Catherine E. Toth

Correspondent

  • Oahu, Hawaii, USA

Catherine E. Toth is a correspondent who lives in East Honolulu and covers Oahu for Forbes Travel Guide. Born and raised on the island, Toth has been chronicling her adventures in her blog, The Cat Dish, for almost a decade. She worked as a newspaper reporter in Hawaii for 10 years and continues to freelance — in between teaching journalism, hitting the surf and eating everything in sight — for national and local print and online publications. She earned her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1999. Toth lives with her two dogs, Sunny and Indy, and has an extensive collection of surfboards.

  • On December 4, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What bars does Trump International Hotel Waikiki have?

    The Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge at Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk boasts some of the best handcrafted cocktails — referred to by the hotel as Liquid Artistry — on the island and its signature drinks lure the after-work crowds to its open-air lounge on the hotel’s sixth floor. The sunset views here are unmatched and the bar is home to the 2011 Mai Tai Festival’s “World’s Best Mai Tai” made with the award-winning blend of Bacardi 8, amaretto, ginger liqueur, kaffir lime sour, caramelized pineapple and pineapple-Bacardi sorbet.

    Its lunch menu features a nice selection of sushi, hearty salads, wraps, sandwiches, burgers and bento boxes (Japanese lunch box meals) with items like shrimp tempura, wagyu steak and pickled vegetables. For dinner, the menu expands to include cheese and charcuterie, baguettes and flat breads, and seafood dishes like miso butterfish, steamed clams in a garlic white wine sauce, and deep-fried angel shrimp with a housemade strawberry sweet-and-sour sauce.

    But where Wai’olu really shines is at sunset. Enjoy post-work nosh like crispy Thai chicken wings, seasonal poke with fresh island fish, edamame hummus and an extensive drink menu with artful cocktails, draft beers, and wine and shochu by the glass. On Friday nights this is one of the best places in Waikiki to view the fireworks that launch from the nearby Hilton Hawaiian Village.

    Wai’olu serves lunch from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Happy hour runs from 3 to 6 p.m. And dinner starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended, especially to get sunset-viewing tables.
  • On December 4, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What restaurants does Trump International Hotel Waikiki have?

    Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk’s signature restaurant — and the one that lures non-guests, too — is BLT Steak, a contemporary American steakhouse with locations in cities including New York, Atlanta, Miami and Hong Kong. It combines a bistro ambience with steakhouse fare and an impeccable French technique, with a menu featuring prime cuts of beef, fresh seafood and seasonal desserts. All of the beef served here is USDA prime or certified Angus, naturally aged before broiling at 1,700 degrees and finished with the restaurant’s herb butter. Every night the restaurant serves freshly caught local seafood such as ono (wahoo) and Keahole lobster prepared in a variety of ways. Sit on the trellised lanai or inside the dining room adorned with rich, hand-rubbed walnut floors and walls of artwork.

    The hotel’s sixth-floor In-Yo Café offers an international breakfast buffet every morning, with made-to-order omelets and signature dishes such as cinnamon roll French toast with toasted macadamia nuts and a Kona coffee anglaise, and malted waffles topped with strawberries grown in Kula, Maui.
  • On December 4, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    Where is Trump International Hotel Waikiki located?

    Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk sits on prime real estate in Waikiki on Oahu, literally steps from the beach but just outside the frenetic pace of Kalakaua Avenue. Standing 38 stories high on the western edge of Waikiki, the hotel boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Fort DeRussy Park all the way toward Diamond Head. The hotel stands at the corner of Saratoga and Kalia roads, just a mile east of Ala Moana Center, the state’s largest mall with more than 300 shops and restaurants, and 2.5 miles west of Diamond Head crater. Just about everything is within walking distance, including the boutiques and eateries along Kalakaua and Kuhio avenues, the Honolulu Zoo and Waikiki Aquarium, and the 300-acre Kapiolani Park, the largest, oldest public park in Hawaii.
  • On October 24, 2013
    Marie Bobel is now following Catherine E. Toth
  • On July 31, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What should I pack for a trip to Oahu?

    The beauty about packing for a vacation on Oahu is this: you don't need much — and whatever you forget to bring, you can buy.

    You don't need heavy sweaters or thigh-high boots or scarves. With consistent weather in the Islands — I'm talking the average summer temperature is 85 degree, the average winter temp around 78 degree — you can keep all your bulky, winter clothes at home.

