Due to its mid-Pacific location, the Honolulu International Airport (HNL), the largest airport in Hawaii, is distinguished for its direct flights to major cities in the continental United States, Asian countries and the Pacific Rim. Aside from this, HNL is also distinguished for the best eats surrounding its vicinity.
Below are my top four dining choices near HNL:
1.) da Big Kahuna's pizza 'n stuffs - Located in the Airport Trade Center at 550 Paiea St., da Big Kahuna is probably the only pizza vendor in the United States, which utilizes kalua pork for its pizzas. Kalua pork, commonly served in luau feasts, is a traditional Hawaiian food cooked using an imu, an underground oven. This prominent Hawaiian-style pork features in the da Big Kahuna's traditional and specialty pizzas namely da sumo special and kanaka. At $21.95 for 12" medium pan, da sumo special will bring you to another pizza experience as the smokiness of kalua pork and the Portuguese sausage blends sumptuously in the pizza's generous portion of black olives.
For those who prefer traditional pizzas, da Big Kahuna offers cheese, pepperoni, spinach, garlic and tomato, white, vegetarian and meat lovers. For those looking for something new, the da Big Kahuna offers specialty pizzas including kanaka, haole, protagee, pake, mexican, banzai, paisano, and texan. The da Big Kahuna is also known for its garlic cheese balls modestly priced at $6.25 per 12 pieces. For more information, visit their Menus page.
Drawbacks: Be warned: da Big Kahuna does not accept debit or credit cards. They only accept cash or personal checks from a local bank. I have to write a check to pay an order in my first visit. Furthermore, their stall, though with an inviting and laidback ambiance, is remarkably small for a well-known pizza house. It was already cramped with the influx of around a dozen and half of customers. The 15-minute waiting time also turned out to be 30 minutes.
Good for: Quick stop. No more, no less.
2.) Henry Loui's Restaurant - Three-minute drive from HNL, Henry Loui's is a fine dining restaurant known for its barbecued baby back ribs. The baby back ribs are available in half rack at $16.95 and full rack at $26.95. I ordered the full rack for my family (me, my husband and our two little boys). We ended up taking home a third of the serving as the portion size was generous. The ribs' fall-off-the-bone meat was liberally coated with mild sauce highlighting some hints of sweetness and acid but is lacking the usual spicy kick from most barbecued baby back ribs. However, the absence of heat makes the ribs appealing to the kids. Located at 2850 Paa St., Henry Loui's also serves pupus (appetizers), desserts, cocktails, and a selection of entrees for lunch and dinner. They are open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. For more information, visit their website.
Good for: Quick stop.
3.) Seven Palms Bar and Grille - Located in 943 Valkenburgh St. and is a three-minute drive from HNL, Seven Palms Bar and Grille is one of my favorite restaurants near the airport. The food is reasonably priced (a full rack baby back ribs costs $22.50), liberal in portion and tasty. The restaurant's ambience is also highly relaxing. You can eat in the second floor of the restaurant's building and enjoy the stunning view of the golf course or sit down on the couch in the first floor and be greeted by the gentle blow of the Hawaiian breeze. Seven Palms Bar and Grille offers a varied selection of menus for pupus, dinner, lunch, brunch and wines for cocktails. For more information, check this page.
Good for: Longer Layovers. Aside from being situated in the lush and spacious Navy-Marine Club House, Seven Palms Bar and Grille is also a few walks away from Moanalua Shopping Center and the Navy Exchange Mall at Pearl Harbor.
4.) Mitch's Fish Market and Sushi Bar - A minute drive from HNL, Mitch's Fish Market and Sushi Bar serves one of the best sushi in Hawaii. Specialties include salmon, lobster, abalone and toro sashimi. For more information, visit their website.
Drawbacks: The restaurant's location and ambience are not inviting. For a warehouse by the airport, I find the food a little pricey. You need to spend around $100/head for a complete, filling meal, and this is without the atmosphere of a fine dining restaurant. However, if you are a big time Japanese food lover, who is more into food rather than ambience, Mitch's sushi selection is worth the price.
Good for: Quick Stop.