The 15 Absolute Best Hawaiian Restaurants In The US

For many mainlanders, true Hawaiian cuisine feels out of arm's reach. Isn't it only for those who live day and night, sun and surf, tan and fin on the islands? News flash, that's actually not the case. Hawaiian food is far from dormant. In fact, it's on the rise (per Datassential). In a conversation with Nation's Restaurant News, Hawaiian chef Troy Guard, commented on the growing trend, saying, "[People are] noticing that Hawaiian cuisine is more than what we once thought." 

Let's break this down 'ono grind (or, delicious food) style by speed-introducing you to some classics you might be missing out on. While poke gives the U.S. a lot to cut their teeth on, there's more to Hawaii than meets the fish's eye. There are comforting favorites from deep-roasted kalua pork to heart-clogging loco moco, lavender-looking poi, and mounds upon mounds of sticky rice. As with most quick encounters, that's just the beginning.

Feeling FOMO yet? Don't worry — your next tastebud vacation appears closer than you think (no need to gamble on which day or week to use up paid vacation time). From coast to coast, and big city to small city there are fancy kitchens, low-key fish shops, and mom-and-pop shacks that throw surf and turf around like legends. They don't just cook. They clean, chop, steam, fry, and roast some of the most innovative and classic Hawaiian food on the mainland and islands. Here are the absolute best Hawaiian Restaurants in the U.S.

Noreetuh - New York City

At Noreetuh, the walls speak for themselves. Aside from the occasional pictures of sea turtles, rolling waves, or other island memorabilia, hundreds of polaroids fill the spaces in between. Each and every one of them captures smiling regulars, friends, and staff. These snapshots aren't cheeky decor, they're testaments to how Noreetuh, a casual yet intimate island affair, blossoms off 128 First Avenue. So what's behind all the smiles? Is it tropical amusements like hula skirts, luaus, or fire-eaters? Well, you're not too far off from the coin. These wide grins are a result of the dining room's attraction — the food on their plate. Chef and Co-Owner Chung Chow meticulously crafts beautiful food experiences that look like minimal works of art for a reason. In a conversation with Thrillist, Chow explained, "We try to do something that's very unique, something that's different, something I enjoy cooking and ... grew up with."

Chow, a Chinese-American and Hawaiian native, has quite the restaurant record. Before starting Noreetuh he prepared French cuisine at three-Michelin-starred, Per Se. Eventually, Chow hung up his haute cuisine apron, opened Noreetuh's doors, and reinvented the wheel on island comforts close to his heart. Now, he delivers artful riffs like beef tongue musubi, Iberico pork belly skewers (a well-loved side by Grub Street), and even chocolate haupia sundae. If you're a curious eater — consider yourself welcome, as The Infatuation describes it, this menu is best delighted by inquisitive palettes.

Rutt's Cafe - Los Angeles

When Paul Wahba bought Rutt's Cafe from Ken Nakamaejo in 2000, he had plans to turn it into a pizza parlor. "I didn't even know what Hawaiian food was," Wahba confessed to the LA Times. Nakamaejo set out to change that. For two weeks straight, he invited Wahba into the kitchen and introduced him to every Hawaiian staple from the shredded, juicy kalua pork to the gastric-heavy loco moco; they even painstakingly deconstructed the Hawaiian Royale (a Rutt's Cafe's specialty). Nakamaejo was determined to change Wahba's mind one dish at a time. Like the countless feel-good endings of Hallmark movies, Wahba had a change of heart. Nearly 20+ years later, Wahba's kept the Hawaiian tradition alive and well (and yes, pizza still hasn't made its way to the menu). 

One of those such traditions is thanks to the Hawaiian Royale which holds a long-standing record of wowing diners (including Guy Fieri). It's the perfect mix of high-calorie adventure trekked by hidden bean sprouts, savory rice, meat options galore (your choice ranges from Spam to chicken, bacon, and even shrimp), the comforting bite of well-done scrambled eggs, and a simple, yet defining garnish of scallions to make it slightly healthy. As Eater tells it, it's a marriage of beautiful scraps that were left over. Someone's trash may be another man's treasure, but at Rutt's it seems loyal regulars are in on the gold rush of a Hawaiian Royale.

