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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Step back in time to an era where you could buy a traditional Hawaiian plate lunch and some ice cake from the store and sit on the pier as fishermen idly motored by. It doesn't feel like much more than a shack on the pier, but the food is pumped out by one of Oahu's hottest young chefs, Mark Noguchi. Try the guava barbecue chicken or the luau stew (a hearty stew made with taro leaves and beef), which are his specialties. If you're hungry, try the off-menu Cheekeater Burger, a beef burger topped with homemade Thousand Island dressing, Portuguese sausage, Spam, bacon, and a fried egg. This is well worth the drive—way, way off the beaten path. www.heeiapier.com. Reservations not accepted. Closed Mon. No dinner.
The vine-like hau tree is ideal for sitting under, and it's said that the one that spreads itself over this beachside courtyard is the very one that shaded Robert Louis Stevenson as he mused and wrote about Hawaii. In any case, diners are still enjoying the shade and the island-casual food, but we like the place for late-afternoon or early-evening drinks, pupu, and people-watching. The poi pancakes at breakfast, papaya chicken salad at lunch, and fresh fish selection at dinner are all favorites. www.kaimana.com. Reservations essential. Credit cards accepted.
After the long drive to the North Shore, it's a treat to while away the afternoon on the covered open-air lanai at Haleiwa Joe's, scoring a couple of cute souvenir glasses, watching the boats and surfers in the harbor, and munching crunchy coconut shrimp, a mahi burger, or whatever's the freshest fish special. It's just past the Anahulu Stream Bridge. A Kaneohe location overlooks lush Haiku Gardens. www.haleiwajoes.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
Like the more famous restaurant on the North Shore, Haleiwa Joe's serves standard surf-and-turf favorites in a casual and friendly atmosphere, but the view of the Haiku Gardens directly behind the restaurant makes the difference at this Kaneohe location. Come for an early dinner or fantastic Sunday brunch and enjoy the stunning views. Be sure to leave time for a stroll around the pond and through the garden. www.haleiwajoes.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted.
One of Oahu's first Vietnamese restaurants, this popular neighborhood spot expresses its friendly character with its name: hale (hah-lay) is the Hawaiian word for house or home. If you're not sure what to order, just ask. The staff is known for their willingness to help those who don't know much about Vietnamese food. Be sure to try the piquant and crunchy green-papaya salad. Reservations are taken for groups only. Credit cards accepted.
Closet-size and fronted by a green door and a row of welcoming Chinese lanterns, this Chinatown café has introduced Honolulu to budget- and taste bud-friendly Malaysian and Singaporean foods, redolent of spices and crunchy with fresh vegetables. The restaurant's owner gets mixed reviews, as she may be rude to customers who question her cooking. Just order from the flavorful menu of fewer than 10 dishes, and you'll do fine. Reservations not accepted. No credit cards. Closed Sun.
Specializing in grilled meats, this casual restaurant is a good choice for a full, quality meal at reasonable prices. From prime rib to melt-in-your-mouth short ribs to garlic shrimp pasta, you can count on a consistently good experience every time. It's modest but tasty and well-prepared food. The reasonable breakfasts on weekends and BYOB policy are definite pluses. No wonder Scott Caan of Hawaii Five-0 is a repeat customer. www.goodtogrill.com. Reservations not accepted.
All but invisible on the back side of a strip mall, this wine bar seeks to communicate the feel of a catacomb in Italy, and largely succeeds, with dim lighting and soft, warm tones. Choose a small sip or an entire bottle from the many wines offered, enjoy the music, then ponder the small-dish menu of pizzas, panini, and hot and cold specialties such as eggplant Napoleon and melting short ribs in red wine. formaggio808.com. Reservations not accepted. Credit cards accepted. Closed Sun. No lunch.
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.
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.
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