There’s no better way to fuel a busy day of frolicking in Waikiki’s warm waters and lounging in the sand than with a delectable breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. Whether your ideal breakfast is a sweet treat, savory delight or healthy start, we’ve got you covered.
Buho is known for its extensive tequila selection, farm-fresh ingredients and an Island take on Mexican dining. Now the popular rooftop restaurant is adding breakfast to its portfolio of tasty offerings. You’ll find items standard to any Mexican breakfast, like the breakfast burrito or huevos rancheros, as well as stacks of pancakes drizzled with your favorite fixings. Don’t forget to try one of the signature breakfast drinks and feel free to indulge in bottomless mimosas on the weekend.
The SurfJack Hotel & Swim Club is quickly becoming a new hotspot in Waikiki, thanks to its lively atmosphere and vintage Hawaii décor. Such a unique hotel requires a standout restaurant, and Mahina & Sun’s is just that. The brainchild of local celebrity chef and four-time James Beard Award nominee, Ed Kenny, Mahina & Sun’s menu clearly draws inspiration from these beautiful Islands. Its breakfast menu has favors not tasted elsewhere in Waikiki, like the ulu (breadfruit) pancake. Pictured is a spread of options, including the frambled omelet, house granola, avocado toast and smoky Mary brunch cocktail.
Although its location in Waikiki at the Ilikai Hotel has only been open a few years, Cinnamon’s original Kailua location has been a local favorite for over 30 years. In that time, its name has become nearly synonymous with one thing: pancakes. Although the menu is vast and has many lunch and dinner entrées to relish, the pancakes at Cinnamon’s are simply too good to pass up. Pictured are the guava chiffon and red velvet pancakes. Both of these varieties exceed expectations and leave diners puzzling at their own gastronomic abilities to finish the stack.
Looking for breakfast any time of day? Head over to Giovanni Pastrami on Lewers Street for all of your breakfast needs. Giovanni’s is a lively place to watch the game—any game—while you dine. The corned beef-pastrami-hash benedict pictured here is a fantastic combination of a traditional hash and a New York-style benedict giving you the best of two worlds. If you can’t decide on a single breakfast item, go for the triple play, which has three mini options in one.
Tropics Bar & Grill at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is one of the few eateries in Waikiki that is literally on the beach. Its outdoor seating lets you take in a view of the ocean, complete with surfers riding the shallow waves. It’s not a bad way to start the day. The menu offers traditional breakfast fare as well as Island-inspired food like the loco moco. One favorite dish is the banana-berry baked french toast. It’s made with King’s Hawaiian bread and topped with fresh berries and lilikoi butter for a local twist.
Hawaii residents have always looked to the sea for sustenance. The readily available fish and sea creatures became integral to our food and culture. Today, Hawaii is known the world over for its incredible seafood, and Waikiki is the center of the action.
Ravish in The MODERN Honolulu is “Pacific inspired, soul infused.” That shows in the elegant mix of flavors blended into exceptional dishes. To eat like the chef, go for the chef’s choice of sashimi. The chef will select the best cuts from a fresh catch to make a choice plate of delicious fish. There are also interesting new takes on sushi in the modish menu, with options like torched salmon and vodka sauce or prime strip steak with sea urchin.
Kai Market in the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel is a popular buffet with all of the foods you dream of in a Hawaiian getaway. Week-ends, in particular, are a seafood lovers dream. Friday through Sunday nights spe-cialize in the sea’s bounty, like salmon, Kauai shrimp, assorted sushi and of course, poke. To get a little bit of everything, Kai Market is the best place to sample the cor-nucopia of the Pacific.
Uncle Bo’s may be outside of the boundaries of Waikiki proper, but, if you’re looking for a local favorite, look no further. Located on Kapahulu Avenue, Bo’s is open for dinner and late-night dining. Its extensive menu can make it hard to pick one thing, but, for a fish dish, the S.O.S. is worthwhile. The pan-roasted soup/stew hybrid comes with lobster, crab, scallops and shrimp in a creamy base and is best served with rice. You won’t want to leave room for dessert.
