Best of Honolulu 2021: The Best Food and Drinks on O‘ahu

We asked our readers and searched the island for the best of everything—locally-made light beer to locally-grown açaí, sushi cake to soufflé pancakes, sherbet to taro doughnuts—all so you can live better in Honolulu.

 

Asato Sherbet

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Local Sherbet

You never know what month it’s going to be at Asato Family Shop—Li Hing Float Month? Crack Seed Month? Or something crazier? Whatever the theme, vibrant sherbet creations flood the tiny shop’s Instagram feed and fans form a line that snakes around the building. Every. Single. Time. The lines are even longer when sherbet master Neale Asato comes out with specials like Donettes sherbet, inspired by the beloved sugar-dusted mini-doughnuts of now-closed Love’s Bakery, or a boozy Matcha Old Fashioned sherbet honoring Bar Leather Apron’s signature cocktail. What we can tell you: This summer will bring Mango Month—and your best bet is to pre-order on the website or go early and join that line.—MT

 

Open Wednesday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 1306 Pali Highway, asatofamilyshop.com, @asatofamilyshop 

 


SEE ALSO: Asato Family Shop Serves Creamy Sherbet in Nostalgic Flavors From Our Childhood


Holey Grail Donuts

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Taro Doughnut Shop

First came poi doughnuts, then poi mochi doughnuts. Now Honolulu can add to the list taro doughnuts, thanks to Holey Grail. Owned by siblings Neil and Hana Dreiling, the tiny enterprise from Kīlauea, Kaua‘i, rolled out a bright yellow doughnut truck at Ward Village to long lines of folks eager to try fried-to-order rings like the Hot Single (Tolentino Farms honey and flaked sea salt) and Saffron Snickerdoodle (exactly what it sounds like). Pounded taro adds a pleasant body to the 100% plant-based, low-gluten wheat dough. So rapturous was the reaction on O‘ahu that the Dreilings opened a pop-up doughnut shop in Kaka‘ako’s old Pā‘ina Café space; the truck has since graduated to a spot in Waikīkī. —MT

 

Multiple locations, holeygraildonuts.com, @holeygraildonuts 

 


SEE ALSO: Holey Grail Doughnuts Is Expanding with a 5-Month Pop-Up


 

Kauhuku Farms Acai Bowl

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Locally Grown Açaí Bowl

Sure, you can get a spoonful of sweet antioxidant goodness almost anywhere, but Kahuku Farms is the only place we know here that harvests its own berries for its açaí bowls. It took eight years for the palm trees Kylie Matsuda-Lum and her husband, Judah Lum, planted to bear fruit. Their team painstakingly washes and processes each batch of berries immediately after picking them, then tops them with the farm’s own apple bananas, house-made granola, graham cracker and macadamia nut crumble, and liliko‘i butter. Don’t leave the cheery yellow café without a bottle of liliko‘i vinaigrette or liliko‘i butter mochi. —CY

 

56-800 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, (808) 628-0639, kahukufarms.com, @kahukufarms 

 


SEE ALSO: We Tried It: Our Family Guide to Kahuku Farms Café in Hawaiʻi


Chubbies Burgers

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Burger

Reader Pick

From the day the Chubbies Burgers truck opened in 2016, offering O‘ahu’s first smash burgers, owner Jeffrey Nedry has obsessed over the details. He worked with ranchers to create the ideal blend of fresh ground beef, uses a custom-made burger smash tool and, after a few years of struggling to find the perfect fit, now makes his own potato buns. The result is a juicy patty with a lacy, caramelized sear, stacked with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions between a soft bun that does its job without getting in the way. —MC

 

960 Auahi St., chubbiesburgers.com, @chubbieshawaii 

 


SEE ALSO: Who Needs In-N-Out When We Have Chubbies?


