Destinations / Hawaii • USA

8 Drool-Worthy Places To Eat In Oahu For Every Foodie


November 11, 2020

Oahu is the ideal Hawaiian getaway for adventurous foodies with its lush hiking trails, killer surf and abundance of drool-worthy places to eat. You’ll be able to satisfy your thrill-seeking tendencies by a morning of carving waves or trekking up treacherous summits followed by a well-deserved breakfast of loco moco and/or guava chiffon pancakes.

You could continue your healthy streak by grabbing an açaí bowl or some fresh fruit…but where’s the fun in that? Ok, ok, the açaí bowls in Hawaii are amazeballs and you’ll never find fresher fruit anywhere…but isn’t the point of exercise to justify excessive gluttony? Or is that just me 🤷🏻‍♀️

If I wasn’t supposed to eat myself into a coma in the Aloha State, then why does Hawaiian print provide such convenient camouflage for food babies? If that’s not an invitation to feast my way through Hawaii then I don’t know what is.


RELATED READING:

A Curated 10-Day Itinerary of Hawaii
A Drool-Worthy Guide To Where To Eat in Hilo, Hawaii
A Guide To Snorkelling with Manta Rays in Hawaii

Rainbow at Ala Moana Bowls


The Best Places To Eat in Oahu

  1. Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck
  2. Fresh Catch
  3. Piggy Smalls
  4. Leonard’s Bakery
  5. Helena’s Hawaiian Food
  6. Mud Hen Water
  7. Musubi Cafe Iyasume
  8. Waiola Shave Ice

These were the spots (in no particular order) that I had time to eat at and each one was a culinary gem! Do you have a fav?


Now that Hawaii has reopened to tourists, I figured it was the perfect time to share all of the delicious places to eat in Oahu, from local restaurants in Honolulu to food trucks to hit up on the way to the North Shore.

Whether you have a sweet tooth or are on the hunt for authentic Hawaiian flavour, there is something on the island for every kind of foodie.

the garlic-loving foodie

This must-visit foodie destination has inspired thousands of rave reviews and is one of the few places to eat in Oahu (and beyond) that actually lives up to the hype. Leave the overpopulated Waikiki Beach for the day and head for one of the two Giovanni Shrimp Truck locations on the infamous North Shore of the island.

places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Giovanni's Shrimp Truck

The glorious Shrimp Scami plate w/ a site of mac salad (‘natch)

We dropped by the Haleiwa parking lot where one of the Giovanni’s trucks was parked in, completely covered with scrawled signatures, hastily doodled sketches and messages from happy customers. Their menu was short and to-the-point, eliminating any angst-ridden decision-making: shrimp scampi, hot & spicy, a lemon butter version, and a garlic hot dog (if shrimp isn’t your jam).

Clutching their signature Shrimp Scampi Plate — two scoops of fluffy rice topped in plump, sautéed shrimps smothered in fresh chopped garlic and lemon butter — we snagged a seat at a nearby picnic table to dig in.

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck - Shrimp Scampi plate

Look at all that garlic!! Just don’t try talking to anyone after eating this

Within minutes, my face and hands were glistening with butter and my tastebuds were dancing with a symphony of rich flavours that infused the shrimp, punctuated with a bright squeeze of lemon. Just don’t plan on talking to anyone for awhile as garlic will be seeping from every pore.

 

THE SEA-FOODIE

After a morning full of sun and surf, refuel by indulging in mountainous piles of poke to satisfy for a veritable seafood feast! Meaning “to cut crosswise,” poke is sushi-grade cubes of raw fish and a way of life in Hawaii. It’s been around since the 1700s, incorporating  seasonings such as shoyu and sesame oil as Asian cultures emigrated to the island.

places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - poke at Fresh Catch in Honolulu

There are an abundance of places to eat in Oahu to find this island staple— from the widely regarded Ahi Assassins and Ono Seafood to your everyday supermarket and gas station. However, casual neighbourhood shop Fresh Catch probably offers the most variety of flavours of glorious poke.

I got 3 different types of poke obviously. Looking at it still makes me salivate.

Press your nose unbecomingly against the glass case displaying trays overflowing with tender morsels of seafood and choose from a selection ranging from the classic shoyu ahi to citrusy wasabi yuzu to a spicy mayonnaise-based dressing. I personally couldn’t choose just one and ended up filling my styrofoam box with 3 different kinds of poke that ended up weighing 1.5lbs! Just in case you didn’t know, that’s a lot. No regrets.

 

Creative Comfort Foodie

Craving comfort food with a creative twist? Grab a table in light-filled space of Piggy Smalls alongside a massive black-and-white aquatic mural, or take a seat under an archway of twinkling lights outside.

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Interior of Piggy Smalls in Honolulu

Hanoi Egg Coffee at Piggy Smalls + the interior

Kick off your meal with a dense Hanoi Egg Coffee, topped with a cloud of creamy, egg white foam. Move on to the fan favourite Beef Brisket  Pho French Dip (try saying that 5x fast), a crusty baguette stuffed with fatty slices of meat, crunchy daikon, carrots, onion, smeared with spicy hoisin and served with a fragrant bowl of broth and noodles to dunk it in between bites.

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Piggy Smalls 'Beef Brisket Pho Dip'

Being as noodle-obsessed as I am,  the ultimate comfort was found in the Garlic and Smoked Bacon Noodle, thick noodles stir-fried in garlic, bacon, chives, shishito peppers, shoyu and topped with plump sunny-side-up eggs. Just thinking about it is making me salivate 🤤

Hawaii Itinerary Eat Honolulu Piggy Smalls

 

The Sweet Tooth Foodie

If you’re constantly hankering for sugary confections, then beeline to Leonard’s Bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth. You’ll recognize this Honolulu hotspot by the retro sign out front and the mouthwatering scent of butter and sugar wafting out to greet you.

