Food & Drink

The Best New Bars and Restaurants in Honolulu

Published On 04/19/2016 Published On 04/19/2016
Fete Hawaii
Fête Hawaii | Kamil Schuetz
Courtesy of Beer Lab HI

Beer Lab HI

Moiliili

Oahu’s craft beer movement has exploded over the past few years, and this new brewery is one of the joints that's turning the island into a thriving beer town. They feature rotating taps of small batch brews, all of which come with super-helpful descriptions like, “horses frolicking in a grapefruit field,” “three unicorns pondering in a mango vineyard,” and “like a baby’s bottom -- fresh and danky,” so your brain gets swarmed with images before your tastebuds even get a chance. The brewery is Bring Your Own Food, so stop a nearby Moiliili restaurant for some take-out before treating yourself to a flight of locally made brews.

Jing Du Noodle

Chinatown

Mmm, handmade noodles. This new Chinatown eatery serves up their family recipe hand-shaved noodles along with Northern Chinese dishes. Open for just a few months, this family-run eatery is already known for their hearty beef noodle soup and freshly made green onion pancake appetizer. Portions are generous, so, you know... be warned/excited.

Courtesy of Bar Leather Apro

Bar Leather Apron

Downtown/Chinatown

The award-winning cocktail mixologist that brought us the café/bar/nightclub Manifest, Justin Park, has teamed up with co-owner Tom Park (no relation) to bring us Downtown’s newest (legal) speakeasy. The warm wooden bar is stocked with rare whiskeys and offers an impressive cocktail list, where you can sip classics like Old Fashioneds and Moscow Mules, or impress your taste buds with a handcrafted Justin Park concoction, like the Matcha Old Fashioned, or a bourbon cocktail that's smoked under a glass bell. Seating at the intimate lounge fills up fast, but you can book reservations online. Request a seat at the bar to watch the whole show go down. Pro tip: go for the Mai Tai.

Honolulu Sushi

Ala Moana

Oahu has no shortage of sushi joints, but the island can always use one more -- especially if it’s a restaurant featuring fresh fish at reasonable prices. Get your raw fish fix in with hand rolls, maki sushi, rice bowls, or a generously proportioned (and totally affordable) bento.

ARVO

ARVO

Kakaako

If you missed getting your caffeine fix inside Paiko’s botanical boutique, this new Aussie-style café is here to fill the void. Perk up your day with a long black, a double shot espresso, or a lavender latte. For the days when coffee is not enough, try their healthy treats, like matcha chia pudding layered with fresh fruit, or popular Australian bites like vegemite avocado toast or a prosciutto and cheese croissant -- perfect for brekkie, lunch, or an afternoon pick-me-up.

Rice Paper

Chinatown

The decade-old Vietnamese restaurant Pho My Lan has been reincarnated into a French-Vietnamese eatery, with a new name and modern touches like communal seating, string lighting, and dark wood accents. Now run by the family’s daughter, you’ll still find the familiar Vietnamese flavors on the menu like bun bo hue, pho, and banh mi, served alongside contemporary updates like avocado shakes and Thai tea grass jelly drinks served in mason jars. Bonus: orders are taken on an iPad and zapped through the interwebs, so the kitchen already has your order before your server walks across the room.

Bakery & Table

Makiki

If you’ve inched along Piikoi St during rush hour, you’ve probably seen this two-story building in construction for months. Part bakery, part bistro and bar, the Honolulu version of this Japanese eatery is now open for sweet and savory baked goods during the day, and a full dinner menu in their upstairs terrace. Choose from artfully arranged salads, small plates, pizzas, pastas, and entrees like yuzu risotto and beef bourguignon... then dine under stars. You'd be forgiven for thinking that an outdoor dinner along a noisy street sounds like a bad idea, but Bakery & Table has this covered: a large water feature drowns out the sounds of bypassing cars below.

