Outside interests have made money in Hawai‘i for centuries, including in food. Waves of restaurateurs from the continental U.S. and abroad have opened restaurants in Honolulu, with everyone from Japanese conglomerates to Michael Mina setting up shop. But simultaneously, Honolulu’s homegrown businesses have been able to ride the most recent wave of excitement to expand themselves. In the last decade, tiny mom-and-pop restaurants opened second locations, while established local chains expanded their reach. More and more chefs have worked to learn about Hawai‘i’s history and culture to respectfully incorporate aspects into their restaurants. That is to say, diners in Honolulu are a bit spoiled for choice.
Updated, June 2022:
COVID-19 hasn’t entirely dampened the culinary momentum the island saw going into 2020. New restaurants continue to open, while both local and foreign eateries fight to stay in business as many places close around them. As summer approaches, locals and visitors are packing restaurants. They’re taking advantage of renewed freedom, as the last of the dining restrictions have lifted, but also one welcome holdover from the pandemic: More restaurants continue to offer outdoor seating. To make sure this list reflects the ever-changing nature of Honolulu’s vibrant dining scene, we update the Eater 38 on a quarterly basis.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it also poses a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
Martha Cheng is the food editor at Honolulu Magazine, the author of The Poke Cookbook, and a writer for national publications.
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.