O’ahu-dwellers take food very seriously. We are satisfied by only the freshest of ahi, smoothest of açaí, and fluffiest of shave ice. But how is one to distinguish the best from the “bleh” in the expansive Honolulu food scene?
We at Spoon have you covered. Our ultimate guide to eating around UH Mānoa will be your go-to, whether you’re a newcomer to campus looking for a bite to eat during lunch or a seasoned senior with the 2 AM munchies.
1. When you have the munchies at 2 AM: Zippy’s
Anyone who has had the munchies knows that your stomach magically becomes a place where glorious, greasy, caloric food goes to die. Luckily, this 24-hour restaurant chain serves anything you could possibly be craving, from “local ‘kine grindz” to giant vats of chili. True-blue Hawai’i kids appreciate the real value of this beloved fast food staple, no matter what the time of day.
What to order: The Zip Pac. It hits all of the major meat groups (teriyaki beef, SPAM, mahimahi and fried chicken) and comes with a nice serving of rice. Need we say more?
Location: 1725 S King St, Honolulu, HI (6 minutes away from Sinclair Library)
2. When you need to grab lunch for under $10 between classes: Banán
Banan is known for its Diamond Head food truck, but everyone is talking about the recently-opened branch across the street from campus. Their bowls, which are blended with bananas, are filling and within a college student’s budget. The mellow atmosphere and homey decor, complete with fake grass for you to chill on, make it a great place for you to de-stress during your lunch break. All while you’re being green and helping the environment.
What to order: When you’re craving fruit and want to show off on Instagram, get the Papaya Bowl. It’s both cute and delicious.
Location: 1810 University Ave, Honolulu, HI (5-minute walk from Campus Center)
3. When you’re sick of Starbucks on campus: Morning Glass Coffee + Café
For you Starbucks fanatics out there, join the Morning Glass vibe and relax for a cup of coffee. Their drinks are, quite honestly, way better than Starbucks’, and there’s an awesome bearded barista to thank for that. This cafe is in the valley, so you can usually enjoy your food and drinks while watching the rain sprinkle down on Mānoa.
What to order: A large matcha latte is a must. Hot or iced, it’s always a good choice until you take the last sip… (sad face.)
Location: 2955 E Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI (6-minute drive from the Center for Korean Studies)
4. When you’re going on a Tinder date: Bread + Butter
Bread + Butter is great for a first date, especially if you’re meeting him or her for the very first time. The restaurant’s modern atmosphere is perfect if you want to dress up a little bit while still keeping it low-key and casual. Opt for drinks and pupus if you want to swipe left mid-date and end it quickly, or for a full-on meal if it’s looking like this person is worthy of some post-date Netflix-and-chill.
What to order: If you’re a seafood fan, their Lobster Bisque Mac + Cheese is the winner. They will serve it while it’s still boiling in a personal iron skillet.
Location: 1585 Kapiolani Blvd, Honolulu, HI (9-minute drive from Lower Campus)
5. When you’re craving Mexican: Serg’s
No matter where on campus the Serg’s truck is parked, you will always catch a whiff of their food and inevitably be lured in. Honolulu isn’t exactly known for its Mexican food scene, but Serg’s will definitely keep you coming back for more. Their portions are always big, so they’ll hold you up for the rest of the day. Taco Tuesdays at their restaurant location is always lit.
What to order: Their flouta is one of their most popular dishes (and for good reason).
Location: 2740 E Manoa Rd, Honolulu, HI (6 minutes from the bookstore)
6. When you’re craving greasy food: Franky Fresh
Franky Fresh is the place to go if you feel like sinking your teeth into a big ol’ burger or downing a not-so-classic shake. The people at Franky’s have a serious love for the 80’s; they play old-school hip-hop in the background and their menus come on vinyl records. You can even work up an appetite playing on a Super Nintendo system while you wait for your food.
What to order: We love Heavy D the rapper, but we might love the Heavy D sandwich even more. It’s loaded with chicken tenders, mozzarella cheese sticks, and onion rings and topped with flaming buffalo sauce. Don’t forget to have one of their cereal-flavored milkshakes to go with it.
Location: 3040 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI (12-minute walk from Hale Aloha Towers)
7. When you’re craving seafood: Ahi Assassins Fish
This hole-in-the-wall establishment doesn’t mess around with their ahi. They serve freshly-caught seafood at great prices, so if you don’t come early enough, don’t be surprised if they’ve run out of supplies for the day.
