Heartbeet Kitchen
Local Gems: The Best Places To Eat In Oahu
March 8, 2017 in Travel · 8 Comments

The Best Places To Eat In Oahu: Leonard's Bakery, Honolulu -- MALASADAS {portugese donuts}

I’ll admit that the eating part of vacation is what I plan first. And what I really, really look forward to. Experiencing local cuisine always gives such interesting insight to culture and history, and a chance to try new things.

Before we went to Oahu (here’s my guide to the island + best hikes and views), I created a list comprised of suggestions from this Honolulu guide, and this one, which also included hiking/great view suggestions. The one thing I couldn’t find much information on was how “gluten-free friendly” restaurants were, and I was a little worried knowing soy sauce is used in many  traditional Hawaiian dishes (poke, marinated meats, salad dressings). But even when traveling, I know that 90% of the time there are several choices on every menu that are naturally gluten-free.

Fresh Coconut On The Beach -- North Shore, Oahu

We stayed on Waikiki Beach, and because it’s the main spot for tourists, I wasn’t surprised to see chain restaurant after chain restaurant (think Cheesecake Factory, Benihana, Hard Rock Cafe) around that area. Not my style, vacationing or not.

However! With a little digging, I think I found several local restaurants hidden within those blocks, and many of the others on my – best places to eat in oahu – list were just a short drive away from where were staying. (I would highly suggest renting a car while you are there.)

Coffee:

  1. Arvo: This place is the cutest! It’s in a newer part of Honolulu, and runs in coordination with a plant/home store. The coffee is great, and they make several “toasts” each day too. With outdoor seating and a walk up window, I’d be here every day if I lived there.
  2. Kona Coffee Purveyors & Patisserie: They brew fancy. And make excellent coffee and baked goods. Located in Waikiki.
  3. Gorilla in the Cafe: Near the high-end shopping district of Waikiki, this coffee shop made a very good Americano, and had tiny gluten-free muffins that I loved.

The Best Places To Eat In Oahu: Arvo Coffee Shop - Honolulu - coffee in oahu

Breakfast:

1. Koko Head Cafe: Think refined breakfast food that incorporates authentic hawaiian flavors at a hip and local diner, whose chef worked at the French Laundry and starred on Top Chef. I ordered the Breakfast Congee, a slow simmered rice porridge with soft poached local egg, greens, crispy bacon, tamari glaze, toasted spices + seeds. It was incredible.

Breakfast Congee at Koko Head Cafe -- honolulu breakfast spot

2. Goofy Cafe & Dine: A strange name, a hidden location, but so worth finding. With an open-air, surfer vibe, they pride themselves on using local and organic food when possible. Their menu is feel good healthy without being boring. The farm fresh omelette I ordered was fantastic. Made with avocado, charred corn, spinach, local goat cheese and served with greens + brown rice. We also enjoyed dinner, but I preferred the breakfast.

The Best Places To Eat In Oahu: Farm Egg Omelette at Goofy's in Honolulu, fresh and organic restaurant on Waikiki Beach

3. Rainbow Drive-In: It’s not one bit fancy, but completely delicious. We went to this original drive-in after our sunrise hike at Diamond Head to refuel. I wanted to order the traditional loco moco, but the gravy had wheat flour, so I went with the classic egg and rice plate. And it totally hit the spot.
4. Leonard’s Bakery (pictured at top of post): The famous home of the Portuguese donut, a soft and puffy Malasada. The friends in my group absolutely loved these, and couldn’t stop talking about the fried dough, just lightly sweet and custard filled.

Rainbow Drive-In Breakfast Plate, honolulu hawaii

The North Shore:

This gorgeous, slow paced area is all about the food trucks and roadside stands. Definitely spend a day exploring! Haleiwa is the main town, with one road that takes you along the coast through surf country, the mountains, and ocean.

1. Matsumoto Shaved Ice: Nostalgia! Since 1953, Matsumoto’s has been making their famous shaved ice in a zillion different flavors. And honestly, no snow cone you’ve had on the U.S. mainland can compare. It’s almost like fluffy snow, super soft and icy.

