• Stephanie Joy

Our choices for super Ono Grinds while on Oahu!

Hawaiian food is a combination of different cultures and flavors and is the ultimate melting pot of cuisines. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Polynesian, with a heaping dose of traditional American cuisine and a dash of European influences, there is something for everyone on the islands.

Restaurants in the Waikiki area:

Opal Thai

1030 Smith St Suite 6, Honolulu, HI (located in Chinatown)


I read reviews about Opal Thai's former location in Haleiwa up on the North Shore and so my husband and I decided to have date night while on vacation and Sarah was able to stay at the rental house with the grandparents. We liked the idea that the owner pretty much decided what you would be served that evening, based on your preferences for flavors and things you may not like or be allergic to. We had a basic knowledge of Thai food, so we let Opal, the owner, decide what to make us. For our first course we had glazed Garlic Chicken wings with friend basil and they were Ah-may-zing.

I managed to take a photo of the entree that my husband and I split which was the Drunken Noodles with Shrimp and the crab fried rice, but had I known how frickin' fabulous it was, I would have made Jason order his own entree. Simply put, if I could afford it, I would fly back to Honolulu just to eat here again. I haven't found any Thai restaurant that even come nears the level of deliciousness we had that night!

Opal Thai has since left their digs in Haleiwa and moved into a larger space in Chinatown. I haven't been there since the move, but we are headed back in June of 2020 (I told you I like to plan trips in advance!) and this is on our must stop list.

Me's Korean BBQ

151 Uluniu Ave, Honolulu, HI

It's nothing fancy...you can find the restaurant a few blocks north of Kalakaua Avenue and it's a short walk from pretty much any hotel. It's pretty simple, you go in to place your order at the counter, you pick out your FIVE sides to go with your main dish (rice automatically comes with it, so that is 5 other sides), and after a short wait while your meat is cooked, they pack up your sides in the to go box and you're on your merry way with what seems to be 5 pounds of food!! Seriously, one order is EASILY enough for 2 people. In the picure above, that is Kalbi, Korean marinated short ribs, with white rice, macaroni salad, glass noodles, cabbage and broccoli. If you just want all glass noodles and cabbage, they will just give you extra of each to equal 5 sides.

As my daughter puts it, "Me's is Heaven in a Styrofoam box". Jason says it's "Good, Cheap food by the pound"...seriously, you can lift weights with your to-go containers!!!

Even if you've never had Korean food before, this would be a meal that pretty much any palette would enjoy. It's a great introduction to Korean cooking and positively delicious, even for a total hole in the wall place!

Lulu's Waikiki (at the Park Shore Waikiki)

2586 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI


Located right above the ABC store at the Park Shore Waikiki, Lulu's is a natural choice for a good solid breakfast to start the day off right. The prices are reasonable, the Eggs Benedict are really yum (the English muffins are homemade) and the French toast light, fluffy and filling. We've probably eaten here about 10 times over our visits here, for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we didn't have a bad meal. I will say that service can be hit or miss, so if you are super picky about fast attentive service, don't expect that here. Don't get me wrong, the service doesn't suck, but the staff just seems to be a bit on their own form of "Island Time"

The Reef Bar & Market Grill (formerly the Shore Bird Bar and Grille)

2169 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI


Both the Ocean House and the Shorebird restaurants at the Outrigger Reef Hotel closed in late summer of 2017, but the Shore Bird has been replaced with The Reef Bar & Market Grill. The Shore Bird had been around for 38 years and was quite popular, but the owners decided to retire and with its beachfront location at the Outrigger Reef Hotel, it wasn't going to remain vacant, that was for sure!

On November 1st, 2017 it opened as the The Reef Bar & Market Grill and still has the much loved grilling station where diners, if you so choose, can grill your own steaks as you overlook the beach and view Diamond Head off in the distance. My family and I ate here on a few occasions and we truly enjoyed it. It was a fun vibrant atmosphere, with a very well stocked salad bar and a well thought out menu. I can't say how the new restaurant is, but seeing that they kept all the major elements of the Shorebird, we'll definitely have to give it a try on our next trip.

House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel

2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu, HI


On our visit in 2014, it was my mother's special trip for her birthday and one of the things she wanted to do was sit outside at the House Without a Key and have cocktails in the early evening, listening to the ocean and the sounds of live music as we sat under the 100 year old Kiawe tree. How could we say no? Although we were there for just a few pre-dinner cocktails it was a lovely place to relax, have a fruity tropical drink (Sarah enjoyed a virgin daiquiri and people watch, after having just flown 10 hours from Florida.

