My Guide to Supporting Local Businesses on Oahu
Supporting local businesses, and therefore local PEOPLE has become such an important part of my little family’s life since the pandemic showed us just how fragile some of them can be. I am so happy I moved to another place rich with small and local businesses, but I will of course miss my Hawai‘i favorites. I am thinking of this post as my goodbye love letter to my favorite local businesses in Hawai‘i. If you are local, and haven’t already tried these places out, what are you doing with your life?! And if you are visiting Oahu, I hope you choose to spend your money to support small local businesses and the people behind them during your stay. It’s a great opportunity to visit places you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I lived in the Moili‘ili area, so many of my suggestions are in that area or close by. If you are visiting and staying in Waikiki, these should be fairly close to you as well. I have included instagram handles when available!
For your morning cup of coffee:
Local Joe (@localjoehi):
I discovered Local Joe while searching for a coffee shop to shoot some photos in. But Local Joe isn’t just a pretty little cafe. They have incredible food and coffee, they roast their coffee in house (you can even see the roaster nestled between the tables), and their owner/barista/roaster is often behind the counter mixing up drinks himself. Great service, great spot, great coffee. I highly recommend it. Bonus points for being able to get a photo printed onto your coffee foam.
For your lei and flowers:
Ditch the basic strand of orchids you can pick up at the ABC store, and visit Le Flowers instead. You’ll know you’re supporting local lei makers when you buy, because you can literally see them sewing strands of flowers together in shop. They can also help you decide what to buy based on which flowers/foliage are longer lasting, and which are most popular for particular events/celebrations.
For your evening or afternoon (or morning, I don’t judge) drink:
Aloha Beer Company (@alohabeercokakaako):
Hands down, my favorite brewery on island is Aloha Beer Company. Their beer, their space, and their food, are all top notch. At some point during COVID they created a beer garden outdoors, which in my eyes has made Aloha Beer the perfect place to grab a drink (or two or five) on Oahu. They make some mixed drinks too, if beer isn’t your thing. There is also a speakeasy right above it called Hi Brau. It’s been closed during COVID, but when things reopen, it’s another spot I’d recommend for cocktails (or just more Aloha Beer).
Amuse Wine Bar (@amusewinebar):
If you’re more of a wine gal or guy, Amuse Wine Bar is my favorite wine spot. You can order off of the wine list, or you can load some money on a wine card, and use that to buy small pours at their many wine spigots throughout the venue (not sure how this is working during COVID). It’s a great spot to get a little dressed up. I highly recommend the brussel sprouts and the kimchi grilled cheese on their menu too!
Off the Wall (@otwhawaii):
And if you love beer AND wine, check out Off the Wall. Similar concept to Amuse, except rather than loading up a card with money, your card tracks how much you pour at each spigot and you pay at the end. They’ve got a wall of beer and a wall of wine, and great food on their rotating menu! They also have outdoor seating which is nice for a late morning gathering (again, you’re on vacation).
For your grocery runs:
Down to Earth (@downtoearthhi):
This is a local vegetarian grocery chain. They have a hot food bar and salad bar as well as a variety of health food and vegetarian options including locally grown produce! It can be pretty pricey, but I would stop by for produce and the hot bar fairly often. Their breakfast burritos, summer rolls, and potatoes au gratin are favorites of mine.
Kokua Market (@kokuamarkethawaii):
This is a local co-op grocery store that also stocks a TON of locally grown produce and other products. I’ve never had their hot food bar, but I’ve heard some pretty great things. This one is also a bit pricey, but you’re supporting local farmers!
This first one is also a local grocery chain. They’ve recently started selling meal kits, which I think would be a perfect way to try some local recipes and avoid buying groceries you may not get to. They also happen to be my go-to spot for a poke bowl (or just poke by the pound). Poke has really taken off recently, but while I’ve been able to find poke bowls on the mainland, none have compared to just your basic Foodland bowl. No frills, no extra toppings, just delish raw fish and rice.
Off The Hook (@offthehookpokemarket):
I actually hadn’t tried this until a couple weeks before we left, but Off the Hook has some seriously delicious poke, including some classic seasonings and some inventive ones. I am a huge fan of their wasabi and ginger poke! They are also located in Mānoa valley, which means you get to see some natural beauty on your way there and back.
Goodwill Hawai‘i (@goodwill_hawaii):
Yes, technically a national chain, but Goodwill Hawai‘i supports people in Hawai’i, so I’m counting it. My favorite locations were the one in Kaimuki and the one in Pearl City.
Assistance League of Hawai‘i Thrift Store:
Probably my favorite. They shut down temporarily during the pandemic, but the daily sales here were incredible. Their clientele is mostly older folks, so I wasn’t competing for things that were my style. It was basically a gold mine.
Rapid Fire Restaurant round:
You’ll notice I didn’t include any restaurants on this list. That’s because the list of restaurants I don’t like would be much shorter than those I love and wish I could support everyday. If you’re dying for some recommendations, though, here are a few. Just know this list (while long) is definitely not complete, and there are a ton of amazing restaurants on the island worth your money. Yelp is your friend.
For sushi/Japanese: I-naba (best sushi I’ve ever had)
For Mexican food: Los Chaparros (@loschaparrosmexicanrestaurant) - Incredible food and service, HUGE portions
For Brunch: The Nook (@thenookhi) or Scratch Kitchen (@scratchkitchenhi) - For your rustic yet boojie feel
For casual/diner feel breakfast: Koa Pancake House (@koapancakehouse) - Your cheap, local, perfect for a hangover breakfast
For Hawaiian Food: Highway Inn (@myhighwayinn) - Try the tasting plate if you can!
For Ramen: Wagaya (@wagayahawaii) - Just perfect in every way, including the ability to customize everything from spice level to noodle thickness, and has great lunch specials.
For a Sandwich: Earl(@earlkakaako & @earlkaimuki) - Shout out to pregnancy for leading me here
For (can’t think of anything else to say other than…) unhealthy, but SUPER worth it: Jolene’s Market (@jolenesmarkethnl) - The Birria melt is probably horrible for you, but AMAZING.
For Hot Pot: Sweet Home Cafe (@sweethomecafe808) - Free dessert, and an amazing sauce bar.
For great food on the water: Restaurant 604 (@restaurant604) - Apparently they have an amazing bloody mary. I hate bloody mary’s, but I love their mimosa sampler, their lunch menu, and the views and Nico’s (@nicospier38) - Delicious seafood on the water.
For Mediterranean food: Doner Shack (@donershackhi) - This was on my husband’s must eat before we leave list.
For Thai Food: Phuket Thai Express (@phuketthaiexpresshawaii) - The express is better than the regular. I have no idea why.
For Korean BBQ: Pearl’s Korean BBQ (specifically the location attached to Don Quijote next to Ala Moana. They give you huge scoops of sides) or Sikdorak (@sikdorak808) if you want all you can eat deliciousness.
For Vietnamese or Vegan: Ripple of Smiles(@the_ripple_of_smiles) - “AMAAAAAZING vegan pho” -me, a non-vegan)
Again, there are definitely places that aren’t on this list that I’d revisit in a heartbeat, but I figure this is a good place to get started. I will miss my old favorites, but I am so excited to find my local Vermont favorites very soon. PLEASE let me know if you have any recommendations for local businesses in Vermont, Hawaii, or wherever you may be. And definitely let me know if you try anything from this list!