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Food is no longer simply sustenance to refuel your clients for more active endeavors. Like the rest of the world, Hawaii has gone gangbusters with new artistic eateries, farm-to-table fare and foodie tours — but don’t overlook island classics that possess enduring appeal. From bakeries and markets to beachfront legends where sunsets provide visual dessert, Hawaii offers your clients one quintessential palatable adventure after another.
“Hawaii has so many great long-standing restaurants where treasured memories are formed,” said Robyn Basso, senior director of travel industry partnerships for Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Ocean views from restaurants such as Mama’s Fish House Restaurant & Inn on Maui, Beach House Restaurant on Kauai and Orchids on Oahu undeniably help make Hawaii dining experiences special.”
Hawaii’s plate lunch remains revered, Basso says, as it blends plantation-era influences from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese, Puerto Rican and Hawaiian cultures. Nearly 25 years ago, a dozen famed Hawaii chefs created what we now call Hawaii Regional Cuisine to “dress up” the simple fare.
“Classics like Alan Wong’s Restaurants, Merriman’s, Roy’s, Mala Ocean Tavern and Chef Mavro continue to provide exceptional dining while evolving their menus,” Basso said.
Here’s a look at refined classics and local-style favorites around the Hawaiian Islands that make the destination a foodie utopia.
BreakfastHau Tree Lanai at The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel: Eggs Benedict and poi pancakes served alfresco beneath hau trees where author Robert Louis Stevenson lounged and wrote.
Cinnamon’s Restaurant: Guava-chiffon and red-velvet pancakes, plus from-scratch kalua pork eggs Benedict.
Liliha Bakery: Chocolate-filled “coco puff” pastries and Portuguese sausage with eggs.
LunchRainbow Drive-In: In 2014, Kapahulu’s plate-lunch legend partnered with Poke Stop, KC Waffle Dog and Hoku BBQ Chicken for even more edible ecstasy.
Jameson’s By The Sea: Haleiwa perch serving grilled crab and shrimp melts, curried chicken salad and shrimp stir-fry.
The Proud Peacock Restaurant: Revived Waimea Valley spot featuring Kahuku corn chowder, Haleiwa shrimp and Kona coffee lava cake.
Waiahole Poi Factory: Windward Coast favorite for heaping combo plates accompanied by, of course, poi.
DinnerOrchids at Halekulani hotel: Sunsets served with Kahuku shrimp ravioli, steamed onaga (snapper) and Halekulani’s signature coconut cake.
The Willows: Lavish seafood and Hawaiian buffet in a quiet residential neighborhood, favored by locals for celebrating special occasions.
Buzz’s Lanikai: Famous beach haunt for kiawe charcoal-broiled fish burgers, barbecue beef ribs, chicken teriyaki, top sirloin and killer mai tais.
Breakfast5 Palms Restaurant at Mana Kai Maui hotel: Macadamia-nut pancakes, Hawaiian sweetbread French toast and country garden frittata with views of Molokini Crater and Kahoolawe Island.
Kula Lodge & Restaurant: Refuel at this 3,200-foot-elevation stop with eggs Benedict four ways or an omelette with Wailuku Portugese sausage.
Sea House Restaurant at Napili Kai Beach Resort: Open-air eatery with Molokai sweet-potato egg frittata, Road to Hana breakfast pizza and Da Kitchen Sink fried rice.
LunchPaia Fish Market: Plantation-town staple with Cajun, charbroiled or sauteed fish plates and charbroiled fish burgers.
Leilani’s on the Beach: Fresh fish tacos and fish sandwiches, kalua pork Cubans and decadent Hula Pie.
DinnerMama’s Fish House Restaurant & Inn: Daily changing menu of wild-caught fish featuring fishermen’s names and catch locations.
Mala Ocean Tavern: Front Street sunsets intensify pan-fried mahi mahi, seafood pasta and Balinese stir-fry with fresh island fish.
Ko at Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui: Plantation-era menu of island family recipes passed down for generations.
BreakfastKountry Kitchen: Top Kapaa pick for Polynesian omelets with hash browns, coconut French toast and banana macadamia-nut pancakes with coconut syrup.
LunchGaylord’s at Kilohana: Try the ranch-style Kilohana burger and Hawaiian oxtail soup in the 1935-built plantation estate home of Gaylord Parke Wilcox.
Koloa Fish Market: This plantation-town jewel tempts with fresh fish, poke, plate lunches, bento and desserts.
DinnerBrennecke’s: Poipu Beach landmark with miso-sake shrimp skewers, Pacific clam linguini and kalua pork tacos.
Beach House Restaurant: Blending old-fashioned Hawaiian hospitality, Pacific Rim cuisine and a drop-dead-gorgeous view.
BreakfastCafe 100: This Hilo icon serves 30 varieties of local staple Loco Moco — a helping of rice topped with a hamburger patty, Hilo-style brown gravy and an egg.
Pine Tree Cafe: Family-friendly favorite for its Korean, fried and teriyaki chicken.
LunchHarbor House Restaurant: Sleepy Honokohau eatery hyped for fresh fish sandwiches, fish-and-chip combos and icy 18-ounce schooners.
Bamboo Restaurant: One of the island’s oldest restaurant, beloved for its Thai coconut prawns, Kohala coconut grilled shrimp and lilikoi (passion fruit) margaritas.
Pineapples: Its barbecue kalua pork sandwich, Maui onion soup and pineapple burger rule in downtown Hilo.
DinnerKilauea Lodge: Near Volcanoes National Park, this iconic spot presents European dishes, plus a daily fresh catch served sauteed, broiled or blackened.
Brown’s Beach House at Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii: Quintessential fine dining with locally grown, sustainable agriculture and seafood.
Huggo’s: Small plates, house-made pastas and Maui-onion-crusted ahi in a setting seemingly suspended above the ocean.