Honolulu

Here Are Honolulu's Best New Restaurants of 2018

Evan Sung Photography
Evan Sung Photography
Evan Sung Photography

Each year we scour the city of Honolulu to bring you the most notable, new dining destinations and every year we continue to be utterly impressed. With restaurants from Kaimuki and Waikiki taking center stage this year, here are the 12 brand new spots where you can make up for lost time with everything from tea pairings, tuna pizza, to a hip and trendy taco joint. Here are the best new restaurants to try in the city right now.

Courtesy of The Surfing Pig
Courtesy of The Surfing Pig
Courtesy of The Surfing Pig

The Surfing Pig

KaimukiA safe haven for your comfort-food vices
Quickly gaining a loyal following within the local Kaimuki community, it’s become the “go-to place” where friendly bartenders serve up hand-crafted cocktails and co-workers spend their “pau hana” time chatting their troubles away. A lively and fun bar atmosphere with and additional upstairs loft area for diners, this place not only relieves stress, but does a mean beef tataki. Dig into their smokey cheesy mac, back ribs or truffle fries, the list goes on and it’s all delish. Their weekend brunch boasts bottomless mimosas, but do order the smoking pig. You’ll thank us later.

Rangoon Burmese Kitchen

ChinatownCurry-fueled Burmese food in a BYOB setting
One of the first things you’ll notice at Rangoon is the amazing smell. Scents of curry and fresh spices waft up to greet you as soon as you walk through the doors. Located in the old Epic restaurant space, it’s everything we’ve been waiting for and more. Asian art lines the walls, and every dish matches that energy with flavor. Try the (literally) smoking hot crispy samosas filled with spiced potato and lentils, an authentic Burmese tea leaf salad that tastes as refreshing as it sounds, or the traditional bowl of Burmese soup, Moh Hin Ga — which will leave you warm and fuzzy for the rest of the day.

Evan Sung Photography
Evan Sung Photography
Evan Sung Photography

Morimoto Asia Waikiki

WaikikiTableside Asian fusion creations from an Iron Chef
This restaurant has pushed the boundaries since its opening and continues to inspire us with new and interesting takes on Asian fusion. But what else would you expect from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto? Located in the new Alohilani Resort, the restaurant boasts a lovely outdoor lanai with stunning Waikiki sunsets. Sip on a sake sampler or indulge on sticky ribs, a light and crispy tuna pizza, or enjoy their signature dish, a tableside-prepared Ishiyaki Buri Bop.  Honestly, there isn’t a bad dish on the menu. Finish off with the blazing chocolate sphere, ignited tableside for your viewing pleasure.

Wendy Awai-Dakroub
Wendy Awai-Dakroub
Wendy Awai-Dakroub

Kokoro Café

WaikikiDessert served on a custom cone and ready for the ‘Gram
Forget ice cream that comes in a boring standard cone. This cafe isn’t a restaurant per se, but it serves up a whole lot of aloha with their custom-made shaka-shaped waffle cone. Order their perfectly baked and shaped “Skaha Boom” and go crazy on Instagram. Make sure you get to the filling on the bottom, where all the sweetness hides and enjoy creating your own version of creamy, cold happiness.

TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie

WaikikiThe best spot for udon and water cake
Top-notch service, superb ambiance, and visually stunning dishes make this new noodle house in Waikiki a delicious dining experience. Starters such as the seared wagyu sushi, spicy tuna tar tar cones, and beef buns are definitely noteworthy. Popular udon dishes such as the creme uni and beef sukiyaki are all served in ginormous, beautiful bowls. And for dessert? Water cake — which looks like a giant raindrop and is known in Japan as mizu shingen mochi. There’s nothing more fun for dessert.

Courtesy of PARIS.HAWAII
Courtesy of PARIS.HAWAII
Courtesy of PARIS.HAWAII

Paris Hawaii

WaikikiThe intersection of Hawaiian and French cooking
Paris Hawaii is a charming newcomer nestled in the heart of Waikiki on the corner of Seaside and Kuhio, and it’s got a degustation menu that features local ingredients and showcases the cooking techniques of Chef Yuya Yamanaka. Originally from Hokkaido, Japan and inspired by French cuisine, Yamanaka packed each course of the rotating prix fixe menu with a discrete element to delight your senses.  From the restaurant’s rich and creamy Hawaiian Espresso, a fresh cold corn palate cleanser with a hint of coffee, to the glorious Keawe wood-smoked Big Island beef, each dish is meticulously prepared and flavorful. Dine at the eight-seat chef’s table located on the bar side of the kitchen for an amazing culinary experience or head to the back of the room for a more intimate atmosphere. Either way, the service, decor, presentation, wine pairings, and even tea pairing were spot on. Make reservations ahead of time and soon, as the menu changes, and this hidden gem won’t be hidden for long.