    What you do need are the following:

    Swimwear: Even if you don't plan on hitting the surf or snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, it's good to have at least one swimsuit or board shorts in your luggage. At the very least, your hotel will likely have a pool.

    Sun protection: Most resorts will provide sunscreen for their guests, but it's always good to have your own bottle of high-SPF sunscreen, lip balm and face moisturizers. You might want to consider bringing a hat and sunglasses (preferably with Polarized lens), too.

    Waterproof camera: While Honolulu is a bustling city, it's still in the middle of a tropical island. That means there are photographic treasures everywhere, from the mountains that backdrop the city to the turquoise waters off the coastlines. Consider getting a waterproof camera, though, to capture shots from catamarans and surfboards.

    Comfortable shoes: Most residents wear slippers — or flip flops — around town. And that's perfectly fine. In fact, most establishments are OK with patrons wearing that for footwear. (Waikiki restaurants are particularly lenient.) But if you plan to walk around the city or hike on one of Oahu's many trails, you should bring along a comfortable — preferably broken-in — pair of shoes. Your feet will thank you later.

    Cash: While most businesses take credit cards, some only take cash, so have some on hand. ATMs are plentiful on Oahu, particularly in urban areas, but it's always good to have cash and coins nearby. (Parking meters on Oahu aren't outfitted to take credit cards, for example.)

  • On July 31, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best bakeries in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth There's no shortage of great bakeries on Oahu, each of them selling its signature dessert or baked good.

    Here are my six favorite bakeries on the island — and what you should buy from each:

    Kamehameha Bakery, 1339 N. School St., Kalihi

    This hole-in-the-wall bakery has been baking up some of the best glazed and poi (taro) donuts for generations. It's hard to find, tucked away in a brick building in Kalihi with a small storefront that's easy to drive past. But in the early morning, before the sun comes up, there's usually a line snaking out the door and on the sidewalk. WHAT TO GET: Poi glazed donuts, banana bread.

    Anges' Portugues Bake Shop, 46 Hoolai St., Kailua

    While Leonard's Bakery in Kapahulu has built a reputation for churning out the Portuguese fried dough called malasadas, this bake shop in Kailua on Oahu's windward side arguably makes the best on the island. The malasadas — fried dough doused in white sugar — are made fresh, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. WHAT TO GET: Malasadas, of course!

    Liliha Bakery, 515 N. Kuakini St., Liliha

    Since 1950, this neighborhood bakery has been serving up pies, pastries and cakes that draws customers from around the island. It even has a lunch counter — open 24 hours except on Mondays — where you can get pancakes, mahi mahi plates, beef stew and hamburgers. WHAT TO GET: Cocoa Puffs (cream puffs with a chocolate filling and topped with chantilly frosting), green tea rolls.

    Paalaa Kai Bakery, 66-945 Kaukonahua Rd., Waialua

    When you're on Oahu's North Shore, head to this hard-to-find bakery in the charming town of Waialua. It's one of those neighborhood bakeries that residents know about — but you likely won't find in any travel guide books. WHAT TO GET: Snow Puffies, delicate Napoleons filled with a smooth cream, and malasadas.

    Deluxe Pastry Shop, 45-1042 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe

    Located near another bakery — Kaneohe Bakery, which has great custard pies — is Deluxe Pastry Shop, a small bakery next to a laundromat with three parking stalls outside. It has daily specials on pies — the lemon custard is a favorite, though it's only made twice a week — and the pastries are almost always fresh. WHAT TO GET: Long Johns, apple pies.

    Larry's Bakery, 4369 Lawehana St., Salt Lake

    Once exclusively a wholesale bakery, Larry's Bakery offers old-fashioned desserts like chantilly cake, chiffon cake, dream cake, chocolate fudge cake, bread pudding and various roll cakes. It's located near Target, just a small window with hardly any signage. (Get your GPS ready!) WHAT TO GET: Iris' OMG (a brownies with cream cheese on a shortbread crust), white chantilly cake, haupia dobash double cake.

  • On July 31, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best bakeries in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth There's no shortage of great bakeries on Oahu, each of them selling its signature dessert or baked good.

