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2013 Hale Aina Awards: When to eat where

Our readers named the best restaurants in the Islands. To help you navigate the wealth of great dining, we lead you through a year-long itinerary of Hale Aina eating: when to eat where.


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Tacos at Serg's Mexican Kitchen.

Photo by Olivier Koning

This one’s an obvious pairing: Cinco de Mayo and tacos. And where to get tacos? Serg’s Mexican Kitchen (Best Mexican, silver), where well-seasoned carne asada or pork doused in chile verde fill the corn tortillas, all topped with cotija cheese (rather than the yellow shredded stuff). Since Cinco de Mayo falls on a Sunday this year, you can get your Mexican on early; it’s the one day a week Serg’s offers breakfast. On the menu: huevos rancheros, or fried corn tortillas, black beans, eggs, and fresh salsa; and menudo, a traditional Mexican tripe stew, which purportedly fights hangovers. You’re going to need it.

Hopefully, you already knew to make reservations for Orchids’ Mother’s Day brunch last May. If not, then there’s always the waiting list … and let this serve as a reminder to make plans for next year. This could be the most coveted reservation in town, and, no wonder, since Orchids (Best Brunch, gold) arranges a spectacular spread, Mother’s Day or no. The cornucopia includes platters of poke, sashimi, a carving station of prime rib and suckling pig, and a grand dessert and pastry buffet that vies with the view in beauty. (The dessert table wins: You can’t eat the view.)


We clearly have seasons here: mango and lychee seasons, and then the rest of the dreary year. OK, so dreary is an overstatement, but still, the lychee and mango seasons are marvelous to behold, especially when they’re abundant, as they were last year. We can’t predict this year’s harvests, but if they’re good, head to 12th Ave Grill (Best O‘ahu Restaurant, bronze; Favorite Little Neighborhood Restaurant, gold; Best Gourmet Comfort Food, silver). 12th Ave Grill frequently incorporates seasonal ingredients, so, come mango season, you might see specials along the lines of a grilled cheese with duck prosciutto on rosemary-mango brioche, served with a bit of mango and pink peppercorn aioli, fresh mango and pickled mango slaw. Dessert, of course, is where mango shines, as with 12th Ave Grill’s striking mango mascarpone tart or mango upside-down cake. Most likely, these exact dishes won’t be offered this year, but count on mango guest starring in a few items, as well as other seasonal produce throughout the year, such as Big Island grapefruit, starfruit, mountain apple and lilikoi.

One of my favorite times to visit Maui is for the Maui Film Festival, where outdoor movies are done right—no floppy, inflatable screens here, nor too-soft, muddled sound. Before heading down for the festival, try Honu (Best New Restaurant, bronze), Mark Ellman’s newest restaurant that channels seafood shack chic. Seafood from all coasts—East, West, Hawaii—lands on the plates, such as a local fish sautéed with capers, lemon and butter and dusted with dill pollen; wok-fried salt and pepper Dungeness crab; and a lobster roll featuring Maine lobster salad stuffed into a Portuguese flax chia seed sweet bread. Quinoa, kale and even a vegan espresso chocolate mousse cake dot the menu, but this dose of West Coast hippie is counterbalanced with fried pig’s ears and crab mac and cheese. Honu’s menu is simultaneously hip, of the moment and yet comforting.

The lobster roll at Honu.

Photo by Ryan Siphers

See the full list of winners.

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Honolulu Magazine January 2018
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