The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel

2259 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI


Much like our first day on Oahu in 2014, at the start of our June 2107 trip, our first day cocktails were a little further down the beach this time, at the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. When my family and I first moved to Hawaii in 1977 we had the luck to stay here for a few days and this was my first time back there in 40 years. Built in 1927, this iconic, stately hotel with its world reknown pink exterior color and architecture that makes you think of the Eagle's Hotel California album cover is a must visit place to go, even if you just spend an hour walking around the beautiful grounds. We didn't eat here, but we did have some drinks like the Hawaiian Blue that I had which is "Kai Coconut Pandan vodka, Malibu coconut rum, Calahua Crème of coconut, fresh sweet and sour, pineapple juice, and a drizzle of Dekuyper Blue Curracao" ($14) and Jason had the Royal Mai Tai: "this is our original Trader Vic Mai Tai recipe made with fresh squeezed pineapple and orange juice, Orange Curacao, Orgeat and local rums from the Old Lahaina distillery on Maui" ($15). They were good, but when you figured in tax and tips, $40 for 2 cocktails...yeah, i'll pass. You are paying more for the view than the drinks and to be honest, the service was as slow as molasses!I guess it's that island time again!!

On a side note, while on the island, be sure to pick up a bottle of Old Lahaina Rum to bring back home with you. It truly is a great rum!!!

Leonards Bakery

933 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu, HI


If you've never had a Malasada before, you haven't truly lived. I know you're looking at the picture and you're thinking "Whatever....they're just donuts!". If I heard you say that, I would have to slap you upside the head. Seriously. Back int he late 70's when we would be on our way home from the beach, we would see the red and white striped Malasada-mobiles and we'd stop and get fresh malasadas to eat on the way home. 30 years later when we went back for the first time, I told Jason about them and sure enough he was hooked.

They serve Leonard's Malasadas in heaven, I'm sure.

Located about a mile north of the Waikiki area on Kapahulu Avenue, there is really no way you can miss their store. Having been in business since 1952 an in the current location since 1957, all you really need to do is looked for the packed parking lot and the line of people waiting to get hot, fresh Malasadas. Yes they are a bakery and sell tons of other things, but to be totally honest, we've never had anything but the Malasadas. Coated in plain sugar or the cinnamon sugar, they are light, yeasty fried delights. You need to make sure to have some ice cold milk or iced coffee and although you will feel like you're about to go into a sugar coma afterwards, it is so wonderfully worth it.

This place is a true classic. You MUST go here...For reals.

Mike's Huli-Huli Chicken

47-525 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI


Each time we've gone to Oahu we eat at Mike's at least 3 or 4 times....once we come back home, we miss Mike's Huli Huli chicken like we left a part of us back on the island! I first heard about it on Diner's Drive In's and Dives, and although Guy Fieri from the Food Network is majorly annoying, I do trust his restaurant recommendations. The chicken was just delicious and exactly what I remembered Huli Huli chicken to taste like from when I had lived on Oahu as a child 35 years ago. When we took my mom and dad there in 2014, while they really enjoyed the chicken, they tried and positively LOVED the garlic shrimp plate. The Char Sui pork is delicious and both my husband and I could eat the chicken, every day for lunch and ever get sick of it!

I could get the "special" sauce they give you on the side pumped into me directly via an IV, I would be a happy camper. What is in that stuff? A little bit of crack? I don't care, because man, is that stuff is addictive!!! We even picked up 3 bottles to bring back home with us on our trip last year!!

Thanks Mike for making us feel so welcome when we stopped by, taking the time to chat with is for a whole, and to the rest of the staff we met, you are all awesome!!!

Pah Ke's Chinese Restaurant

46-018 Kamehameha Hwy, Kaneohe, HI

View Menu

My mom wanted to go for a great, authentic sit down Chinese dinner for her birthday in 2014 and I came across a menu online of Pah Ke Chinese Restaurant and they really seemed to have a good variety and a lot of positive reviews. When we got there, we were warmly greeted, seated at a large round table and we ordered a selection of entrees, like Char Sui Fried Rice, Mongolian Beef (you could choose spicy or not), Honey Glazed Walnut Shrimp, Lemon Chicken, Beef and Broccoli with Gau Gee and Won Tons for our pu-pu's (appetizers). When the entrees were brought out, our server just grabs plates and starts dishing out a little bit of food onto everyone's plates...it was so classic! It was like being at an Italian Grandma's house, but with Chinese food. Everything was delicious and from what I understand, this is a family run restaurant and had been around for a long time and has a very loyal clientele. We went back in June of 2017 after a day of sightseeing and once again, we weren't disappointed! Very easy to find by the Windward Mall...right next to the Kaneohe Post Office with Walgreens and Starbucks across the street.