Lianne Rozzelle

The Tchin Tchin Bar

Downtown/Chinatown

Sandwiched between Bar 35 and Nextdoor, the owners of Lucky Belly and Livestock Tavern opened their newest iteration, in the form of a tapas-style wine bar. The name originates from the Chinese toast “qing qing,” an invitation to “please, please” enjoy yourself and drink -- and with their exposed red brick bar, outdoor white patio sofas, string lights, and trellis backdrop, that's an easy task. You'll also find a growing wine list, beer, spirits, cocktails, and unusual vermouth options, along with small bites like artesian cheeses and charcuterie.

Egghead Cafe

Kakaako

“Smile, be an egghead,” reads the large sign on the wall of this new Taiwanese-fusion breakfast joint. And, if you love eggs, you will smile, because unsurprisingly, there are a lot of egg and egg-incorporated options on the menu. Warm your palate with a honey or an earl gray tea latte before getting down to the egg selection business. It’ll be hard, but choose between vegetarian, seafood, or meaty options in the form of omelets, Benedicts, pancakes, or sandwiches. If you’re craving savory and sweet, you could always start with crab Benedict, and share a s’more or tiramisu pancake for dessert. (Or don't share, because no one said you have to). For your lactose-intolerant friends: acai bowls and cereal (with soy milk) are also available.

Fête Hawaii

Fête Hawaii

Downtown/Chinatown

"Fête" French for “a celebration,” which this renovated seasonal American restaurant is perfect for. It's decorated with exposed red brick walls, a living fern wall, and modern wooden features. Run by a husband-and-wife team who met in New York, the menu melds their big city experience with local ingredients and island flavors, showcasing a simple menu with not-so-simply-made dishes. It's only been open for a few weeks, but their grilled pulpo; charred, tender octopus meat; and fingerling potato salad is already a popular entrée item... as is their linguine carbonara, made with Portuguese sausage and slab bacon. Sip on classic cocktails like a Sidecar or Clover Club with dinner, and taste the fruits of their self-proclaimed “hapa baby.” (It’s delicious.)

Taco Kabana

Downtown/Chinatown

If you've got a few singles and are craving tacos, this place offers Taco Tuesday-priced tacos every day of the workweek (they're closed weekends). What started as a much-loved taco trailer has moved operations to a brick-and-mortar in Union Street Mall, taking their low prices with them. Stock up on as many $2 carne and/or pollo asada street tacos as you can handle, or nab burritos or quesadillas that come in He-Man proportions.

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1. Beer Lab HI 1010 University Ave, Honolulu, HI 96826 (Moiliili)

Beer Lab is one of Oahu’s craft breweries turning the island into a thriving beer town. It features rotating taps of small batch brews, all of which come with helpful descriptions like, “horses frolicking in a grapefruit field,” “three unicorns pondering in a mango vineyard,” and “like a baby’s bottom -- fresh and danky,” so your brain gets swarmed with images before your tastebuds even get a chance. The brewery is BYO food, so grab some takeout and treat yourself to a flight of locally made brews.

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2. Jing Du Noodle 119 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Chinatown)

This Chinatown eatery serves up secret-recipe, hand-shaved noodles along with Northern Chinese dishes— the family-run eatery is especially known for hearty beef noodle soup and a freshly made green onion pancake appetizer. Portions are generous and service is friendly, so get ready to loosen the belt a few notches.

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3. Bar Leather Apron 745 Fort Street Mall #127A, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Downtown)

Well stocked with hard-to-find whiskeys and a lengthy cocktail list, Bar Leather Apron is downtown Honolulu's best speakeasy by a long shot. The long, warm, wooden bar invites you to stick around for awhile and watch the show as the talented bartenders whip up everything from classic Moscow Mules to brand-new concoctions created nightly. Spearheaded by Hawaii cocktail master Justin Park, this hidden gem is a mixologist's dream with a signature cocktail that involves individual glasses of bourbon smoked under a glass bell. Seating at the intimate lounge fills up fast, but you can (and should!) book reservations online.

