As we travel throughout Hawaii, we love to experience good food. Recently, we found two restaurants, both in the same neighborhood of Honolulu, that far exceeded our already high expectations. Both require reservations, so book early to avoid disappointment. These are simply two of the best restaurants in Honolulu and perhaps in the Hawaiian Islands.
This is the 2022 James Beard Award Winner for best chef among eateries in the Northwest & Pacific. And it is the first Hawaii restaurant to be so honored in nearly two decades.
The small, easy-to-miss corner restaurant in Chinatown is, at its core, based on local farm-to-table movement convictions. So you’ll find culinary excellence, a great menu, Honolulu traditions, and seasonality, all celebrated ensembles.
The restaurant supports many local production vendors. The website says, “Welcome to our Hawaii/Brooklyn Hapa Baby.” And it fits in this New York meets Honolulu brasserie. They add about the venue, “Fête is a Seasonal New American neighborhood restaurant with local roots and a global outlook—where classic techniques meet island flavors & ingredients at their best. Our culinary point of view showcases the dishes we crave, using cooking methods from many cultures that all lead to simple, delicious cuisine.”
And while the food is fabulous, the environment remains humble, unpretentious, and casually laid-back in Honolulu, Hawaii style. The building is brick and wood, with an open kitchen.
The food is eclectic. We tried a wide variety of plates, including a quinoa cake appetizer, grilled carrots, JP’s risotto, market crab and seafood, and more. Then ended with their famous homemade rocky road ice cream. The waiter was great and helped navigate us through favorite menu items and various exemplary dishes made with local ingredients that best demonstrated the restaurant’s abilities for first-time visitors like us.
The costs were surprisingly reasonable in relation to the unique, high quality offered. Dinner for two, not including alcohol, was slightly over $100. We left comfortably full.
Location: 2 North Hotel St., Chinatown Honolulu. (808) 369-1390.
Hours: 11 am – 9 pm.
Tips: It is hard to get reservations for obvious reasons. Plan well in advance or plan to eat quite early (before 5 pm).
The Pig & The Lady
This is Chef Andrew Le’s casual Vietnamese fusion restaurant that attracts a huge influx of both locals and visitors. The restaurant is a treat for the senses in multiple ways. The flavors are fantastic while being largely unique and unexpected, the service was very good even though the restaurant was completely packed, and the overall experience was top-notch. It would be easy to walk by the restaurant without even noticing it is there.
We first came to The Pig & The Lady at the Saturday farmers market at KCC, where they have a food truck. Honestly, although that food truck experience drew us to the restaurant, the Chinatown location was vastly superior and more varied. There is a sister restaurant, Piggy Smalls, and they are at three additional Oahu farmer’s markets each week.
As with Fete, this is one of the hardest to get dinner reservations in Honolulu. So we opted for a late lunch. The food was great, and the environment was both casual and family with kids-friendly.
As for the food, there was nothing but great tastes, and we couldn’t wait for the next course. Among the things we tried were the green papaya salad, fried Brussels sprouts (do it!), Bahn Mi (Vietnamese mushroom french dip), and the vegan bun chay nuong.
But to be honest, the one thing that remains most memorable was the dessert. We were dumbfounded to find a soft-serve ice cream sign and machine in a Vietnamese noodle restaurant, and thought at first it was a joke. But the house-made ice cream was a unique combination of Asian tastes. It was topped by a molten white chocolate sauce which was poured at the table, and then hardened on the cold soft serve. Fantastic and innovative!
While the food perhaps wasn’t the most photogenic we’ve ever experienced, it was certainly among our best recent meals.
We want to share the details about the not-to-be-missed restroom, but honestly, it is best to go there and be pleasantly surprised.
You’ll find both residents and visitors enjoying this uber-popular spot where the costs are moderate. Dining for two, not including alcohol, was about $125. Be sure to check out the Yelp reviews.
Location: 83 N. King Street, Chinatown, Honolulu.
Hours: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm and 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.
Tips: It is not easy to get dinner reservations here, while lunch is more readily available. There is also seating at the bar, which, while we were there, was offered to arriving guests who had no reservation. That looked like to be a very nice table alternative. And if all else fails, enjoy their food at the Saturday farmers market at Kapiolani Community College across from Diamond Head. You can’t go wrong!
Have you tried these Honolulu restaurants?