10 Best Local Spots to Eat in Oahu -- Matsumoto's Shaved Ice

2. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck: Garlic.Scampi.Shrimp and rice…. so simple, so good. And the constant line of people is there to prove it. The shrimp is incredibly juicy and flavorful. You’d be wise to get there as soon as they open at 11am for an early lunch, otherwise you’ll probably wait about 40 minutes, but worth every minute.

The best shrimp truck in Oahu is Giovanni's! The scampi is the way to go, with lots of garlic butter.

3. Sunrise Shack {roadside}: In case you were wondering if bullet proof coffee and all the superfood trends like collagen, maca, ashwaganda, etc. the answer is yes – but only here. Pull up to the stand and you’ll see a few Vitamix’s, fresh fruit, and coffee accessories ready to make you something deliciously healthy. We went for these papaya bowls, with local honey + granola, bananas, nut butter, cacao nibs, goji berries, and blueberries. Ultra refreshing.

Papaya Bowls - Sunrise Shack, North Shore Oahu

Lunch/Dinner:

Due to lack of lighting at night, and sometimes being hangry at lunch, I don’t have pictures of these meals. But I can wholeheartedly recommend every single one of these places.

1. Helena’s Hawaiian Food: As you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you shouldn’t judge a restaurant by it either. Off the beaten path, amongst a Honolulu neighborhood you’ll find Helena’s, she’s been serving authentic Hawaiian plates since 1946. And in 2000, she won a James Beard Award. I ordered the Kalua Pig with cabbage and Luau Chicken (like a slow simmered green coconut curry}. Amazing. Do not miss this spot. Cash only, most likely a wait.

2. Bills Hawaii: With an australian feel, this restaurant was very modern, fresh and unique. And I finally found gluten-free poke! They served it with brown rice, charred long beans, and avocado.. my dream dish. Order a cocktail as well, they’re inventive and well balanced.

3. Town: “Local first, organic whenever possible, with Aloha always.” This airy spot reminded me of some of the restaurants I like to visit here at home. The food was well crafted, wine list extensive, and lovely service. We shared a pasture raised pork loin with polenta and crispy kale, while others in the group had the handmade pasta of the evening.

4. Moku Kitchen: Great locally-sourced restaurant where their specialty is cooking over an open fire, rotisserie style. Including the most amazing “roasted vegetable” plate ever. It had cauliflower, brussels sprouts, corn, peppers, butternut squash…. just perfect. The burger was also excellent, with grassfed Hawaiian beef. And most importantly, crispy fries.

5. Dean & Deluca: Definitely not a local restaurant, as I’m sure many of you know of them here on the mainland, but their prepared foods, cheeses, and deli are amazing. Located just a short walk from Waikiki Beach, we picked up dinner and had a picnic as we watched the sunset. It was absolutely perfect.

And…….. with that, you can probably see that you won’t go hungry in Oahu. I know I didn’t cover everything, but this is what we were able to make it to in 7 days. Seek out local food, your tastebuds will thank you!

 

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8 thoughts on “Local Gems: The Best Places To Eat In Oahu

  1. Andi

    I want to jump on a plane just for that congee! I have done an eating vacation in Hawaii, in Hilo for a week! I researched, made a plan, and ate my way through! I absolutely love Hawaii, the food is out of this world!

    Reply
  2. Sandy@RE

    I’ve been to a few of those places, loved Leonard’s Bakery – a classic. And of course Matsumoto Shaved Ice – the BEST! Great post Amanda!

    Reply
  3. Emily

    I don’t know why I find seeing all of what you ate in Hawaii so much fun, but I do. :) We absolutely love love Hawaii and would go there every year if we could. (Wouldn’t that be so great?!) We’ve spent most of our time in Maui and Kauai so it’s interesting to “explore” Oaha through your posts. So happy that you are able to go on this trip!

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      omg, it would be so great to go every year. i tell brian’s dad that he needs to do that, as he is retired and they have the hotel for him because he is an airforce veteran! and then of course invite us to go again. :) i’ve heard so much about Kauai, and i’m putting it on our list. xo!

      Reply
  4. Lisa

    These were such great suggestions! I’m not sure I would have found Goofy, even though it’s down the block from our hotel. We ate there several times. And loved Bills, kona and Sunrise Shack also. Thanks for doing recon for us all! :-)

    Reply

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