Hawaii has long been a melting pot of different people, largely as a result of immigrants coming to work at sugar and pineapple plantations that once enveloped the Islands. This influx of cultures has had a major impact on the eclectic food pairings that come out of some of Waikiki’s top kitchens. Restaurants may use ramen noodles in Italian pasta, or throw kimchi into a house salad. It makes for distinctive flavor pairings, but can also be a bit intimidating for first-time visitors. What if you just want a burger? Fear not. There are plenty of local restaurants that specialize in comforting classics made with premium ingredients.
New Englanders can rejoice! Hawaii also has lobster mac and cheese made with Maine lobsters at M.A.C. 24/7 in the Hilton Waikiki Beach. M.A.C. 24/7 is a beloved Waikiki restaurant for its around-the-clock dining and over-the-top pancake challenge that pits mere humans against five pounds of pancakes with toppings.
Aside from all-day breakfast specials, M.A.C. 24/7 specializes in comfort food such as chicken and waffles or, notably, the fried Main lobster mac and cheese bites. This starter uses a seven cheese blend, truffle cheese sauce and chipotle aioli. Each plate comes with four fried morsels that can shared around the table, or hoarded for a small dish.
Eat like a king with the roayal ali’i(chief) burger at the Royal Hawaiian’s beachfront restaurant, Surf Lanai. The hotel is affectionately call the Pink Lady of the Pacific, a name that proves true in the building’s pink facade, umbrellas, seat cushions and napkins. It may sound like a lot of pink, but the azure ocean waters mere steps away flawlessly offset it.
The ali’i burger uses local Hawaii Rancher’s ground beef for a jicy patty around which the rest of the burger is built.it’s capped with pepper jack cheese, avocado, onion rings and sauteed ali’i mushrooms. The burger is normally served with impeccably seasoned tavern fries, which can, and frankly should, be subbed out with parmesan truffle fries for an additional fee.
Football season is finally here again, and sports enthusiasts will love dining ina a field of flat-screen 4k TVs set throughout Giovanni Pastrami, a New York-style deli, pizzeria, and sports bar. The restaurant is conveniently located in the Waikiki Beach Walk where its friendly atmosphere and extensive menu attract sports lovers and detractor alike.
The most popular menu should come as no surprise: the Pastrami Reuben. The traditional deli favorite contains a full half-pound of pastrami all carved to order. It’s served on rye bread with sauerkraut and Russian dressing. The sandwich has a tantalizing aroma that trails after it as it comes out hot from the kitchen, which is likely part of why it’s so popular. All sandwiches at Giovanni are served with a choice of sides, but its hard to go wrong with fries.
Ribs may be legendary at Tony Roma’s, but its menu has much more to offer than this barbeque staple. Diners would be remiss not to start with a crispy onion loaf or a martini glass brimming with spicy kickin’ shrimp. True connoisseurs may opt for one of the signature steaks like the 14-ounce ribeye or 12-ounce New York strip.
Can’t decide on a single steak? Then have three filet medallions together for a veriety of tastes across a few mini steaks. The medallions come with loaded mashed potatoes and either coleslaw or broccoli on the side. Each medallion is treated to its own gourmet topping, such as teriyaki glaze, wild mushrooms, cabernet demi glace, Dijon Mustard Sauce or balsamic reduction. It’s the perfect way to whet your palate with an array of flavors.
Round Table Pizza is a family favorite on the Mainland, renowned for consistently high quality pizza and wings. The Round Table Pizza at the Hilton Hawaiian Village is actually one of the most popular locations in the country, thanks to daily fresh-rolled pizza dough, superior ingredients, and free delivery in Waikiki.
Favorites like the King Arthur Supreme or Guinevere’s Garden are hits in Hawaii just like they are back home, but for something a tad adventurous, go for the Maui Zaui. “Hawaiian” pizza may hail from Canada, but the Maui Zaui has bit more Island flair. It start with a base of sweet and spicy Polynesian sauce that isn’t quite like any other pizza sauce, which works well with the sweet pineapple mixed with savory bacon, ham, tomato and onions. It’s a beautiful pizza to see, and it tastes even better than it looks.
Eat in an airy atmosphere with a surf shack vibe at Goofy Cafe & Dine, located on Ala Moana Boulevard, just outside of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Goofy specializes in healthy cuisine made with primarily local, organic ingredients. The result is incredibly fresh tasting fare that combines Mainland and Hawaiian favorites.
One delightful dish that marries Hawaiian and Mainland classics is the kalua pig eggs benedict. It uses local pork (when available) to make kalua pork, the tender Hawaiian pulled pulled pork usually found at a luau or in a plate lunch. Instead of a regular English muffin, diners can choose a taro or wheat roll, and the whole ensemble is topped with poached eggs and homemade hollandaise that has a hint of lilikoi (passion fruit) butter. It’s not quite what might adorn a Mainland menu, but it’s a treat nonetheless.