Diamond Head Market & Grill
What This informal joint in a residential neighborhood east of Waikiki is a takeout favorite.
Who Kelvin Ro used to cook at the governor’s mansion; now he serves dishes that pay homage to Hawaiian plate lunch classics such as teriyaki beef and char siu pork, along with occasional diversions like portobello mushroom burgers, grilled tuna steak with wasabi aioli, and a vegetable medley of kabocha squash, zucchini, and eggplant.
Don’t miss Chef Ro’s tangy Korean barbecued chicken, one of his signature dishes, is paired with fried pork wontons and spicy kimchi; wash it down with some Hawaiian lemonade, sweetened with tropical blossom honey from the Hawaii Island Honey Company. 3158 Monsarrat Ave.; 808/732-0077; lunch for two $15.
Nico’s at Pier 38
What Early risers know the best place for catching breakfast is this waterfront café on one of the commercial piers along Nimitz Highway, next to Honolulu’s daily fish auction.
Who Buoyant chef Nicolas Chaize, originally from Lyon, reinterprets island favorites for dockworkers and fishermen, who order fried rice with hot Portuguese sausage and kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) or French toast made with Molokai sweet bread from Kaneohe Bakery.
Don’t miss Chaize’s loco moco— the Hawaiian version of a Denny’s Grand Slam: white rice, two beef patties, and fried eggs, topped with a mushroom-onion gravy worthy of a Gallic grand-mère. Stick around for an alfresco lunch (ahi tuna belly, garlic-crusted mahimahi) under the green awning, and watch trawlers bobbing at the dock. 1133 N. Nimitz Hwy.; 808/540-1377; breakfast for two $12.