Honolulu: Eat & Drink

By , Wednesday, Dec 14, 2005, 6:03 PM

EAT Diamond Head Market and Grill
3158 Monsarrat Ave., 808/732-0077
A health-conscious lunch spot. Order a grilled ahi sandwich to go, or sit inside and nosh on specials like the mochiko chicken bento. The blueberry scones make for a memorable breakfast, too.

EAT Kaka'ako Kitchen
Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 808/596-7488
The best local cuisine ever to be served on a Styrofoam plate, and the most affordable way to sample chef Russell Siu's latest creations. The ingredients used here-Nalo salad greens and fresh ahi, for example-also show up on the menu at 3660 on the Rise (3660 Waialae Ave, 808/737-1177,, Kaka'ako's older and more expensive cousin.

EAT Eggs 'n Things
1911-B Kalakaua Ave., 808/949-0820
It's breakfast only at this surfing-themed joint. The egg and pancake specials start flying at 11 p.m. and keep coming until 2 p.m. the next day. Expect all walks of life after hours, from musicians and chefs just off work to famished insomniacs.

EAT Jimbo's
1936 S. King St., 808/947-2211
Jimbo Motojima's place is a well-kept secret-few tourists know about its awesome homemade rice, soba, and udon noodles, served with smoky broth and extras like shrimp tempura, vegetables, and seaweed. Warning: Lunch lines are long. Advice: Call ahead for take-out.

EAT Leonard's Bakery
933 Kapahulu Ave., 808/737-5591
An institution since the 1950s, and known for fresh-out-of-the-fryer Portuguese malassadas and malassada puffs. Only the coconut-haupia or guava-custard filling in the malassada puffs lets you know you're not in Lisbon.

EAT Ono Hawaiian Foods
726 Kapahulu Ave., 808/737-2275
Locals line up here for the authentic pork laulau (the meat is wrapped in taro leaves and steamed) and poke (a seviche-like dish). Ono adds its own twist to poi (a paste made from taro) by fermenting it slightly; add a little sugar and it tastes as good as yogurt.

EAT Rainbow Drive-In
3308 Kanaina Ave., 808/737-0177
A Honolulu favorite since 1961 and one of the best places to try a Hawaiian-style plate lunch: your choice of a main dish (such as teriyaki beef or boneless chicken) plus two sides, usually one scoop of macaroni salad and two scoops of white rice.

EAT You Hungry
1695-D Kapiolani Blvd., 808/949-8707
Visitors are unlikely to hear much pidgin spoken in the islands-it's more of a private language for locals-but the Hawaiian restaurant You Hungry provides a taste. Instead of regular and large, the menu distinguishes between "sorta hungry" and "hungry" portions; a toothpick jar is labeled like pick teet?

SPLURGE Hau Tree Lanai
Inside the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel, 2863 Kalakaua Ave., 808/921-7066
Outdoor seating on the Gold Coast of Waikiki (at the Diamond Head end of Kapiolani Park). The Pacific Rim specialties like garlic seared ahi or mango-marinated pork chops are particularly good. Reservations are a must; request one of the romantic oceanfront tables.

The quintessential Hawaiian cocktail, the mai tai (Tahitian for "the very best") was actually created in California at the tiki-themed chain restaurant Trader Vic's in 1944. The recipe didn't make its way to the islands until the '50s. Though the fruity rum concoction has gradually devolved into a cough-syrupy mess, a handful of hotel bartenders still know how to mix up the real deal. House Without a Key is the hands-down favorite. Its version has a slight hint of almond, and is served over crushed ice with fresh mint, purple orchid, lime, and a sugar cane stirrer (Halekulani hotel, 2199 Kalia Rd, 808/923-2311). Four runners-up: Hau Tree Lanai (Kaimana Beach Hotel, 2863 Kalakaua Ave., 808/921-7066), Mai Tai Bar (Royal Hawaiian Hotel, 2259 Kalakaua Ave., 808/923-7311), The Banyan Veranda (Sheridan Moana Surfrider, 2365 Kalakaua Ave., 808/922-3111), and Barefoot Bar (Hale Koa Hotel, 2055 Kalia Rd., 808/955-0555).