By Mari Taketa Nonstop Honolulu


The 15,000 to 20,000 of you who are descending on Waikiki as I type will leave an estimated $120 million in our economy, much of it in our restaurants. I know that just like me, you work for your dollar — or your yuan, peso, ruble, ringgit, baht, kina or yen. And as one whose foodie heart slumps when bad travel planning forces me to endure a mediocre meal, I’m making it my personal mission to make sure you eat well.

Some of you will have all meals accounted for. Surrounded by state security teams, you’re rarefied — no advice from me will improve your life. Others will be grabbing plastic-wrapped sandwiches and bad crudite platters between meetings and deadlines. My sympathies there.

That leaves the intrepid, able-bodied and lowest-ranked among you, wandering Waikiki in search of good eats: You I can help.

You’ll flock to Duke’s, Roy’s, Nobu’s, House Without a Key, Mai Tai Bar. You should; they’re all nice.

But do you want great yakiniku? Try Yakiniku Hiroshi, the grill-your-own place favored by Roy Yamaguchi (339 Royal Hawaiian Ave., 923-0060).

Steak? You’ll find six steak houses clustered in this stretch. Hy’s is the granddaddy, with servers flambeing desserts at your tableside (2440 Kuhio Ave., 922-5555). At d.k Steak House, you can also order nouveau sushi rolls from sister restaurant Sansei next door (Waikiki Beach Marriott, 2552 Kalakaua Ave., 931-6280).

Do not forgo the bacon appetizer at Wolfgang’s (Royal Hawaiian Center, 2301 Kalakaua Ave., 922-3600). Gourmands who don’t mind chewing will like the hanger steak at BLT (Trump Tower, 223 Saratoga Rd., 683-7440). And Chuck’s Cellar has a cozy 70s vibe and consistently good prime rib (150 Kaiulani Ave., 923-4488).

Ramen? Waikiki has more than the usual shoyu and miso. Try the chige miso with hearty noodles at Menchanko-Tei (Waikiki Trade Center, 2255 Kuhio Ave., 924-8366) or the oxtail or spicy miso bowls at Ramen Nakamura (2141 Kalakaua Ave., 922-7960). One of the best and most decadent: Sansei Seafood Restaurant‘s crab ramen with truffle broth.

More noodles? Housemade udon, cafeteria-style (trust me, your first time down the line will be a minor thrill) at Marukame (2310 Kuhio Ave., 931-6000). Deep, well-flavored Saigon-style pho at Pho Old Saigon (2270 Kuhio Ave., 922-2668). Handmade soba, hot or cold (try it with the rich duck broth) at Matsugen (255 Beachwalk Ave., 926-0255).

Grab-and-go? Fried-to-order Israeli-style falafel at Da Falafel King, an unassuming cart in the Waikiki Trade Center (2255 Kuhio Ave., 223-7899). Polish dogs with spicy relishes and fruity mustards at Puka Dog, where the bun gets toasted from the inside (2301 Kuhio Ave., 924-7887). Gourmet Chicago, chili and Hawaiian dogs at Hank’s Haute Dogs (International Market Place, 2330 Kalakaua Ave., 924-9933). Hot, made-to-order Japanese rice balls at Iyasume, a hidden hole-in-a-wall in a tiny alley (2410 Koa Ave., 921-0168). Iyasume riffs on Spam musubi; make sure you try one of those.

Healthy? Try Grylt‘s spin on the local plate lunch (Waikiki Shopping Plaza food court, 2250 Kalakaua Ave., 924-7958). My personal rec: seared ahi topped with a combo of Asian fusion and sun-dried tomato oils, with grilled baby romaine hearts and garlic cauliflower mash. You’ll find light, contemporary Japanese dishes at Kaiwa, a beautifully designed izakaya (Waikiki Beach Walk, 226 Lewers St., 924-1555).

I could go on, but you’re all leaving on Sunday, right? Right?

Eat well, APEC! A hui hou!

Nonstop Honolulu