Frolic Hawaii Editor – Thomas Obungen Recommendations to Eat in Waikiki!
Aloha! My name is Thomas Obungen. I am the Associate Editor of Frolic Hawaii, the local authority on all things food on O‘ahu. I also co-own Slug Media, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in restaurant consulting and content. Online I’m known as @thomasohhh or the CEO of Eating Deliciously, a title I take not so seriously. Since 2015, I’ve covered the explosive growth of our incredibly vibrant restaurant scene. Wandering from hidden alleyways to luxury department stores and every street in between, I’ve discovered that it takes a unique mix of nostalgia and innovation to get the local seal of approval.
Waikīkī is not only a top destination for worldwide travelers, some locals (myself included), love to play tourist here because it’s an ideal neighborhood to eat your way around. It also just happens to have some of the best food finds on Oahu. I’m in Waikīkī quite often, so I’ve had my fair share of meals here. From upscale dining to street food and pool drinks, there’s a ton to explore in these three square miles.
Not only cute and a total vibe, Shoreline Hotel Waikīkī just so happens to be the best starting point to explore the 96815. Many of my top picks are less than a seven-minute walk from the Shoreline.
Here are some of my favorite places to eat in Waikīkī.
Ali‘i Coffee // Coffee
400 Royal Hawaiian Avenue
Ali‘i Coffee’s cold brew coff-tails (coffee cocktails) and lattes are a dreamy way to greet the day. The iced Kula Cold Brew with house-made lavender syrup and half and half is soothing while the sweet Banana Milk Float will have you dancing from shop to shop. I also love their breakfast sandwich that can easily be shared for a light meal or “first breakfast” as I like to call it.
Cream Pot // Soufflé pancakes & baked eggs
444 Niu St.
Nathan Tran’s cloud-like souffle pancakes are popular and for good reason: they’re the original creations that inspired the trend in Japan and abroad. With toppings like blueberry compote, S’mores and lemon curd, they are a treat from every angle, but the savory dishes should not be dismissed. Try the baked eggs or beef bourguignon omurice for something ultra-savory. Cream Pot is as much a feast for the tummy as it is for the eyes with whimsical details plucked right out of a storybook garden. It’s not just cute, it’s chō kawaii.
Castro’s // Lunch & dinner
2113 Kalākaua Avenue
Cuban cuisine with touches of local flair is a very good thing, especially in a Waikīkī that has Japanese, American and Italian comfort on every corner. From freshly squeezed tropical fruit juices to one of my favorite sandwiches, the Cubano, Castro’s is where I go for a leisurely lunch or dinner. The menu changes over in the evening with tapas like brisket and cheddar empanadas and tender lamb lollipops with black bean hummus. If anything, sit outside and people watch—you’re almost guaranteed to see something interesting on this side of Kalakaua Avenue.
Tim Ho Wan // Afternoon tea/dim sum
2233 Kalakaua Avenue, Fl. 3
There’s no better way to pass the afternoon than with dim sum—yum cha if you’re fancy—on the open-air patio at Tim Ho Wan. The Waikīkī outpost of this Michelin-rated chain from Hong Kong is so chill this time of day, you might even stick around for pau hana drinks. Of course, you’ll need an order of their signature baked char siu bao but why not add some pan-fried noodles and a bit of deep-fried eggplant with shrimp. Snack on as much or as little as you want.
Aloha Steak House // Casual steak dinner
320 Lewers St.
Sometimes you just want a good steak dinner without having to dress up for it. Zetton Group created Aloha Steak House, so you can have a little beach and beef without regrets. Pick an apron and let the meat come to you. The best value is in their sharable $99 two-pound tomahawk steak that’s sliced tableside and finished with a generous lashing of salt. The vibrantly arranged cobb salad, North Shore-style fried garlic shrimp and french fries round out the experience very well. Finish off with a cone of their house-made watermelon soft serve and you’ll fall in love with this steak-ation all over again.
HEAVENLY Island Lifestyle // Happy hour & light dinner
342 Seaside Avenue
You don’t have to go very far to experience locavore dining. Heavenly Lifestyle is located off the lobby from the Shoreline Hotel Waikīkī and offers all meals, including a daily happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m.. I love that everything has a fresh and bright vibe – nothing here’s going to weigh you down so it’s the perfect pre- or post-beach spot. Try the tantan sesame cold pho noodles or my favorite, the Hainan Chicken Rice.
Poke Fix // Poke bowls
334 Seaside Avenue #108
Build your own poke bowls with salmon, fresh ‘ahi, hamachi and garlic shrimp with generous heaps of sides that makes us locals smile. The ginger onion hamachi (if they have it) and shoyu ‘ahi are must-tries. Get the pickled garlic and taegu (Korean-style marinated fish) to vary up your bites.
Musubi Cafe Iyasume // Musubi
This established musubi (rice ball) shop has multiple locations dotted throughout Waikīkī and beyond, but this one is the most convenient despite its limited hours. I especially like to pack a Spam and ume (salted plum) musubi, tuna mayo musubi and fried karaage chicken in my bag for snacks on the beach or lounging by the pool.
Island Vintage Wine Bar // Wine
2301 Kalākaua Avenue, Fl. 2
A classy yet casual joint on the strip, Island Vintage Wine Bar is one of those places that stay on the brain. Whether it’s the best lilikoi mimosa you’ve ever had made with a rare rose from France or the most indulgent charcuterie and cheese board with European meats and cheeses to match, you could spend an entire day here and not think it was wasted.
Matcha Stand Maiko // Matcha soft cream
2310 Kūhiō Avenue
Matcha is such an “in” flavor and I want to say it’s thanks in part to Matcha Stand Maiko. This matcha dessert cafe opened in 2017 and quickly became Waikīkī’s coolest spot serving up verdant cones of grassy green tea ice cream using matcha from Uji, Japan. Maiko also dishes up incredible parfaits layered with every texture you could think of and now they have expanded with new flavor swirls, including purple sweet potato and houjicha.