Where to eat in Waikiki
I can’t even pretend this is a comprehensive listing but we did stumble across some pretty fantastic places.
We were staying in the ultra-luxe Starwood properties on Waikiki beach – The Royal Hawaiian, Sheraton Waikiki and Moana Surfrider – so it was only right that we checked out their bars (their restaurants were a little too pricey for us) but we also found some local hang-outs that were alarming (everything served in polystyrene, even when you eat in) but also excellent ($5.50 mimosas!).
Here’s what we loved, in no particular order:
A dive bar that serves breakfast?! Sign me up! We were jetlagged, starving and more than a little desperate for coffee when we lobbed into this dingy underground lair. The waitresses don’t even bother to wear bras, the serving sizes are Olympic and the quality is reasonable. Whatever you do, do not order the house special. The crab omelette is like a can of Fancy Feast wrapped in an egg blanket and topped in alien goop. This aside, we loved the place.
- Duke’s Waikiki
This was our ultimate fave, possibly because the waitresses are flirty and the drinks are hella strong. With a cheesy tropical décor, a lively crowd and a bar menu that features a 1/2lb cheeseburger that will make you believe in God, this is the one place in Waikiki everyone should go at least once (if only to check-in on Facebook and make everyone who has ever been there super jealous).
- Aha Aina Luau at The Royal Hawaiian
I realise that this is not a restaurant but the food is so, so good. Chef Colin Hazama has nailed the local classics such as ahi poke, kalua pork and poi (which is a revolting purple paste made from taro root that you really should try but will probably hate). He uses quality local ingredients including things like samphire, seaweed and fresh tuna and, as it’s a buffet, this is a great opportunity to try a huge range of Hawaiian foods without committing to a whole dish. Also, the show. It explains the history of Hawaii through stories, songs, hula and fire dances performed by good looking, scantily clad people. Need more encouragement? BOTTOMLESS MAI TAIS.
- Shave ice
This is available all over the Hawaiian Islands but the dodgier the place looks, the better it will probably be. It is exactly what it sounds like: shaved ice, topped with flavoured syrups, condensed milk and served with sides like icecream and red beans. It’s influenced by Malaysia’s ice kacang and Asian ice desserts, in general, but Hawaiians have made it their own and boy, do I love what they’ve done with it.
- The Cheesecake Factory
This place has serving sizes that make your average Italian mother look stingy. Be warned: the serves are HUGE. On the plus side, the menu is reasonably priced, the food is excellent and the service is astonishing. It’s like they’re being friendly because they like you, not because of the tips. We went there late at night (failure number one) and ordered some appetisers and a main (failure number two) and managed to eat most of what we ordered (failure number three). We had the kind of indigestion people write books about but it was almost worth it. I ordered a dish called Buffalo Blasts which were a terrible mistake, kinda like your seventh tequila shot, but I enjoyed them all the same.