Dining Right at Waikiki Beach Walk
Third Waikiki location for this popular burger cafe that originated in Lahaina, Maui. Juicy five-napkin cheeseburgers, fries, wings and sensational salads are served with lots of fun amid trademark island-kitsch surroundings. Best bet: California Cheeseburger with grilled Hawaiian pineapple and California avocado slices.
Appeteaser: Cheeseburger Restaurant was started in Maui by Laren Gartner and Edna Bayliff, two Southern California picture framers who found their way to paradise over 20 years ago. Being away from home, they longed for their favorite all-American delicacy. “I sure would like a great big, gooey, five napkin cheeseburger,” they remarked. Returning to the Valley Isle in 1989, they established a waterfront location in Lahaina, site of the original Cheeseburger Restaurant. Although the picture framers were newcomers to the restaurant business, their adventuresome spirit brought them success. They started their business with a half-million-dollar loan from family and friends, and with “Cheeseburgers, Mai Tais and Rock ‘n Roll” as the slogan. Today, Cheeseburger Restaurants has seven locations in Hawaii, Las Vegas and Key West. As the founders say, “Adventures are made by adventuresome people.” And yes, you should definitely have fries with that.
- Not just big, tasty burgers. Breakfast too. Breakfast Special -two eggs with choice of bacon, ham link or Portuguese sausage, hash browns, toast and coffee- is especially popular.
- Bloody Mary or Mimosa at breakfast. Only $5.
- Several kinds of fries —seasoned, cheese, chili cheese— but the raves are for Sweet Potato Fries.
- Made from scratch Maui Mai Tais and Pina Coladas are world famous.
- Try the Cheeseburger Challenge. $29.99 or finish the whole thing in 20 minutes or less and it’s FREE! Three Burger Patties, Swiss & Colby/Jack Cheese, Thousand Island, Mayonnaise, Sautéed Onions, Kalua Pork, Fried Egg, Bacon, Sautéed Mushrooms, Jalapenos, Lettuce, Tomato, on Sesame Seed Bun. Surrounded by chili fries and onion rings. Includes soda, coffee or iced tea.
Waikiki Beach Walk, second level
Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Synonymous with great steaks, Ruth’s Chris Steak House specializes in the finest custom-aged, U.S.D.A. prime Midwestern beef. Also take a bite of freshly prepared seafood, seasonal salads and vegetables, traditional side dishes and exceptional, home-baked desserts. Ace appetizer: Veal Osso Buco Ravioli served with sautéed baby spinach and white wine demi-glace.
Appeteaser: Celebrating its 47th anniversary, the world’s largest fine dining company had its humble start on Broad Street in New Orleans. The steakhouse chain was founded in 1965 by Ruth Fertel, a single mother of two, who bought the existing Chris Steak House in New Orleans. Fertel agreed to keep the “Chris” name for a specified period in order to not lose loyal customers. Fertel started to franchise the restaurant in the 1970s. There are currently 121 locations, including five in Hawaii.
The restaurant is known for its U.S.D.A. prime steaks that are seared at 1800 degrees Fahrenheit and served on ceramic plates heated to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Half an ounce (1 Tbsp) of butter is added before the plates leave the kitchen to create the signature sizzle.
- Servers Ezekiel, Dean and Brandon get as many raves as the steaks. So do managers Kevin and Ty.
- Oshibori (hot towel) service at end of meal is a great touch.
- Early bird dinner special from 5 pm - 6 pm. Steak a claim!
- Cold Water Lobster Tail is prepared with blackening spice and topped with lemon and drizzled butter. Need we say more?
- Sweet dreams. Caramelized Banana Cream Pie is a divine dessert of creamy white chocolate banana custard in a flaky crust topped with caramelized bananas.
Waikiki Beach Walk, second level
Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian fusion cuisine blends fresh local ingredients with European sauces and bold Asian spices, always with a focus on seafood. Best catch: Misoyaki Butterfish with Sweet Ginger Wasabi Sauce and Chinese Forbidden Rice. Alaskan black cod filets are marinated for days in caramelized, house-made shiro miso sweet sake and served with wasabi beurre blanc.
Appeteaser: In 1988, James Beard Award-winner Roy Yamaguchi opened the first Roy's in Honolulu. Today there are 31 Roy's locations around the world—23 in the continental U.S., six in Hawaii, one in Japan and one in Guam.
