Known for its Pan-Asian cuisine and fresh seafood, there’s no shortage of excellent restaurant options on Oahu. From fancy meals along the waterfront to convenient eats in Waikiki, there are meal options for every budget. But to eat like a real foodie, you’ll have to venture a little further than the well-traveled tourist hotspots. Without the pretention that you’ll often find in highly touristed areas, these top 5 Oahu local restaurants provide the chance to eat like a local, and trust us, your taste buds will thank you!
Matsumoto Shave Ice
Serving up Hawaii’s favorite treat for a hot day, Matsumoto Shave Ice has been a mainstay on Oahu’s North Shore for 70 years. Though there are benches that line the doorway, the line of customers waiting to indulge in this local favorite treat usually extends far beyond the seating area. Those with the willingness to wait are rewarded with what many claim is the best shave ice on Oahu. Tropical flavors such as pineapple, passion fruit, lychee, and papaya are available. To eat it like a local, order your flavor of choice served over a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with condensed milk and mochi.
Helena’s Hawaiian Food
This family owned and operated restaurant is a great place to try authentic Hawaiian dishes. Plan to arrive before hunger truly sets in, as you’ll likely see the line before you spot this small, unpretentious local restaurant in Honolulu. Order ala carte for a variety of options or select one of the set menus, which come with a side of poi or rice. One of the most popular dishes is the kalua pig and pipikaula short ribs with two scoops of rice. If you’re traveling with a large family or group, ordering several ala carte items to share is also a great option!
A neon rainbow arches its way over the sign at Rainbow Drive-In, where local comfort food is served up in large portions. What began as a small eatery serving up 50-cent chili and rice plates, $1 BBQ beef plates, 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent fries in 1961 has now become a well-loved eatery that has been featured on shows such as Diners, Drive Ins and Dives and Hawaii 5-0. Though it has branched out to several locations on Oahu, its simplicity and good eats have remained the same. This is the iconic place to dive in to Hawaii’s love of plate lunches, which usually are accompanied by two scoops of white rice and a scoop of Hawaii-style macaroni salad. A popular order here is the mix plate, which comes with an assortment of BBQ beef, chicken, and mahi mahi. If you have yet to try the popular loco moco dish, this is a good place to do so. A Hawaii favorite, the loco moco consists of hamburger patties placed on a bed of rice and topped with two fried eggs and smothered in gravy.
With three locations on Oahu, Liliha Bakery offers the chance to start the day off with some of the best sweet treats around. Established over 70 years ago, this bakery is most well-known for its pastries, though they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The coco puffs are the most loved item at Liliha Bakery and are a must-try. These cream puffs filled with chocolate pudding and topped with a cool macadamia nut chantilly frosting are finger-licking good. While you can order a single coco puff, we highly recommend you order by the half dozen or dozen, as you’ll likely be back for more! Their bakery menu is extensive, with countless treats to satisfy that sweet tooth craving. Liliha also serves up omelets, lunch and dinner plates, burgers, and sandwiches.
Fresh Catch Poke Co.
While poke may be slowly gaining ground in other parts of the country, it has long been a staple of Native Hawaiian cuisine. Poke (pronounced poh-keh) is comprised of cubed raw ahi tuna, sea salt, seaweed, and limu, with nearly endless variations adding to these base ingredients. Fresh Catch is a great place to try this favorite local dish. Fresh Catch prides itself on using only fish obtained from sustainable, eco-friendly partners and fresh, locally grown produce as much as possible. Order from the counter at this local eatery, where many of the options can be viewed in the adjacent deli case. The most popular item here is the poke bowl, of which there are about a dozen choices as well as a build-your-own option. If this is your first time trying poke, try the basic Aloha Bowl, or kick the spice up a notch with the Hawaii 5-0 Bowl.
While a vacation in Hawaii calls for five-star meals along the oceanfront, it also offers the chance to eat at Oahu’s lesser-known eateries that serve up some of the best food on the island. Be sure to expand your palate by dining at these top 5 Oahu local restaurants! Contact us to learn more and book your next stay today!