The food options in Oahu were a bit different than what we found in Maui. Waikiki is packed with lots of chain restaurants, so you have to go a little off the beaten path to find places that are unique to the island. But we were successful and had a lot of tasty meals to round out our stay. Here are the main culinary highlights in addition to our non food-related Oahu experiences. 😉
Hula Grill. Once we settled in to our hotel, we ventured out in search of food. It was difficult to find a place without an hour-plus wait due to it being the weekend and the added insanity of the Pro Bowl. Our goal was to go to the famous Duke’s, but a table in the bar opened up at its neighbor Hula Grill, so we sat down for a quick dinner of fish tacos x 2, macadamia nut crab rangoons (!), a fruity drink for moi, and a local Hawaiian beer (Black Rock Lager, I believe) for Jordan. The tacos were mediocre, but the app and drinks were on par. We also got to enjoy a sampling of the live band playing on the beach beneath us. The whole experience had a “spring break” feeling – hard to hear and carry on a conversation plus the stereotypical Waikiki beach party vibe.
We decided to try out the hotel’s breakfast bar for a quick bite since we were wanting to head to Diamondhead Crater that morning before it got blazing hot out. The breakfast was definitely nothing extraordinary, but it was really convenient to have a little something to fill up our bellies for the upcoming hike. The bar consisted of granola, cereal, fresh fruit, pastries, coffee, milk, and OJ. It would have been nice to have a protein option like yogurt or hard-boiled eggs for some extra sustenance, but it did the trick.
Marukame Udon. When we had two separate couples recommend a restaurant to us, we knew we had to check it out. You wouldn’t think that udon noodles would be a staple in the middle of Honolulu, but I realized this place was highly rated among more than just my friends after I viewed the Yelp page. We high-tailed it over there for an early dinner since we’d read that the line gets long. If you love carbs and fried stuff, this is the place for you. The portions are huge and I loved the option for the tempura add-ons. Fried sweet potato, giant shrimp, mushrooms, etc.? Don’t mind if I do. The base offering of the udon noodle bowl was spot-on. The noodles were made fresh and cooked al dente, the broth had just the right amount of salt, and the accompanying fried foods provided a nice textural contrast to the noodles.
After Dinner Drinks
Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Since we had an early dinner and the sun was still out, we wanted to explore the area and check out the highly recommended Mai Tais at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel bar upon the suggestion of a friend who frequented the place during her trip earlier in the winter. It’s a quaint little outdoor hotel bar off the beach that makes potent and tasty old-fashioned Hawaiian cocktails. The night we stopped by, there was a singing duo and hula dancer that performed and told anecdotal tales about hailing from different parts of Hawaii. It was the perfect background music and setting for a relaxing evening enjoying another Hawaii sunset on the beach.
Leonard’s Bakery. Before we set out for the beach, Jordan had read about these hot and made-to-order Portuguese donuts (called Malasadas) in this tiny little hole-in-the-wall bakery in downtown Honolulu. We tried the Original (plain sugar) and the flavor of the month which was filled with a mango cream. They’re pretty much like donuts without a hole, and these were very light, fluffy, and fresh.
Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill. We consulted our online friend Yelp for our last Hawaii dinner location. After a lot of debate and recommendation from the hotel staff, we landed on Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill. “Pupu” is Hawaiian for appetizer. I can always make a meal out of appetizers, so I was up for the challenge. It was walkable from the hotel but quite a jaunt (about 20 minutes from the main Waikiki “strip”). We managed to make it there with a minimal wait time, and once we were seated we were overwhelmed by the options on the menu that included full meals as well as the famous pupus.
We ordered the Boca Rota Garlic Cheesy Bread and Kalua Pig Sliders. While the cheesy bread wasn’t necessarily a native Hawaii dish, it was executed better than any other restaurant and included prime rib strips, mushrooms, and ample amounts of gooey Mozzarella cheese. As for the sliders, the taro rolls were the star of the show. The rolls were a subtle purple color (taro has a naturally purple pigmentation), and they were moist, sweet, and paired extremely well with the shredded Hawaiian-style pork in a pineapple BBQ sauce. We left there full and happy with our final Oahu meal.
If you’ve been to Oahu, which area of the island was your favorite for the best food?