 

Best Old-School Fried Rice Omelet

For those who know Rocky’s Coffee Shop in Waipahu, a line of people outside signals that the family business is open. Since 1960, the restaurant has cooked comforting local-style breakfast and lunch in a compact diner with counter stools and a handful of booths that still look up at the smokestack from the long-closed sugar mill. Customers in T-shirts and boardroom-ready aloha-wear—and pajamas for the keiki—swear by the banana pancakes and fried rice omelet: two eggs wrapped around savory rice flecked with Spam, Portuguese sausage and green onions. The bustle of diners and calls for takeout keep the shop humming from dawn until midday five days a week. —RD

 

94-316 Waipahu Depot St., Waipahu, (808) 677-3842, @rockyscoffeeshop 

 


 

Best Local Butcher

Five years ago, Jason Chow left Hawai‘i to study with whole-animal butchers in Berkeley and Chicago, with the ultimate goal of returning to open O‘ahu’s only all-local butcher shop. He’s still looking for a permanent space, but in the meantime, The Local General Store pops up Sunday mornings in Kaimukī Superette, offering heritage cuts beyond rib-eye and tenderloin, such as the small marbled oyster steak from the rear of the cattle, to custom cuts, including a thick, gorgeous Florentine-style steak. You’ll also find pork, venison and chicken sourced from local producers as well as charcuterie and sausages, from mac nut mortadella to mango chicken sausage. Some of it even finds its way into partner Harley Tunac’s pastries, as in a char siu Danish and longanisa croissant. —MC

 

@thelocalgeneralstorehi 

 


 

Lanikai Juice Acai Bowl

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Açaí Bowl

Reader Pick

Post-hike, post-surf, post-nap, whenever: Lanikai Juice’s açaí bowls have been fueling residents across the island for years, first in Kailua, then Kāhala and a half-dozen more locations. Its most recent shop, in Hawai‘i Kai Towne Center, stands out with bright teal walls and a mural inspired by native plants once grown in the area, painted by Luke DeKneef, who served as creative director of the shop. Swing by for The Extravaganza, which upgrades your basic açaí bowl with banana, strawberries, granola, puffed quinoa, coconut chips and blueberries. —KV

 

Multiple locations, lanikaijuice.com, @lanikaijuice 

 


SEE ALSO: HONOLULU Staff Favorites: The Best Açaí Smoothie Bowls on O‘ahu


Kona Brewing Beers

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Local Light Beer

When those once-a-week pau hana nights started happening daily (a perk of working from home), we had to go to the light side. At 99 calories, the crisp, Kona Light Blonde Ale features hints of local mango and won’t weigh you down. It first appeared only on tap, but now Kona Brewing’s vice president of marketing, Eric Chang, says that in Hawai‘i the bottles and cans outsell the top-selling national light beer. The first locally canned batches of Kona Light will start rolling out of the company’s new facility in, where else, Kailua-Kona this summer. —CY

 

Available at multiple retail locations, konabrewingco.com, @konabrewingco 

 


 

Best Bakery Dan Tat

Fusion isn’t a dirty word—and the proof is in the dan tat. Emerging out of British and Chinese influences in early 20th century Guangzhou, China, these Chinese custard tarts have become staples on dim sum menus. But sometimes you want just one—or a dozen. At Sing Cheong Yuan Bakery, the dan tat are baked throughout the day and emerge with a silky smooth custard in a shortbreadlike crust—more tender and crumbly than flaky. —MC

 

1027 Maunakea St., (808) 531-6688, @singcheongyuanbakery

 


 

Tokkuri Tei Sushi Cake

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

 

Best Sushi Cake

If we’re being totally honest, it was the octopus sushi cake that hooked us. The small tako with ikura salmon roe eyes and a half-moon takuan smile, nestled amid sashimi rosettes and slices of fresh abalone, scallop and amaebi jumps out on Tokkuri Tei’s Instagram page. Of the sushi cakes that have popped up around Honolulu lately, Tokkuri Tei’s is one of the only ones we know of created by an itamae, or sushi chef, and one with a flair for the offbeat and whimsical at that. Santa Miyoshi’s cakes start with a base of unagi and other ingredients folded into sushi rice, then rise like edible centerpieces crowned with real flowers, or edible party scenes ringed by cavorting shrimp. And yes, they taste as good as they look. —MT

 

449 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 732-6480, tokkuritei-hawaii.com, @tokkuritei 

 