Honolulu Skewer House

Ala MoanaAn unbeatable dinner on a stick
This new, cool Chinese-style skewer house makes dining out with friends crazy fun, though selecting a favorite from the menu may take some time. Honolulu Skewer House lets you choose between picks like bean curd, eggplant, chicken skin, pork feet, intestines, or black pork belly, so don’t be tempted to stick to the basics. The beef-wrapped soft boiled egg, pork belly–wrapped enoki, and scallion pancake are definite standouts, and you can choose between flavors like soy, mild, spicy, and extra spicy to enhance every item. They keep bottles of house sauce on the table for a reason, so we suggest you use it.

Steve Czerniak
Steve Czerniak
Steve Czerniak

Merriman’s Honolulu

Kaka’akoA posh meal, served with live music
When celebrity local chef Peter Merriman opened up his first restaurant in Honolulu, the whole city was buzzing. His new farm-to-table dining concept located on the ground floor in an upscale residential tower in Kaka’ako is still the talk of the town. It’s got music every single day. It’s got a contemporary island vibe — graced with shiny wooden tables and beautifully upholstered chairs — is classic, posh, and inviting. And once you walk inside, the warm staff will serve you hot, buttery, and fresh biscuits alongside with Maui onion soup will taunt your tastebuds, and the house-made cavatelli pasta and prime bone-in New York steak are definite must-haves once you make a decision on an entrée. Also, do make a reservation ahead of time.

Courtesy of Restaurant XO
Courtesy of Restaurant XO
Courtesy of Restaurant XO

Restaurant XO

KaimukiCreative cuisines served in a modest setting
Don’t let the white tablecloths and simple decor deter you. This little gem from chefs Kenny Lee and Aleina Chun — alumni of the Honolulu’s terrific Senia —  is serving up delightful Asian comfort food with a bang. Their fried oysters are made with a curry aioli, adobo fried chicken, and sous vide duck breast, and will leave you speechless as more flavors than you can count bounce off the walls in your mouth. The service is efficient and friendly, and if you’re lucky, the chefs may come out to greet you and your fellow diners.  

Akira Japanese Restaurant

HonoluluKaiseki-style Japanese fare perfect for a romantic evening
Intimate and stylish, this new restaurant brings “Kaiseki-style” Japanese cooking to the heart of Honolulu and is every bit as good as it sounds. The restaurant seats at most 30 people, but its layout is clean and efficient, evocative of comparably intimate restaurants you might find in Japan. We suggest bringing a friend to try the Akira Tasting Course; a nine-course meal of sushi, sashimi, grilled, simmered, and more dishes all designed around the menu. It’s a bit pricey, but it makes for a brilliant date night.

Eaton Wong and Mahsa Crum
Eaton Wong and Mahsa Crum
Eaton Wong and Mahsa Crum

Taco’ako

Kaka’akoA tiny fusion taco joint great for on-the-go
With tacos made fresh to order, this new fusion joint is a newcomer at SALT restaurant and shopping center in Kaka’ako. Carnitas, camarones, and chicken tinga are the most popular tacos on the menu, but what makes this place stand out is their fusion twist and fresh handmade tortillas. That attention to detail on dishes like their pan-seared baja fish tacos, topped with roasted cauliflower, is simply amazing. Wash it all down with a bottle of Jarritos and you’re good to go.

Courtesy of Ike's Love & Sandwiches
Courtesy of Ike’s Love & Sandwiches
Courtesy of Ike’s Love & Sandwiches

Ike’s Love & Sandwiches

Ala MoanaA mainland sandwich chain that’s already left its mark
What do the names “Alan Wong,” “Joe Vs The Volcano,” and “Golly-Zilla” have in common? They’re all signature sandwiches created by a Northern Californian sandwich guru. Recently opened and located in the new Lanai food court at Ala Moana Center, their perfectly layered sandwiches served on toasted Dutch bread is what everyone comes for. Ike’s Dirty Secret Sauce is spread on every sandwich and baked right into the bread, and with over six meatless sandwich options for our vegan and vegetarian friends, it’s no wonder everyone is flocking to there.Sign up here for our daily Honolulu email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Wendy Awai-Dakroub is a contributor to Thrillist.

