Best Restaurants Downtown Honolulu: Hidden Gems You MUST Try

Aloha, fellow food enthusiasts!

I recently found myself in downtown Honolulu with my boyfriend for a week-long culinary adventure. As self-proclaimed foodies, we were determined to explore every nook and cranny of this vibrant and diverse city, sampling dishes from hole-in-the-wall gems to fine dining establishments.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the thought of discovering amazing new eateries gives me butterflies. And who can blame us? Nobody wants to waste their hard-earned dollars on a disappointing meal while missing out on the good stuff that’s just around the corner. That’s why I’ve put together a list of my top spots for downtown dining in Honolulu – because when it comes to great food, friendly service, price, and atmosphere – these places have got it all!

You see, my boyfriend and I have been exploring various cuisines for quite some time now; from seafood feasts to authentic Asian dishes made with fresh ingredients straight from the source. So trust me when I say that these recommendations are well-researched and thoroughly enjoyed by yours truly.

Warning: If you follow this guide (seriously though), be prepared to start receiving random dinner invitations from your newfound friends who just happen to overhear your conversations about these fantastic restaurants.

So without further ado or drumrolls necessary – let’s dive into those mouth-watering flavors waiting for us in downtown Honolulu!

#1 PAI Honolulu – The Best Restaurant in Downtown Honolulu

PAI Honolulu – Top sophisticated and internationally-inspired food

Address: 55 Merchant St #110, Honolulu, HI 96813

Located in Harbor Court PAI Honolulu is a treasure. And my favorite restaurant in the city. They serve savory, tasty, and fresh American and Asian fusion food. And they have a great bar with extensive wine options.

The entrance into the restaurant is elegant, surrounded by large glass windows, and you can see the modern bar as you come in. The inside is decorated in modern and light wood, with comfortable seating and nice spacing for privacy between the tables. There is also seating at the bar, and the kitchen is open, so it’s great to watch the food preparation. Service is prompt, and there is no waiting to be seated (provided you have a reservation).

They have several menus including a chef’s tasting menu, the 4-course menu (prix fixe), and a vegetarian tasting menu. Whatever you chose they have amazing options. Each menu is more than filled with multiple courses that are more than filling. Everything is served impeccably and freshly prepared from scratch.

My favorites include gems like the crab with chilled truffle corn soup and snow peas and the aged NY strip-loin with truffle-black bean shiitake puree and asparagus. The combinations of flavors are amazing. The protein is cooked to perfection and the sides everything is perfectly seasoned. This is truly a place with high-end flavors.

You must check out PAI Honolulu because:

  • You will love their elegant, tasty, and well-planned menus, with diverse and delicious courses.
  • They have great and extensive vegetarian options. And their other menus are a mix of seafood, fish, and red meat.
  • The space is elegant, simple, and comfortable for a casual date or some romance.
  • They have an extensive bar with great wine that can be paired with your meal.

#2 O’Kims Korean Kitchen – The best innovative Korean food on the island

O'Kims Korean Kitchen – The best innovative Korean food on the island

Address: 1028 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817

This unassuming hidden gem is packed with incredible flavor and the perfect ambient. I can’t get enough of it because I love the food and the space is pleasing and comfortable. The menu is extensive so no matter how many times you come, there is something to try. If you’re like me, you will love sitting on their small covered patio outside.

The restaurant has vegan, vegetarian, and meat-lover options. They have lunch and dinner service, as well as pick-up. But the best experience is dining in. The Korean chicken meal is amazing with deep-fried chicken, house-made gnocchi nuts, purple rice, green salad, and kimchi. Other wonderful options that we loved are the baked Mahi Mahi with clam chowder and sourdough bread and pork belly with miso sauce and apple ginger jam.

This is more of a mom-and-pop spot. So everything has a family feel and service is intimate and friendly. They are accommodating and check in on their guests often. I like that they are not pushy, and you won’t feel rushed. While here, make sure to try their Yuzu lemonade with delicious bits of yuzu floating around.

This is my close second pick for the best restaurant in downtown Honolulu. Make sure to visit them because:

  • This is a family-owned noncommercial restaurant that makes their food from scratch, in-house and the portions are generous.
  • The menu is creative and carefully planned with diverse options everyone will love.
  • The space is comfortable, simple, and clean.
  • They have monthly specials (rotate their menu) and new and changing items including their delicious desserts and drinks.

