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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.
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.
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.
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