Born in Tokyo, Yamaguchi vividly recalls visits with his grandparents to Maui, where he had his first tastes of fish, crab, octopus and lobster bought fresh at oceanside piers. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York at the age of 19, where, after several years of intense training, he became a Master Chef.
He had his first experience as executive chef at Le Serene in Los Angeles in 1979. This was followed by memorable months at posh Michael's in Santa Monica, working for California Cuisine originator Michael McCarty. Yamaguchi is the pioneer of Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, and you can savor it only at a signature Roy’s restaurant. The renowned chef has three cookbooks that definitely should be in your library: Roy’s Fish and Seafood, Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii and Hawaii Cooks: Flavors from Roy’s Pacific Rim Kitchen.
Staff was hand-picked, including executive chef Jason Peel. Diners claim to experience their “best meal ever” here. If that’s not a supreme compliment, I don’t know what is!
- Reservations a must.
- Try Roy’s three-course tasting menu. Starts with Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Sampler Plate (choice of beef or fish entrée and wonderful Chocolate Souffle dessert).
- Go fishing! Opah (not Oprah) is divine, as is the Hawaiian Style Mizoyaki Glazed Butterfish and Salmon Crusted with Macadamia Nuts.
- Susan’s Pick: Wood-Smoked Szechuan Baby Back Ribs.
- Outstanding sashimi (raw fish). Pair with Koshihikan Echigo beer.
- Servers, such as waiters Chad and Nao and bartender Brian, are knowledgeable, attentive, not overbearing.
- Ask for patio seating, if available.
- Roy’s is a bit noisy, due to its street-side location. But don’t eat with your ears. Eat with your eyes, heart and discerning palate. Amen.
Waikiki Beach Walk, street level
$$$$ (lunch, dinner)
Yard House. Yard House is an upscale-casual eatery known for great food, classic rock music and 130 taps of imported, craft and specialty ales & lagers. Whether you're in the mood for a grilled burger and a pint of your favorite ale, or seared ahi and a chilled martini, Yard House has something for everyone. Get it: Mac+Cheese with chicken breast, applewood bacon, wild mushrooms, cheddar, parmesan, campanelle pasta and truffle oil.
Appeteaser: Yard House is the creation of founder and entrepreneur Steele Platt, who came up with the concept shortly after relocating from Denver to Southern California in the early 1990s. Platt, along with partners Harald Herrmann and Carlito Jocson, wanted to create a restaurant that would offer one of the largest selections of draft beers, a diverse menu of American fare, and play a heady selection of classic rock music on a state-of-the-art sound system.
This is beer-drinkers paradise, featuring the largest selection of Hawaii brews. There are over 130 beers and ales on tap. Yard House Craft Beers include: Amber Ale, Belgian Amber Tripel, Hefeweizen, Honey Blonde, India Pale Ale and Pale. Helpful bartenders can advise on a selection to match your personality and taste. The Tap Room, visible through a viewing window, is an attraction in itself. Yard House is also a sports bar with large-screen TVs to view the latest sports contests and events. Restaurant has large-capacity booths for group seating.
- Snack that’s a meal: Ahi Poke Bowl of marinated raw tuna and avocado with carrots, bean sprouts, macadamia nuts and crispy wontons.
- OMG wonderful: Lobster Garlic Noodles tossed with shrimp, crab, lobster, shiitake mushrooms and fresh spinach, dusted with parmesan cheese.
- Street Tacos. Eight types of tacos, wrapped in Yard House’s authentic flour tortillas. Try Grilled Korean Pork Belly or Baja Fish with lemon sriracha aioli.
- Truffle fries with shredded parmesan and herbs. Don’t leave Yard House without it.
- Happy Hour: 2 pm - 5:30 pm
Late Night: Sunday – Wednesday, 10:30 pm – closing
Half-off appetizers and special drink prices
Waikiki Beach Walk, street level
This place rocks. Especially its décor. The arch of 200 guitars on the ceiling is amazing, plus there are memorabilia from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones and others. If you’re dining, tune in to Certified Angus Beef Burgers, Smokehouse BBQ, thick shakes and ice-cold beers.
Appeteaser: Dine here and drop in to check out the cool HRC merchandise. Their t-shirts are walking billboards for travelers who want to tout where they’ve been in the global village. The first floor of the two-story HRC on Beach Walk is devoted entirely to HRC merchandise.