#3 Livestock Tavern – The Best seasonally inspired American food

Livestock Tavern – The Best seasonally inspired American food

Address: 49 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817

This great place offers dinner service every night and brunch on the weekends (both Saturday and Sunday). This is a perfect place with a touch of home. But still exciting enough for new experiences and tastes.

The inside of the restaurant is brick covered and somewhat industrial. They have a great full bar and an expert bartender. The seating is spacious with large tables and there are some booths. It’s a casual place where you can feel comfortable. I would say a mix between a nice restaurant and your favorite sports bar. (My boyfriend loved this place!)

There are so many great food options we ate here multiple times. My favorites are the smoked octopus with olives and artichokes, blue crab ravioli with roasted peppers, and the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with baked beans. Honestly, I’m hungry just thinking about it.

For those looking for some excellent drinks with their meal, they have cocktails, beer, ciders, an extensive wine list, and whiskey selections. I love this place because the food is delicious and there are no micro portions. Everything is hardy, filling, and tasty. The service is quick, friendly, and helpful.

Don’t miss out on this great place because:

  • The food is high quality, generously portioned, and a unique twist on some of our traditional favorites.
  • The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly, and perfect for a casual date or dinner with the family.
  • Service is impeccable, helpful, and genuine.

Top Downtown Honolulu Restaurants

Restaurant NameType of CuisineAddressKey Highlights
PAI HonoluluSophisticated and Internationally-inspired food55 Merchant St #110, Honolulu, HI 96813– Elegant entrance & modern interior
– Chef’s tasting, 4-course & vegetarian menus
– Extensive wine bar
O’Kims Korean KitchenInnovative Korean Food1028 Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu, HI 96817– Family-owned
– Vegan, vegetarian & meat options
– Monthly specials & rotating menu
Livestock TavernSeasonally Inspired American Food49 N Hotel St, Honolulu, HI 96817– Casual yet elegant ambiance
– Large portioned dishes
– Extensive drink options

Conclusion on the best downtown Honolulu restaurants

Downtown Honolulu stands as a hub of culinary experiences. This city center boasts an array of top dining spots in downtown Honolulu and is renowned for its diverse blend of Honolulu central cuisine. If you’re eager for some exceptional downtown Honolulu food recommendations, consider my top three suggestions. They’re a mix of American, BBQ, Korean, fusion, and more.

Honolulu’s urban dining options offer tastes from traditional Hawaiian food to contemporary fusions. While you might savor Portuguese sausage at one restaurant, another might surprise you with curry butter or oxtail soup. The must-visit restaurants in Honolulu downtown include gems like Lucky Belly, Mud Hen Water, and MW Restaurant. And, if you’re on the hunt for regional cuisine, places like Pig and the Lady or the sister restaurant of a popular San Francisco eatery might beckon.

Each venue, whether it’s a food court on the ground floor of Ala Moana Center or a James Beard award winner, promises an unforgettable dining experience. So, browse the menu consisting of local favorites and make a reservation. Enjoy your meal!


What is the dining scene like in downtown Honolulu?

Downtown Honolulu stands as a hub for exquisite, diverse cuisine. From local favorite eateries that satiate casual cravings to top-rated restaurants fitting for special occasions, there’s something for every taste bud. The Hawaiian restaurants particularly stand out with menus consisting of delectable small plates sprinkled with sesame seeds or hearty entrées decked with macadamia nuts, among other delightful dishes.

Any food recommendations for someone visiting the Honolulu city center?

If you’re looking forward to experiencing central Honolulu dining establishments and their culinary craft, do try places offering delicacies cooked in coconut milk or smothered in cheddar cheese – truly delicious! A few places are famed for their happy hour specials menu; catching these can make your urban dining experience even better. And don’t forget your daily OJ; some locations even fresh-squeezed their own orange juice!

Are there must-visit restaurants in downtown Honolulu according to reputable sources?

Absolutely! According to publications such as ‘Honolulu Magazine,’ several downtown Honolulu food recommendations have been provided, including chic eateries newly celebrating grand openings that quickly become hot spots on the top dining spots downtown list all the way down to long-established taverns serving up comfort food. Parking may present certain challenges at popular times but lots of these great eateries offer parking lot facilities helping provide an overall remarkable culinary experience.

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Brigitte