With three locations, two in Waikiki and one in Kahala, Arancino is convenient for any traveler. Its Napoli-style menu has all of the mouthwatering classics your heart desires from an Italian restaurant. Being in Hawaii, though, some of the conventional fare has been given a Pacific flare. The restaurant’s most popular pasta is a wonderful example. The spaghetti ai ricci di mare pairs delicate uni, or sea urchin, in a garlic wine cream sauce for an inspired dish you’ll rave about for years to come.
BALI STEAK AND SEAFOOD
It’s rare for a restaurant to perfect both flavor and presentation, but Bali Steak and Seafood does just that. Take the tempura lobster. This jumbo crustacean is served whole with its meat impeccably fried. Be sure to get a picture for your Instagram before digging in. Better yet, snap a photo as the sun sets over Waikiki beach in the background as you dine.
My grandparents used to love visiting Hawaii. They’d fly from their Central California home and explore Oahu, occasionally dipping their toes in warm waters, even though my grandmother never learned to swim. After each trip they’d regale us with stories about the food they ate and fun they had. Among their favorite destinations was the famed International Marketplace, what was then a series of local vendors set up in stalls under a banyan tree in Waikiki.
The small vendors are now long gone, but the banyan tree is still alive and well in the newly reopened International Marketplace. The new structure houses many high-end retailers, but is anchored by its restaurants, such as the new concept from local celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, Eating House 1849.
Yamaguchi was inspired for his latest venture by the flavors of Hawaii’s plantation past, flavors he first sampled in his own grandfather’s kitchen.
“My grandfather left Japan in the early 1900s and ended up in Maui working on the plantations,” Yamaguchi says. As a child he helped in his grandfather’s market, and Yamaguchi says his “cooking has evolved from the flavors of my childhood.”
Those childhood flavors have served him well. Yamaguchi won the restigious James Beard award in 1993, and has been the visionary behind many of Hawaii’s favorite restaurants, including his namesake, Roy’s.
“Workers would share at lunch what they had,” explains Yamaguchi. “Eating House is paying tribute to those kind of cuisines.” The plantation influence is clear in Eating House 1849’s menu. The “1849” Plantation Pupu Platter consists of ribs, gyoza, lumpia and wings. This type of eclectic food could only come from bringing a diverse group of people together, something only really seen in Hawaii.
One of Yamaguchi’s favorite dishes from the menu is the plantation paella. Rather than a relatively dry rice dish, Yamaguchi’s paella draws from the thick beef stew he ate as a kid for a more brothy meal. “It’s a great dish,” he says.
In addition to the International Marketplace, there are two other Eating House 1849 locations, one in Koloa, Kauai, and another in Kapolei on Oahu.
The menus at each change based on what’s available and in season. “We plan our menus according to what we have available in Hawaii,” says Yamaguchi.
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere. As with all of his restaurants, Yamaguchi says, “We keep it nice and fresh and exciting.”
No matter the location, Eating House 1849 gives diners top-quality meals in a fun and inviting atmosphere.
Nestled behind Diamond Head, with views of both Diamond Head and Koko Head craters, sits Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC), on the grounds of what was once Fort Ruger. The campus is part of the overall University of Hawaii system and keeps community at the heart of all its programs.
This community focus is found in all aspects of the school, especially the Culinary Arts Program. The program has many different initiatives that assist with everything from food sustainability to healthy school lunches. But the program itself is a service, as there are more jobs in restaurants in Hawaii from servers and line cooks to top chefs, than there are qualified individuals to fill the positions. That demand has led to a boom in an already popular program.
The Culinary Arts Program at KCC has existed for decades and has a history of turning out incredibly talented chefs, such as Alan Wong and Sam Choy. Who would have known that a humble community college in Honolulu would turn out internationally renowned chefs who have turned their locally inspired cuisine into multimillion dollar businesses? The program has long been robust, but the school is always growing and incorporating new facets into its curriculum.