    Here are my six favorite bakeries on the island — and what you should buy from each:

    Kamehameha Bakery, 1339 N. School St., Kalihi

    This hole-in-the-wall bakery has been baking up some of the best glazed and poi (taro) donuts for generations. It's hard to find, tucked away in a brick building in Kalihi with a small storefront that's easy to drive past. But in the early morning, before the sun comes up, there's usually a line snaking out the door and on the sidewalk. WHAT TO GET: Poi glazed donuts, banana bread.

    Anges' Portugues Bake Shop, 46 Hoolai St., Kailua

    While Leonard's Bakery in Kapahulu has built a reputation for churning out the Portuguese fried dough called malasadas, this bake shop in Kailua on Oahu's windward side arguably makes the best on the island. The malasadas — fried dough doused in white sugar — are made fresh, perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. WHAT TO GET: Malasadas, of course!

    Liliha Bakery, 515 N. Kuakini St., Liliha

    Since 1950, this neighborhood bakery has been serving up pies, pastries and cakes that draws customers from around the island. It even has a lunch counter — open 24 hours except on Mondays — where you can get pancakes, mahi mahi plates, beef stew and hamburgers. WHAT TO GET: Cocoa Puffs (cream puffs with a chocolate filling and topped with chantilly frosting), green tea rolls.

    Paalaa Kai Bakery, 66-945 Kaukonahua Rd., Waialua

    When you're on Oahu's North Shore, head to this hard-to-find bakery in the charming town of Waialua. It's one of those neighborhood bakeries that residents know about — but you likely won't find in any travel guide books. WHAT TO GET: Snow Puffies, delicate Napoleons filled with a smooth cream, and malasadas.

    Deluxe Pastry Shop, 45-1042 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe

    Located near another bakery — Kaneohe Bakery, which has great custard pies — is Deluxe Pastry Shop, a small bakery next to a laundromat with three parking stalls outside. It has daily specials on pies — the lemon custard is a favorite, though it's only made twice a week — and the pastries are almost always fresh. WHAT TO GET: Long Johns, apple pies.

    Larry's Bakery, 4369 Lawehana St., Salt Lake

    Once exclusively a wholesale bakery, Larry's Bakery offers old-fashioned desserts like chantilly cake, chiffon cake, dream cake, chocolate fudge cake, bread pudding and various roll cakes. It's located near Target, just a small window with hardly any signage. (Get your GPS ready!) WHAT TO GET: Iris' OMG (a brownies with cream cheese on a shortbread crust), white chantilly cake, haupia dobash double cake.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best coffee shops in Oahu?

    Since coffee grows in Hawaii, it shouldn't be a surprise that there are several stellar independent coffee shops and cafes on Oahu, serving up some of the best beans of the Islands.

    While Starbucks and other chain coffee retailers litter Oahu's sidewalks and shopping malls, here are a few locally owned and operated outfits worth checking out:

    The Curb, 2560 McCarthy Hall

    This coffee truck, located on the campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, takes its coffee brewing seriously, if not academically. It serves up perfectly brewed-to-order espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and mochas. Order the iced coffee and watch the barista brew it Japanese-style with a Chemex, with half of the water replaced with ice cubes at the bottom of the brewing vessel. Oh, yeah, this is serious.

    Beach Bum Cafe, Downtown Honolulu

    This microbrew coffee house in downtown Honolulu is a haven for aficionados who like their coffee done right. Its mission is to present the delicate and various flavors of Hawaiian coffee in their best possible form, roasted in small batches and served one cup at a time. So it may take a little longer to get your morning cup of joe, but it will be brewed by hand — and sometimes with a vacuum pot or Fresh press.

    Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe, Manoa

    Coffee is an artform here. The beans are meticulously sourced from around the world. The brewing method is exact. The cups are impeccably good. But not only is Morning Glass in Manoa a serious coffee shop, it's got a serious kitchen churning out delectable baked goods like cheddar cheese-and-bacon scones and coffee cakes.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best beaches in Oahu?

    Triple Crown of Surfing From the rocky coastlines on Oahu's southeast end to the cobalt blue waters off the leeward coast of the island, you'll find postcard-perfect beaches where can surf, fish, kayak or just lounge on the golden sand and read a book.

    Here are a few of my favorite beach spots on Oahu:

    • Sunset Beach, North Shore (shown above): This is one of the best and most famous surf spot on Oahu, located on the island's North Shore and part of a seven-mile stretch of world-class surf breaks. While monstrous winter surf is often the draw here, the summer months are especially nice, with calm waters and longer days to enjoy this gorgeous spot. NOTE: Winter brings dangerous surf to this area. Don't head out unless you're an experienced surfer. Check with lifeguards first.

