The Best Food and Drinks on O‘ahu

 

SEE ALSO: Best of HONOLULU 2023

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Little Vessels Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Vegan Doughnuts

Twenty minutes before closing on a Sunday, Little Vessels Donut Co. sells out its last doughnut—a Frosty & Fries, glazed with dark chocolate and studded with crispy potato sticks. Like all of Sachi Maclachlan’s doughnuts, it’s square (the only cutter shape left the day she went shopping), yeasted and vegan. Biting in is like chomping a sweet, bouncy cloud. Which is why rotating flavors like pomegranate pistachio, Thai tea with boba, everything but the bagel and more tend to sell out, and why you need to get to Little Vessels’ weekend doughnut store in Kaimukī early if you want to score one. —MT

 

The Ninth Avenue side of Wai‘alae Avenue behind Mud Hen Water, littlevesselsco.com, @littlevesselsco

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Fujiya Hawaii Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Old-Meets-New Mochi

There are many contenders for a mochi award, but Fujiya Hawai‘i stands out. Simply put, its mochi is a joy to eat. The local business has been pounding out rice cakes for 70 years, and what sets it apart is its selection. From tender, pillowy daifukus filled with sweet azuki beans, peanut butter and fresh strawberries—made in shop by sweeter-than-the-mochi obachans—to a variety of exciting chichi dango (ramune, ume, liliko‘i, green apple) and seasonal specials that include yuzu, pistachio and banana cream pie flavors, there’s something for every generation. And when refrigerated for three or four days, the mochi’s soft, gentle texture holds up. —SM

 

930 Hau‘oli St., (808) 845-2921, fujiyahawaii.com, @fujiyahawaii

 


 

Best Variety of Matcha Drinks

“Once you try it, you’re hooked.” That’s the tea on the street from people who visit Daily Whisk Matcha. The charming patio counter, attached to fashion house Ten Tomorrow, offers ceremonial-grade matcha in a variety of ways. “We source our organic matcha directly from two main areas in Japan: Uji and Kagoshima,” says owner Summer Shiigi. “It’s a powder that gets whisked in, so you’re consuming the whole leaf and all its nutrients.” Daily Whisk Matcha’s beverages are a touch sweet, slightly earthy and super smooth. The matcha liliko‘i soda, infused with house-made liliko‘i syrup, is a refreshing citrusy seltzer. The Matcha-cano, like an Americano, is a top seller. The Hapa Matcha combines matcha and hojicha (roasted leaves that give a nutty and caramel-like flavor). All drinks (except the soda) can be made hot or chilled. —SM

 

1114 11th Ave., (808) 490-3436, dailywhiskmatcha.com, @dailywhiskmatcha

 


 

Best Sisig from a Food Trailer

Big flavors come out of Richard Soliven’s tiny food trailer, drawing lunchtime lines at SW8 Dada’s Sizzling Sisig. The menu of three dishes—pork sisig, chicken sisig and beef pares—offers a moment of clarity in a complicated world: It’s the pork sisig you want, crispy, juicy fried pork belly that’s seasoned, mixed with red onion and bell pepper and finished with mayo and a spritz of lemon. Bring cash and plan on takeout, as there’s nowhere to sit. And mark your calendar for Aug. 1, when Dada’s Sizzling Sisig reopens after Soliven’s long vacation in the Philippines. —MT

 

94-333 Waipahu Depot St., Waipahu, (808) 387-9554, sw8-dadas-sizzling-sisig.business.site, @sw8_dadas_sisig

 


 

Best Kūlolo

Kūlolo sounds so simple: a mix of taro, coconut milk and sugar cooked in tī leaves. It tastes like kalo, comfort and small-kid celebrations. We blind taste-tested six, and the favorite came from one of the state’s oldest commercial kūlolo factories: Kaua‘i’s Kapa‘a Poi Factory. This family business started in 1956, making poi, kūlolo, tofu and aburaage before focusing solely on kūlolo. Third-generation owners Susan and Rankin Pang credit Kaua‘i’s taro and hard work. “We just put our heart into it,” Susan says, along with 59,000 pounds of taro each year. Son Korey will become the fourth generation to lead the business. On O‘ahu, the kūlolo is available at Young’s Fish Market, Haili’s Hawaiian Food and Foodland. —RD

 

(808) 651-8255, kapaapoifactory.com, @kapaapoifactory

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Sage Creamery Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Gift for an Office with a Freezer