SEE ALSO: See How a Poke Shop Creates a Sushi Cake in 11 Gorgeous Photos


 

Thangs French Coffee Bubble Tea

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Best Avocado Smoothie

It’s so simple—fresh, ripe avocados, condensed milk and ice—but blended all together at Thang’s French Coffee & Bubble Tea, it transforms into a luscious milkshake. While in America avocados tend to end up in guacamole or on toast, in Vietnam, the buttery fruit is often incorporated in desserts—a sip of this velvet frostiness, and you’ll understand why. —MC

 

Multiple locations, @thangsbubbletea 

 


 

Best Veggie Manapua

Vegetarian manapua come in many flavors: sweet potato, mushroom, mixed veggies, even spinach mozzarella. Our winner is the vegetable-filled bun at Chinatown’s Royal Kitchen. Cabbage, mushrooms and carrots create a tasty classic. Opened in 1974, Royal Kitchen remains a favorite place to pick up a gift box—stamped with a key to separate the lup cheong from the curry chicken (happy face for the veggie). The shop earned its reputation as among the first to offer golden baked bao in addition to classic steamed buns. The wide variety of fillings include Portuguese sausage, kālua pork and traditional char siu. —RD

 

100 N. Beretania St., #175, (808) 524-4461, royalkitchenhawaii.com

 


 

Cream Pot Souffle Pancake

Photo: Katrina Valcourt

 

 

Best Soufflé Pancakes

The menu at Cream Pot says, “The original place for soufflé pancakes.” That doesn’t mean in Hawai‘i—it means in the world. Despite the widespread belief that soufflé pancakes are a Japanese thing, owner Nathan Tran says he has been serving the fluffy treat since 2009, long before it was a trend. “We were the only ones doing it for the longest time,” he says. Cream Pot excels at perfectly balancing the taste of a pancake with the magical airiness of a free-standing soufflé. The incredibly soft, warm pancakes come in a variety of flavors, from mixed berry to s’mores. —KV

 

444 Niu St., (808) 429-0945, creampothawaii.com 

 


SEE ALSO: How a Hawai‘i Restaurant Launched the Soufflé Pancake Craze


Fete Veggie Burger

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

 

 

Veggie Burger

Omnivores as well as vegetarians remain loyal to Fête’s quinoa burger. The patty brings depth of flavor and bites like a burger with a smoky, lightly spicy touch of jalapeño. When we were there last, co-owner Chuck Bussler was raving about the quality of the fresh local produce on the sandwich: thick yellow Sensei Farms tomatoes from Lāna‘i and bright greens from Kaka‘ako’s MetroGrow Hawai‘i. The garlic aioli and the mashed avocado add creaminess, and the pillowy brioche bun brings the comfort. “Interestingly, we get a lot of people who order that and add bacon. I always laugh at that,” Bussler says. —RD

 

2 N. Hotel St., (808) 369-1390, fetehawaii.com@fetehawaii

 


SEE ALSO: Going Meatless for World Vegetarian Day? Check Out These O‘ahu Restaurant Posts


 

Chinese Barbecue Ribs

American barbecue-style ribs hog all the attention. But it’s time for the ribs at Chinese roast meat counters to take center stage—and in particular, the ones at the Chinatown institution Nam Fong. At most other shops, the ribs taste like bone-in char siu (an improvement for those of us who like to get intimate with our food); Nam Fong takes it further on the crave scale with ribs roasted until sweet, crispy edges caramelize around the savory meat streaked with fat—it’s basically pork candy. They have a little give, but not so much that they wilt off the bone. Get them sliced lengthwise or crosswise into smaller chunks for pūpū. —MC

 

1029 Maunakea St., (808) 599-5244 

 


 

The Rest of the Best: Reader Picks

 

Best Açaí Bowl

Finalist: Da Cove Health Bar & café

Multiple locations, dacove.com, @dacovehawaii

 

Best Bakery

Winner: Liliha Bakery

Multiple locations, lilihabakery.com, @lilihabakery

Finalist: Pipeline Bakeshop & Creamery

3623 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 738-8200, pipelinebakeshop.com, @pipelinebakeshop

 

Best Boba Tea

Winner: Teapresso

Multiple locations, teapressobar.com@teapressobarhawaii

Finalist: Hana Tea

Multiple locations, hanatea808.com, @hanatea808

 


SEE ALSO: Which Bubble Tea Shop Matches Your Boba Personality?


