Oahu is the Pacific region’s most dynamic culinary hub, the birthplace of Hawaii Regional Cuisine nearly a quarter century ago, and home to the prestigious Hawaii Food & Wine Festival every September. Oahu’s cutting edge food scene is a kaleidoscope of contemporary and traditional influences. Chefs, farmers, ranchers, and food artisans partner in support of farm to table cuisine and a sustainable Hawaii. This passionate support of local ingredients is a reminder that Hawaiians sustained themselves through advanced farming and aquaculture before contact with the West and underscores their reverence for the land and the ocean. Oahu’s diverse epicurean landscape also reflects Hawaii’s distinct multicultural heritage as many beloved island dishes are rooted in the foods of China, Japan, Portugal, Korea, the Philippines, and beyond. Today, Oahu chefs innovate by taking traditional ingredients and preparing extraordinary dishes that are both familiar and different at the same time.
Honolulu boasts restaurants from Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneers including George Mavrothalassitis of Chef Mavro and Alan Wong of Alan Wong’s Honolulu and The Pineapple Room. Over in Kaimuki, buzzworthy restaurants manned by a new generation of chefs include Kevin Hanney’s 12th Avenue Grill, Lee Anne Wong’s Koko Head Café, and Ed Kenny’s Town. Creative invention continues at new chef-owned eateries such as Troy Terorutoa’s BREW’d craft pub, Jess Cruz’s Lucky Belly, Andrew Le’s The Pig and The Lady, and MW Restaurant, helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Wade Ueoka and Michelle Karr-Ueoka.
On the scenic Windward Coast, Heeia Kea Pier General Store and Deli serves simple, local home style comfort food using produce and fish from Heeia and beef from Hawaii’s Big Island. Sweet Home Waimanalo is known for fish tacos, Kahlua pork plate lunches, and tofu black bean burgers.
The North Shore, the world famous surfer’s paradise, beckons with Hawaiian plate lunches at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck in Kahuku or Haleiwa, the famous pies at Ted’s Bakery at Sunset Beach, and refreshing shave ices at Matsumoto’s in Haleiwa. For a relaxing beachside lunch or dinner, Ola at Turtle Bay Resort serves fresh innovative Hawaiian cuisine featuring tomatoes, beef, and sea asparagus all from the North Shore
Traditional Hawaiian Favorites
Visitors can savor traditional Hawaiian fare such as kalua pig, poi, lomi salmon, laulau, and chicken long rice at famed spots beloved and frequented by the locals. These laid back spots are iconic Hawaiian cultural treasures serving traditional Hawaiian fare that incorporates indigenous ingredients and those brought by plantation workers who came to Hawaii stating in the 1800s. Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Highway Inn (with two locations), and Ono Hawaiian Foods are among the favorites on Oahu.
Oahu celebrates its culinary riches with exceptional food festivals. The Fifth Annual Food & Wine Festival (HFWF) taking place September 4-13, 2015, has grown into an internationally renowned gastronomic extravaganza with a distinct sense of place that spotlights the natural bounty of the islands and promotes a sustainable Hawaii. Festival proceeds benefit local food sustainability, cultural, and educational organizations across the islands. Co-founded by Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong—James Beard Award-winning chefs, restaurateurs, and Hawaii Regional Cuisine pioneers—HFWF features more than 80 internationally acclaimed chefs from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, and around the Pacific Rim who showcase their culinary talents while using locally sourced ingredients. Notable sommeliers, winemakers, mixologists, and culinary luminaries join chefs at dinners, galas, demonstrations, tastings, and excursions.
Oahu’s Food Festivals
- Hawaii Chocolate Festival - February
- Waikiki SPAM Jam - May
- Mangoes at the Moana - July
- Hawaii Food & Wine Festival - September
- Rice Fest - September
- Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Festival - October
- Eat the Street - Last Friday every month
- Honolulu Night Market -Third Saturday every month
Weekly farmers’ markets offer a kaleidoscope of fresh island produce, proteins, and locally made artisanal foods. Visitors can join locals to shop, grab fresh breakfast and coffee, and “talk story” with the local farmers, ranchers, and food professionals. KCC Farmers’ Market Saturdays 7:30-11 am, Haleiwa Farmers’ Market Thursdays 3-7 pm, Kailua Town Farmers’ Market Sundays 8:30 am-12 noon, Kakaako Farmers Market and Pearlridge Farmers’ Market both Saturdays 8 am-12 noon.
The new Pau Hana Market Waikiki, a food truck court located on Waikiki Beach Walk has six food trucks selling everything from acai bowls to local plate lunches to ramen.
Street Grindz sponsors inventive food truck events in Kakaako area: Eat the Street food truck rally is a themed event the last Friday of every month and Honolulu Night Market, the third Saturday of each month, is an enormous indoor/outdoor block party with street food, fashion, art, and music. Oahu’s fabled North Shore, a surfer paradise with epic winter waves, is also legendary for the shrimp trucks near Kahuku.
Behind the Scenes Food Tours
Matthew Gray has two Hawaii Food Tours. On The Hole in the Wall Tour across Honolulu, guests taste 15 to 20 different foods—from Asian to Portuguese and Hawaiian—while learning Hawaiian history and culture and visiting Chinatown, bustling marketplaces, a Chinese noodle factory, and bakeries. The North Shore Food Tour explores the natural beauty, history, lore, and culture of this laid back coast and includes delicious Hawaiian treats like garlic shrimp and Hawaiian pastries and a tour of a coffee plantation and chocolate maker.