© Jen Davidson

The best spots to eat, drink and stay in and around Honolulu.

October 21, 2015

Jen Davidson is the general manager at Barbuto in New York City. She also oversees the restaurant's social media and special events, and manages chef Jonathan Waxman's crazy events schedule.  

I love traveling to festivals with chef Jonathan Waxman like the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival every September. It is an incredible week of events with local and out-of-town chefs celebrating their love of Hawaiian food and culture. We get to hang out with so many friends, like chef Clayton Arakawa, born and raised on Oahu, currently the chef of the Mauna Lani on the Big Island, and chef Drew Curren of Easy Tiger, 24 Diner and other restaurants in Austin, Texas.  

WHERE TO STAY

 © Jen Davidson

The Halekulani is perfection! Incredible service, right on the beach, and it has beautiful views of Diamond Head. They have the best Mai Tai on the island. My favorite way to enjoy it is with a basket of potato chips, watching the sunset. 2199 Kalia Rd, Honolulu

WHERE TO EAT

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Killer Poke: Ono Seafood Takeaway
Poke, poke, poke! Ono's menu is simple, with a few variations of poke. I would go here every day for lunch if I could! Besides the ahi poke—diced fresh raw ahi tuna, ogo (seaweed), white onion, green onion, Hawaiian chile pepper, shoyu and sesame oil with white or brown rice—they also have a refrigerator full of dried ahi, spicy smoked tako (octopus), boiled peanuts and kukui nuts. 747 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu

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Juicy Roast Pork: Alicia's Market
It’s a convenience store that opened in 1949 with great local Hawaiian-Chinese food, like fresh poke and delicious roast pork. 267 Mokauea St, Honolulu

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Hangover-Busting Loco Moco: Aloha Terrace
Loco moco is a classic Hawaiian dish. The most common version is white rice, a hamburger patty, brown gravy and a fried egg  We were told the "best" choice at Aloha Terrace, which opened a few months ago, was the rib eye loco moco, and trust me, it was! The rib eye was seasoned perfectly. Great after one too many glasses of rosé. 740 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu

 Mud Hen Water

Reinvented Poke (With Beets): Mud Hen Water
I love eating Ed Kenney's food. His commitment to local and seasonal cooking is amazing. At Mud Hen Water, his newest restaurant, I had grilled dragon beans with shishito romesco; I have never had dragon beans—they’re very similar to romano beans—and I never thought of making romesco with shishito peppers. So smart. I also had poke-style beets, made with ogo (seaweed that gave the dish a salty flavor and crunchy texture), macadamia nuts, sesame seeds and avocado. So good! 3452 Waialae Ave, Honolulu

Perfect Pasta: Town
I always have to make a trip to Ed Kenney's other restaruant, Town, where his ethos is “Local first, organic whenever possible, with aloha always.” I had a teriffic linguine with ahi tuna, fennel, capers, chiles and tomatoes. 3435 Waialae Ave #104, Honolulu

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Superfresh Udon Noodles: Jimbo Restaurant
After a drink next door at Pint and Jigger, we stopped in to Jimbo by recommendation of our Uber driver. He mentioned that there is a cook solely dedicated to rolling out their fresh noodles, hour after hour. It’s owned by Naoki "Jim" Motojima, who spent two years in Japan learning to perfect Udon noodles. I loved the hot curry udon and the gyoza (dumplings). And it’s BYOB. 1936 S King St #103, Honolulu

 © Jen Davidson

Awesome Fried Chicken: The Pig & The Lady
After cooking at pop-ups and farmers' market stalls, Andrew Le opened The Pig & The Lady in Chinatown. The roasted brussels sprouts with brown butter, fish sauce and clementine are killer. And so is the Loatian fried chicken with pickled chile, kaffir lime, roasted peanuts and shallots. We also had great pho and chicken fat rice. 83 N. King St, Honolulu

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Surprising Scotch Egg Dumplings: Hale Ohuna
I’m a big fan of Leeanne Wong's first restaurant on Oahu, Koko Head Café, and now she’s opened this new spot (Hale Ohuna means "secret home" in Hawaiian). It’s a noodle bar and has a sake and whiskey lounge as well. The noodles were great and so were so many other things—kampachi crudo, scotch egg dumplings, crudité. 3605 Waialae Ave, Honolulu

 © Jen Davidson

Perfect Pork Buns: MW Restaruant
It’s run by a husband and wife team, Wade and Michelle Ueoka, who make refined versions of traditional Hawaiian food. Try the pork buns—soy-braised pork belly, bao buns, ginger scallion oil and pickled jalapeños—and ahi nachos with avocado salsa and rice cracker chips. The Laulau plate was great too. 1538 Kapiolani Blvd #107, Honolulu

 © Jen Davidson

Incredible Coconut Malasadas: Leonard's Bakery
I can’t go to Oahu without hitting up the iconic bakery Leonard’s. The original malasadas coated with sugar, cinnamon sugar or li hing and the custard-filled malasadas—haupia (coconut) is my favorite—just make me so happy. 933 Kapahulu Ave, Honolulu

Sweet Coconut Shrimp: Mackey's Shrimp Truck
It’s fun to head up to the shrimp trucks on the North Shore. At Mackey’s, we grab beer at the convenience store next door to drink with coconut shrimp and garlic butter shrimp. They have picnic tables and chickens roaming around the grounds. 66-632 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa

Crispy Tonkatsu: Shirokiya
The Japan Village Walk has lots of great vendors in this cool Japanese shopping center. Everything from food products to cosmetics and books. They're moving into an even bigger space next year. Check out the yataimura (food court) for ramen and tonkatsu. Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd #2250, Honolulu