Kauai Family Restaurant - Seattle

Chef and owner Peter Buza — a man who got his start in cooking upon returning home to Kauai from Seattle after serving in the military — learned nearly everything he knows about pots and pans from his late father-in-law, Roy Oshima. They collaborated in Oshima's restaurant where Buza slowed down and became intimate with island life all over again. This back-to-his-roots homecoming inspired him to return to Seattle and start sharing his island take with mainlanders at Kauai Family Restaurant. The take starts with breakfast and bleeds through the remains of the day with traditional plate lunches packed high with creamy macaroni salad, your choice of fried or white rice, and choice of meat ranging from Hawaiian bbq to tonkatsu and even adobo chicken. The Seattle Times called the plate lunch something worth writing home about. It's salty, creamy, heavy, lick-off-the-plate good. 

"When I first opened the restaurant, it was about sharing our culture," Peter Buza reminisced to South Seattle Emerald, "... that's what I want when people try our food." Washington's home to the third largest Hawaiian population on the mainland and islanders frequent this beloved neighborhood joint often. While it's no longer dine-in, Kauai still manages to satisfy even the loudest of stomachs with plates packed full in styrofoam-to-go containers. Before you head off for the day, don't forget to pick up one of the Spam musubis. The Infatuation claims it's the best they've ever snacked on.

Ate-Oh-Ate - Burnside, Oregon

While they offer a myriad of other fortifying options, Ate-Oh-Ate's signature dish is its tried and true Hawaiian plate lunch. This simple dish and neighborhood joint is Chef Benjamin Dyer's tribute to his Hawaii stomping grounds. "I'm just trying to make each dish as good as it can be," he tells Eater, "so I am trying to keep it fairly true to the classic plate lunch place." While it's a place largely manned by Chef Dyer, Ate-Oh-Ate is overseen by Your Neighborhood Restaurant Group, a Portland-based company run by several chefs whose goal is to create "well-loved neighborhood spots." And Ate-Oh-Ate is just that — friendly, high-quality, and authentic down to the last bone on your plate. It's where beers wait patiently on draft, and quietly in bottles; where colorful cocktails abound and frosty piña coladas topped with bright pink, yellow, or blue floral umbrellas are helpful when washing down that last bit of sticky-sweet teriyaki chicken down your gullet.

The community-friendly vibes abound here at Ate-Oh-Ate keep flowing even way past the confines of the kitchen. At the second location (appropriately sitting off Woodstock Street), some proceeds go forth and benefit the Cleveland high school football team. They also host nights where proceeds go towards local nonprofits and schools. "It is important to be constantly evolving to meet people's [and neighborhoods'] needs and wants," Dyer shared with The Bee. Who knew a carnivore's wonderland could be so giving? (Heads-up vegetarians, the menu has tofu too!)

Aloha Specialties - Las Vegas

Aloha Specialties serves up ono grinds in a rather unlikely place. It's located in Las Vegas' California Hotel and Casino — a spot more immediately known for sardine-packed tourists, singing slot machines, and overpriced small plates than it is homey, down-to-earth food — but that doesn't stop Aloha Specialties from attracting a rather faithful crowd. According to the Los Angeles Times, it's estimated that nearly 85% of the restaurant's guests are Hawaiian. So what's attracting the island crowd to Nevada's ninth island? While the bright orange and blue decor might remind someone of their childhood days spent in the fray of dining rooms in Gatti's Pizza — the food sails you away to island flavor paradise with its generous portions able to nurse you from even the harshest of Sin City's hangovers.

The spam musubis look like they have more in common with the size of bricks than of fig newtons. The loco mocos swim in an ocean of gravy with white peaks of rice towering above. One fun dish worth mentioning, their Ocha-Zuke, brings in a bit of bento-esque fusion to the forefront. Las Vegas Weekly called it best suited for those with "acquired tastes" as the colorful affair ranges from grilled mackerel to slices of spam and pickled vegetables. It's a bit of a smorgasbord, but meaningfully placed and complimentary. 

