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The 10 Best Places to Find Hawai‘i Food in the Bay Area

From Spam musubi to malasadas

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Contemporary Hawaiian food is having a moment in San Francisco, with exciting new restaurants serving fun twists on island dishes. It’s a different style than the typical fast food-style, plate lunch spots for local food — an amalgamation of Asian influences thanks to waves of migration to Hawai‘i — like chicken katsu with mac salad and rice. The poke shops have been taking over neighborhoods with speed over the past few years can also trace their roots to Hawai’i

However, we didn’t include either genre here, since they’re both quite common and the quality often doesn’t vary much. Instead, we give you 10 great places to find Hawai‘i food, whether it’s old-school kālua pork or deconstructed Spam musubi; as a bonus, most of them are also great places to grab a cocktail, or enjoy a leisurely brunch.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Pineapples

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Head to Pineapples for the most refreshing taste of the islands: A mountain of wispy, Hawaiian-style shave ice available in tropical flavors like passion fruit, pineapple, and papaya. Order a scoop of vanilla or pineapple-coconut ice cream tucked inside and load it up with mochi, shaved coconut, and, most importantly, a snow cap of condensed milk.

Outer Orbit

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Outer Orbit is both a pinball bar and contemporary Hawaiian restaurant, serving dishes heavy on the fusion aspect. Its riff on lomi lomi features trout instead of salmon, plus guacamole, taro chips, and pineapple dust, while the surf and turf loco moco combines prawns, smoked lamb ribs, and mushroom gravy.

Liholiho Yacht Club

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Ravi Kapur is careful not to call his restaurant Hawaiian, but he does infuse perennially popular Liholiho Yacht Club with influences stemming from his Hawaiian-Indian heritage as well as aloha spirit. The resulting dishes feel wholly unique and alive, whether it’s the beef tongue-kimchi steamed buns or tuna poke on a nori cracker.

Sam Choy's Poke to the Max

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James Beard Award-winning Sam Choy is one of the biggest names in Hawaii, and he’s brought his casual, Washington-born restaurant to San Bruno. Poke rice plates are the main draw, but there’s also loco moco, kālua pork, katsu sandwiches, and different kinds of musubis.

Morning Wood

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Prepare to wait at this brunch hotspot, which serves a mix of Japanese- and Hawaiian-inspired morning fare. That might look like an eggs Benedict with kalua pork and cabbage on a cruffin or matcha mochi pancakes in the vein of butter mochi. For a truly Hawaiian, local food experience, order the Spam — straight from a can — with two eggs, rice, and toast.

Roy's Restaurant

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Roy Yamaguchi is one of the founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, a movement toward showcasing local ingredients and upscale techniques alongside the islands’ fusion of Asian influences. Now, there are more than a dozen locations of Roy’s, including this one in SoMa. It’s a great place to taste classics that influenced a generation of cooks, such as tuna poke with wonton chips or blackened ahi with soy-mustard butter sauce.

Trailblazer Tavern

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Michael Mina’s enormous Hawaiian restaurant gives a big platform to Hawaiian chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, who serve contemporary spins on Hawai‘i dishes like Dungeness crab lumpia, deconstructued Spam musubi, mochi-crusted opah, and porchetta lau lau. Located inside the Salesforce East building, Trailblazer also features a hoppin’ bar.

What started as a Hawaiian-style brunch pop-up has morphed into one of San Francisco’s most exciting restaurants. The malasadas and Portuguese sausage hash still draw reliable brunch crowds, but the contemporary dishes at dinner — particularly the tasting menu — are particularly impressive. Note: Aina is temporarily closed for personal reasons, and is expected to reopen in February. Stay tuned for updates.

Noelani's Island Grill

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Local food rules at Noelani’s, with plate lunches like slow-roasted pork with cabbage, chicken katsu, and skirt steak marinated in guava — all of which come with furikake-topped rice, mac salad, and slaw. But this is a sit-down restaurant with other classics like loco moco, poke, Spam musubi, and malasadas for dessert.