Hukilau Cafe

55-662 Wahinepe'e St Laie, HI


Many people associate the Hukilau Cafe with the movie "50 First Dates" with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, but this isn't the place from the movie. The name may be the same (they got permission to use the name) but the tropical location by the water in the movie was just a movie set. The real Hukilau Cafe is a small neighborhood restaurant in a residential area and it is simple, basic meals for a good price, with pancakes the size of dinner plates!

The food isn't pretentious. It's homemade goodness. It's hearty and if you are looking for a stick to your stomach breakfast before a day of hiking, snorkeling or activity and you're stayng on the Northeast side of Oahu, really do try and stop by. Parking is entirely off street (it is reseidental after all) and there are a minimal number of tables inside, but you can always order some POG juice along with your meal, take it to go and have an alfresco meal over at Mālaekahana State Recreation Area just up the street from the Hukilau Cafe. I can't think of a prettier place to have a morning picnic!

Papa Oles

54-316 Kamehameha Hwy (next to the post office) Hauula, HI


Do you want some good local Hawaiian style food and a great price? Like the kind of food that if you were from Hawaii, your mama would have made you? Then you have gots to go to Papa Ole's!

I'll admit I am a Kalbi junkie. Ever since we lived in Hawaii in the 70's Korean beef has been a staple on our dinner menu. Their Kalbi Short ribs are the BEST I have ever had and I give them the edge over Me's Korean BBQ in Waikiki because they are thicker and meatier, which help them absorb the flavor all the more. They are known for their garlic chicken which is AMAZING, too. With 2 scoops white rice and mac salad (a Hawaiian staple), this is HOME COOKING and 1 order easily serves two people...

I haven't been there for breakfast but it is SO on the list. I have to try the peanut butter rolls!

Ted's Bakery

59-024 Kamehameha Hwy (near Sunset Beach)


It seems like everyone on Oahu knows about Ted's Bakery. It is the go-to place for what has to be one of the best pies I have ever tasted....their Chocolate Haupia Pie. It's like a french silk chocoltate pie, with a layer of coconut haupia (pudding) on top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings on top of that. They are sold at different grocery stores around the island, but you can also buy their different slices of pies and cakes at their restaurant on the North Shore.

Yep! It's not just a bakery! They serve breakfast, plate lunches, take out dinners so it is a literal one stop dining stop! Totally casual, this is one place we defintiely hit up about a 1/2 a dozen times during a typical stay on the island.

My daughter has already made it clear that when she get married, she wants her wedding cake to be the Coconut Cake from Ted's Bakery. We bought one for my mom for her birthday cake and she declared it one of the best cakes she ever tasted. It is just SO LIGHT AND FLUFFY. If a cake could be "personifed" as an animal, this would be an adorable kitten. It is baking perfection in my opinion, and I am a girl who knows my way around some baked goods!

You just can't go to the Island of Oahu and not go to Teds.

Impossible Pizza

59 Kamehameha Hwy (Food Truck on the North Shore)


Big Ass Awesome Frickin' Pizza.

This is a food truck, so he moves around on the north shore, but if you give him a call to find out where he is located, you can place your order and go pick it up. The pizzas are huge and made to order and cooked fresh. They are so big they can barely fit in the box, but they are so fabulous, you will make sure you find room in your belly for every last slice. A MUST have when up on the North Shore. Look for the truck and the flag and grab your pizza. You won't regret it.

Matsumoto Shave Ice

66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI


Speaking of regret, if you want to do something so utterly touristy, overrated and not worth your time or money, go to Matsumotos Shave Ice. This used to be the place to get shave ice on the north shore and I remember when we were coming home from the beach we would always stop in if we were up on the North Shore. Somewhere along they way, they lost their way and bought into their own hype. Their shave ice was disgusting. It was the typical shave ice (not like snow cones on the Mainland), but their flavoring was horrid. It was like just pure FAKE tasting liquid sugar syrup in colors that are not natural. I took about 3 bites and it went into the trash. It was just horrible.

If you are looking to some of the best Shave Ice on the North Shore, you really need to to go the Turtle Bay resort and stop by the Hele Huli Adventure Center (where they do the bike rentals for resort guests). I know you're thinking "the best Shave Ice is at a bike rental place?"

I'm wicked serious.

We had gone hiking along the trails at the Turtle Bay Resort and it was a beautiful, albeit a rather warm day, so on the way back to the hotel, we swung by the equipment rental building, known as the Hele Huli Adventure Center where guest can rent bikes, reserve tennis times, etc...and they sell bottled beverages and my daughter saw they had a shave ice machine. She ordered the watermelon flavor, which is probably one of the flavors I hate the most. I love watermelon, but anything watermelon flavored is just too fake tasting, so I was hesitant to try her shave ice, but it was hot and i was in need of something to quench my thirst.