Lei'd Poke - Vienna, Virginia

If someone ever asks you in Virginia if you want to "Get Lei'd?" — always, resoundingly, without fail say "Yes." That phrase is akin to a rite of passage in the world of Tyson poke. Lei'd Poke is a place where lines snake all around the restaurant, where options like raw and baked fish, carbs of all shapes and sizes, furikake, and multiple shades of green abound. If it's not obvious yet, paralysis analysis is a common symptom here for first-timers (which is why the employees consider they're in the business of "happy endings hospitality"). They're like counselors but for poke. But don't fret — nearly every option you dress your tastebuds with is worth trying here so don't feel like you're missing out. 

If Tysons Reporter hails it as being the "second best" restaurant in the area, your choices are in good hands. If you're not much of a poke fan, Lei'd has your and other foodie orientations covered. From bento box riffs to onigiri snackables and thick plated macaroni salad — the food of all shapes and sizes at Lei'd is one truly worth munching on. Eater featured the restaurant along with a slew of enthusiastic reviews spanning from someone calling Lei'd Poke as memorable as what they've tried in Hawaii to another enthusiastically telling Lei'd to take all their money and run. Northern Virginia Magazine hailed it as a simple joint welcoming to both purists and playful poke eaters alike.

Mo' Bettahs - Utah (multiple locations)

Brothers Kimo and Kalani Mack had one dream: start a fast-casual Hawaiian chain that felt like a personal summer cookout. They didn't have much money, but their low chances determined them to try harder, work feverishly, and take risks — and lots of them. The first risk was trading in their belt buckles as Oahu bus drivers. The second risk was Kalani finding a one-way ticket to Seattle and Kimo following suit years later to escape the Hawaiian cost of living. The third risk spurred an idea. After years of no real business prospects, they started visiting every fast food chain they knew to learn trade secrets. "The only thing we knew how to do when we started our business was cook the food," Kimo Mack recalled to Utah Valley 360.

This is the story of Mo' Bettahs and it's just getting started. Now, they've quickly outstretched their hula skirts. They're expanding their footprint from 27 restaurants to even double (per QSR Magazine). For the Mack brothers, it's not a matter of how, it's just a matter of when. One faithful admirer of Mo' Bettahs admitted to the New York Times that Mo' Bettahs is going to be bigger and better than even "Chipotle and Panda Express." With every plate and styrofoam takeout cradling white snowballs of hot rice, mouthwatering sauces laced with ketchup, and chicken, pig, cow, and shrimp to appeal to every meaty desire — he may actually be right.

Aloha Chicken and Shrimp - Watuaga, Texas

If you think the closest thing you'll get to Hawaiian fried chicken is Chick-Fil-A's Polynesian sauce, you haven't been to Aloha Chicken & Shrimp. The islands are alive and well in the small college town. Here, you'll find an unassuming spot off the corner of a white-bricked gas station strip that's easy to mark if you keep your eyes peeled for a sign that reads Aloha Chicken & Shrimp in yellow tiki text. If you see it, park in an empty spot, maybe fill up on some gas, and instead of grabbing a snack for the road, head to the restaurant in the back to test your taste buds on some crispy, comforting goodness from a place that's really making a dent in reinventing poultry, island style.

In a state full of memorable fried chicken spots, Aloha stands apart. Fort Worth Weekly calls it the "finest meal you'll ever have in a convenience store" and to owner, Rex Pak, that's all he ever wanted. Pak shared with Fort Worth magazine, saying, "It's Hawaii's version of comfort food." Nearly every item you can order is based on a plate with the same formula — macaroni salad, white rice, and an egg roll the size of a miniature biscotti (unless you're getting a bowl, which holds a small island of rice and meat). Your meat choices (if not already suggested by the restaurant name) vary between both fried and garlicky poultry and shrimp. 

Maui Bus Stop - Fort Walton Beach, Florida

The most important info to know about Maui Bus Stop is that they're open every day. You don't need this information to catch a bus — you need it to get in on a Floridian secret. The outside architecture may look a bit familiar to you if you've ever ridden a Greyhound bus cross-country. It carries the same blue and white paint — but there's now surfboards outside. There's also no listing of bus times or routes, instead, there's a gigantic menu referring you to the quickest meal to get your island fix. Have you figured out the clue yet? Ding, ding! This old Greyhound Bus Stop turned into a Hawaiian grill. 

