Bacon-wrapped mochi at a yakitori omakase tucked behind a jiu-jitsu school, haw flake blonde ale at a craft beer lab started by Pearl Harbor engineers, and more great bites to try now in Honolulu
Outside interests have made money in Hawai‘i for centuries, including in food. Waves of restaurateurs from the continental U.S. and abroad have opened restaurants in Honolulu, with everyone from Japanese conglomerates to Michael Mina setting up shop. But simultaneously, Honolulu’s homegrown businesses have been able to ride the most recent wave of excitement to expand themselves. In the last decade, tiny mom-and-pop restaurants opened second locations, while established local chains expanded their reach. More and more chefs have worked to learn about Hawai‘i’s history and culture to respectfully incorporate aspects into their restaurants. That is to say, diners in Honolulu are a bit spoiled for choice.
Updated, November 2022:
The heat has finally released its grip on Honolulu. The city’s Japanese restaurants are celebrating fall with matsutake mushrooms and fatty fishes like nodoguro, while the pastry shops are busy slipping Maui-grown persimmons into their sweets. Honolulu’s shift in seasons are subtle, though, and sunset snacks of mochi and malasadas are still a good idea year-round.
For some of the best eating these days, head to the city’s Japanese spots, from grilled skewers at the speakeasy-like Yakitori Ando to the sleek, newly renovated Restaurant Suntory, an excellent all-rounder. Honolulu also shines in the casual realm, including longtime local spots like Ethel’s Grill, as well as hip newcomers like Pizza Mamo, which has perfected the Detroit pie. Be forewarned: Around the holidays, as demand for fresh tuna increases, you may experience an uptick in poke prices.
We update this list quarterly to make sure it reflects the ever-changing Honolulu dining scene.
Martha Cheng is the food editor at Honolulu Magazine, the author of The Poke Cookbook, and a writer for national publications.