Hard Rock Café is one of the first restaurants in Honolulu to be LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). It has faithfully shown its commitment to energy conservation and being a responsible “green” enterprise. That deserves as much applause as its live rock bands.
Sunset Live Acoustic Rock Sessions daily at 5 pm. After Dark Live Music Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm. Drop in, enjoy the music and rock on.
- Skip the line. Get Priority Seating by signing up in advance on Hard Rock website. Same-day requests are not available. Requests can be made up to 30 days in advance for parties up to 15 people.
- Southern accent. Don’t miss the Smokehouse entrees and sandwiches inspired by HRC founder’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn. Hickory-smoked BBQ Combo comes with choice of ribs, chicken or pulled pork, served with seasoned fries, ranch beans and fresh coleslaw.
- Asian accent. Smokehouse Shang Hi sandwich is a hickory-smoked hand-pulled pork with Asian five-spice BBQ sauce, Asian-style pickled cucumbers and sriracha mayonnaise drizzle. Ah so good!
- Daily sunset happy hour from 3 pm - 7 pm and 9 pm - closing. $4 beer, $5 well drinks, $6 wine.
280 Beach Walk
Other Island Expert Recommendations
Often crowded but don’t be discouraged by the wait. Serves breakfast into the evening —power to pancakes— and caresses you with family-like aloha. Founded in 1974 by locals Jerry and Jan Fukunaga, it is a landmark for visitors and residents. Delicious pancakes, omelets and crepes. Pour on the guava and coconut syrup, and live!
Appeteaser: Eggs ‘n Things does NOT take reservations. Operating hours are 6 am - 2 pm and 5 pm - 10 pm daily. Long lines are part of the ambiance. Their marketing slogan is “worth the wait.” Expect to be in line from 20-45 minutes with a pager system. Generally, the restaurant is busiest from 7:30 am -10:30 am. Downtimes are 6 am - 7 am, 11:30 am - 12:30 pm, 5 pm - 7 pm and 8:30 pm - 9:30 pm. Remember that your party size and special seating request will affect wait time. This is a family restaurant, so no alcohol beverages are served. Don’t expect a Mimosa with your pancakes and waffles.
- Best bets: Macadamia Nut Pancakes; Waialua coffee; Ahi Steak & Eggs; Corned Hash & Eggs, 14 different omelets.
- Genial host Ken offers suggestions of places to go and see. Busboy Freddie is also friendly and helpful.
- U.S. Post Office across the street.
- Dine with an islander. Residents get 10% discount with Hawaii ID.
- Don’t want to dine in and endure the long line? Order take-out (although that’s a wait too).
- Popular with Japanese clients because it is recommended by many Japanese guidebooks, and they don’t want to miss a thing in paradise.
343 Saratoga Rd.
Traditions that have disappeared in other fine dining restaurants are maintained at Hy’s. Tuxedoed waiters expertly prepare Caesar Salad, carve Chateaubriand and flambè delicious desserts tableside. Broiler Room has custom-made, brass and copper caldron which serves as an open hearth for house specialties broiled over native kiawe wood. Hy-five: USDA prime New York Strip, Porterhouse T-Bone, Delmonico, Filet Mignon, Rack of Lamb.
Appeteaser: One of the best-known steakhouses in Hawaii and a tradition in Waikiki for over 35 years, Hy’s was originally part of a Canadian-owned chain. Its dark-wood walls, library-like main room and formal-clad servers recall an old English mansion or private gentlemen’s club. Ambiance, even without an ocean view, is as much an attraction here as the excellent food and service.
Hy’s is a consistent Hale Aina Award, Ilima Award and Zagat Survey winner for best steakhouse and fine dining among Honolulu’s top restaurants. It also has earned Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence since 1991 for its extensive wine list. Well-known Frommer’s travel guide hails Hy’s “as good as it gets in steakhouses.” We agree.
- If you’re not into an evening of heavy dining, sit in the library-lounge, have a cognac from Hy’s full bar while listening to the mellow music of Audy Kimura.
- There are several different cuts of steak, including The Only, a 13-ounce New York steak basted with a secret sauce.
- The rack of lamb is the only reason to bypass the steak menu.
- Excellent wine list, with an emphasis on California reds, is a delight to peruse. For the true connoisseur, there are Limited Wines such as Opus One, Clarendon Hills Astralis Clarendon and Mollydooker Carnival of Love McLaren Vale.