Sage Creamery’s luscious frozen pints make a perfect gift for friends with room in the freezer. For those in the office, it’s a special treat to chase away midafternoon slumps. Husband-and-wife team Zach and Courtney Villanueva run the business inspired by Zach’s late brother Daniel. And you can taste that love. The small-batch company whips up whimsical flavors of ice cream and sorbet that change throughout the year, including milk and cereal, lemon crunch and haulolo. They showcase local ingredients and businesses: ChadLou’s coffee, Mānoa Honey and Lā‘ie Vanilla in “one of the best vanilla bean ice creams you can get,” Courtney says. By the time you read this, they hope to have opened a shop at Ho‘opili plus distribution points across O‘ahu. —RD

 

sagecreamery.com, @sagecreamery 

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Koho Chocolates Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Luxury Chocolates Made in Hawai‘i

“Koho bonbons are more than just eye candy,” says our own Mari Taketa, HONOLULU’s dining editor. And I happen to agree. It’s hard to resist the Island-inspired flavors that include coconut, guava, Hawaiian sea salt, Kona coffee, liliko‘i, plus mango-ginger caramels and macadamia praline. It’s even sweeter knowing Koho Chocolates—the latest brand from Hawaiian Host Group—uses cacao grown on the North Shore of O‘ahu, macadamia nuts from Hawai‘i Island and other locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Plus, let’s be honest, when you’re looking for that perfect gift or omiyage, it has to be beautifully packaged—and the luxe label is the perfect balance of artsy and elegant. —JC

 

2335 Kalākaua Ave., kohochocolates.com, @kohochocolates 

 


 

Best Affordable Smoothies

Fruits abound at Fancy Fresh Food Shop, Jessica Li’s hole in the wall at the corner of Beretania and Pensacola streets: dragon fruit and liliko‘i spilling from boxes, watermelons perched on shelves, cut mango and pineapple lining the cold cases. Best-selling smoothies like the Mango Strawberry Kumquat, Papaya Mango Milk and Power Green, our favorite (double ginger, please), keep the blenders whirring seven days a week and helped fuel a planned expansion to ‘Ohana Hale’s new location in Waikīkī. Whichever you get, it’s a deal at $10 for 32 ounces—only $7 on subsequent visits if you purchase the Mason jar and bring it back for refills. —MT

 

Multiple locations, @fancyfreshfoodshop

 


 

Best Dive Bar

Reader Pick

8 Fat Fat 8 Bar & Grille is one of Honolulu’s quintessential dive bars, moody and homey with booths patched up with painters tape and darts and karaoke (Bernadette Hernandez, Bruno Mars’s mom, would encourage people to sing when she worked here). It’s the low-key vibe that draws regulars and new faces, and of course, the non-negotiable of Honolulu’s local bars, excellent food. Here it’s a blend of local and local Chinese favorites, including the famous Fat Fat Chicken; cake noodles; stir-fried lettuce; and escargot, the latter having been on the menu since owner Mary Ann Yeung’s father opened the bar in 1986. —MC

 

1327 S. Beretania St., (808) 596-2779, 8fatfat8hawaii.com, @eightfat 

 


 

Best Club Sandwich

I don’t know what started my yearlong search for a proper club sandwich—turkey and ham and three slices of white bread, cut into triangles, pinned together with cocktail toothpicks—but once I began looking, I was met with disappointment at every turn. Most “club” sandwiches are just chicken or turkey sandwiches with bacon on some obnoxiously fluffy bread like focaccia; it’s like ordering a BLT and getting a pork chop on rice. And then, perfection where I least expected it: Anna Miller’s, where the club sandwich, or club house, nails all the details. And in such a simple sandwich, the details are all that matter. —MC 

 

98-115 Ka‘ōnohi St., ‘Aiea, (808) 487-2421, annamillersrestaurant.com, @annamillershawaii 

 


 

Best Place to Buy Natural Wine

Wine made with minimal human intervention is gaining in popularity across Honolulu. Of the several places to buy it, all good, our pick is a Kaimukī coffee hub that turns into a natural wine bar on weekend afternoons. At Kaimukī Storeroom at The Curb, you can buy a bottle of natural wine, the selection—much of it from small family farms and unavailable elsewhere locally—rotates frequently, and if we’re being totally honest, it’s really hard to leave without picking up one of The Curb’s outstanding chocolate chip cookies. —MT

 

3408 Wai‘alae Ave., Suite 103, kaimuki.wine, @kaimukistoreroom 

 


