7 Great Restaurants Where Locals Eat in Honolulu

I just returned from a fantastic week in Honolulu, Hawaii! I ate at a variety of places with all different price points and flavors during my stay, and while there were a lot of highlights, I’ve chosen the ones listed below as my absolute favorites. Here are seven great restaurants that locals eat at—and where you should eat too—in the Big Pineapple.

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0221. Highway Inn
Highway Inn has been serving the best Hawaiian food since 1947. They just opened a second location in the new Kamehameha School’s SALT at their ‘Kaka’ako’ iconic 680 building between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu. They don’t take reservations and service can be slow but the Loco Moco ($10.30) and Chicken Long Rice ($4.50) are so worth it!

at Kaka’ako, 680 Ala Moana Blvd #105; Tel: 808-954-4955; [email protected]

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0182. Goma Tei
My wife and I serendipitously discovered Goma Tei while shopping at the Ala Moana Center. Usually, I don’t eat at malls but this place was off by the parking lot and the long line of locals waiting to get in caught my attention…that’s always a good sign. It turns out that this place serves up some amazing ramen—those fine Japanese noodles—and the service is quick so the line moves fast.

, Ala Moana Center, Level 1, Makai Side; Tel: 808-947-9188.

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0313. Bogart’s
Bogart’s is the place to go for breakfast—especially after a sunrise hike up Diamond Head. The place is small and the service is slow but everything is fresh and made to order. The Zagat 2013 rated the food a 27 out of 30, which is extremely high. They are known for their Acai Bowls ($9.05) and they only take cash. Good to know: The restaurant is located between Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head and it’s about a 20-minute walk from either.

, 3045 Monsarrat Ave; Tel: 808-739-0999.

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0204. Blue Hawaiian
According to , the best place to get an Acai Bowl is Blue Hawaiian, which is also located in the Ala Moana Center. You wouldn’t know this place serves food just walking by because it’s located between clothing stores, but if you look closely, you’ll see the counter in the back. Acai Bowls come in three different sizes and the store doesn’t open up until 8:30 am during the week and 9 am on Sundays.

, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Ala Moana Center, 2nd Floor; Tel: 808-949-0808.

Duke's Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0045. Duke’s
You’re right: Duke’s Waikiki is probably the most touristy restaurant in all of Hawaii but it’s also the one where locals go for special occasions and to bring out-of-town guests. Why? Because it’s just steps from the Pacific Ocean, with one of the most beautiful, sweeping views you’ll ever see. It’s also so laid-back you can wear flip-flops and shorts to dinner. Everything on the menu is tasty and it’s reasonably priced, too. TIP: Ask if you can get a table along the railing. Sometimes you have to wait longer for one, but it can make all the difference in the world. FYI: The best time to go to Duke’s is Sunday afternoon for drinks and local music.

, 2335 Kalakaua Ave.: Tel: 808-922-2268.

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0256. Shimazu Store
My buddy Nathan Kam () turned me onto this hole-in-the-wall after I told him that one of my favorite desserts is shave ice. He said that Shimazu Store is one of the best in Hawaii and he wasn’t lying. You’ll need a car to get there because it’s miles away from Waikiki in Kalihi, but they offer a wide variety of flavors…and I mean wide. All the typical flavors are there, but they also have rarities like hot cinnamon, peanut butter and chocolate. Small sizes are huge and cost $3.75 but you can add condensed milk, Azuki beans or a scoop of vanilla ice cream at the bottom. If you eat fast, you can save $0.50 by not getting a plastic holder—but you’ll definitely need one for the Larry size, which costs $11. Good to know: Parking is terrible, there’s usually a long line, they don’t allow photos inside, it’s cash only and don’t bother asking for a receipt—it will take about 10 minutes for them to handwrite it.

, 330 N School Street, Tel: 808-371-8899.

Waikiki Hawaii Jan 2014 -0107. Leonard’s Bakery
Leonard’s Bakery has been around since 1952 and in the time since, their malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts, minus the hole) have become a huge hit. Today, you can always count on there being a line out the door, packed with both locals and tourists. The line moves slowly because the malasadas are made to order, but that means they’re always served hot and fresh; you won’t find them just sitting in the bakery’s glass cases. They now come in a slew of flavors with all kinds of fillings but the original is just coated with plain sugar and costs only $1.

, 933 Kapahulu Ave; Tel: 808-737-5591.


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About the Author

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

12 Comments on "7 Great Restaurants Where Locals Eat in Honolulu"

  1. My wife and I just came back from Hawaii too. The view on the patio at Dukes was beautiful, but the food was just ho-hum. The burger tasted like it was brought in from Burger King. We also went to Leonard’s to get the malasadas. Always a good choice. You should also try Ted’s on the north shore for their excellent pies. Aloha.

  2. HI Johnny, I subscribe to your blog and live in Pearl City, near Pearl Harbor Oahu. I loved your top 10 places to eat and agree with most of them. You got the right place for shaved ice. Shimazu’s is definitely the very best of Hawaii’s many shaved ice shops. Next time you come, you must try Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar and Grill on Kapahulu Ave, down the street towards the ocean from Leonards Malasadas on Kapahulu.

  3. Love Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar!
    Also, Eggs and Things. It used to be on Lewers, but has moved. When I used to tend bar on the beach it’s where we all went to breakfast after work…HUGE portions, fresh eggs and lovely pancakes and french toast, another favourite for locals.

  4. Johnny, you went to Shimauz’s and surprised you didn’t have the creme brulee shave ice and haupia topping

  5. I loved the shorebird beach broiler next to dukes. is it still there ? I use to live in waikiki in 1991 on the 42 floor of the hawaiian monarch building next to hardrock cafe. what a life.! mark
    p.s. love your newsletter!!!!

  6. You need to get the kimchee fried rice at Side Street Inn its between Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Blasidell Center. I dream of it.

  7. Carol & Fred Pan Am LAX | January 9, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Reply

    We always enjoy your very informative and interesting Newsletter!
    Janet & Glen, who are Mom & Pop Family Proprietors of “Home of the Brave Tours-WWII Museum and the “Brewseum” in Kaka’ako ,
    invite you and Natalie to take their Military Tour and have a brew, next time you are in “Paradise”. The newly opened “Brewseum” is now rated the most popular Five Star ***** Brew Pub in HNL.
    P.S. We hope to see you soon at “Uncle Bills” for breakfast.

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