 

Best Burger

Finalist: Butcher & Bird

320 Coral St., Suite 207, (808) 762-8095, butcherandbirdhi.com, @butcherandbird

 

Best Fast Casual Restaurant

Winner: Earl

Multiple locations, (808) 744-3370, earlhawaii.com@earlkaimuki and @earlkakaako

Finalist: Zippy’s

Multiple locations, zippys.com, @zippys

 

Best Fast Food

Winner: McDonald’s

Multiple locations, mcdonalds.com, @mcdonalds

Finalist: Taco Bell

Multiple locations, tacobell.com, @tacobell

 

Best Grocery Store

Winner: Foodland

Multiple locations, foodland.com, @foodlandhi

Finalist: Times Supermarkets

Multiple locations, timessupermarkets.com, @timessupermarkets

 


SEE ALSO: After 71 Years in Business, Hawai‘i’s Family-Run Foodland is Swinging for the Fences


 

Best Local Beverage/Coffee Company

Winner: Big Island Coffee Roasters

bigislandcoffeeroasters.com@bigislandcoffeeroasters

Finalist: Lion Coffee

1555 Kalani St., (800) 338-8353, lioncoffee.com@lioncoffeehi

 

Best Local Coffee Shop

Winner: Morning Brew Coffee & Bistro

Multiple locations, morningbrewhawaii.com@morningbrewkailua and @morningbrewkakaako

Finalist: Coffee Talk

3601 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 737-7444, coffeetalkkaimuki.square.site, @coffeetalkhi808

 

Best Local Food Company

Winner: Zippy’s

Multiple locations, zippys.com, @zippys

Finalist: Highway Inn

Multiple locations, myhighwayinn.com@myhighwayinn

 

Best Local Snack Company

Winner: Wholesale Unlimited

Multiple locations, wholesaleunlimitedhawaii.com@wholesale.unlimited

Finalist: Lin’s Hawaiian Snacks

401 Kamake‘e St., (808) 597-8899, linsmarkethawaii.com, @linshawaiiansnacks

 

Best Local Spirit/Beer

Winner: Honolulu Beerworks

328 Cooke St., (808) 589-2337, honolulubeerworks.com, @honolulubeer

Finalist: Beer Lab Hawai‘i

Multiple locations, beerlabhi.com, @beerlabhi

 


SEE ALSO: World of Beer Brewed Here in Hawai‘i: Oktoberfest


 

Best Musubi

Winner: 7-Eleven Hawai‘i

Multiple locations, 7elevenhawaii.com, @7elevenhi

Finalist: Musubi Café Iyasume

Multiple locations, iyasumehawaii.com@musubi_cafe_iyasume

 

Best Place to Buy Poke

Winner: Foodland

Multiple locations, foodland.com, @foodlandhi

Finalist: Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors

Multiple locations, tamurasfinewine.com, @tamurasfinewine

 


SEE ALSO: Owners and Chefs Share Their Best Recommendations on What to Order at Their Poke Shops


 

Best Plate Lunch

Winner: Rainbow Drive-In

Multiple locations, rainbowdrivein.com@rainbowdrivein

Finalist: Pioneer Saloon

Multiple locations, pioneer-saloon.net@pioneersaloonhawaii

 

Best Poke Bowl

Winner: ‘Ono Seafood

Multiple locations, (808) 732-4806, @ono.seafood

Finalist: Off the Hook

2908 E. Mānoa Road, (808) 800-6865, offthehookpokemarket.com@offthehookpokemarket

 

Best Wine Shop

Winner: Tamura’s Fine Wine & Liquors

Multiple locations, tamurasfinewine.com@tamurasfinewine

Finalist: Fujioka’s Wine Times

Market City, 2919 Kapi‘olani Blvd., (808) 739-9463, fujiokaswine.com, @fujiokaswinetimes