Oahu’s Splendid Table
From food trucks to fine dining, Oahu serves up appetizing vacations
BY MARTY WENTZEL
FOR THE HUNGRY VISITOR TO OAHU, the days of
forgettable continental cuisine in pricey Waikiki restaurants are long gone. Instead, the island now offers
a colorful, creative cornucopia of dining options from
casual carry-outs to swanky sit-downs, and it seasons
them with festivals, farmers’ markets,
food tours and other appetizing activities
for clients to savor.
The recent Hawaii Food and Wine
Festival, held in Honolulu from Sept. 29
to Oct. 1, exemplified the destination’s
return to fresh local foods by presenting three signature dining experiences
peppered with cooking demonstrations,
wine tastings, culinary workshops, industry seminars and field excursions.
“Oahu was the perfect culinary hub to host 32 top
chefs from Hawaii, the U.S. mainland, Asia, Australia and Canada, along with four master sommeliers,
top-tier winemakers and mixologists,” said the festival’s director Denise Hayashi.
Growing numbers of farmers, chefs, restaurants
and consumers are dedicated to buying and using
island products and helping cultivate Oahu’s farm-to-table movement. In the past year alone, several
new farmer’s markets have popped up around the
destination, and community-supported agriculture
programs are more popular than ever.
“Oahu’s farmer’s markets are a great way to interact with locals and see the diverse range of products
available on the island,” said Oahu Visitors Bureau
senior director of sales and marketing Noelani
Clients don’t have to eat at expensive restaurants
to experience Oahu’s farm-to-table cuisine. Several low-key restaurants, such as Side Street Inn,
At the other end of the spectrum await
restaurants where clients can feast on
five-star cuisine in attractive surroundings. The island is home to such James
The island continues to draw culinary stars to this
day. Nobu Matsuhisa and Laurent Tourondel have
opened eateries on Oahu, and Masaharu Morimoto
runs a restaurant in the rebranded Modern Honolulu.
Schilling-Wheeler said that more and more travelers are discovering the depth of culinary
offerings on the island.
“Many visitors are excited to discover
that the cuisine here is as unique as the
many different races and ethnicities of
people who make up the island,” she said.
Clockwise: Dallas chef
Dean Fearing at the
2011 Hawaii Food and
Wine Festival on Oahu;
Exterior of Roy’s
Waikiki; A cook at an
Oahu farmers’ market;
Shogunai Tacos truck
“Visitors could easily eat their way through Oahu for
weeks, tasting a range of foods and not sampling the
same flavors twice.”
Honolulu lays claim to several neighborhoods
that are well known for a certain kind of dining. The
higher-end experiences offered by Alan Wong and
Chef Mavro can be found on King Street. The hub
called Kaimuki is popular for down-home restaurants
like Town, 12th Avenue Grill and Maguro-Ya. Kapa-
hulu Avenue is the place to go for inexpensive meals
at landmarks like Ono Hawaiian Food, Irifune and
Rainbow Drive-In. Downtown Honolulu restaurants
on the must-visit list include Chai’s Island Bistro at
Aloha Tower Marketplace and Indigo in Chinatown.
Waikiki, meanwhile, boasts the island’s most
sophisticated dining scene. For a special meal, clients
can’t go wrong with Azure at the Royal Hawaiian, Bali
Steak and Seafood at Hilton Hawaiian Village, La Mer
at Halekulani, Beachhouse at the Moana and Roy’s
Waikiki, to name just a few.
If all of these choices sound a little overwhelming,
clients can let Hawaii Food Tours take charge. During
the tour operator’s Hole-in-the-Wall tour, participants
munch their way through some of Honolulu’s local,
ethnic and mom-and-pop eateries.
“Oahu has no shortage of options for the epicurean traveler,” said Schilling-Wheeler. “Locally, we
are foodies, and we love to share our
passion for island foods with Oahu visitors. So if you leave hungry, you’re doing
something wrong.” ■
THE DETAILS: Oahu Visitors Bureau (www.
For a list of Fave Five
eateries on Kauai, visit
ROY’S RESTAURANTS; TRAVIS OKIMOTO; SHOGUNAI TACOS; OAHU VISITORS BUREAU