Sweet baby ray of sunshine, it was like the sweetest of fresh watermelon juice poured over the fluffiest of ice. There was no comparison to what they pass off as shave ice at Matsumotos. Take my word for it...you won't regret it!

To get to the Hele Huli Adventure Center (the Sport's Rental place), if you are on the main drive up to the hotel, your main parking will be on the right and you will see the pathways to the Cottages. The building is on the left.

Bonzai Sushi

66-246 Kamehameha Hwy B, Haleiwa, HI


Jason and Sarah at Banzai Sushi...this much I remember!

I know my husband and daughter really liked this place, but to be honest, I drank a little to much Sake to remember enough to write a review. Bonzai Sushi is located in the little town of Haleiwa in the North Shore Marketplace shopping Center. Parking can get a little crowded, but I remember the service was fast, friendly and the food was good.

Kua'aina Sandwich Shoppe

66-160 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI


Best Burgers on the island, in my opinion. That's my burger above. Just as rare/medium rare like I want my burger to be....not some over cooked hockey puck. They cook your burgers the way you want them with the toppings you want. They are simply delicious and Sarah says they are the best restaurant hamburgers she has ever had and she is quite the connoisseur of burgers. Located in Haleiwa and parking is at a premium. Park over in the lot by Longs Drugs and walk across the street.

Haleiwa Joes

66-011 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI


Yes, it's a tourist spot. Yes, it can get super crowded and the lack of parking is astounding, but yes, it is a great restaurant. Even if you just go to grab a drink and some pu-pu's in the lounge area, you'll have a nice dining experience. the service in the main dining room can be a bit hit or miss when it comes to attentiveness, but there is that whole "Island Time" approach I guess....or is that just me trying to justify slow ass service because I am more chill when I'm on vacation?

All you need to do is take one look at the huge ass drink in the picture below an you'd know why I was so relaxed...LOL

The food is fresh, well prepared, and the Alaskan King Crab legs my daughter ordered, surprisingly, were actually reasonable priced, compared to some of the other menu items which were a tish overpriced in my mind, but you are paying for the location and it is a great place to have dinner as the sun goes down over Haleiwa Harbor. The seared Ahi tuna was a good size and my husband had one of the daily specials, which was a whole flash fried fish of some sort (snapper, maybe?) and he ate the whole damn thing. Said it was positively delicious.

Give it a try if you're looking for a nice place to go on the North Shore. Let me put it this way...it's the type of place you'd take your parents for dinner. Someplace nice to show them you care and just expensive enough to show to them that you can finally afford something nicer to pay them back for all they did for you growing up!

Kahuku Land Farm Stand

56-781 Kamehameha Hwy. Kahuku, HI


If you are looking for some of the best, fresh fruit on the North shore, you have to stop here. If you're not familiar with Kahuku Sweet Corn, it is some of the best tasting corn you will ever have. You can get bags for pre-cut fresh fruit, coconut, vegetables here and they are ice cold and ready to go to the beach with you for that lunch picnic! We always stop here for fresh coconut, pineapple slices and corn...Total yummers!!!

Roy's Beach House

at the Turtle Bay Resort


We first tried a Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant back on our first trip to Oahu in 2005 and we were hooked. A combination of Pan-Pacific flavors with a European influence, the founder Roy Yamaguchi created a truly wonderful restaurant experience. We have been to locations in Waikiki, Hawaii Kai, Orlando, Tampa, Chicago, Palm Springs and Las Vegas and the food, as well as the service are always top notch. Their food is locally sourced and about as fresh as you can get! When you order the mahi, you know it came out of the water earlier that morning!

Roy's Lunch and Dinner Menu (subject to change)

Roy's Beach House at the Turtle Bay is a more casual version of the regular Roy's, as it overlooks Kuilima Cove and is an open air restaurant, but it is just as good. The Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with the Lobster essence and fresh vegetables can't be beat. The Hawaiian Martinis are strong and delicious (be careful...theya re sneaky strong!) and nothing beats starting your meal with fresh sushi and steamed edemame, Sarah's favorite! Open for both lunch and dinner, reservations are strongly recommended, as it is a popular place with the Turtle Bay Resort guests, especially at sunset.

No matter where you are on Oahu, be sure to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. You will be so pleasantly surprised!!!

About the Joy Family

We're not a normal family. In fact, we're downright goofy, with just a touch of nerdy (well, maybe a lot of nerdy at times)...but we're fun, we care very much for one another and we LOVE to travel.

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