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Unassuming and budget-friendly, Little Village sets a standard of friendly and attentive service to which every Chinese restaurant should aspire. We have roamed the large, pan-China menu and found a new favorite in everything we've tried: shredded beef, spinach with garlic, Shanghai noodles, honey-walnut shrimp, orange chicken, dried green beans. Two words: go there. Reservations are accepted for parties of five or more. Two hours of free parking is available in the parking lot immediately to the right of the restaurant. littlevillagehawaii.com. Credit cards accepted.
Do as the locals do: start your visit to Chinatown with breakfast dim sum at Legend. If you want to be able to hear yourself think, get there before 9 am, especially on weekends. And don't be shy: use your best cab-hailing technique and sign language to make the cart ladies stop at your table and show you their wares. The pork-filled steamed buns, hearty spare ribs, prawn dumplings, and still-warm custard tarts are excellent pre-shopping fortification. www.legendseafoodhonolulu.com. Credit cards accepted.
Like the hotel in which it's housed (Halekulani, "House Befitting Heaven"), La Mer is pretty much heavenly: a softly lighted, low-ceiling room has its windows open to the breeze, a perfectly framed vista of Diamond Head, and the faint sound of music from a courtyard below. The food captures the rich and yet sunny flavors of the south of France in one tiny, exquisite course after another. Three prix-fixe options are offered (from three or four courses or a tasting menu), as well as several rather expensive supplements. We recommend the degustation menu; place yourself in the sommelier's hands for wine choices from the hotel's exceptional cellar. Jacket or long sleeved shirt required for gentlemen. For the most elegant cocktail experience you'll find in Waikiki, visit L'Aperitif bar located inside the restaurant. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted. No lunch.
Just past downtown Honolulu, tucked away in the industrial area of Sand Island, is this friendly South Seas-style restaurant. Once you walk through the doors, you may think that it's still 1955. The owner, the late Annette Nahinu, bought up kitsch from many other restaurants, so it's tikis to the max in a way that's so old-fashioned, it's cool. The food—grilled seafood, steaks—is just okay; but go for the sing-along fun and the feeling that Don the Beachcomber might walk in any minute. www.lamarianasailingclub.com. Credit cards accepted.
On Monsarrat Avenue in Waikiki and at more than 38 neighborhood locations on the island of Oahu, the Drive Inn location serves up an impressive mix of Asian-American and Hawaiian-style plate lunches. Chicken katsu (cutlet), shrimp curry, and seafood mix plates include two scoops of rice-and-macaroni salad. There are also "mini" versions of the large-portion plates that include just one scoop of each starch. It's a quick take-out place to pick up lunch before heading to the nearest beach or park. hawaiianbarbecue.com.
Stories to inspire your own adventures at Outrigger's travel blog.
Oahu: Ocean House Restaurant
Kauai: Plantation Gardens