- Hy’s Cheese Bread, first basket complimentary, is a tasteful way to start any meal. This alone is worth the trip to the restaurant!
- Local folks tend to choose Hy’s for special occasion dining. But go anytime you want a fabulous evening of fine dining, fine wines and fine folks who care.
2440 Kuhio Ave (5 blocks from Hokulani Waikiki)
Waikiki’s “in” place for Thai cuisine and celebrity spotting. The herbs and spices used in chef Keo Sananikone’s aromatic and delicious dishes come from his own North Shore farm. Thai triumph: 4-course Set Dinner with appetizer spring rolls; green papaya salad; one entrée choice such as Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken, Penang Curry, Bangkok Duck Breast with Plum Sauce; ice cream or Thai tapioca dessert.
Appeteaser: Keo Sananikone, author of the international best seller Keo’s Thai Cuisine, prides himself on the herbs and spices that distinguish his tasty cuisine. To assure that these ingredients are always available and of the quality he demands, Keo grows mint, basil, kaffir lime leaves, limes and lemons, jackfruit, mango and sweet basil on his North Shore farm. The flowers, trees and potted plants in his restaurant also come from his farm.
Keo, who has called Honolulu home since 1975, was born and raised in Laos. His family fled Laos following the Communist takeover. Keo’s first job was as a dishwasher and waiter at Ojai Valley School in California where students took turns working in the dining room. He started his career as restaurateur in 1977 with the opening of his Mekong Restaurant in Honolulu. Today, he owns and operates five restaurants with over 200 employees.
Why did a Laotian open a Thai restaurant? “The food is very different,” Keo says. “I felt Laotian food would not be successful in America. It is very basic and simple. Thai food is very exotic and colorful.”
- Shrimp and scallop avocado salad with Thai dressing is a good starter to your meal, followed by one of Keo’s famous curry selections or the Thai basil chicken.
- Evil Jungle Prince, medium or hot, is indeed devilish. Keo’s most famous dish combines fresh basil, coconut milk and red chili with seafood, chicken or vegetables and tofu.
- Five kinds of curry are offered: Bangkok-style Panang, Yellow, Green or Red, Fresh Pineapple and Muslim Beef. Some like it hot, others like it mild. Choose your own heat.
- Rice that’s nice. We like the choices: Thai Jasmine, white, brown, sticky or spicy fried.
- Dessert is a perfect complement to cool down a spicy meal. Culminate the evening with mango sorbet, Thai tapioca, flan or baked meringue ala mode.
2028 Kuhio Ave.
Mmm, Michel’s! This is the hands-down best spot in Waikiki for impressing a loved one. Voted “Best Restaurant for Romance” by Honolulu Magazine, Michel’s has the beachfront ambiance, excellent French haute cuisine and music by Grammy award-winning guitarist Jeff Peterson to create lasting memories. Love it: Island Seafood Cioppino, Prime New York Steak Au Poivre, Strawberries Foie Gras Forever.
Appeteaser: Opened in 1962 by legendary restaurateur Michel Martin, the sun-kissed oceanfront room is a dining institution in Hawaii. Michel’s is recognized as a Distinguished Restaurant of North America, and Robin Leach of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" declares it as one of the “world’s best.” High praise, indeed!
Michel’s menu is so classically French, most of its classically French dishes are prepared tableside. How long has it been since you’ve experienced dining that like? Tuxedoed servers and gilded chandeliers add a touch of class. “My training is from the Black Forest,” says Executive Chef Eberhard “Hardy” Kintscher in his soft, German accent. “We take the time to roast bones for rich stocks and make demi glaces that add a lot of body to our dishes. In some restaurants, it’s hard to get people in the kitchen to understand the importance of this and the difference that it makes.”
- Cozy-up to Michel’s small bar for being out of the way of date-night couples and where servers are friendly even if you’re only ordering a glass of wine and an appetizer. That’s class.
- Go fishing. Order Michel's Steamed Onaga. Red Snapper topped with ginger, garlic, green onion, Chinese black bean and turnip, with somen noodles, stir-fried mushrooms and chard from the Big Island. Just writing it makes me salivate!
- Lobster bisque is ladled tableside and pieces of lobster are flamed with cognac, a spectacle that gets oohs and ahhs every time. The soup is luxuriously rich, with a generous splash of cognac.
- French onion soup lovers, it’s paradise-found at Michel’s. Go for it!