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4. Honolulu Sushi 1450 Ala Moana Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96814 (Ala Moana)

Oahu has no shortage of sushi joints, but the island can always use one more -- especially if it’s a restaurant featuring fresh fish at reasonable prices. Get your raw fish fix in with hand rolls, maki sushi, rice bowls, or a generously proportioned (and totally affordable) bento.

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5. ARVO 675 Auahi St, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Kakaako)

This modern and casual coffee shop in the Kakaako district offers up Australian-style coffee drinks paired with healthy Hawaiian and Aussie treats. The house special is a down under creation called a "long black"—a double shot of espresso over hot water, like an Americano but stronger. Vegemite makes multiple appearances on the menu here, giving a salty umami twist to breakfast staples like avocado toast. Bright and clean, it's not so much cozy as Instagram-friendly, but the drinks are strong and the food perks you up without weighing you down.

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6. Rice Paper 1160 Maunakea St, Honolulu, HI (Chinatown)

Modern touches like communal seating, string lighting, and dark wood accents set the scene at this French-Vietnamese eatery. Familiar Vietnamese menu flavors include bun bo hue, pho, and banh mi and are served alongside contemporary updates like avocado shakes and Thai tea grass jelly drinks served in mason jars. Bonus: orders are taken on iPads, so the kitchen already has your order before your server walks across the room.

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7. Bakery and Table Honolulu 938 Piikoi Street, Honolulu, HI 96814 (Makiki)

Part bakery, part bistro and bar, this Japanese eatery serves sweet and savory pastries during the day, and a full dinner menu in their upstairs terrace by night. Choose from artfully arranged salads, small plates, pizzas, pastas, and entrees like yuzu risotto and beef bourguignon... then dine under stars. A large water feature on the patio adds to the scene, and drowns out the sound of cars passing below.

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8. tchin tchin 39 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI (Downtown)

This casual rooftop wine bar, sandwiched between Bar 35 and Next-door, serves up an extensive wine list, tapas-style small plates, and stunning views of the water to in-the-know locals and tourists. The bar is classic American rooftop chic, with an exposed brick bar, lots of comfy sofas for lounging, string lights, and even a white trellis backdrop for maximum whimsy. Artesian cheeses and charcuterie plates complement the wines without overwhelming them, and there are plenty of craft cocktails and/or beers for non-oenophiles. Owned and operated by Jesse Cruz and Dusty Grable of American Livestock Tavern and Lucky Belly fame, this place is a popular stop on a night out in Chinatown.

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9. Egghead Cafe 885 Queen St, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Kakaako)

This Taiwanese-fusion breakfast joint serves, true to its name, a creative egg-centric menu. It’ll be hard, but choose between vegetarian, seafood, or meaty options in the form of omelets, Benedicts, pancakes, or sandwiches. If you’re craving savory and sweet, try the crab Benedict and share a s’more or tiramisu pancake for dessert. (Or don't share, because no one said you have to.) For our lactose-intolerant friends: acai bowls and cereal (with soy milk) are also available.

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10. Fête Hawaii 2 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817 (Downtown)

This seasonal American restaurant exudes cozy charm with exposed red brick walls, a living fern wall, and modern wooden features. Run by a husband-and-wife team who met in New York, the menu melds big city influence with local ingredients and island flavors. One of the most popular entrees is the grilled pulo with charred, tender octopus meat and fingerling potato salad, which you can enjoy while sipping on classic cocktails like a Sidecar or Clover Club with dinner.

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11. Taco Kabana 1121 Union Mall, Honolulu, HI 96813 (Downtown)

What started as a much-loved taco trailer has moved into a brick-and-mortar in Union Street Mall, bringing their ridiculously low prices with them. Stock up on as many $2 carne and/or pollo asada street tacos as you can handle, or nab burritos or quesadillas that come in He-Man proportions. Fair warning: Taco Kabana is closed on the weekend.