Where a Local Food Writer Eats on Oʻahu

Foodies, keep this list handy for your next vacation to Oʻahu.
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Longtime food writer Catherine Toth Fox doing what she does best: eat. Photo: Shirley Toth

Food and travel go hand-in-hand. That’s why it was so easy for me, a former food editor and longtime food writer, to make the transition to editor of HAWAIʻI Magazine several years ago. (I’m now the editor at large.)

To me, there’s no better way to experience a new place than through its cuisine—and Oʻahu is a food lover’s dream. The island is home to the bulk of the state’s population and, as a result, has the most diverse culinary scene of any of the other islands. You can find everything from authentic Hawaiian lūʻau fare to Vietnamese street food.

Here are my 17 must-try restaurants for any foodie visiting Oʻahu—and trust me, there are dozens more!

Over Easy, Kailua

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The potato n’ eggs dish from Over Easy in Kailua.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

One of my favorite brunch spots, Over Easy in Kailua serves innovative takes on breakfast classics, including an out-of-this-world potato n’ eggs dish with tomato jam stuffed into soft French bread and topped with a potato purée (above). The crispy-edged pancakes and kālua pig hash with Okinawan sweet potatoes and lomi tomatoes are popular, too. overeasyhi.com

Rainbow Drive-In, Kapahulu

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Plate lunches and a Slush Float from Rainbow Drive-In.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

This is my go-to for post-surf breakfast and quick lunches. Open in 1961, the family-run Rainbow Drive-In is a throwback to old-school drive-ins. Here, find classic local-style plate lunches—hefty and starchy—with teriyaki beef, gravy-drenched boneless chicken and hearty chili made from scratch daily. Breakfasts include fried rice, sweet bread French toast and pancakes. Don’t leave without a Slush Float—vanilla ice cream mixed with strawberry slush. rainbowdrivein.com

Shige’s Saimin Stand, Wahiawā

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Classic saimin and barbecue burgers from Shige’s Saimin Stand.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Shige’s is one of the few saimin stands left on Oʻahu—or anywhere in Hawaiʻi. This family-run Wahiawā shop still makes its own noodles every morning right in the kitchen. The no-frills menu offers various a variety of saimin dishes—saimin is similar to ramen but with chewier noodles—burgers, sandwiches and a handful of plate lunches. Its Spam musubi is a winner, too. @shigessaiminstand

Beer Lab HI, Pearlridge Center


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Fans of craft beer will love this unique local brewery, started by three Pearl Harbor engineers who like to experiment—a lot. The beer menu is always changing and boasts limited-edition releases and seasonal flavors. While it has three locations, I love its Pearlridge Center spot, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to 10 fresh, locally produced beers on tap. beerlabhi.com

Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, Kailua

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Malasadas from Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Simply put, I love malasadas, a Portuguese fried doughnut doused in white sugar. It’s something my grandmother—whose family was from the Azores—made for us growing up. And what’s not to love? Fried dough, crispy outside, soft inside, lots of sugar—it’s the perfect dessert! While Leonard’s Bakery in Kapahulu is the irrefutable king of malasadas, Agnes’ Portuguese Bake Shop, a little food truck in Kailua, serves the kind my grandma used to make. @agnesbakeshop808

Fête, Chinatown


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Local chef Robynne Maiʻi recently won a James Beard Award—the first female and Native Hawaiian from Hawaiʻi and the state’s first in almost 20 years—for this restaurant, an ode to a career in New York and her upbringing in the Islands. Standouts include a spaghetti carbonara with Portuguese sausage, a local Black Angus rose veal schnitzel with a lilikoʻi (passion fruit) sauce, and a ridiculously delicious Korean fried sandwich with a garlic-sesame aoili on a brioche bun. Reservations are a must. fetehawaii.com

W&M Bar-B-Q Burger, Kaimukī

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A simple barbecue burger from W&M Bar-B-Q Burgers.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

My parents have been eating at W&M since it was located on 10th Avenue in Kaimukī—and now I take my son there. This old-school burger joint has been serving tasty barbecue burgers and fries for more than 50 years—and not much has changed. The next generation of owners have added a veggie burger option and desserts on the weekends—worth a stop for pumpkin crunch!—but the recipe for its sauce-soaked burgers remain the same. There’s nothing fancy or complicated about these burgers—and that’s what I love most. wmburger.com

Nami Kaze Hawaiʻi, Honolulu


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The buzz is legit. Chef Jason Peel opened Nami Kaze near Honolulu Harbor during the pandemic, serving okazuya-style fare—musubi (rice balls), poke and fried ginger chicken. Now it’s a full-service restaurant, offering one of the most creative brunches on the island and izakaya-style small plates for dinner. Fans love the honey walnut shrimp waffles, savory Chinese-style omelets and fun sushi offerings. The fish is super fresh, too. namikaze.com

Fukuya Deli & Catering, Moʻiliʻili

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A mix of okazu from Fukuya Deli & Catering.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

Okazuya is a Japanese delicatessen—“okazu” means side dish and “-ya” denotes a shop or store—a casual take-out spot that serves small dishes like shrimp tempura, noodles, musubi, shoyu chicken, pickled veggies and more. You can mix-and-match what you want, which is my favorite part about going to okazu shops. There aren’t many left in Hawaiʻi, and my go-to is Fukuya Deli & Catering, a family-run okazuya that has been around since 1939. My family’s usual order includes inari (cone sushi), potato croquette, vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura, shoyu hot dog, namasu (pickled veggies) and nori-wrapped chicken. It also sells chichi mochi, manju and cookies. fukuyadeli.com