- Ask about Michel’s once-a-month Sunday Brunch.
- Reservations essential. Valet parking only, of course.
2895 Kalakaua Ave.
“Ono” means delicious, and the name of this restaurant is its promise. A short drive from Hokulani Waikiki, 10-15 minutes by taxi, is the local hole-in-the-wall for authentic Hawaiian food. You’re in Hawaii…shouldn’t you try Hawaiian food? Go native at Ono’s in Kapahulu, where it’s a luau every day, without the imu (underground oven). Menu has traditional food, such as lau-lau, lomi salmon, kalua pig, chicken long rice, pipikaula (pork jerky), tripe stew and, of course, poi. We know if you haven’t dined on delicacies like this, it’s an acquired taste. But some of the most critical palates in the business, like Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain and Food Network’s Rachel Ray have declared their meals at Ono’s to be “ono.”
Appeteaser: This is another landmark mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall where folks line up to get a seat. Islanders rank this as the best Hawaiian restaurant. Strong endorsement indeed and why they’re willing to wait in an eternal line to get in. Ono’s uses island meats and produce whenever possible, so its “local” branding is indeed deserved.
- If you’re new to Hawaiian food, order the Combination Plate of kalua pig (smoked pork), laulau (fish/pork/chicken steamed in taro leaves), pipikaula (beef jerky), lomi salmon (tomato-onion seasoned fish), haupia (coconut pudding), rice or poi. It will give you the best-sellers and best-loved local favorites.
- For the Hawaiian grinds gourmet, geev ‘em, Ono’s has Squid Luau, Naau Puaa, Butterfish, Sardine Watercress, Beef and Tripe Stew.
- Parking on street (metered, free after 6 pm) only. No restaurant lot, so be prepared to drive around the block and walk a bit--unless you take a cab or city bus from Waikiki.
- Cash only. Leave the plastic cards at home.
- A short walk from Ono’s is Bailey’s, 517 Kapahulu Ave, where one can find the largest collection of vintage aloha shirts, Hawaiian antiques and collectibles. A truly rare find among retail shops.
726 Kapahulu Ave.
Have pau hana (after work) or dinner with the locals. You’ll find them huddled at the bar or in the dining room of this popular hangout, just minutes outside of Waikiki. Even Oahu’s top chefs find their way here to relax and enjoy owner Colin Nishida’s famous Fried Rice, Pan Fried Island Pork Chops and Steamed Manila Clams.
Appeteaser: Oahu’s hidden hot spot is worth experiencing. It’s a true “local bar” that dishes out simply delicious comfort food from a family-owned establishment. It is proprietor Colin Nishida’s second location; the original Side Street Inn being (where else?) on an obscure side street in Kakaako at 1225 Hopaka St.
Nishida, an unassuming, no-nonsense chef, does not write down his recipes and doesn’t measure much either. “Everything here is by taste,” he says. “So if I’m sick, if I have a cold, everything’s salty.”
Popular island chef Alan Wong was the first to discover Side Street Inn on a late night outing with a friend. Wong kept coming back, became golfing buddies with Nishida and brought in other pal-chefs, such as Roy Yamaguchi, Russell Siu, Hiroshi Fukui and Philippe Padovanni. Master sommelier Chuck Furuya is a frequent guest as well. Need we say more?
- It’s noisy--especially on University of Hawaii sports night when students from the nearby Manoa campus gather with their friends at the bar. If you’re a Warrior football fan, it’s a great way to party while cheering for Coach Norm Chow’s team. Then again, you want to mix with locals, don’t ya?
- Colin Nishida’s mother makes all of Side Street’s wontons (Chinese dumplings).
- Side Street Inn sells 300 to 400 pounds of pork chops a week. What does that tell you?
- Its famous Fried Rice is cooked with medium-grain rice, diced Portuguese sausage, diced bacon, chopped green onions, thawed frozen peas and carrots, chopped char sui (sweet Chinese pork), oyster sauce, salt and hon dashi (Japanese soup stock). The rice is dried in the refrigerator or frozen for one day before it is cooked.
- Clam up. Da Pocho Steamed Manila Clams have a local twist of Kukui’s Portuguese sausage, onions, red and green bell peppers, and fresh cilantro.
- Other house favorites: Boneless Fried Chicken or Lani’s Chicken Wings marinated in a secret sauce.
614 Kapahulu Ave.