Honolulu

Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Honolulu This Winter

From festive light shows to forest bathing and chocolate making, we've got you covered.

Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Queen Kapiolani Hotel

You don’t have to spend these glorious warm and sunny days locked up indoors. Finding cool, safe things to do around Honolulu during the pandemic may be challenging, but it’s not impossible. With new activities popping up around the island this season, holiday traditions can still be enjoyed, albeit with strict social distancing guidelines in place. So read on for more details on all the fun things you can do this winter on Oahu.

Experience a drive-thru holiday light extravaganza

$$
Ongoing through January 9
Get ready to drive through a dazzling display of colorful LED lights choreographed to holiday music at “Show Aloha Land” at the Aloha Stadium. Over 1 million synchronized lights dance to holiday music favorites that play through your car radio as you enjoy a 15-20 minute leisurely drive through the light show. After the show, enjoy tasty eats from street food vendors conveniently stationed at the upper parking lot. Enjoy dinner and a show while you make memories watching the 50-foot Mega Christmas tree synchronized to 50 minutes of music. Open daily. Tickets are $50 per vehicle online, with proceeds going to charity. Use the promo code FHBHOLIDAY to receive 10% off Friday, Saturday, and Sunday shows after 9pm, and 20% off weekday shows (Monday-Thursday) after 9 pm. Guests must remain in their vehicles at all times and wear a face mask when interacting with staff. 

Kuana Torres Kahele
Kuana Torres Kahele
Kuana Torres Kahele

Learn Hula and lei making with Hawaii’s own Kuana Torres

$$
Ongoing
Who said you have to fly all the way to Hawaii to learn how to Hula? As virtual workshops become the new norm, more local artists and educators can share their talents with the world. Renowned Hawaiian musician, songwriter, dancer, and producer Kuana Torres now teaches and shares his love for Hula, lei making, and Hawaiian crafts online. His sell-out Hula classes are offered through Zoom at $40 per class, with beginner classes starting in February 2021. Students can also learn how to make Ni’ihau earrings, Kupe’e shell necklaces, bracelets, or discover the ancient art of tying different Hawaiian cordage types. Order your kit online and have it mailed directly to your home.

Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Queen Kapiolani Hotel

Have a glamorous stay at the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel

$$$
Ongoing

As mainland travelers gear up for their winter holidays in Hawaii, Waikiki is beginning to buzz all over again and the Queen Kapi’olani Hotel is reopening its doors with a fresh new look. Located across from the Honolulu Zoo, with spectacular views of Diamond Head and the famed Waikiki Beach Walls-this hotel is the ideal place for a romantic weekend or family staycation. Their Kama’aina (local) rates are affordable, starting at $133 per night, but hurry-these prices won’t last long. Grab your swimsuit and book early! Note that out-of-state travelers must successfully complete a pre-travel test or be subject to the state’s 14-day quarantine program.

Learn to paint with nature artist Patrick Ching

Free
Every Wednesday through December 25
From now till Christmas, Hawaii’s favorite nature artist will be hosting live Facebook Studio Art Shows every Wednesday at 5 pm. Patrick’s art shows feature an art lesson, a bit of scenic beauty, project updates, and music from his Waimānalo Beach studio. Ching shares helpful technical tips on painting for those who want to improve their technique or just spend a relaxing afternoon doing something different.

Koki's
Koki’s
Koki’s

Take a vegetarian Indian cooking class

$$
December 11, 18, and 25
Enjoy the lush green mountains of Manoa Valley while learning how to cook and create delicious dishes from India. At Koki’s Kitchen, all cooking equipment is provided and you’ll jump right into an entirely hands-on cooking experience with Chef Koki herself! The two-hour class is limited to five participants and comes with complimentary drinks. The best part: all the food prep is done before you arrive, so you can focus on learning and savoring your meal. Classes start at $75.
 

Drive-in to your favorite holiday movie

$$
December 10, 11, 17, and 18

The drive-in has returned in full force over the last few months, popping up in Kailua, Mililani, and now in Honolulu at the Ala Moana Center. Aloha Drive-In Movies screens your favorite Christmas flicks including Elf, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Die Hard. Select a showtime and buy your tickets online, then arrive early to get closer screen viewing. Snacks and drinks are available through pre-order, walk ups, or a QR code then delivered to your car. Pricing starts at $40 per vehicle, up to five people.
 