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Leonards Bakery Malasadas

Since 1953, Leonard’s Bakery has been churning out  fresh, hot malasadas — a Portuguese doughnut that’s fried golden on the outside and fluffy as a cloud on the inside. If you’re only getting one (for some crazy reason), the classic malasada crusted in granulated or cinnamon sugar is the popular choice.

Otherwise, grab a Wes Anderson-style pink cardboard box to go and fill it with malasada puffs bursting with luscious fillings like haupia (coconut), guava, custard and chocolate. Devour as many as you can while they’re hot, hot hot!

 

The Traditionalist Foodie

If you’re on the hunt for places to eat in Oahu that serves up some serious aloha flavour, Helena’s Hawaiian Food is THE spot in Honolulu. Adored by locals and visitors alike, this iconic, family-owned restaurant has been serving traditional Hawaiian cuisine since opening their doors in 1946.

Please ignore the middle finger…my phone got wiped when I got back and I lost all of my delicious photos from Helena’s.

Arrive early to  snag a coveted seat before ordering a parade of local specialties from their unpretentious menu, including Squid Luau, Lomi Lomi Salmon and Kalua Pork. My favourite dishes were the the Chicken Long Rice (more of a soupy noodle than rice) and the  Pipikaula Short Ribs that had me gnawing the bones for every scrap of meat. Don’t forget a scoop of mac salad (obvi)!

Between dishes, cleanse the palate with the complimentary sweet Maui onions sprinkled with Hawaiian sea salt or dipped in Poi, a dish made of taro stem with a smooth texture and unique flavour.

 

The Communal Foodie

You won’t have to search beyond Mud Hen Water for places to eat in Oahu that have a welcoming vibe to gather with friends and family over a delicious meal.

Aptly named, “Mud Hen Water” is the literal translation of the street it’s located on, Waialae Avenue (wai meaning “water” and alae meaning “mud hen” in Hawaiian). According to legend, there was a fresh water spring nearby where mud hens (now endangered) and locals would frequent.

Share inventively reimagined Hawaiian dishes, composed of locally sourced ingredients, that reflect a deep love and respect for the land it grew from like the Loaded Baked Bananas, made with a variety indigenous to Hawaii and stuffed with curry butter, chopped egg, peanuts, bacon and coconut.

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Loaded Baked Banana at Mud Hen Water

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Mud Hen Water food

The Beet Poke and the Yaki o Pa‘i‘ai at Mud Hen Water

For some lighter dishes, try the Beet Poke with chunks of avocado, pickled limu and roasted macadamia nuts while the Yaki o Pa’i ai is a local delicacy made of pre-processed taro with a mochi-like chew, drizzled in shoyu before being grilled and wrapped in nori. The Pulehu Kunoa Short Ribs is a heftier shareable plate lightened with the tang of lime, stringy spigarello and grape tomatoes.

 

The Snacking Foodie

From snorkelling with manta rays to hiking the Diamond Head Summit Trail, who has the time to sit down for a meal? While there is no shortage of places to eat in Oahu to pick up delicious treats, musubi are the perfect snack to throw in your beach bag.

A popular snack in Hawaii, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a good musubi outside of Japan. Luckily, Musubi Cafe Iyasume, a humble cafe in Waikiki, delivers the real deal — a slice of Spam atop tangy rice and wrapped in a thin sheet of nori (seaweed). Seaweed is a vegetable, right?

My personal favourite was the musubi with spicy cod roe but the variation with cheese and a teriyaki glaze Spam was also 👌🏼👌🏼👌🏼

If musubi is not your thing (blasphemy!) you can also snag delectable bento boxes, ahi poke bowls and onigiri to go — all for under $10! It’s as close as you’ll get to the delicious wonders of a 7-Eleven in Japan.

 

The No-Frills Foodie

If you left Oahu without trying Waiola Shave Ice, did you even visit? I think not! A mainstay in Hawaiian culture, this cool treat is essentially a mound of finely shaved ice (duh) that is drenched in sweet and colourful syrups. Simple yet refreshing.

Places to eat in Oahu, Hawaii - Waiola Shave Ice

Waiola holds all the nostalgia for locals of a box of Kraft Dinner, but it also offers a mind-boggling selection of flavours and is the best bang for your buck. A large cone/cup with up to 3 flavours will set you back a mere $3! Might as well go HAM and order macadamia nut ice cream in the middle or mochi toppings.

And remember — it’s “shave” ice NOT “shaved” ice.


Additional Places To Eat In Oahu:

+ Cinnamon’s in Kailua for the guava chiffon pancakes….but I didn’t think anything could beat the gigantic haupia pancakes I devoured at Hawaiian Style Cafe in Hilo.

+ Liliha Bakery for their loco moco…but knowing the serving size this local specialty comes in, I’d be full for days.

+ The Pig and the Lady…same owners as Piggy Smalls so I knew it’d be just as delicious.

+ Waikiki Yokocho…15 restaurant concepts in one subterranean food hall.

+ Hawaiian Crown for killer açaí bowls! I went there on my last day but my phone got wiped so all of my beautiful pictures are GONE 😩


Luckily, I managed to squeeze in my 10-day trip to Hawaii — the Big Island, Kauai and Oahu — and arrive home just before lockdown. If you’re currently in Oahu, make sure to check the status of these restaurants (open for dine-in or takeaway) before going to avoid disappointment. 

If you’re also planning to visit The Big Island of Hawaii, check out these drool-worthy places to eat in Hilo.

Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!