My boyfriend and I love exploring all the flavors of Hawaiian cuisine whenever we travel to Honolulu, so I always make sure to sample plate lunches. For those who don’t know, plate lunches have been around since the late 1800s when Hawaii’s pineapple plantation workers shared their traditional home-lunches of rice with meat – which became an iconic combination loved to this day.
One great way to try these delicious meals is by sampling from some of Oahu’s local restaurants, drive-ins, or shacks. Each dish includes scoops of white rice topped with meat (like Kalua pork, Kalbi ribs, katsu, Portuguese sausage or seafood), paired with a heaping side of mac salad.
My boyfriend and I love Hawaiian plate lunches and tried all the famous ones on our past trips. So I’ve put together an article with detailed descriptions of the best places for plate lunches in Honolulu! Things like the variety of meat, flavoring, and pricing are mentioned so you can decide which one best suits your tastes.
Let’s go have the best plate lunch in Honolulu!
Alicia’s Market – Best Local Plate Lunch Honolulu
If you want to start your food tour right after landing, take a rental car or taxi to Alicia’s Market, which is a short drive from the airport and has the best plate lunches in Honolulu.
Sadly, a fire burned down Alicia’s original store, and they reopened in a smaller location in the same area. However, you can still get their famous plate lunch flavors in bowls as poke, with lots of great sides.
Their menu has a range of poke bowls in nearly thirty flavors that are crowd favorites. For example, try the Tako and spicy Ahi poke bowl with their special potato mac salad that’s finger-licking good.
We loved the Roast Pork with Wasabi Masago Ahi and smoked onion tako. My boyfriend and I ended up having two helpings each – it’s just that good!
They also have a variety of meat to go in the bowl lunches, like turkey tail, Furikake salmon, char siu ribs, and roast beef, which are all prepared fresh.
You’ll love the bowl lunches at Alicia’s Market, and make it your go-to place for quick and tasty food in Honolulu.
- You can get the poke in a platter serving for parties and larger groups.
- The prices are super low, starting at $9 for a huge poke serving.
- There’s street-side parking and a small lot nearby to park in.
Address: 267 Mokauea St, Honolulu, Oahu, HI.
Rainbow Drive-In – Best Hawaiian Plate Lunch Honolulu
Technically still in Honolulu, but a bit far off, makes this spot a hidden treasure with the best plate lunch in Oahu. Locals swear by Rainbow Drive-In for their authentic Hawaiian flavors and excellent plate lunches.
Their best is the Mixed Plate, which includes BBQ beef, boneless chicken pieces, Mahi Mahi, a scoop of macaroni salad, and two scoops of rice. The portion sizes are generous, and the meat is grilled perfectly.
Another crowd favorite is the Loco Moco plate with juicy, fried hamburger patties, fluffy rice, homemade brown gravy, and a side of mac salad. We love their loco moco plate a lot and drive out to Rainbow Drive-In on every Oahu trip to have it.
Their menu has other delicious items like the BBQ plate, Shoyu Chicken, and cheeseburgers. Plus, you can get a side of their mac salad, and Mahi Mahi added to any meal, which makes it taste ten times better.
The casual, diner-style atmosphere of Rainbow Drive-In, with locals lining every booth, makes it a great place to grab the best plate lunch in Honolulu.
- They’re usually crowded, but you can get a table after a short wait.
- There’s neighborhood parking available.
- Prices are cheap, at nearly $10-15 per person for lunch.
Address: 3308 Kanaina Ave, Honolulu, Oahu, HI,
Diamond Head Market and Grill – Best Steak Plate Lunch Honolulu
If you’re taking the hike to Diamond Head, then stop by this market afterward for a delicious and fulfilling meal. They’re crowded from the opening time at 7.30 am, and you can get pre-packaged takeaway meals like sandwiches, plate lunches, and desserts, all made fresh daily.
Crowd favorites at Diamond Head Market and Grill include Teriyaki Chicken, with a special teriyaki sauce that comes as a sandwich, a single serving plate, or a full serving that’s enough for two people.
You can’t miss their terrific NY steak plate, a large piece of NY steak cooked to your desired temperature, on scoops of rice, and mac salad. My boyfriend is a fan of this plate for how juicy and well-cooked the steak is.
Their other plate lunches are equally as good, like the Kalbi beef plate, char siu ribs, Portobello mushroom, Surf and Turf, and Mix Plate with a portion of all the meats.
