Best of 2020 Dining: Editor’s Favorites

In case you missed it, here are 10 of my favorite stories on food and dining in Honolulu in 2020.


It was an interesting year to cover food and dining. While most of us were dining in for much of 2020, what we decided to eat became even more important as discovering local ingredients, cooking kits and new recipes gave us a nice break from the monotony of our own four walls. (How is your sourdough starter going?) I specialized in eating my frustrations or just celebrating the end of the day with comfort food, washed down with a local beer.


And when we could dine in again, boy, did we want to. My list of 10 favorite food and dining posts covered it all. You can also see our readers’ favorites for HONOLULU and our sister website, Frolic Hawai‘i.


10. Kōkua Kalihi Valley’s Roots Café Introduces Honolulu’s First CSA Box Focused on Cultural Starches

Published March 10

Kokua Kalihi Valleys Roots Cafe Introduces Honolulus First Csa Box To Emphasize Cultural Starches Cover

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



‘Ulu, taro and other canoe plants already cut, prepped and parboiled for easy use? I’m in.


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9. Islander Sake Brewery, Hawai‘i’s Only Sake Brewery, Opens in March in Kaka‘ako

Published February 26

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Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



Talking about the history of food in the Islands with our dining team of Martha Cheng and Mari Taketa is always fascinating. Try sake.


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SEE ALSO: Best of Frolic 2020: Editor’s Picks


8. Can We Ever Eat All Local in Hawai‘i?

Published April 21

Can We Ever Eat All Local In Hawaii Mao Farm Lettuce


Food and dining editor Martha Cheng actually began tackling this topic in late 2019 for our April issue of HONOLULU. What timing. Local producers and distributors have gone on a rollercoaster ride in 2020 with many losing the big business from visitor-fueled restaurants and neighborhood eateries that shut down; meanwhile business boomed for other groups that had focused on creating Hawai‘i marketplaces for local people.


Read more and Martha’s follow-up article, “Rethinking Hawai‘i: Continuing Momentum for Local Agriculture” here.



7. The Heat Goes On: Here’s a Rundown of the Local Restaurant-Made Hot Sauces You Can Buy

Published September 25

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Yes, I have three bottles of these sauces in my refrigerator right now.


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6. Alan Wong’s Closes After 25 Years, Town After 16 Years

Published November 9

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Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



2020 has been a painful year for restaurants. For many of us, closings are deeply personal; two were particularly so for Martha Cheng. Reading about her education in the kitchen of Alan Wong and in the dining room of Ed Kenney makes us wistful for the moments we’ve had at Alan Wong’s and Town and intrigued by what the chefs will do next.


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5. Qiana Di Bari, Owner of Sale Pepe in Lahaina, On Racism in the Food Business and Why She Feels at Home on Maui

Published July 1

Qiana Owner Sale Pepe Lahaina Maui Cover

Photo: Mykle Coyne



In the summer, we published a series of Q&As with Black restaurateurs and chefs to get their perspectives about life and running a business in Hawai‘i. Qiana Di Bari went from college at NYU to managing New York-based hiphop bands to opening an Italian restaurant with her husband on Maui. She talks about racism, teaching her daughter and how things are different in the Islands.


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4. We Tried It: Liliko‘i, Pineapple and Java Plum Mead from Mānoa Honey Co.

Published June 17

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The pineapple sour mead, lightly tart. Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



Sweet, light and effervescent, the mead brewed from local honey was my choice for saying “cheers” Christmas afternoon. If you plan to drive to the cute little shop in Wahiawā, allot some extra time to wait for rooster crossings on Palm Drive.


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3. Comfort Eats: Find Sourdough Waffles and Perfect Pizzas at Wicked HI Café

Published May 11

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Photo: Martha Cheng



It started with smoothies made with honey from their own bees. Now a North Shore café is the place to go for sourdough waffles and, as Martha calls it, pizza perfection coming out of tiny ovens.


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2. An Old-School Mochi Shop Finds a New Home in McCully

Published October 11

Fujiya Assortment

Photo: Thomas Obungen



A surprise package of chewy old-school goodness? Yes please.


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1. Meal Kits to Grocery Delivery: How to Eat the Best Local Food at Home

Published May 5

Meal Kits To Grocery Delivery How To Eat The Best Local Food At Home New Cover

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino



When we all started working and doing everything at home, Martha dove into finding ways to have everything from locally raised meat to fresh produce and meal kits delivered, for stories on Her rapid-fire research was just what we were all looking for this spring and still stands as a way to support our own producers and restaurants. In a matter of days, we turned it into our cover story for the May issue with photographs taken by Martha and staff photographer Aaron K. Yoshino in their own living rooms and lānai.


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