Locals' List: Best Places to Eat on Oahu

Hawaii’s tropical weather, soft sand beaches and clear blue waters inspire some to call this isolated destination in the Pacific Ocean "paradise." The melting pot of ethnicities and cultures makes Hawaii unique and visitors will be able to find a wide variety of delicious restaurants around the island. Here is a list of places on Oahu that many locals can agree are delicious and/or iconic, as well as suggestions on what to try. Be ready to let your tummy run wild as you taste what Oahu is all about.

1. Liliha Bakery
Pastries in Liliha Bakery
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
For the longest time Liliha Bakery’s chantilly cake, a chocolate cake with a rich buttercream frosting, was the bakery’s best seller. Although it still may be a popular cake, the coco puffs are what put Liliha on the map. The shop's coco puff has a light crust, filled with a light chocolate cream on the inside and is topped with a dollop of chantilly frosting. The bakery still has seating at a retro 1950’s diner counter, and if you ever plan to sit down to eat you have to try a butter roll with your meal. The butter rolls are toasted on the grill until one side is golden brown. When served, it comes with a bright pinkish nuclear-looking jelly. Once you spread that on top of that roll it will become your next delicious guilty pleasure.

What’s cool: If you end up liking their signature jelly or coco puffs, they can package. You can bring the delicious them for you so that you can take them home. The waffles are also great here, very soft and airy texture.
  • 515 N. Kuakini St,
  • Honolulu, HI 96817 US
2. Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp
Meal from Romy's Shrimp truck
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
If you've never visited Oahu’s North Shore before, a local will agree that it is mandatory for first-timers to get their hands dirty peeling and eating garlic shrimp. Romy's Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp is a family-run business and has been raising and serving savory seafood for years. The butter and garlic sautéed shrimp is their signature dish; it comes with a generous amount of succulent garlic shrimp, soft rice and a secret shoyu sauce for dipping. There are also other seafood choices to choose from like the sweet and spicy plate, which adds a little kick to your shrimp, juicy steamed prawns and even fried sunfish.

What’s cool: Romy’s Kahuku Prawns & Shrimp serves fresh prawns and shrimps daily. When Hawaiians say fresh, they mean they raise prawns and shrimp on the premises. Diners will be able to see some of the farming pools next to the dining area.
  • 56781 Kamehameha Hwy
  • Kahuku, HI 96731 US
3. Helena's Hawaiian Food
Tasty kalua pig
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
In the heart of Kalihi lies one of Hawaii’s oldest Hawaiian food eateries, Helena’s Hawaiian Food. Serving traditional Hawaiian food using the family secret recipes of founder Helen Chock, this restaurant introduces visitors to how Hawaiian food should taste. If you want to try a little bit of everything Helena's has to offer, order “Menu D.” It comes with the traditional tasty kalua pig, semi-salty lomi salmon, appetizing pipikaula (dried beef) short ribs and luau squid. Save room for the haupia (coconut) desert. If you want to try melt-in-your-mouth goodness, order the Fried Butterfish Collar as a side dish.

What’s cool: If you look behind the counter, you will see the fresh pipikaula, Hawaii's version of beef jerk, hanging over the stove.
  • 1240 North School Street
  • Honolulu, HI 96817 US
4. Fresh Catch
Crab-stuffed ahi plate
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
Hawaii is lucky to have a fresh supply of seafood right in its backyard. Poke, raw bite-size pieces of fish covered in seasonings, is a common seafood dish that many visitors and locals eat. Fresh Catch certainly has some of the freshest and tastiest poke on the island. Whether you choose the bold firecracker poke or the simple and traditional poke, order at least 1/4 pound to taste. Other options include the poke bowl, which is served over a mound of soft Asian rice. If you are really hungry, try one of their plate lunches like the crab-stuffed ahi plate: crab and ahi rolled together in seaweed and then deep-fried, leaving a crunchy outside but soft center.

What’s cool: If you want something to satisfy your sweet tooth, ask for the red velvet chocolate chip cupcakes, a special homemade treat baked by the owner’s wife.
  • 3109 Waialae Avenue
  • Honolulu, HI 96816 US
5. Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha
Uncle Clay's shaved ice
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
Shaved ice is Hawaii’s iconic dessert. It’s the perfect way to cool down and to help you beat the summer heat. At Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (HOPA), their shaved ice comes in a bowl of delicious fruity syrup topped with things like the signature sweet dream sauce, locally made ice cream from Lalamilo Farms, fresh fruit, mochi or azuki beans. If you you're thirsty, get an icy or a shave ice tea. Small, locally made snacks like Li-Hing Mui seeds, cuttle fish or event taro chips are also available if you need a quick bite.

What’s cool: Li hing mui is a sweet, dried plum flavor (really popular among the locals); HOPA makes this flavor in-house and it is a must try.
  • 820 West Hind Dr
  • #116
  • Aina Haina, HI 96821 US
6. Aiea Bowl
Plate from Aiea Bowl
G&G Entertainment, Inc.
There are few bowling alleys around Oahu, but one place that makes cosmic bowling look cool while causing taste buds to water at the same time is Aiea Bowl. Known for their tasty fried chicken, the pieces are crispy on the outside and tender inside. The secret is in the sweet soy sauce with heavy garlic and light chili flakes. The restaurant is also known for some of their signature desserts. Aiea Bowl has one the best pumpkin crunch desserts on the island: a thick buttery crust with a cinnamon pumpkin center and whipped cream topping. If you want a flavor that’s refreshing, try their lemon toffee cake. The 3-layer cake is zesty and covered with airy whipped topping that is dotted with toffee bits.

What’s cool: Aiea Bowl constantly has something going on daily. Every month they have a different menu for their Tasty Tuesday, a fine-dining 5-course prix fixe menu experience.
  • 99-115 Aiea Heights Dr,
  • #310
  • Aiea, HI 96701 US
7. Rainbow Drive-In
Oahu's Rainbow Drive-In
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo
There are many iconic places to eat on Oahu and Rainbows Drive-In is one of them. Serving up a bunch of local favorites, they are known for plate lunches that come with rice, heavy macaroni salad and your choice of meat. Choose among spam and eggs, hamburger steak or shoyu chicken. If you can't decide, snag a bento box or a mixed plate: teriyaki BBQ chicken, Mahi and some boneless chicken. They are famous for their loco moco plate, which is hamburger and egg smothered in thick gravy but if that is too big for you, downsize to a bowl. Want to cool down while eating your plate lunch? Grab an ice-cold slushy float, a strawberry iced drink with vanilla ice cream.

What’s cool: Adjacent to Rainbows is a retail store called the Rainbow Tiki. Buy some memorabilia or gifts for loved ones, like Hawaiian-style chili seasoning or a shaka neko ceramic cat said to bring good luck and good surf.
  • 3308 Kanaina Ave
  • Honolulu, HI 96815 US
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