delicious dishes that attract customers from all over. They offer lunch, dinner, keiki, and sweets. Some of their food items are traditional Vietnamese foods and some of them are their own unique creations. 

Lunch includes appetizers like Vietnamese salad and crispy spring rolls, and the sides include noodles, rice, or baguettes. They offer banh mi. Pho french dip along with lemongrass chicken are some of the great banh mi flavors you can choose from. They also have specialty pho. Options are oxtail pho, vegan pho, and classic pho among others. 

Dinner offers a mix of hot and cold appetizers, specialty pasta and noodle soups, and delectable entrees. They also have a selection of great desserts. Those include che panna cotta, soft serve ice cream, cheesecake with umami caramel sauce. 

“We had one of the best meals of our life here last week! We come here whenever we are in town, if we can get in! I made our reservations 3 weeks prior to arrival. Have to have their Chicken Wings, their custard, any & all of their salads. Really, it would be hard to believe you would order anything & go wrong. Hats off to the chefs! You improved on perfection!”–Yelp Review

Heavenly Island Lifestyle

Have a taste of Hawaii in the morning. 

342 Seaside Ave | Honolulu | heavenly-waikiki.com

Heavenly Island Lifestyle is located in the heart of Waikiki. Whether you’re a native Hawaiian or a visitor, this is a restaurant you are likely to enjoy. This place’s food will show you a true taste of Hawaii. It's presented so beautifully, you will enjoy the sights as well as the smells. The flavor will be explosive as you bite into food made with locally sourced ingredients. Their vintage venue is relaxed and a place where you can enjoy the Hawaiian weather. 

Breakfast is a big focus of this restaurant. It is one of the most beloved meals in Honolulu and Heavenly Island Lifestyle makes it worth getting up early for! They do local twists on some mainland cuisines, local specialties, and overall foods that will get your day started right. They also offer a good blend of foods that are land based and sea based. There is something for everyone!

“This was one of my favorite brunch places in Honolulu. I liked that the salmon was cooked and loved the sweet potato they gave with the dish. The kale salad was tasty, also.”–Yelp Review

Tonkatsu Tamafuji

This place serves tonkatsu comparable to what’s sold in Japan. 

This Japanese classic is done well here. Image courtesy of Tripadvisor

449 Kapahulu Ave Ste 203 | Honolulu | tamafuji-us.com

Tonkatsu Tamafuji is a restaurant that has been delighting its customers with delicious tonkatsu for 68 years. It is a dish that requires the skill and mind of a masterful cook to be done well. And at this restaurant, a masterful chef is the one running the kitchen and churning out amazing foods. They even let you in on the secret to their food’s great flavor on their website. 

They use copper pots filled with gallons of high quality canola and corn oil to fry the tonkatsu, aged pork stored in a low temperature for a fixed amount of time that helps it retain moisture, and uses golden, aromatic stock for its soups. They also offer two different sauces that they created themselves. One is the sweet sauce, which is tomato based, and the other one is a Worcestershire based sauce. 

“Tonkatsu Tamafuji is the closest tonkatsu spot I came across in the US that is very much comparable to the tonkatsu in Japan. Can't wait to come back when I'm back in town!”–Yelp Review

The Cheesecake Factory

This American classic will satisfy your craving for sweets. 

2301 Kalakaua Ave Ste Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center | Honolulu | thecheesecakefactory.com

If nothing else on the list looks interesting, you can always visit a national favorite. The cheesecake factory is a chain restaurant that is well known for its delicious savory and cheesecake menus. This is a restaurant where you’ll find dessert in abundance. They offer a long list of cheesecakes as well as a few other types of cake. 

Even though the Cheesecake Factory has an extensive menu, they still make everything they offer from scratch. That’s not always the case with large restaurant chains, but it certainly is for this one. They always make sure to start with fresh ingredients and great cooking techniques. The menu includes brunch, pizza, pasta, and even low calorie options. It is really easy to appreciate this restaurant!

“It's always a treat to eat here at The Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki, but it's even better to walk in and be seated right away with no wait time. We stopped by for lunch and had the lunch special chicken piccata and spinach lasagna. It was delicious, but we were too stuffed to eat a cheesecake so we got one to go!”–Yelp Review

Honolulu is home to some of the most amazing restaurants you can try. When you eat at a Honolulu restaurant, you will be exposed to amazing local foods you would've never known to try otherwise.

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