While this realization may bring about worries of food poisoning, let the resounding praise of reviewers calm your fears. One Yelper claimed it hit that island craving for being reminiscent of food they had in Hawaii whereas other TripAdvisor reviewers call Maui Bus Stop a hidden gem worth every greenback spent.

While this place is on the opposite end of the fine-dining spectrum, it's worth it to forgo your suit. Instead of Pino Grigio, there's ice-cold Maui brews, instead of sparkling water, there's syrupy Hawaiian Suns, and instead of high-balling prices for appetizer-sized food, there are mountains of warm loco mocos, teriyaki chicken, and more to please your palate. Sure, the food may not wine and dine you, but it'll find a way to sweep you off your feet to the shores of Hawaii.

Helena's Hawaiian Food - Honolulu

You can't visit Hawaii without visiting Helena's. It's more than a restaurant, it's an island institution. Helena's Hawaiian Food is the third restaurant in Hawaii to win a James Beard Award, has a hidden table in the back dubbed the "Bill Murray table", and the original owner's name isn't Helena, it's Helen. Now, Helena's is manned by Helen Chock's grandson, Craig Katsuyoshi. Despite being the new captain, Katsuyoshi keeps her traditions alive. Pipakaula, or dried salted short ribs, still drape like bats above the kitchen like it was 1946 (when they first opened). The only thing that's different is the accolades now plastered all over the walls. They bring about nostalgic memories of a grandmother showing off the prized possessions of her grandkids' accomplishments. In this case, Katsuyoshi took that baton. 

"Over the years, I've seen grandparents bring their kids, and now those kids are fully grown and they're bringing their kids," Katsuyoshi shared with Hawaii Magazine

Even though Helena's feels like home, it also buzzes with crowds on the daily. The short ribs and shredded kalua pork are a delight, that as Eater describes, is the "best food on Oahu". Aside from the food, the vibes are memorable. Blocks of freshly-cut haupia give islanders a peek at snowy-like treats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and the air drifts with the vapors of smoked meat. At Helena's, after 70 years, it's obvious it's a long-live kind of island tradition. 

Waiahole Poi Factory - Kaneohe

To know poi is to know Hawaii intimately. For the uninitiated, it's an ancient staple on most native islanders' tables and offers a unique texture — mushy, soft, sticky, and a tad bit chewy. To know poi is to also know the Waiahole Poi Factory. In a way, the factory's sheer existence is like a landmark love letter to poi. It's personal, up close, and devoted to sharing this humble root's tradition with locals and tourists alike. It's one part poi factory, one part restaurant, and one part interactive class where you get face to face with the true grind, mash, pull, and mortar smash that goes into making poi. 

"If you don't have starch, it's not a true [Hawaiian] meal," says Liko Hoe to Eater, about the necessity of this humble root at the table. While Hoe is the current owner, he brings with him quite a generational history. His parents, Charlene and Calvin Hoe bought out the Factory after it operated till 1971 and turned it into an art gallery which ran well into the 1980s. Eventually, Hoe's family felt a deeper pull, one that as they say, to help other Waiahole locals be "nourished by the food and spirit of our ancestors." In response, they reincarnated the factory back to its taro roots as a hand-pounded poi factory with the addition of a restaurant (which, by Hawaii Magazine standards, serves the delectable temptations like laulau, kalua pork, and even squid luau).

Mud Hen Water - Honolulu

Mud Hen Water may be the new dog in town when it comes to award-winning Chef Ed Kenney's foray into restaurants situated off Waialae Ave, but Kenney isn't. He's a local. His house is just up the ways from his other, now permanently closed restaurant called Town, but Mud Hen Water? It's a whole 'other beast. Why? Well, it takes Hawaiian comforts and renovates them beyond their bounds into contemporary, fresh avenues no one in Hawaii's played with yet. An example dish would be Laulau. Between the leaves, there's succulent Molokai venison, roasted local 2Lady Farmers pork, and a sour poi vinaigrette waiting to be cracked open. It's a daring dish, but meaningful and impactful. Where poi once sat in bowls, is now transformed as a tongue-pricking vinaigrette. 

Instead of loco mocos, Chef Kenney covers fresh eggs in corned beef paired with taro root, and serves veggie congee whipped with an emulsifying blend of shiitake, kombu, and vegan dashi amongst other ingredients as Chinese nod to the ever-popular poi. 