 

Best Fast Casual Restaurant

Reader Pick

Because pretty much anyone from here can name their favorite dish (Bruno Mars: Korean chicken, Barack Obama: Zip Min). Because this 57-year-old chain is just about everywhere in Honolulu, with 20 stores on O‘ahu alone, plus one each on Maui and Hawai‘i Island (and soon, Las Vegas). Because it’s a regular hangout for church groups and politicians, high schoolers and senior citizens. And because the famous chili and Zip Pacs are part of our soul: Could there be any other choice but Zippy’s? —MT

 

Multiple locations, zippys.com, @zippys

 


 

Best Sunset Menu

Lean into aperitivo hour at Mariposa. You’ll find a spritz spiked with sake and some of chef Lance Kosaka’s greatest hits: trout roe-topped arancini on a tsukemono mayo; and fried garlic chicken sandwiches, a carb-on-carb plate lunch in hand-held form, the crispy chicken smothered with furikake mac salad and between a soft roll. The menu is offered Wednesday through Saturday, late afternoon until sunset—and the open-air dining room is the perfect place to watch the sun go down. Beyond pūpū, you’ll also find more substantial plates, from a shoyu-sake glazed steak to Kosaka’s luxe version of a salmon ochazuke. —MC 

 

Third floor inside Neiman Marcus, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 951-3420, neimanmarcus.com, @mariposahawaii

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Da Seafood Cartel Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Ceviche Tostada

Seek out Da Seafood Cartel’s tostadas, from Da OG, built on a base of fried crisp corn tortillas spread with a blue crab mayo and topped with Sonoran-style ceviche, to La Torre, arriving as a towering stack of ceviche, cooked and raw shrimp, octopus, fresh mahi and scallops. While you’ll find Da Seafood Cartel at the Kaka‘ako and Kailua farmers markets, head to its brick-and-mortar inside a former gas station in ‘Aiea to take advantage of the full tostada menu, plus heaping seafood cocktails in giant glasses, a bracing aguachile of raw shrimp swimming in chiles and lime juice, and tacos in cheese-crusted corn tortillas. Plus, you can bring your own beers to pair with Da Seafood Cartel’s michelada mix, which includes Clamato—as in, you can eat your seafood and drink it, too. —MC 

 

98-380 Kamehameha Highway, ‘Aiea, (808) 762-0044, daseafoodcartel.com, @daseafoodcartel 

 


 

Best Of Honolulu Food Kokua Market Ay

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

Best Variety of Mangoes

During the summer, you never know what the day will bring in mangoes at Kōkua Market. Perhaps custardy, floral pirie; firm and almost shockingly sweet shibata; “Wong” mangoes that are somehow reminiscent of almond floats. Kōkua Market is our favorite place to hunt for mango varieties. During peak season, it will often have more varieties than even some Chinatown stalls. But because Kōkua works with extremely small producers, quantities can be limited, making each find all the more precious. Despite that, mango prices, especially for members of Kōkua, are some of the lowest on the island. Mango season encapsulates what we love about Honolulu’s only natural foods co-op. —MC

 

2643 S. King St., (808) 941-1922, kokuamarket.com, @kokuamarkethawaii

 


 

Best Affordable Business Lunch Set

Easy parking, wide tables, quick and attentive service: Lunch at Han no Daidokoro ticks all the boxes, but there’s more. The pricey Korean barbecue micro chain from Tokyo has lunchtime sets of American washugyu beef tongue and shoulder cuts for $29 and $32, both served raw for you to grill at will. The tabletop grills are smokeless, so there’ll be no “I know what you had for lunch” comments at the office. And while the meal is filling with rice, salad, miso soup, fresh kim chee and a side dish, you can always add on a piece of Miyazaki beef nigiri for dessert. —MT

 

1108 Auahi St., #150, (808) 517-3229, hannodaidokoro.com, @hannodaidokoro

 


 

The Rest of the Best: Reader Picks

 

Best Açaí Bowl

Winner: Nalu Health Bar & Café
Multiple locations, naluhealthbar.com, @naluhealthbar

Finalist: Lanikai Juice
Multiple locations, lanikaijuice.com, @lanikaijuice

 

Best Bakery

Winner: Liliha Bakery
Multiple locations, lilihabakery.com, @lilihabakery

Finalist: Brug Bakery
Multiple locations, brugbakery.com, @brugbakery

 

Best Boba Tea

Winner: It’s Tea
435 Kamake‘e St., (808) 469-9159, itstea.business.site, @itsteahawaii

