Top 29 dining spots of Hawaii

From haute cuisine to popsicles, the food scene is hot, thanks to fresh ingredients with amplified flavors

 

Loren Mooney, Brian Berusch, Joan Conrow, and Bonnie Friedman

FLIP-FLOP JOINTS

Big Island | Eddie Aikau Restaurant, Waikoloa. It might have been the surf-culture motif that got you in the door, but you’ll want to eat here too, for impressive dishes like the Big Island grass-fed filet mignon with gorgonzola, shiitake wonton, balsamic demi-glace, fingerling potatoes, and island stir-fry. $$$; 69-250 Waikoloa Beach Dr.; 808/886-8433. 

Big Island | Village Burger, Waimea. These aren’t just burgers. They’re grass-fed Big Island beef on Holy’s Bakery rolls (from the town of Kapa‘au), with accoutrements such as island goat cheese and tomato marmalade. Wash one down with a strawberry shake made with local dairy and fruit. $; Parker Ranch Center, 67-1185 Mamalahoa Hwy.; 808/885-7319. 

Maui | Flatbread Company, Pa‘ia. One section of this massive pizza place is dominated by an earthen wood-fired oven from which perfectly composed Maui-centric pies emerge, adorned with organic rosemary, Maui pineapple, Ha‘iku tomatoes, and more. The Mopsy’s Kalua Pork strikes a balance of smoky, sweet, herbaceous, crunchy, and creamy. $$; 89 Hana Hwy.; 808/579-8989.

Maui | MauiGrown Coffee Company Store, Lahaina. Taste the fruits of grower Kimo Falconer’s labors at this old mill office turned coffee shop. Maui Mokka, their rarest and best blend, has a medium roast with lingering chocolate notes. It’s rich, smooth, and totally Maui. Closed Sun; 277 Lahainaluna Rd.; 808/661-2728. 

Oahu | Ola at Turtle Bay Resort, Kahuku. The North Shore has ono (“good” or “delicious”) shrimp trucks and shave-ice joints, but few options for a decent sit-down meal. Ola is a good choice because of its beachside open-air seating—the perfect setting to enjoy the ahi poke spiked with briny, crunchy sea asparagus, or the umami-rich orzo with mushrooms from the Hamakua Coast. $$$; 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/293-0801.

Oahu | OnoPops, at farmers’ markets and Whole Foods. These haute popsicles, developed by brothers Joe Welch and Josh Lanthier-Welch, come in flavors reminiscent of their Oahu childhood, as well as tastes of the moment: Liliko‘i Cheesecake, Salted Watermelon, Rangpur Mojito (with Kona limes, Maui rum, raw cane, and North Shore mint), and Pineapple Li Hing (with OnoPop’s own li hing sweet-salty spice blend). A new flavor is added just about every week. The day we discovered the pops, we ate four. onopops.com

Oahu | Sweet Home Waima­nalo, Waimanalo. The mixed greens in your FarmRoof Super Salad, with raw-coconut vinegar and macadamia-nut oil dressing, come from the organic rooftop garden at this cafe housed in an old gas station. The hibiscus-mint lemonade is aromatic and re- freshing, and don’t be afraid of the kale smoothie; it has pineapple, banana, and honey to temper the über-wholesomeness. $; 41-1025 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy.; 808/259-5737. 

SHHH...LOCAL SECRETS

Big Island | Hilo Bay Café, Hilo. Yes, it’s in a strip mall, perhaps the last place you’d think you’d eat some of the best food on the east side of the island. But the surprisingly light Hamakua mushroom potpie will bowl you over with deep umami flavor. And the fish ’n’ chips are daily catch, battered and served with garlic fries. $$$; 315 Maka‘ala St.; 808/935-4939. 

Big Island | Holuakoa Café, Holualoa. Up the hill from Kailua-Kona, a 4-mile drive from where tourists typically venture, Holuakoa’s open-air garden dining area is an oasis of rich flavors, like the homemade potato gnocchi with Hamakua mushrooms, Hawaiian pumpkin, and summer squash served with sherry cream and parmesan. $$$; closed Mon; 76-5900 Old Government Rd.; 808/322-2233. 

Kauai | Kauai Family Cafe, Wailua. Travelers often speed right by on the way to the North Shore, not knowing that this retail strip spot is home to the island’s best Filipino food. Specials change, but the best are grilled pork with onions, and the pinakbet: a Filipino dish dense with local bitter melon, okra, eggplant, and string beans. $; closed Sun; 4-361 Kuhio Hwy.; 808/822-3288.

Maui | Like Poke?, Kahului. Just five minutes from the airport, in a warehouse parking lot where tourists would never go, is some of the island’s best poke. Danny Kalahiki mixes it to order in his vintage-style quilted-steel lunch wagon. Must-have: the ahi shoyu wasabi poke. The marinade is a perfect balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and umami. Locals eat lunch early, so it’s best to get there around 11. $; 140 Hobron Ave. (in the parking lot at Kahului Trucking & Storage, near Pier 1); 808/757-2239.

Oahu | He‘eia Kea Pier General Store & Deli, Kane‘ohe. This $8.50 lunch at a fish pier just might be the best thing you’ve ever eaten off of a paper plate. Chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi, who has worked at Chef Mavro (arguably the finest restaurant on Oahu) as well as Town, prepares mouthwatering locally sourced plate-lunch dishes like guava chicken and adobo pork, as well as Kuahiwi Ranch beef burgers and an occasional fish of the day. Order at the cash register, pick up at the window, and ... mmm. $; closed Mon; 46-449 Kamehameha Hwy.; 808/235-2192.

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