Photo: Courtesy EPS Sargent
Even when your auntie’s best friend’s sister’s husband comes to Hawaii for a conference, you feel it’s your kuleana to take him to all your favorite local spots. We show off only the best to our extended ohana, which usually includes a view, some of Hawaii’s freshest seafood and, of course, only-in-Hawaii Hawaiian food.
Mama’s Fish House (Gold; Best Maui Restaurant, Gold; Best Seafood, Silver) on Maui takes the cake on this one (mmm, macadamia-nut crab cakes!). Its fish is bought straight from fishermen, its octopus caught by free divers in the nearby Kuau Cove. The beachfront restaurant grows many of its own ingredients and, one time, even served a pig that had been eating Mama’s leftovers. It doesn’t get fresher than that; it doesn’t get more satisfying, either. Though the restaurant has been around since 1973, the ever-changing menu, which recently included a mahi mahi stuffed with lobster and crab, is well worth a trip to Maui.
Back on Oahu, there’s a reason why locals and visitors alike keep returning to Tiki’s Grill & Bar (Silver; Best Seafood, Top Write-In Vote): Renowned local musicians, top restaurateurs and expert mixologists make the Waikiki rooftop bar more than just a sunset viewing platform. Chef Ronnie Nasuti, previously the executive chef at Roy’s Hawaii Kai, fuses Hawaii cuisine with American staples, an easy transition for palates from the Mainland or elsewhere. Hula dancers every Thursday and torches all around give Tiki’s the Hawaii feel visitors crave, and you get to take home a tiki mug when you order certain drinks. Some recent additions to the menu include Mama’s Thai Chicken & Green Papaya Chop Salad (chicken marinated with chili and lime, fresh herbs, lettuce, macadamia nuts and glass noodles), a warm Green Tea Butter Cake and Molten Hot Hawaiian S’mores.
House Without A Key (Bronze) combines a view and former Miss Hawaii hula dancers with a can’t-miss mai tai. Recent additions to the menu include a sunset kiawe grill: Cajun-spiced shutome and baby back ribs are fired up on an oceanside grill every Tuesday and Thursday. But some things never change and shouldn’t, such as the Halekulani’s signature coconut cake with creme anglaise. Finalists Helena’s Hawaiian Foods (because what kind of Hawaii vacation doesn’t include the Gold-winning Best Hawaiian restaurant?) and Izakaya Gaku (Best Izakaya, Gold; Best Sushi, Gold) round out the ethnic tastes mandatory for any Pacific Rim trip. Shokudo receives the top write-in vote, deserving for both the must-order, towering honey toast as well its new twist, tempura honey toast bread pudding.