By Lisa Scontras | Photos by Davin Iyamatsu
2863 Kalakaua Ave.
The charming Hau Tree Lanai may be the most romantic setting under the Hawaiian moon. Set beachside at The New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, the restaurant attracts those who are attracted to each other, with intimate dining under a pair of expansive hau trees dotted with twinkling lights and on the water's edge overlooking Waikiki Beach.
Honolulu Magazine awarded the restaurant the 2010 Hale Aina Gold Award for Best Outdoor Dining. And it's a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
Our love affair with the Hau Tree Lanai continues with the breakfast menu. It's a hard choice between the eggs Benedict or the famous poi pancakes. Light fare lunches include a selection of sandwiches, curries, pastas, fresh island fish and vegetarian plates. And dinners are exquisite with chef's favorites, prepared traditionally or Asian inspired.
The alfresco dining is made special with pink table clothes, classically designed white railings and fresh orchids to the ocean vistas and sunset views.
Save room for the Haupia cake or the pineapple crème brulee.
Romance is always in the air at the Hau Tree Lanai.
Kapiolani Community College Farmers Market
Bring your appetite. This is not your typical farmers market. OK, yes, you'll find the sweetest Kahuku papaya, the plumpest tomatoes, juiciest pineapples, and most flavorful produce you've ever tasted in your life but taking home the freshest fruits and veggies is just part of the experience.
Grazing from booth to booth, you'll soon find the KCC Farmers Market is a plate-lunch fest offering a rainbow assortment of everything yummy. Starting with sweet-bread French toast or kim chee fried rice, eggs and sausage for breakfast, to stuffed grape leaves, Thai coconut chicken curry, Spam musubi, Kailua pork sliders, fresh grilled abalone, Portuguese sausage, pizza, shave ice, homemade salsa, baklava, mochi, fresh baked bread, fried green tomatoes, even live music, you are most certain to leave completely satisfied.
KCC's Farmers Market was started by two friends: Nalo Farm's Dean Okimoto and writer Joan Namkoong, with the help of the KCC Culinary Program.
"And because it was started by a farmer, it and the rest of the Hawaii Farm Bureau's Farmers Markets are very strict about the produce brought to our markets," says Lisa Asagi, co-founder of She Grows Food. "We require all produce to be locally grown. Not all farmers markets have this rule, but we do."
The market is the oldest of its kind on Oahu and started just seven years ago with 14 farmers. Today you'll find nearly 60 vendors each Saturday morning from 7:30 to 11 a.m.
Asagi says the growth in popularity has to do with the fact that people really care about what they eat and what they feed their families.
"We're all a lot more mindful," she says. "I feel farmers markets are part of a national grassroots movement. It may have started off organic focused, but now it is much more than organic. It's about realizing how much better a bunch of kale tastes when we buy it from a local farmer. How it actually tastes alive because it was harvested that morning. "
Some of Asagi's market favorites include Hearts of Palm honey harvested from all over the islands; heirloom tomatoes; premium rum cakes made with roasted local pumpkin, dark chocolate and Maui rum; chocolate made with Waialua-grown cacao; Kona coffee; Kula strawberries; evil jungle prince taro dip; organic sauerkraut and kimchee; totally local smoothies made with local fruit, herbs and milk; fresh churned butter in at least five different flavors; local beef; and endless varieties of lettuce, even hydroponically grown.
"Kale seems to be really hot right now," says Asagi. "People are addicted."
Papayas are always popular because of reasonable prices and the farmers always bring them just ripe enough to eat throughout the week.
"I've been going to the Farmers Market for years," says Dawn Soderquist Okano, Realtor Associate at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. "It's a great place to see your neighbors. Local people go early to buy the best orchids."
Diamond Head Market & Grill
3158 Monsarrat Ave.
For a healthy plate lunch or last minute potluck platter, Diamond Head Market & Grill is a favorite among residents.
"The take-out meals are a real plus for those who live in the area," says one area local.
Already popular lunch and dinner to-go menu items include their famous grilled Portobello mushrooms with balsamic jus, fresh fish, home-style burgers and prime rib.
Stop in on the way to your next potluck for one of the specialty platters. These super fresh, colorful assortments of wraps, sushi, sandwiches or desserts will be any table's piece de resistance.
Located on the corner of Monsarrat and Campbell Avenue, with parking out front, this is a great place to eat before a concert at the Shell.
3308 Kanaina Ave. (on the corner of Kapahulu Ave.)
This classic local eatery is a hot spot with the locals and especially college kids returning from the mainland to get their local kine grinds fix.
From its humble beginnings in 1961 when it served 50-cent chili with rice, $1 dollar barbecue steak plate lunches, and 25-cent hamburgers, Rainbow Drive-in has attracted crowds by keeping their prices low, their food hot and the service fast.
Today, it's famous chili, made with ground beef, garlic, kidney beans and special blend of herbs and spices, remains a favorite along with the chicken katsu and Rainbow Royal Sandwich - two-patty burger with lettuce, tomato, onion and special sauce - and a long list of plate lunches. No wonder they've been nominated by Pacific Business News as one of Hawaii's "Best in Business."
Open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
South Shore Grill
3114 Monsarrat Ave.
Great food and great prices are what this family-owned café is all about. The super casual setting is convenient for surfers, beach goers or hikers.
Known for the best aioli on the planet, other favorites include fish tacos, a variety of over-stuffed burritos, gourmet sandwiches, Caprese salads, garlic butter fries, and a friendly staff. You can go healthy or try an order of the Suicide Fries topped with cheese and their special roasted garlic brown gravy. Kids menu includes grilled cheese with cheddar or provolone.
Good place for a quick bite.