The restaurants' name serves a special meaning. It's a nod to Waialae street which means "Mud Hen." Kenney shared with Hawaii Business, "We never stop to think about what the words mean and why." His feverish attention to history and lineage as it appears with food is obvious in every dish. The ingredients are local. The menu changes with the season. It's a restaurant just as connected with Hawaii as it is changing it. 

Tin Roof Maui - Kahului

Before he opened Tin Roof, Chef Sheldon Simeon won the hearts of "Top Chef" judges enough to make it as a finalist with his beautiful, flavorful creations. At Tin Roof, he has different aspirations. In a conversation with Tasting Table, Simeon explained, "I spent that whole first season trying to impress [the judges] ... instead of [making] what I wanted to make," adding, "I realized I should have just been proud of my heritage. It's really special to be born and raised in Hawaii." In true mom-and-pop fashion, he swiftly opened Tin Roof. While he's not exactly in the business to tell people what to do, a cheeky-little offering about a six-minute egg on the menu may give you a small nudge towards a tasty direction. 

On the topic of critics, Chef Simeon couldn't be doing more right by their books. In a feature about the chef's new book, Bon Appetit shared that Tin Roof's mac salad is "as mayo-laden as it should be." To Hawaii Magazine, it's "Maui's hottest lunch spot." On the topic of customers, Chef Simeon also couldn't be doing more right by their stomachs. Lines often travel outside the front door even as past its closing time. And for Chef Simeon himself? He's doing it exactly the way he always envisioned, building an honest spot for locals and travelers alike to sit down, hang loose, and get a homey meal.

Ahi Assassins Fish Co - Kaneohe

The poke at Ahi Assassins Fish Co is fishy, but it's supposed to be that way; salty, breamy, and filled with life — even if it's chopped up in a bowl next to rice and a bit of spicy, knee-buckling mayo. Joshua Schade, owner of Ahi told Pacific Business News, "Some people will come in and ask, where's all the toppings? ... But poke isn't like that here, we're trying to accentuate the freshness of the fish, we're not trying to cover it up." 

Schade's faithful devotion to everything from the familiar tuna to the flopping flounder is admirable and driven by his past livelihood as a third-generation fisherman. This past colors nearly everything Ahi Assassins puts forth. At first, Schade and his wife Luna caught, cleaned, and chopped the fish themselves. Soon enough the demand outlived their capabilities. In response, they took to the docks and outsourced their fishing to the local fishermen community which now helps them reach an average of selling nearly 100,000 pounds of fish a year (per Pacific Business News).

Beyond their close ties to the local economy, it's also quite the assassin to poke-loyals elsewhere. Longtime Bon Appetit Food Contributor, Elyse Inamine, swore off all other bowls of poke for what she described as Ahi's ability to slap her "out of that subpar-poke fugue state." Craving the Hawaiian fish yet? Ahi Assassins actually offers an up-close and personal solution for mainlanders which they detail on the order page

Young's Fish Market - Kapolei

What would you do if you had a slow season in the family fish business? Wilfred and Charlotte Young's answer: start a grocery store, and when you want more than that, start a restaurant. Now, Young's Fish Market serves up laulau that's considered "set apart" from other Hawaiian eateries according to Dining Out. Their laulau is the tribute to true, Hawaiian cooking. It's the perfect mix of a slight tang with a gentle sweetness and full-meaty insides that simply explode out of the leaf like a bursting pinata. In a conversation with Where Hawaii Eats, Daniel Young, third-generation family owner, spilled the beans on what sets their laulau apart, sharing, "We still steam [the laulau] for the full four hours."

If you're not one to eat yourself funky with laulau on the menu, don't sweat. Young's Fish Market still offers elevated, true meals like kalua pork roasted to a golden brown and fresh tuna poke brought to life by pickled onions. While their macaroni salad may not be filled with mayo to the brim, it still offers a comforting bite back. Each plate from Young's is paired with almost a signature side — a fresh slice of steamed, speckled taro root. It's a rather perfect floral ending to a Hawaiian feast that's devoured, cherished, and recognized in a humble, little household market and restaurant in Hawaii.