What to order: You can’t go wrong ordering a classic spicy ahi bowl with some smoked marlin dip or poi crunch on the side.
Location: 2570 S Beretania St, Honolulu, HI (14-minute walk from Hale Wainani)
8. When you’re trying to be healthy: Leahi Health
If college life is taking a toll on your body, eating here is a step in the right direction. Leahi Health serves clean eats that are mostly vegetarian, yet very filling. They also serve smoothies blended with kombucha if you want something lighter. If you’re not into kombucha, you have the option to build your own smoothie out of a list of possible ingredients.
What to order: Get the Surfer Bowl, a flavorful salad of kale and veggies topped with furikake and ginger dressing. A guilt-free and filling meal.
Location: 3441 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI (5-minute drive from Gateway House)
9. When you’re trying to be romantic: Paesano
What says “romance” more than a candle-lit pasta dinner? Each table at this cozy little restaurant comes decorated with a candle and single rose. You’ll be sure to get in the mood in no time.
What to order: The free bread and chicken Sorrentino are to die for.
#SpoonTip: To save money, order the large size and share.
Location: Manoa Marketplace, 2752 Woodlawn Dr, Honolulu, HI (8-minute drive from campus)
10. When you’re “doin’ it for the Insta”: ARVO Café
Restaurants can’t get much more artsy than ARVO. Bonus points for being attached to a succulent shop. Just a disclaimer: in hopes of getting that perfect shot, you’ll probably spend less time eating than adjusting the angles and position of your fancy toast.
What to order: Since you’ll probably be taking pics for a while, the avocado toast is a safe choice; you won’t risk it getting all cold and nasty. Plus, it comes with cute little flowers on top.
Location: 675 Auahi St, Honolulu HI (18-minute drive from campus)
11. When you’re craving something sweet: Frost City
If you are tired of eating shave ice, try having shaved ice cream. It’s a creamy-yet-light twist on the Hawaii snack staple. The comfy vibe of the shop and the board games that are available to play make Frost City a great place to socialize when you’re enjoying your sweet treats.
What to order: The decadent Mud Pie Shaved Ice Cream, which is topped with cookie powder and a chocolate drizzle.
Location: 2570 Beretania St, Honolulu, HI (14-minute walk from Hale Wainani)
12. When you’re craving a slice: Boston Pizza
Boston’s has perfected the art of the pizza, from their chewy crusts to their gooey cheese. To someone who has never had Boston’s, it may seem a bit expensive at around $5-$8 dollars a slice, but don’t worry; it’s worth the money because the slices are just as delicious as they are large.
#SpoonTip: Check in with Yelp and get $1 off your slice.
What to order: Veggie-lovers should order the Big Red, while for meat-lovers, the Meatzilla is a no-brainer.
Location: 3506 Waialae Ave, Honolulu, HI (5-minute drive from Hale Aloha Towers)
13. When you or your friends don’t eat meat: Peace Café
Peace Café is one of the more well-known vegan and vegetarian cafés near campus. It has a large variety of foods to choose from and comes in large portions, so you might have leftovers to take home. They also serve unique drinks, including a kinako (roasted soybean) latte and grain coffee.
What to order: The Tex-Mex, which comes with black beans and quinoa, is great if you’re hungry. If you’re just chillin’ and chatting with a friend, go with the kinako latte.
Location: 2239 S King St, Honolulu, HI (6-minute drive from campus)
14. When you turn 21: Tropics
A chill, fun place to hit up when you finally turn legal. Every night has a different kind of special, from Taco Tuesdays to Thursday college nights, so it’s always a good time. Not to mention, while you’re there, you can often catch your favorite team’s games on TV or listen to live music.
What to order: Crispy Calamari is always the best decision for when you are out with a group of friends and want something to split.
Location: 1019 University Ave, Honolulu, HI (5-minute walk from Orvis Auditorium)
15. When you’re hungover: Aloha Vietnamese Food
You wouldn’t believe what a nice, piping-hot bowl of pho can do for your pounding headache and churning stomach after a long night out. Aloha Vietnamese Food will have you back on your feet for class in no time.
What to order: Their brisket and sirloin pho is just right when you’re not feeling a heavy meal. Add Sriracha or plum sauce for flavor and jalapenos to open your sinuses.
Location: 2320 S King St, Honolulu, HI (5-minute drive from Sinclair Library)