You can’t go wrong with a meal at Diamond Head Market and Grill since they have the best steak plate lunch in Honolulu.
- They bake fresh scones every day in fruit flavors like pineapple and blueberry.
- The prices are low for generous portions, at $9-15 for plate lunches.
- There’s limited open-air seating in the parking lot for dining.
Address: 3158 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, Oahu, HI.
Pioneer Saloon – Best Plate Lunch Downtown Honolulu
This hole-in-the-wall eatery with a casual, no-frills interior is the perfect spot to get a seafood plate lunch that’s hearty and flavorful. Since Pioneer Saloon is a local hub, you’ll always find crowds here, but the efficient waitstaff clears up a table for newcomers quickly.
Try their Japanese-inspired plate lunches featuring seafood like Furikake salmon, Miso or garlic butterfish, Halibut, and a variety of Mahi Mahi. You can also get the seafood on its own or served as a side to your plate lunch.
We love their garlic scallops, Cajun butterfish, and Mahi Mahi katsu, paired with the house potato salad, making this a delicious meal for all ages.
Tourists love this unique spin on the classic plate lunch flavors, and you will, too, after trying them. Undoubtedly, Pioneer Saloon serves one of the best plate lunches in Honolulu.
- Their menu is extensive, and you can get a variety of meals aside from seafood.
- Try the rack of lamb plate, Hawaiian Ono plate, Mochiko Chicken plate, and fried oysters for great lunches.
- Their great service boasts regulars who have been coming here for years.
Address: 3046 Monsarrat Ave, Honolulu, Oahu, HI.
Nico’s at Pier 38
Enjoy a terrific plate lunch with harbor views from Nico’s outdoor seating area, that’s both casual and well-maintained. Their menu has great seafood, caught fresh and prepared daily, that’s incorporated into the plate lunches.
Their Hawaiian Plate is a crowd favorite and includes Laulau, kalua pig, and Lomi Lomi salmon served over white rice and a side of poi. You can also try their Plate of the Day, with the chef’s choice of seafood, that’s always fresh and delicious.
Aside from plate lunches, Nico’s is famous for its dinner entrees like Ahi Furikake salmon, Spicy Crab Cake burger, and Catch of the Day.
We love Nico’s for their variety of fresh seafood and relaxed dining atmosphere, and you will too since they serve one of the best plate lunches in Honolulu.
- They have great appetizers and sides like fried calamari, garlic salted fries, and fish bites.
- Service is excellent at Nico’s, with attentive waitstaff.
- Their prices are higher than other plate lunches, at nearly $20.
Address: 1129 N Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu, Oahu, HI.
Guava Smoked adopts a unique approach to barbecuing their food by smoking it from guava wood that gives an intense flavor to the meat. In addition, they’re a bit far from Honolulu’s most crowded tourist spots, so you can enjoy a quiet meal here.
You can get a plate lunch with your smoked meat of choice; chicken, pork, duck, salmon, butterfish, served with Mac Salad or green salad, and two scoops of Hapa rice. Add a sunny side egg to your plate for an incredibly delicious meal.
Their menu has plenty of variety, with smoked meat in all the burgers, sandwiches, bowls, and pupus (appetizers). In addition, if you like the smoked meat served here, consider getting the frozen packaging (in various sizes) for a BBQ at home.
Guava Smoked is the best place for trying authentic Hawaiian food with a unique flavor twist.
- Their meat and pupus come in party-size platters for larger groups and events.
- They sell a yummy guava bar with walnuts for $1.91.
- The prices for plate lunches start at $8-12.
Address: 1637 Republican St, Honolulu, Oahu, HI.
Wrapping Up: The Best Plate Lunch Honolulu
If you come to Honolulu and don’t try the mouthwatering and fresh plate lunches prepared daily, I’m sorry to say you’ve missed out.
These plates are authentic to Hawaiian cuisine and cater to all food audiences with staples like protein, carbs, and veggies in their mix.
Want to try the best Hawaiian plate lunch? Head to Rainbow Drive-In.
Love steaks in your plate lunch? Don’t miss Diamond Head Market and Grill’s juicy steaks.
Need a great view with your casual lunch? Don’t miss Nico’s at Pier 38.
The plate lunch in Honolulu is unmissable!
Last Updated on February 7, 2023 by Brigitte