Kapa Hale, Kāhala

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The Naan Ya Business from Kapa Hale.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

I love the way local chef Keaka Lee plays with his food—for his menu, I mean. He finds interesting ways to utilize locally sourced ingredients like mushrooms, eggplant, chicken, beef and fish to create dishes that uniquely his own. He makes a kalo (taro) and potato croquette with a velouté sauce from poi. (Fascinating!) And his Cubano sandwich features kālua pig and lau lau. (Crazy!) I always order the Naan Ya Business, an appetizer of grilled garlic naan paired with a chunky tikka masala curry and Sumida Farms watercress namul. So good. kapahale.com

Fujiya Hawaiʻi, McCully

Not many mochi shops are nominated for a James Beard Award. But Fujiya—which has been around since 1953 but recently changed ownership and location—has earned the accolade for its pillowy soft mochi in traditional and unique flavors like lychee, haupia and White Rabbit candy. I’m also addicted to its lemon peel li hing gummies. fujiyahawaii.com

Rangoon Burmese Kitchen, Chinatown

Never tried Burmese food? Same. Until Dagon, the sister restaurant to Rangoon Burmese Kitchen, opened years ago and I got my first taste of the unique and delightful—and not-too-unfamiliar—flavors of this cuisine. Rangoon opened in 2018 in Downtown with a menu of more than 70 shareable items. (Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming.) But every time I eat there, I’m never disappointed. The cuisine is a mix of Thai and Indian flavors, with lots curries, stews and veggies. Its signature dish is the tea leaf salad, with fermented green tea leaves, Romaine lettuce, garlic chips, beans, peanuts, split peas, sesame and sunflower seeds, tomato, jalapeño and lime. It’s a lot of ingredients, but when you blend them together, create a complex and uniquely delicious dish. I’m also a big fan of the coconut curry lamb, palatha with curry dip, pork belly with mustard greens, and biryani with chicken. @rangoon_kitchen

Via Gelato, Kaimukī

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Artisan gelato in a housemade waffle cone from Via Gelato.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

What started out as a food truck is now a thriving artisanal gelato shop in Kaimukī, with loyal customers eagerly awaiting the next new flavor. I’m a huge fan of the decadent Fierce Chocolate in a housemade waffle cone, but I also love the coffee and Frosted Flakes flavors, too. Via Gelato makes vegan gelato for those with dairy issues, and the cakes and ice cream sandwiches are insanely good. viagelatohawaii.com

The Daley, Chinatown

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The single smash burger from The Daley.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

The menu at The Daley isn’t extensive; in fact, there are only three burger options (single, double and plant-based) and a side of crinkle-cut fries. That’s it. (It serves draft beer, shots and a soft shake, too.) Honestly, that’s part of the appeal. The other part is the burger itself. Made from 4 ounces of 70% lean Kunoa meat with clarified butter, the smash burger is topped with slightly cooked onions, cheese, diced pickles and dijonnaise. The edges are perfectly crispy and everything about this burger is perfection. thedaleyburger.com

Alicia’s Market, Kalihi

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Poke from Alicia’s Market.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

A fire and a pandemic couldn’t close Alicia’s Market, a small mom-and-pop grocery store in Kalihi that serves some of the best poke and roast pork around. Choose from more than 15 different kinds of poke, from the spicy wasabi masago ʻahi to the hard-to-find lomi ʻōʻio (bonefish). Bowls and plate lunches are available. And since it’s also a grocery store, there’s beer and wine, too.

Zippy’s, various

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The Zip Pac from Zippy’s.
Photo: Catherine Toth Fox

You can’t visit Oʻahu—even locals who have moved away—without a stop at Zippy’s at some point. This iconic chain restaurant, still run by the family that started it decades ago, specializes in local-style comfort food. We grew up with Zippy’s chili, fried chicken and saimin—these were staples of my childhood and teenage years. The Zip Pac (above) is a great grab-and-go choice, with Spam, teriyaki beef, breaded fish and fried chicken on a bed of rice. (Or get the deluxe version is you want chili and macaroni salad, too.) Many restaurants are open 24 hours, which makes this a popular late-night (or early-morning) spot. zippys.com

Waiāhole Poi Factory, Waiāhole


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While I do love Helena’s Hawaiian Food—if you can swing it, go there, too—I like to recommend folks head to Waiāhole Poi Factory just past Kāneʻohe on Oʻahu’s picturesque Windward Side. Owned by a Native Hawaiian family, this restaurant is run out of an actual poi factory and one of the few places on the island that serves fresh paʻiʻai (undiluted poi). One certain days you can watch the owners’ son, Liko, hand-pounding taro into poi on one of the tables outside. The menu features kālua pig, beef lūʻau, chicken long rice, lomi salmon and haupia. The Sweet Lady of Waiāhole—warm kūlolo (a taro and coconut dessert) topped with a school of haupia ice cream—is a must. waiaholepoifactory.com

Categories: Oʻahu, O‘ahu Where To Eat, Restaurants