Finalist: Hana Tea
Multiple locations, (808) 376-8139, hanatea808.com, @hanatea808

 

Best Bottle Shop

Winner: Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors
Multiple locations, (808) 622-4117, tamurasfinewine.com, @tamurasfinewine

Finalist: Village Bottle Shop & Tasting Room
675 Auahi St., #121, (808) 369-0688, villagebeerhawaii.com, @villagebeer

 

Best Burger

Winner: Chubbies Burgers
1145C 12th Ave., (808) 291-7867, chubbiesburgers.com, @chubbieshawaii

Finalist: Teddy’s Bigger Burgers
Multiple locations, teddysbb.com, @teddysburgers

 

Best Dive Bar

Finalist: La Mariana Sailing Club
50 Sand Island Access Road, (808) 848-2800

 

Best Fast Casual Restaurant

Finalist: Island Sausage
500 Ala Moana Blvd., #6F, (808) 888-0509, islandsausage.com, @island.sausage

 

Best Food Truck

Winner: Joja Hawai‘i
Kaka‘ako Farmers Market, 919 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 369-6985, jojahawaii.com, @joja.hawaii

Finalist: Angel’s Asian Cuisine
(808) 518-0166, streetfoodfinder.com/angelsasiancuisine

 

Best Fried Chicken

Winner: Island Sausage
500 Ala Moana Blvd., #6F, (808) 888-0509, islandsausage.com, @island.sausage

Finalist: Popeyes
Multiple locations, popeyeshawaii.com, @popeyeshawaii

 

Best Grocery Store

Winner: Foodland
Multiple locations, foodland.com, @foodlandhi

Finalist: Times Supermarket
Multiple locations, timessupermarkets.com, @timessupermarkets

 

Best Local Beer

Winner: Honolulu Beerworks
328 Cooke St., (808) 589-2337, honolulubeerworks.com, honolulubeer

Finalist: Maui Brewing Co.
Multiple locations, (808) 843-2739, mauibrewingco.com, @mauibrewingco

 

Best Local Coffee Company

Winner: Big Island Coffee Roasters
(808) 968-6228, bigislandcoffeeroasters.com, @bigislandcoffeeroasters

Finalist: Lion Coffee
1555 Kalani St., (808) 843-4294, lioncoffee.com, @lioncoffeehi

 

Best Local Coffee Shop

Winner: Egghead Café
1210 Dillingham Blvd., #8, (808) 888-2211, eggheadhonolulu.com, @egghead_cafe

Finalist: The Curb Kaimukī
3408 Wai‘alae Ave., Suite 103, (808) 367-0757, thecurbkaimuki.com, @thecurbkaimuki

 

Best Local Snack Company

Winner: Wholesale Unlimited Inc.
Multiple locations, wholesaleunlimitedhi.com, @wholesaleunlimitedhi

Finalist: Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks
401 Kamake‘e St., (808) 597-8899, linsmarkethawaii.com, @linshawaiiansnacks

 

Best Local Spirit

Winner: Kō Hana Hawaiian Agricole Rum
92-1770 Kunia Road, #227, Kunia Camp, (808) 649-0830, kohanarum.com, @kohanarum

Finalist: Kōloa Rum
3-2087 Kaumuali‘i Highway, Līhu‘e, (808) 246-8900, koloarum.com, @koloarum

 

Best Musubi

Winner: 7-Eleven Hawai‘i
Multiple locations, 7elevenhawaii.com, @7elevenhi

Finalist: Musubi Café Iyasume
Multiple locations, iyasumehawaii.com, @musubi_cafe_iyasume

 

Best Place to Buy Poke

Winner: Foodland
Multiple locations, foodland.com, @foodlandhi

Finalist: Paradise Poke Hawai‘i
1613 Nu‘uanu Ave., (808) 260-4580, paradisepokenuuanu.com, @paradisepokehi

 

Best Plate Lunch

Winner: Rainbow Drive-In
Multiple locations, rainbowdrivein.com, @rainbowdrivein

Finalist: Island Sausage
500 Ala Moana Blvd., #6F, (808) 888-0509, islandsausage.com, @island.sausage

 

Best Sandwich Shop

Winner: Earl Hawai‘i
Multiple locations, earlhawaii.com, @earlhawaii

Finalist: Sprout Sandwich Shop
1154 Koko Head Ave., sproutsandwichshop.com, @sproutwich