The state of Hawaii is an island paradise, attracting millions of vacationers from around the world each year. With access to the ocean’s bounty, and a favorable growing season, the availability of fresh and local ingredients makes this state a restaurateur’s dream. We explore 10 of the best restaurants in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
A grand entrance to Vintage Cave Courtesy of Chef Jonathan Mizukami
Vintage Cave offers a decidedly different experience to restaurant-goers. Instead of bringing the natural beauties of the island indoors, this restaurant has created an atmosphere that echoes the architecture of ancient Italy. With granite floors and brick walls, the interior has a warm and stately grandeur. The fixed menu changes frequently, driven by what is in season. Guests are offered two options upon arriving: the chef’s recommendation, or a vegetable selection that caters to alternative preferences and needs. The meal is twelve courses of contemporary French American fare that is masterfully prepared, and artfully presented.
Serving Asian fusion cuisine, Chef Chai is elegant and always on-point. The restaurant’s owner and executive chef is well known throughout Hawaii, owning multiple restaurants and having won various awards. At Chef Chai, he marries the colorful flavors of the islands with traditional Asian techniques and flavors. The result is a marriage of styles that have customers and critics raving. From duck tacos to filet mignon, and from chicken satay to lemongrass oxtail soup, any diner is sure to be pleased with the quality at Chef Chai.
At Town, the owners and staff are dedicated to reconnecting people with the earth and with each other through sustainable, locally sourced food. Though it has been recognized by numerous magazines, critics, and organizations, this restaurant remains unpretentious and approachable. Meats and seafood are not overly sauced, allowing the quality and natural flavors to shine through. Vegetables and sides are prepared simply, celebrating the essence of their innate goodness. Reviewers can’t get enough of Town’s creamy polenta, black mussels, and panna cotta desserts. With a menu that adapts to what is currently in-season, there is always something new to try at Town.
MW Honolulu serves traditional Hawaiian and classic American dishes, dressed up and twisted in playful ways. Some of the most popular dishes include the opakapaka, a local crimson snapper crusted in mochi and lightly fried, and the pork chop: glazed with kimchi, and so tender that it falls off the bone. Dessert is equally important and well thought out, including the MW candy bar: a crunchy macadamia praline with salted caramel, chocolate, and cookie. The decor inside MW Honolulu is simple and clean, with high ceilings, large windows, and light colors. The atmosphere is upscale, yet still exudes a casual vibe that makes guests feel welcomed and comfortable.
In many ways, The Pig and the Lady stands alone in an entirely different ballpark from other restaurants. The chefs have established a name for themselves by trying things that no one else has before. They fuse classic dishes with surprising ingredients to create dishes that are exciting and innovative. Pillowy gnocchi is served with octopus bolognese and crispy potato skins. Ricotta pancakes are served with strawberries and Thai basil. The avocado cake is served with corn gelato, strawberries, and pea shoots. These inventive dishes, and many more, are what make The Pig and the Lady a dining spot that shouldn’t be missed.
Alan Wong has made a mark for himself over the past three decades by influencing the development of the stylistic cuisine that Hawaii is now recognized for. At Alan Wong’s Honolulu, guests are met with friendly staff that are passionate about sharing local flavors and ingredients. The restaurant creates an atmosphere that embraces both the fine-dining nature of the food, and the laid-back nature of the islands. Plating at Alan Wong’s is artful, and dishes are served looking nearly too good to eat. Don’t leave without trying ‘The Coconut’: a chocolate shell, filled with sorbet and topped with tropical fruits – looking just like a halved coconut.
La Mer has received multiple honorable distinctions for exceptional food and service. To maintain an atmosphere of sophisticated dining, jackets and evening attire are required. Once inside, guests are privy to breathtaking views of the beach, and a spacious and airy dining room. The menu at La Mer offers local Hawaiian ingredients, prepared using classic French techniques. With top-notch service, and exquisite dishes, La Mer is an easy choice for fine dining, just steps away from the shores of Waikiki.
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A fresh vegetable side dish at Chef Mavro | Courtesy of Chef Mavro
Nestled on Maui’s North Shore lies Mama’s Fish House: a restaurant paying homage to the Island’s Polynesian heritage, and the abundance of seafood that the ocean has to offer. The interior features fresh flowers and traditional Hawaiian decor, and many tables have stunning views of the ocean. The menu is seafood-heavy, featuring only the freshest catch from local fisherman. Fan favorites include the macadamia-crusted mahi mahi, blue prawns with vanilla, and opakapaka ceviche. Mama’s Fish house is an excellent choice for seafood at the peak of freshness, and traditional Hawaiian flavors and preparation.
Adorned with various prestigious accolades, Chef Mavro offers a bright, Hawaiian take on dishes influenced by his native France. Utilizing locally sourced ingredients is incredibly important, as is its support for local farmers and food purveyors. The chefs gracefully execute meals that are both a feast for the eyes, and for the stomach. To accompany any meal, Chef Mavro also offers expertly paired wines, that will elevate an already superb dining experience to an unbelievable level. This restaurant is a must in Hawaii for fine dining and special occasions.
There is nothing more welcoming and relaxing than a visit to Monkeypod Kitchen. This restaurant offers a family friendly atmosphere that is a perfect place to unwind and enjoy a great meal out. In addition to fresh seafood dishes, Monkeypod also offers American classics, and hand-tossed pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. The atmosphere and the food are both unassuming, and designed to give guests an experience that shows them how to sit back and relax the Hawaiian way. Monkeypod prides itself on the wide variety of beers available, offering nearly 40 craft selections.