“We’ve made, in the last 30 years, tremendous improvements to our program,” says department chair Ron Takahashi.
Takahashi is constantly trying to decipher where the food industry is heading and anticipating the needs of students. As a result, the school takes a holistic approach to learning not just the technical skills to excel as chefs, but also how management and serving positions function.
“Every class has particular learning outcomes,” says Takahashi. Students learn from a pool of professors with vast knowledge. “We highly value their experience over academic credentials,” says Takahashi about the faculty. “A lot of what we impart to students is lessons learned.”
It’s a dynamic learning center that emphasizes practicality and artistry as complementary, rather than opposing, forces. One of the many learning tools students have is the KCC campus restaurant, Ka ‘Ikena. Ka ‘Ikena is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are required. Everyone working at the restaurant is a student focused on one learning objective. That could be food service, restaurant management, pastry making or any of the other regular tasks all kitchens require.
With such a robust program, it’s clear why so many of the top chefs in Waikiki and Hawaii at large hail from KCC. One of their more recent grads is chef Justin Inagaki, head chef at Hy’s Steak House in Waikiki.
While reflecting on the Culinary Arts Program, Inagaki said, “I wish I could go back to school now, the curriculum that these students are learning now is so broad and well versed.” Inagaki graduated seven years ago, and, even in that relatively short span, he’s noticed the ever-improving skill sets graduates retain.
As the head chef at one of the leading steak houses in Waikiki, Inagaki certainly doesn’t need to head back to school anytime soon, but it’s refreshing to hear his admiration for his alma mater.
“I would never be able to be where I am now without having such a great support network at KCC,” Inagaki continued. “It truly changed my perspective and made me motivated to be a chef.”
The newest motivational tool from KCC’s Culinary Arts Program is Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen, located in the Parc Hotel in Waikiki. It was serendipitous that the restaurant came to be. NOBU had previously occupied the space, but found a new spot when the Parc was slated to begin a renovation. The renovation hit a snag, causing a delay until next year, leaving an empty restaurant space perfect for a fresh approach to fine dining. The hotel worked with KCC to open a “pop up” restaurant until renovations could begin, and Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen was born.
Le¯‘ahi is a breath of fresh air in the heart of Waikiki. The prices are reasonable and surprisingly, especially in Waikiki, diners are asked not to provide gratuity. Staff members are instead paid a living wage. There is a separate 15 percent service fee on all bills, but this is a requirement imposed by the university system, and helps to keep the program running and costs low.
The menu has a mixture of small and large plates that can be eaten individually or shared. Head chef and KCC alum Eddie Mafnas brings flavors from his native Guam with items like Chamorro shrimp fritters.
Mafnas graduated from the culinary school 10 years ago and, like many of his fellow alumni, has kept incredibly busy in the local food industry ever since. He has helped open 21 restaurants in Waikiki, does private catering, owns Aloha Poke Shop, and still manages to find time to volunteer in his community by cooking for the homeless and judging keiki chef competitions. He brings that energy and passion into his creations at Le¯‘ahi.
All of the positions at the restaurant are paid, but are mostly staffed by current KCC students who want to get more hands-on experience.
“This is a step that has always been missing,” says Takahashi. He’s excited by the opportunity to let students learn completely outside the classroom.
Now open for dinner seven nights a week, with live music six of those nights, Le¯‘ahi Concept Kitchen provides a wonderful dining experience that anyone can feel good about. Diners can take advantage of four hours of free validated parking, and a low corkage fee at this BYOB establishment.
The restaurant will only be open until the Parc Hotel begins renovations in 2018, so go now while it’s open. It will also offer special menus from visiting chefs and occasional cooking lessons in the meantime.
Moving forward, Takahashi is looking for more opportunities for his students. The school is working to establish the Culinary Institute of the Pacific, and staying abreast of what’s next in the food industry.
“We try to train our people for the future,” says Takahashi. So far, they’ve done just that.