Last updated: October 8, 2019
In this post, we will share our favorite places to eat and drink when we visit the island of Oahu. This list focusses on primarily on small local businesses and cheap eats around the island.
Banan: Vegans and non-vegans will fall in love with the delicious and tasty soft serve concoctions made from bananas at Banan. At Banan, their signature creation starts with a base of bananas which are blended with other ingredients like turmeric, ginger, acai and kale to create a healthy and hearty refreshing soft serve treat that can be eaten like that or topped with ingredients like fresh fruit, shredded coconut, granola, and honey to name a few. If you plan on hiking Diamond Head, you will want to visit our favorite location on Monsarrat Street or if you’re staying in Waikiki, the newest location is by Duke’s. They also recently opened up a location in Kailua.
When you think of Hawaii and Honolulu, you probably immediately think of mai tais, the beach and Waikiki but a short bike ride/Uber/Lyft ride or drive away, there’s a unique place to get craft beer called Beer Lab HI. Located on University Avenue near exit 24B off the H1, Beer Lab HI is a place to sample experimental craft beers brewed by 3 friends who also happen to be nuclear engineers.
It’s a small and quaint indoor tasting room which is nice if you want to take a break from the sun. Since it’s BYOF (bring your own food), you can even drop by Tamura’s and pick up some poke to go with your beer. While they don’t offer happy hour, the beers are priced in line with other pubs and you are supporting 3 talented homebrewers to run their own independent brewpub.
KCC Farmer’s Market: Up Monsarrat Street near the start of the Diamond Head hike is the KCC Farmer’s Market which operates on Saturday mornings from 07:30-11:00 and Tuesday night’s from 16:00-19:00. This is a very popular market and there are numerous tour busses but it’s worth a visit so try to get here early. There are enough tasty treats and things to check out here to keep you busy for a couple of hours.
Leonard’s: If you like donuts, you need to try a malasada, the Portuguese-Hawaiian version of one. It’s a soft doughy cloud of sweet fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. It’s in the Waikiki area and if you’re biking to Beer Lab, this is a good place to stop first.
Ono Seafood: This is our 2nd favorite poke place on Oahu after Tamura’s. A small family owned business, Ono offers a selection of poke, poke bowls and sides to eat there in the front or to take-away for a beach picnic. Located close to Waikiki, you can bike here very easily.
Otto Cake: Otto Cake is a bakery in Kaimuki, a really fun and trendy neighbourhood just steps away from Waikiki so skip the Cheesecake Factory and come here instead for dessert. The specialty here is the cheesecake and our favorite is the lillikoi cheesecake but we’ve sampled many other flavours and have enjoyed them all. From punkrocker to baker, Otto’s story is interesting and his shop worth the visit.
The Street Food Hall by Micheal Mina at International Village: While it is sad that International Village has undergone a drastic change to become an upmarket and upscale shopping experience, it was inevitable as Waikiki reinvents itself. It also doesn’t help that you can buy a lot of the items being sold in the market at the ABC Stores every 10 steps in Waikiki. Anyhow, rant over! With this change, there are also new more casual, quick, and unique dining options like the Street Food Hall by Michael Mina where you can meet and eat in a food court-style setting but with unique food and drink options like poke burritos, Nashville hot chicken, pizza, ramen, Mexican, and other types of food. They also have a Tiki Bar and other places to enjoy a drink and they also offer an early happy hour while everyone is at the beach. As far as the other places to eat in International Village, we do not recommend Flour & Barley Pizza as we had a poor experience with the service and the food.
Tamura’s: Tamura’s is a chain of family-owned markets that are recognized for their poke bar and also having a great selection of snacks, liquors, wine, and beer with 2 locations on Oahu; one in Kaimuki close to Waikiki and the other in the Kailua-Kaneohe area. While it feels like you are entering a convenience/liquor store, a quick walk around and you’ll be amazed at the wide range of local and international products available. Most of the poke at Tamura’s is fresh, not frozen like other places and the prices are very reasonable. We usually get 2 types of tuna, 1 type of tako and some pipikaula (Hawaiian dish that’s salted dried beef, similar to beef jerky).
Windward Coast (East):
Banan: Banan just opened up in newest location here! See Waikiki for more information about Banan!
Maui Mikes: Near’ish to the Lanikai Pillbox hike is Maui Mike’s a local chain of rotisserie chicken. If you want simple chicken and fries with different sauces, this is a good choice.
Paniolo’s: If you like burrito bowls like Chipotle, this is similar and they have a location in Kailua. This is an easy to-go-meal to take to enjoy on Lanikai Beach.
Tamura’s: There is another location of Tamura’s near Kailua for poke.
Inu Island Ales: If you are a craft beer nerd and visiting breweries is your thing, we highly recommend Inu Island Ales in Kaneohe, about a 20 minute drive away from Kailua. Not only do they make great beers here, the tasting room is very small and intimate and the staff like to chat with you about their beer. Their licensing allows them to sell small samplers for $3.00 and off-sales. We loved the Tropical Pilsner so much, we picked up a crowler to enjoy with our poke back at our hotel. Parking tip: Park on one of the streets and walk as they don’t really have parking in the lot.
Monkeypod Kitchen: If you want a nicer sit down meal and you’re on the north-west side of the island, Monkeypod has a great happy hour from 15:30-17:00; beers and wine are a couple of dollars off and most appetizers are 50% off. While you’re up this way, you can check out those nice swimming lagoons and it’s another nice place to enjoy the sunset.
Koala Moa: Koala Moa is essentially a huli-huli chicken restaurant where you can eat in or get takeout. The proteins are chicken and ribs and you get plates or a-la-carte. This is no-frills food in a very casual setting but the service is friendly and the food is delicious. We recommend stopping in here before going to the airport or grabbing takeout for a beach picnic. Last we checked, Koala Moa is closed for renovations until January 2020.
Oahu Market: Oahu Market is one of those experiences you may remember forever because it assaults your senses. If you have visited markets in Asia, you’ll feel nostalgic for the chaos, the smells, and the wide range of unique items being sold and if you haven’t been to Asia, you’ll get a glimpse of what markets are like. Unless you have a kitchen, you will not be able to buy the fresh seafood sold here but if you do, you’ll find the ingredients to make a delicious meal.
The Pig and the Lady: For a modern and fresh take on Vietnamese food that incorporates local ingredients, check out The Pig and the Lady. This restaurant started as a stall at the KCC Farmer’s Market and eventually grew into this large brick and mortar restaurant in Honolulu’s historical district. If you’re taking a stroll through Honolulu to check our murals and Oahu market, having a meal here would tie in nicely with your itinerary.
Where are your favorite places to eat and drink in Oahu?
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