1857 S. King St., Honolulu
For an upscale take on traditional Hawaiian cuisine, make a reservation at Alan Wong’s. The famous Hawaiian chef now has a restaurant in Shanghai, too, where he serves his sophisticated takes on local specialties, like coconut lamb chops with Macadamia nuts, salmon and rice Ochazuke, and some excellent sashimi and poké options. Part of their claim to fame: This is one of President Obama’s favorite places to eat in his hometown.
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei
This relatively new arrival from the group behind Hanalei Bread Company and Bar Acuda is focused on ramen and ceviche-style fish preparations, which weirdly fills a hole on the island.
5-5161 Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei
Chef Jim Moffat opened this Hanalei spot for tapas and fine Mediterranean wines after establishing himself with two restaurants in San Francisco (the jazz club, 42 Degrees, and the bistro, The Slow Club). Thanks to the chef’s close collaboration with island fishermen and local organic farmers, these small plates are brimming with Hawaii-inspired fare made from fresh, regional ingredients—like ono (a kind of mackerel, also known as wahoo), ahi tuna poké, and roasted ali’i mushrooms—which also means the selection changes daily, and ingredients vary by season. Their curated wine list features select Estate-bottled Rhone-style specialties, several of which come from wineries that practice sustainable, organic, or biodynamic farming. As one of the island’s foodiest destinations, it’s likely to be busy—call ahead, or come ready for a bit of a wait.
Beach House Restaurant
5022 Lawai Rd., Poipu
Sure, the views from all sides are stunning—one of the island's best snorkeling beaches is immediately below—but the food here is also reliably fantastic. This is partly due to the fact that it's co-owned by Peter Merriman, who knows exactly how to nail the upscale Hawaiian beach vibe, but a fair share of credit goes to chef Marshall Blanchard who turns out seafood-inflected comfort food that's the perfect amount of fancy. This translates to a really good option for big celebratory family dinners, as well as low-key sunburnt lunches. Don't miss stand-outs like panko-crusted calamari and the fish & chips (with pineapple tartar sauce)—there's a straightforward kid's menu, too.
68-1400 Mauna Lani Dr., Kohala Coast
The Canoe House is the excellent oceanfront restaurant of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, complete with an open-air dining room and outdoor patio overlooking the Pacific. The menu draws heavily on local ingredients (nearly everything on the chef’s optional tasting menu is sourced from the Big Island), with dishes like twice-cooked pulehu pork ribs, locally grown beets served with Big Island goat cheese, and seared wahoo with pickled ginger and wasabi soy dressing.
Eating House 1849
2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka Rd., Poipu
After training in Los Angeles at Le Serene, Chef Roy Yamaguchi opened his first Hawaiian restaurant, Roy's, in the late '80s. Born in Tokyo, the menu was Hawaiian fusion, some of the first of its kind, and Yamaguchi went on to win a James Beard award. There are three Eating Houses 1849's scattered across the islands (the name is an acknowledgement of the first restaurant on Hawaii, which was called Eating House), and the one on Kauai is part of the Shops at Kukuiula (where a lot of the island's great restaurants are nestled). The menu changes frequently, but expect to find classics like potstickers, chicken wings, and an outstanding "Hapa" burger, which is a mix of beef and Kaluna wild boar. There's also an excellent spicy ramen bowl.
Hali’imaile General Store
900 Hali'imaile Rd., Makawao
Bev and Joe Gannon’s story sounds more like something you’d daydream from a cubicle than reality—they were producers and managers in Los Angeles when Bev decided to go to cooking school and they both made the move to Maui to start their catering business. They opened Hali’imaile General Store in the ‘80s, and while their restaurant group has continued to grow, the store is still the local favorite. You’ll find the restaurant among the pineapple fields in a historic building that was built in the 1920s to serve camp workers—the décor is subtle and light, with big wide windows at the front. As for the food, Bev does her best to source all of her ingredients on the islands, rather than importing them from the mainland—she relies heavily on local specialties like Kalua pork, fresh island fish, and coconut.
2956 Kress St., Lihue
This old-school ramen shop has been a Kauai stand-by for 70-odd years and counting (they're also known for lilikoi pie). There's typically a long line of locals, and it is completely frill-free, but it's a great post-airport choice after a long ride (or in advance of a red eye back to the states). By Hawaii standards, they're also open quite late.
Hāna Ranch Provisions (Closed)
71 Baldwin Ave., Pāʻia
Hana Ranch reminds us a bit of Cabo’s Flora Farms. Almost all of the food served at the quaint to-go counter and in the dining room comes from their farm and ranch, a 3,600-acre cattle ranch and organic farm in East Maui. They’re dedicated to responsible farming and livestock practices, aiming to be not just sustainable but regenerative, leaving their land and community better with each project. The food at their counter (sandwiches, juices, pastries, and meats/sausages) is ridiculously fresh and easy for grab-and-go lunches, but if you have time, swing for a full meal in the dining room to try signature dishes like their rice bowls, short ribs, and the now-famous Hana burger, which is served on a brioche bun.
76-5900 Old Government Rd., Holualoa
Holuakoa is an artist enclave in Kona’s coffee region, but it’s good for more than a morning cup. Designed like an open-air house, and surrounded by gardens, this Holuakoa restaurant is known for their tasty brunch and dinner menus. Most of their produce is organic and comes from farms located within five miles of the restaurant. Fish is caught by local purveyors; meat is sourced from local, grass-fed, organic farms as much as possible; the bread, pasta, and desserts are all made in the restaurant’s kitchen; and the wines and spirits are biodynamic and organic. In front of the restaurant is a small coffee shop serving Kona’s own Buddha’s Cup Estate.
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