Make your own chocolate bar

$
Classes every Thursday

Learn everything about chocolate bar making on a one-hour tour where a guide will explain the process from bean to bar in the islands and offer tastings of cacao, as well as a flight of five popular chocolate flavors. Then, try your hand at making your own, incorporating fun flavors like spicy chipotle pepper and caramelized ginger.

Honolulu City Lights
Honolulu City Lights
Honolulu City Lights

Celebrate 35 years of Honolulu City Lights

Free
Throughout December

Honolulu’s stage will be set with all the season’s warmth and nostalgia as its famed Honolulu City Lights illuminate this holiday season. This year, Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele will be donning their face masks at Honolulu Hale, along with the city’s 50-foot, fully decorated Christmas tree. All activities at Honolulu City Lights will be modified, with picture taking in front of displays allowed only if practicing social distancing. Drive-by viewing experiences are encouraged for residents. Visit their website for weekly scheduled televised events.

Relax with a full moon crystal sound bath

$
December 29

Close out 2020 with a relaxing guided meditation and crystal bowl sound healing session led by Mayu Kawasaki. It’s been a stressful year, so use this opportunity to release any lingering tension and take a moment to embrace all that you accomplished and are grateful for. Bring your yoga mat or any props that will help you relax and rest deeply during the sound journey. Enjoy a complimentary cup of coconut kava and bring a pen and journal to capture any meditative thoughts. The two-hour session begins at 6:30pm and tickets are $33.

Eat, drink, and be merry at Kailua Night Market

Free
December 12 and 19, January 9 and 16, February 6 and 13
Pet adoptions, art, shopping, and delicious ono food are what you can expect at the Kailua Night Market, which takes place two Saturdays each month at 340 Uluniu Street in Kailua from 5 to 9 pm. Over the last two and a half years, Kailua’s family- and pet-friendly popup has become an essential market for promoting the small local businesses on O’ahu’s Windward side, showcasing local food vendors, retailers, and crafts from local entrepreneurs in a celebration of culture and connection. 

Blue Note Hawaii
Blue Note Hawaii
Blue Note Hawaii

Celebrate A Charlie Brown Christmas with Jazz Musicians

$$
Friday, December 25
You can’t call it Christmas without the Peanuts and their classic holiday shenanigans. Native New Yorker trumpeter Mike Lewis returns to Blue Note Hawaii with A Charlie Brown Christmas, featuring some of Hawaii’s best jazz musicians. The performance will showcase selections from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, as written by legendary composer and pianist Vince Guaraldi. Time slots are filling up quickly so don’t miss the opportunity to book. Prices range from $25-$35 per person.
 

Run the Hawaii Kai Ultra Marathon

$
December 19 and 20

Challenge yourself with the longest run of your life at the Hawaii Kai Ultra Run. Choose whether to run a half marathon, full marathon, 30K, 50K, 50 Mile, 100K, or 100 Miles. This semi-annual run is held on Oahu’s far east end and designed to challenge new and advanced runners to take on further distances. Start times are flexible on either day with the run beginning at Kalama Valley Community Park. Regular entry is $30 with discounts available, but volunteers who commit to four hours or more will receive free registration and a free event t-shirt. Pre-registration is encouraged and same-day registration increases to $40, with no guarantee of event t-shirts still being available. Ice, drinks, and food are provided. 

Forest Bathing Hawai‘i
Forest Bathing Hawai‘i
Forest Bathing Hawai‘i

Experience Virtual Forest Bathing

$$
Every Thursday and Sunday through January

Join a live online-facilitated nature therapy session from the comfort of your living room, led by a certified forest therapy guide based in Honolulu. The guide will dial in from a trail or green space on the island of Oʻahu, allowing guests to virtually experience Hawaiʻi’s natural and healing beauty through their screens. Attendees will be invited to tune into their senses, slow down, and give their attention to the more-than-human world around them. Prices range from $15 to $25 and complimentary walks are available for first responders, healthcare, and essential workers by emailing [email protected] for a promo code.Sign up here for our daily Honolulu email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Wendy Awai-Dakroub is a Hawaii-based writer, restaurateur, franchise business consultant and founder of kid-friendly food and travel blog. Besides her love for travel and photography, she’s also “momager” to her kid-foodies Leah and Jaffer. Follow her on Twitter.

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