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Named for the father of modern surfing, and outfitted with much Duke Kahanamoku memorabilia, Duke's is both an open-air bar and a very popular steak-and-seafood grill. It's known for its slow-roasted prime rib, huli huli (rotisserie) chicken, and grilled catch of the day, as well as for a simple and economical Sunday brunch. Their cocktails are probably the best in Waikiki. A drawback is that it's often loud and crowded, and the live contemporary Hawaiian music often stymies conversation. You can experience many of the same great flavors and pay half the price by siting in the bar. www.dukeswaikiki.com. Credit cards accepted.
This contemporary fusion sushi bar was started in Miami by Kevin Aoki, son of famous restaurateur Rocky Aoki. As a result, you'll find some Cuban-influenced fusion dishes on the mostly-traditional sushi menu that are as exceptional as they are unique, like the nigiri with slices of Cuban beef or the spicy lobster roll with cucumber and a spicy cream sauce. Chef Hide Yoshimoto is constantly coming up with new creations to show off the freshness of Hawaii's fish and other island ingredients. This is a hot spot at night for local club goers and scensters, but for meals, it's outstanding. Be sure to try the Emperor Roll, which Hide created specifically for Kevin, and the New Style Doraku Roll, which is like a California roll topped with tuna, radish, shiso, and a special sauce. www.dorakusushi.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
Chef-owner Ed Kenney, who presides over the popular restaurant Town, has contributed this new restaurant at the Hawaii State Art Museum to the downtown business-lunch crowd. Contemporary furnishings and art provide just the right frame for the variety of lunch options inspired by Kenney's philosophy of "local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always." You'll find salads with organic local produce, Mediterranean-inspired sandwiches and even filet mignon for those with a bit more time to linger at this casual, contemporary local favorite. The restaurant is open late only on first Fridays (5:30-8:30 pm). Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No dinner.
Around the country, the steak house has returned to prominence as chefs rediscover the art of dry-aging beef and of preparing the perfect béarnaise sauce. D.K. Kodama's chic second-floor restaurant characterizes this trend with such presentations as a 22-ounce "Paniolo" (cowboy) rib-eye steak, dry-aged 30 days on the bone with house-made rub, grilled local onions, and creamed corn. The restaurant shares space, but not a menu, with Kodama's Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar; sit at the bar perched between the two and you can order from either menu. www.dksteakhouse.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Casual and family-friendly, the Dixie Grill, just off the freeway in Pearl City, brings a taste of the South to the islands with barbecue (including a variety of spicy sauces to choose from), seafood specialties (creole mahimahi, fried catfish), coleslaw, and hush puppies. This place is convenient if you're visiting Pearl Harbor or the swap meet. www.dixiegrill.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
Kelvin Ro's one-stop spot is a plate-lunch place, a gourmet market, and deli, bakery, and espresso bar, too—and it's a five-minute hop from Waikiki hotels. A take-out window offers grilled sandwiches or plates ranging from teriyaki beef to portobello mushrooms. The market's deli case is stocked with a range of heat-and-eat entrées from risotto cakes to lamb stew; specials change daily. There are packaged Japanese bento lunchboxes, giant scones, enticing desserts, and even a small wine selection. www.diamondheadmarket.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
A tasteful lunch spot in the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House, this cafe offers light and healthful food. The short but well-selected menu features housemade soups, crostini of the day, innovative sandwiches garnished with fruit, and a hummus plate with fresh pita. In the exclusive Makiki Heights neighborhood above the city, the restaurant spills out of the ground floor of the museum onto the lawn. The cafe also offers a "Lauhala and Lunch" picnic lunch for two, priced at $30, which includes a choice of sandwich or salad for each person, dessert bars, and beverage packed in a picnic basket. Credit cards accepted. No dinner. Closed Mon.
Known for uncommon variations on common breakfast themes (pancakes, eggs Benedict, French toast, home fries, and eggs), this neighborhood favorite is tucked into a hard-to-find Kailua office park; call for directions. Lunch features local-style plate lunchs which are good, but the main attraction is breakfast. Don't miss the guava chiffon and red velvet pancakes. www.cinnamonsrestaurant.com. Credit cards accepted.
Long beloved for its Thai classics based on family recipes, such as spicy curries and stir-fries and sticky rice in woven grass baskets, Chiang Mai is just a short cab ride from Waikiki. Some dishes, like the signature Cornish game hen in lemongrass and spices, show how acculturation can create interesting pairings. The cozy space is decorated with Thai fabrics and artwork. 808chiangmai.com. Credit cards accepted. No lunch weekends.
Enjoy the sunset views over the yacht harbor as you take in live local music nightly while sipping one of the signature "Guy-Tai" cocktails. Such offerings as ahi wontons, loco moco, and garlic chicken are perennial appetizer favorites with locals and tourists alike. For dinner, make sure you try specialties: prime rib, garlic steak, or bone-in New York steak from Kahua Ranch on the Big Island. But fish is also a high point here, and while specials change regularly, they are always made with the freshest fish available from the market. www.charthousehonolulu.com. No lunch.
As suggested by our Facebook fans:
Oahu: Hau Tree Lanai
Maui: Mama's Fish House
Kauai: The Beach House