Ono (OH-no) is the Hawaiian word for delicious. The local food in Hawaii is influenced by the mixed plate of cultures and cuisines dating back to the plantation era — pork adobo, loco moco, lomi lomi salmon and lau lau are a few staple dishes. Here’s a list of “ono-licious” restaurants that are serving up hearty local favorites.
But wait, there’s more. We’re here to help demystify some of the unusual words you might see on menus like furikake, laulau and lilikoi — and explain which meat is being served and why. And possibly most importantly of all, provide the fun facts on the origins of local dishes.
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Hawaiian Food on Kauai's South Shore
Located on the south shore of Kauai, Keoki’s offers tasty Hawaiian fare in a tropical setting, with live hula almost every night. The menu features locally sourced ingredients, and the fresh fish varies according to season, and can be prepared kalo crusted, baked in garlic, or miso glazed, just to name a few of the ono choices. There are also veggie, gluten-free, and local meats options. Open Monday through Friday 11am to 10pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 10pm.
Eating House 1849
An homage to one of Hawaii’s allegedly first restaurants that was called Eating House and opened in 1849, Roy Yamaguchi’s own restaurant honors the modern blend of Hawaiian culture. Some flavors have been fixtures of the culture since its origin, while others have been introduced only more recently — at Eating House 1849, you’ll be able to enjoy a meal that lets you immerse yourself in all of it at once. Try the blackened island ahi if you prefer seafood or opt for the 1849 spicy ramen bowl. Regardless, you’ll leave with a better understanding of modern Hawaiian cuisine and the desire to come back. royyamaguchi.com
What is now recognized as Kiawe Roots had once only been in the food truck business, but has since become a restaurant that deliciously captures everything you’ll want from a modern Hawaiian dish. Their menu offerings vary from sandwiches like their crispy pulled pork sandwich to a selection of smoked meats such as brisket, and extends from breakfast to dinner. There are also specialty drinks, and plenty of choices both alcoholic and nonalcoholic so that anyone in your party can experience Kiawe Roots to the fullest. eatatkiawe.com
Hawaiian Food On Kauai's Central Coast
Hukilau Lanai sources only sustainably caught fish and is part of The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. The views here are great, and everything is made on site from scratch. There are several gluten-free options on the menu, and every night there’s a five-course tasting menu for $65, offered from 5-5:45pm. Reservations are recommended. Open Tuesday through Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Chef Jean-Marie Josselin has created a menu that merges the culinary influences of his native France, the clean flavors of Japanese cooking, and Hawaii’s multi-ethnic community. Jo2 focuses on using local organic produce and freshly caught fish. Our recommended dishes include ono ceviche with coconut water foam, tempura lobster tail ramen, and sake cured steelhead salmon. Open Tuesday through Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Closed Tuesday.
Waipouli Deli & Restaurant
Waipouli offers a unique blend of American, Japanese and, of course, Hawaiian cuisine to give you plenty of choices with comforting, authentic flavors. The menu is extensive, with everything from the classic American cheeseburger to oxtail soup — with so much available, you’ll be certain to find a dish that you’ll love at a price that you can afford. The deli and restaurant is open for breakfast through dinner for most of the week, and from breakfast to lunch on Monday and Sunday. waipoulideli.com
Wailua Drive In
Once featured on famed television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives under the name Saimin Dojo at the time, Wailua Drive In carries on its legacy as a restaurant with delicious Hawaiian food that you’ll want to take the time to visit. There are plenty of menu items to choose from, including a teriyaki beef sandwich and ginger fried chicken. After eating here, you’ll know why Guy Fieri was intrigued. wailuadrivein.com
‘Uala Kauai’s motto is “beautifully inspired Hawaiian cuisine,” and they definitely live up to it. Their concept is also unique; it’s a food delivery service with local farmers and private chefs working together to bring you delicious meals. They offer a private chef surf and turf menu, as well as a vegetarian menu, and dining experiences such as their Hawaiian style luau and Mediterranean picnic. Even if it’s not your traditional restaurant dining experience, their food and philosophy is still absolutely worth giving a try. ualakauai.com
Hawaiian Food on Kauai's North Shore
Kalypso features a bamboo bar and outdoor patio, and is serving up local favorites like huli huli chicken, kalua pork sandwich and loco moco. Make sure to save room for the house-made ice cream cakes. Bonus — there’s a daily happy hour from 3pm to 5:30pm. Open Monday and Wednesday 2:30pm to 8:30pm, Thursday and Friday 11am to 8:30 pm, Saturday 10am to 8:30pm, and Sunday 8am to 8:30pm. Closed Tuesday.
This little tiki bar’s been featured on Eater.com and was a filming location for The Descendants. Maybe it’s the old school Kauai vibe, maybe it’s the live music, but whatever it is, it’s a great place to enjoy local flavors. Tahiti Nui is open Monday and Wednesday 3pm to 9 pm, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 11am to 9pm, and Sunday 9am to 9pm. Closed Saturday.
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue
For a quicker and more budget-friendly meal that’ll still curb your appetite for Hawaiian food, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue will most certainly deliver. There are four total locations throughout Kauai, including this one in Hanalei, so you can find one near you easily. Order their Kalua pork with cabbage, SPAM Musabi or perhaps the BBQ burger — get a taste of what comfort food looks like locally. hawaiianbarbecue.com