By Lisa Scontras | Photos by Justin R. Dotson
Whether it is killer bar food, delicious entrees or free entertainment you're looking for, Waikiki is pretty sure to have it all. Here is a sampling of some of our favorite places to eat:
Located across the street from the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Beach (upstairs where Denny's used to be), Lulu's open air setting, surfer-dude atmosphere and views of the ocean and Diamond Head add another layer to the casual dining experience.
And while that all may seem very kitschy to some, the food at Lulu's is first class all the way. Large portions and masterfully designed presentations characterize the plates as they're delivered to the tables. You could easily feast on the pupu menu and skip dinner - one order per person is quite filling.
Put Lulu's Kalua pork egg rolls at the top of your list to try. These exquisite full-size rolls come six to a plate. Slow roasted Kalua pork, shitake mushrooms, carrots and cabbage are stuffed into egg roll wrappers and hand rolled. Served golden brown with a sweet Thai chili-vinegar dipping sauce, these are heavenly.
And if you love coconut shrimp, these are unbeatable. Hands down the best. The lilikoi-mango vinaigrette, amazing. They're hot, crunchy and very coconutty.
For great service, great food and great music (if you love oldies) check out Lulu's.
With more than 100 different beers to choose from, it's easy to find something you like to drink - and eat - at the Yard House in Waikiki.
Make a meal out of sampling from the appetizer menu, which includes great beer pairings such as firecracker wings, tossed in a spicy sesame garlic plum glaze or the classic sliders, which includes four mini burgers with cheddar cheese, a house special sauce, fries and a pickle.
Or try the spinach cheese dip baked with feta, jack, parmesan and cream cheese and served with crispy flatbread, the onion ring tower (beer battered then dusted with parmesan), or the Maine lobster, crab and artichoke dip. Lettuce wraps, California rolls, chicken nachos, moo shu egg rolls, even grilled artichoke are favorites among some of the regular customers. Healthy portions and an artistic presentation make the experience satisfying.
Top of Waikiki
Daily happy hour specials from 5 to 7 p.m. and then again from 9 to 11 p.m. are part of the draw - with $4 martinis, draft beer and house wine and a $7 special pupu selection.
"Their Happy Hour is out of this world," say Alan and Amy Lerchbacker, former Oahu residents who return frequently to visit. "We love Top of Waikiki."
The Spicy Ahi Poke Stack has Sambal and shoyu, crispy won ton skins, avocado crème, papaya slaw, kiwi lime vinaigrette and micro greens.
"One of our favorites is the Spicy Ahi Poke Stack - it's to die for," says Lerchbacker. "We also love the Coconut Shrimp with pineapple salsa. Happy hour goes later than most and the bartenders are some of the most welcoming people on the planet."
Check out the dinner menu, including a vegetarian section and a keiki menu, including spaghetti & meatballs, and macaroni & cheese.
With its pool-hopping rooftop setting, Tiki's definitely has captured the throwback tiki bar ambiance.
The menu items are all top quality, but the standout here were the guava glazed baby back ribs. The four-bone rack of St. Louis style baby back ribs grilled and basted with a signature guava barbecue sauce is $9 on the pupu menu. But on Mondays, after 4 p.m. till closing it's All You Can Eat baby back ribs for $26. The meat falls off the bones, and the special sauce is worth the visit.
Happy Hour at Tiki's start at 2 p.m. daily until 5 p.m.
Keiki love Tiki's menu just for them, which includes keiki sliders, fish & chips, grilled cheese or a keiki Hawaiian plate, root beer floats and a free Frisbee.
We can't talk about great pupu finds in Waikiki without mentioning the crab and mac nut won tons at Hula Grill. These divine treats are just the right combination of crunchy and succulent, certain to make you feel pampered while nibbling at the water's edge, second floor setting.
A tip to getting the best seat in the house? Ask for a table along the lanai overlooking the beach and the ocean. Especially around sunset, this might very well be the best lookout from anywhere. It might take an extra 20 or 30 minutes, but the wait in the bar is pleasant and the view over dinner is well worth it.
Barefoot Bar beachside at the Hale Koa Hotel
Ahhh, the mai tai. Perhaps the signature drink in the islands, served here with a pineapple wedge and an orchid, there are slightly different versions and recipes. It has been said, though, that the most killer and the best value mai tai's on the island are one in the same, and found at the Barefoot Bar at the Hale Koa Hotel, beachside.
This outdoor venue is the ultimate tropical vacationer's paradise setting, a place to sit and relax and take in the beauty. And while you do need a military ID card to stay at the hotel, the Barefoot Bar is open to everyone.
Open daily from 11 a.m.
Known for chef Roy Yamaguchi's Hawaiian fusion style cuisine, no matter where you go, Roy's Restaurant is a landmark. With locations in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and Texas, the food is always masterfully prepared and amazing to eat.
The most difficult part about deciding what to order at Roy's is that everything sounds good, and, if you've ever been there, you know everything is good. What you really want is one of each.
Well, now you can. The canoe for two is Roy's sampler, and includes the grilled Szechuan pork ribs, seared tiger shrimp, spicy tuna roll, Big Island jumbo lump crab cakes, and spring rolls. Get it to share, … or order it for dinner. The combination of their signature appetizers sometimes changes, but the canoe is a delightful way to try everything. Mac 24/7
Located in the lobby level of the Prince Kuhio hotel on Kuhio Avenue, the restaurant's mantra is "We don't close, unless it snows!"
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served all day and all night. What a great concept in a resort town where time zone changes and jet lag is common. At Mac 24/7, the food is plentiful and the prices are reasonable.
Portions are large, think Alice and Wonderland size coffee cups and saucers, monster pancakes or bowls of saimin. The atmosphere is fun, the food is delicious, and the ingredients are fresh from local farmers, including organic meats and produce when available.