Hukilau

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Hukilau might be the Bay Area’s best old-school Hawaiian restaurant. All of the typical local dishes are here, like poke, grilled Portuguese sausage, grilled mahimahi sandwiches, and saimin noodle soup. There’s even a traditional luau-style plate filled to the brim with pork lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, and kālua pork.

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Pineapples

Head to Pineapples for the most refreshing taste of the islands: A mountain of wispy, Hawaiian-style shave ice available in tropical flavors like passion fruit, pineapple, and papaya. Order a scoop of vanilla or pineapple-coconut ice cream tucked inside and load it up with mochi, shaved coconut, and, most importantly, a snow cap of condensed milk.

Outer Orbit

Outer Orbit is both a pinball bar and contemporary Hawaiian restaurant, serving dishes heavy on the fusion aspect. Its riff on lomi lomi features trout instead of salmon, plus guacamole, taro chips, and pineapple dust, while the surf and turf loco moco combines prawns, smoked lamb ribs, and mushroom gravy.

Liholiho Yacht Club

Ravi Kapur is careful not to call his restaurant Hawaiian, but he does infuse perennially popular Liholiho Yacht Club with influences stemming from his Hawaiian-Indian heritage as well as aloha spirit. The resulting dishes feel wholly unique and alive, whether it’s the beef tongue-kimchi steamed buns or tuna poke on a nori cracker.

Sam Choy's Poke to the Max

James Beard Award-winning Sam Choy is one of the biggest names in Hawaii, and he’s brought his casual, Washington-born restaurant to San Bruno. Poke rice plates are the main draw, but there’s also loco moco, kālua pork, katsu sandwiches, and different kinds of musubis.

Morning Wood

Prepare to wait at this brunch hotspot, which serves a mix of Japanese- and Hawaiian-inspired morning fare. That might look like an eggs Benedict with kalua pork and cabbage on a cruffin or matcha mochi pancakes in the vein of butter mochi. For a truly Hawaiian, local food experience, order the Spam — straight from a can — with two eggs, rice, and toast.

Roy's Restaurant

Roy Yamaguchi is one of the founders of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, a movement toward showcasing local ingredients and upscale techniques alongside the islands’ fusion of Asian influences. Now, there are more than a dozen locations of Roy’s, including this one in SoMa. It’s a great place to taste classics that influenced a generation of cooks, such as tuna poke with wonton chips or blackened ahi with soy-mustard butter sauce.

Trailblazer Tavern

Michael Mina’s enormous Hawaiian restaurant gives a big platform to Hawaiian chefs Michelle Karr-Ueoka and Wade Ueoka, who serve contemporary spins on Hawai‘i dishes like Dungeness crab lumpia, deconstructued Spam musubi, mochi-crusted opah, and porchetta lau lau. Located inside the Salesforce East building, Trailblazer also features a hoppin’ bar.

Aina

What started as a Hawaiian-style brunch pop-up has morphed into one of San Francisco’s most exciting restaurants. The malasadas and Portuguese sausage hash still draw reliable brunch crowds, but the contemporary dishes at dinner — particularly the tasting menu — are particularly impressive. Note: Aina is temporarily closed for personal reasons, and is expected to reopen in February. Stay tuned for updates.

Noelani's Island Grill

Local food rules at Noelani’s, with plate lunches like slow-roasted pork with cabbage, chicken katsu, and skirt steak marinated in guava — all of which come with furikake-topped rice, mac salad, and slaw. But this is a sit-down restaurant with other classics like loco moco, poke, Spam musubi, and malasadas for dessert.

Hukilau

Hukilau might be the Bay Area’s best old-school Hawaiian restaurant. All of the typical local dishes are here, like poke, grilled Portuguese sausage, grilled mahimahi sandwiches, and saimin noodle soup. There’s even a traditional luau-style plate filled to the brim with pork lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, and kālua pork.

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