11 Mainland Chains We Really Wish We Had in Hawai‘i

Is it really too much to ask for Swedish meatballs and animal-style burgers?

A post shared by Olive Garden (@olivegarden) on


If the discussion hasn’t already dominated your lunch break, you probably didn’t hear. Reports are that Olive Garden will be moving into the space currently held by Bubba Gump in Ala Moana Center. That means you won’t have to save your soup, salad and unlimited breadsticks run for Mainland trips.


It’s the latest never-in-Hawai‘i chain we can cross off our wish list. Anyone remember the days before Whole Foods Market (2008), Victoria’s Secret (2009) and Bath & Body Works (2011) arrived? Target also opened in 2009. H&M, Anthropologie and Zara all set up shop in 2015 and Raising Cane’s arrived last year, with several new locations slated to open soon, and Chick-fil-A is on the way.


Yes, we prefer to shop local. But, we polled the HONOLULU team about what Mainland chain we wanted next, and it turns out we all crave affordable furniture (ideally with a side of Swedish meatballs), designer shoes and more things to eat. Here are our picks. 


9. Steak ‘n Shake 

Candy Cane Shake
Photo: Steak ‘n Shake


Forget boring old chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. At Steak ‘n Shake, you’ve got so many more smoothie options: Snickers, s’mores, chocolate-covered strawberry, red velvet, peppermint chocolate chip or white chocolate. We also really enjoy the retro ’50s décor.


8. Fry’s

Fryʻs exterior
Photo: Fryʻs


If you haven’t shopped at the California electronics chain Fry’s, imagine all of Amazon’s electronics in a warehouse the size of Don Quijote. You may know how much we love Don Quijote. While online shopping is always an option, sometimes we just need a really cheap HDMI cable or a new computer monitor and don’t want to wait. If those goods are too mundane, where else can you purchase a no!no! Pro Hair Removal System on clearance for just $249? Don’t you dare say Amazon.


7. DSW

Photo: DSW


TJ Maxx and Marshalls have added more options, but for the biggest selection of affordable designer shoes, we’re pretty much stuck with Nordstrom Rack. Did we just put stuck” and Nordstrom Rack” in the same sentence? Wait. Don’t get us wrong. We love the Rack. It’d just be nice to have some other options for shoe shopping. Preferably in the form of a very large storefront dedicated to discounted designer shoes.


6. Muji

Muji Products
Photo: Muji


If Muji took a 23andMe test the results would be: part Ikea, part Uniqlo, part Hakubundo and 2% Daiso. The Japanese lifestyle shop carries a wide selection of kawaiiiii clothing, household goods, stationery, snacks and travel necessities that are minimal in design. Totally a place for a Marie Kondo spotting.


5. Mango



A post shared by MANGO (@mango) on


We’re thrilled with Zara (and dealing with the fact that Zara Home and H&M Home didn’t make it overseas). But if you find yourself shying away from the more uber-trendy of its fashions (not everyone considers metallic green cowboy boots a wardrobe staple), you’ll feel right at home with Mango. The Barcelona-based brand offers fashion-forward styles crafted with a subtle, streamlined slant—think effortless boyfriend blazers, delicate blouses and minimal-modern accessories. 


4. In-N-Out Burger

Photo: Wikipedia


In-N-Out Burger is every burger lover’s dream come true. The fixings are fresh, the burgers are cooked to order and the fries are amazing. It’s fast food that doesn’t taste like fast food (probably because the burgers are actually preservative- and- additive free). And we always love a place with a not-so-secret secret menu


SEE ALSO: We Tried the Entire Menu at The Daley in One Sitting


3. Panera Bread

Photo: Panera bread


Good soup options are so hard to find in Honolulu. And, boy, does Panera have options. On Sunday alone, you can choose from cream of chicken and wild rice, vegetarian autumn squash, vegetarian creamy tomato, low-fat vegetarian black bean, broccoli cheddar, bistro French onion or low-fat, all-natural chicken noodle. Whichever you choose, you can order in a bread bowl. 


2. Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn

Crate & Barrel Tabletop
Photo: Crate & Barrel


Sure, you can get their brightly colored and rustic kitchen and home goods shipped to Hawai‘i, for a charge. But we want a Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn on island, especially with Pier 1 Imports on the way out. On our wish lists are both Store's holiday accessories and affordable (not pointing any fingers, Williams-Sonoma), chic kitchen goods we’d love to have on our tables.


1. Trader Joe’s (tie)



A post shared by Trader Joe's (@traderjoes) on



It was definitely a win when Whole Foods came to Hawai‘i, but, with our high cost of living, we really yearn for the combination of quality and affordability Trader Joe’s provides. While care packages and souvenirs from the Mainland keep us satisfied, we still wish we could buy our own Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, cauliflower gnocchi, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, Everything But the Bagel seasoning and Two Buck Chuck which, by the way, now retails for $2.99 a bottle. Better start saving up.


1. Ikea (tie)

Photo: IKEA


And we want to eat all our snacks in a room outfitted by Ikea. If they can ship from Sweden to California, why not a little farther to Hawai‘i? Alas, we’ll have to settle for the folks at Haul2HI, who bring Ikea’s cheap and stylish goods to us (for a fee). You can also buy Ikea furniture online, though shipping is steep. We prefer to roam the store in person and reward ourselves for some shopping well-done with Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam.

Fun fact: Ikea’s product names all have a meaning


Honorable mentions: Chipotle, Red Robin, World Market, Luke’s Lobster, Einstein Bros. Bagels, El Pollo Loco, West Elm, Restoration Hardware, Au Bon Pain, Costa Coffee, Pret A Manger and Din Tai Fung.


Are there any Mainland chains you’d like to see open in Hawai‘i? Or would you prefer they all stay out? Let us know in the comments!