Our Expert Jackie Brown-Yurkin, Flight Centre’s Hawaii Product Manager, knows a thing or two about eating in Hawaii. So when we asked her for her top recommendations for places to eat in the Aloha State, she jumped at the chance to share her favourites. If you’re heading for Hawaii and aren’t sure where (or what) to eat, take a look through her suggestions, and prepare to feel hungry:
I’ll start with a Hawaii-wide institution, Roy’s, an upscale restaurant whose Hawaiian-influenced cuisine includes seafood, steaks and sushi. Roy’s six Hawaiian restaurants, dotted across the islands, include: Waikiki, where Roy’s is conveniently located just around the corner from the Embassy Suites by Hilton Waikiki Beach Walk; Maui, where you’ll find the restaurant right in front of Ka’anapali Golf Club; and another on the Big Island in the Kings’ Shops mall. Whichever branch you go for, I can highly recommend the butterfish, which is served with a sweet ginger wasabi buerre blanc. Yum!
Moving on to the individual islands and Oahu, home to the Hawaiian capital Honolulu. Here I just love the South Street Inn, a laid-back local bar serving unpretentious, family-friendly comfort food. My menu favourites are the poke (raw fish salad) and the mouthwatering short ribs, an absolute must-try. And don’t just take my word for it: the Side Street Inn has been featured on The Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Adam Richman’s Man v Food Nation too.
Also in Honolulu you’ll find Leonard’s Bakery, a hidden gem which is slowly becoming more mainstream as the major guidebooks start to take notice. Come for the best malasadas (Portuguese doughnuts without holes) in Oahu, or simply pop in for a mid-morning snack.
Alternatively, try Eating House 1849, a sister restaurant to Roy’s that offers flawless meals at very reasonable prices. With top-notch service, and a casual and upbeat atmosphere, it’s worth seeking out the branch on the upper floor of the International Market Place open-air shopping centre in Waikiki, or one of the further two branches in Kapolei and Kauai. Can’t pick what to eat? Try a little bit of everything with the pupu, a platter of mini meat and seafood dishes similar to tapas.
My final Honolulu recommendation is the Musubi Café IYASUME in Waikiki, a Japanese eatery right around the corner from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa. Every time I’m in Waikiki I come here for the spam musubi (grilled spam on rice), bento boxes and rice bowls. There’s always a line but it’s definitely worth the wait, and once you reach the front, the service is pretty quick.
Moving on to Maui, I love Longhi’s in Lahaina, a small and adorable joint serving excellent Italian-Hawaiian dishes, such as lobster cannelloni. Also serving breakfast (try the crab cakes benedict), it’s great for a date! Likewise, the South Maui Fish Company in Kihei is perfect for grab-and-go food: the fish is so fresh and the poke is to die for! Wash it all down at Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade, also in Kihei, a juice bar serving up the best acai bowls (a thick smoothie topped with oatmeal and fruit, and sometimes even peanut butter).
My final Maui must-eat is Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea, a farm-to-table eatery and bar serving Hawaiian food washed down with a long cocktail list and plenty of beer. It’s a polished yet relaxed place and one of my all-time favorites. For a cool cocktail try a Monkeypod Mai Tai, made with old Lahaina rum and a honey-lilikoi foam.
The Big Island
Over on the Big Island, otherwise known as Hawaii, set aside some time to try the Three Fat Pigs at the Queens Market in Waikoloa. Here the portions of modern European and Pacific fusion food, including the local fresh catch served with Crispy Okinawa Purple Potatoes, are truly gigantic; it’s definitely best to share.
Elsewhere the Da Poke Shack is located on the seafront in Kailua-Kona and serves up fresh seafood by the beach, including takeout poke in flavours such as ‘dynamite’ and sesame. And, just down the road, the Kona Coffee Café in the Kona Inn Shopping Village creates deliciously frothy coffees and espressos made with Kona beans grown right there on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes, as well as super-thick smoothies and tasty snacks.
There are so many great places to eat in Hawaii that I could go on forever, but my final top eatery is Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai, also in Kailua-Kona, in the Keauhou Shopping Center. With panoramic Pacific Ocean views, this place makes a great sundowner spot, as well as selling Hawaiian heritage dishes and such tempting delights as kai lanai chocolate cake. Grab a cocktail and park yourself by the fire pit for an evening of food and fun.