    Kaimana Beach, Waikiki: Just a walking distance from the hotels of Waikiki and right next to the famed Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial (where the legendary Hawaiian Olympian Duke Kahanamoku once swam), is Kaimana Beach, a popular palm-lined sandy beach popular with residents and swimmers. But be warned: as Waikiki Beaches get more and more crowded, folks are flocking here to get away — and crowding this spot, too.

    Sandy Beach, East Honolulu: Past Hanauma Bay on Oahu's southeastern coastline is Sandy Beach, a favorite bodysurfing spot of Hawaii-born U.S. President Barack Obama. The massive shorebreak here is dangerous, though, and only experienced bodysurfers should swim out. But this long stretch of sandy beach is perfect for picnicking and lounging, too.

    Yokohama Bay, Waianae: The last beach on the Leeward Coast, Yokohama Bay is a pictuesque curvy beach with turquoise waters where you can sunbathe, surf and watch dolphins playing in the ocean. And if you feel like going on a hike, you can walk along the trails in the Kaena Point State Park, a protected area for native plants and seabirds.

    Kailua Beach, Kailua: While nearby Lanikai Beach gets most of the national recognition, this half-mile stretch of soft white sand might be a better bet. Far less crowded with more things — surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, swimming — to do, this beach is a great stop on your adventure to the windward side of Oahu. And after your morning at the beach, you can walk around charming Kailua town with its boutiques and eateries.




  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best local dishes in Oahu?

    Like anywhere in the world, Hawaii has its unique dishes, items you won't find anywhere else. (Well, except at a Hawaii-themed restaurant.)

    Here are a few must-eat local dishes that you can't miss while visiting Oahu:

    • Loco moco (shown above): This isn't the most photogenic dish, but it's easily one of the most ordered plates at any local drive-in, including Rainbow Drive-In in Kapahulu. The dish consists of the following: two eggs, prepared any way, on top of a hamburger patty, macaconi salad and a bed of rice, all of which is slathered in brown gravy. It's great after a session in the surf, trust me.

    Malasada: When the Portuguese immigrated to Hawaii in the early 1900s, they brought along this delectable dessert. Malasadas — which are only found in the Azores in Portugual, where most of the immigrants to Hawaii hailed — are basically fried dough doused in sugar. Some bakeries, like Leonard's Bakery in Kapahulu, add filling, too, like dobash chocolate and lilikoi cream.

    Spam musubi: An obvious fusion between East and West, the Spam musubi is a staple snack food in Hawaii. You can find these at take-out spots like Tanioka's Seafoods & Catering in Waipahu to every 7-Eleven on the island. It is just as it sounds: a piece of Spam, sometimes fried in a teriyaki sauce, on top of rice and wrapped in nori (seaweed).

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best clothing boutiques in Oahu?

    Oahu is a shopper's paradise, with an eclectic mix of high-end retailers to small, locally owned boutiques in every major urban area, from Waikiki to the North Shore.

    Here are three of my favorite boutiques:

    Fighting Eel, various locations (shown above)

    Local designers Lan Chung and Rona Bennett know how to design a dress that works at both the beach and the boardroom. The pair recently opened its third location in the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, right in the shopping district of Waikiki. As with its other two stores, this Fighting Eel boutique not only sells the latest FE and Ava Sky collections, but it offers clothing, jewelry and accessories from other local designers.

    Drift Boutique, 3434 Waialae Ave. in Kaimuki

    Hard-to-find but worth the effort, Drift Boutique in quaint Kaimuki appeals to that beach girl in all of us. Find shell earrings, one-of-a-kind beach bags, vintage quilts and more.

    Eden In Love, Ward Warehouse

    Owners Tanna and Bryson Dang ran The Wedding Cafe here and hosted wedding workshops that brought hundreds of brides to its shop in Ward Warehouse. These brides liked to shop — and trusted the pair — so they turned part of their store into a boutique. Its popularity has grown over the years and now the shop boasts a loyal following — not all brides — eager to see the new arrivals that hit its floor every week. But it's not just maxi dresses and perfect leggings. Eden In Love is stocked with accessories, too, like obi belts and infinity scarves.

  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What restaurants have the best views in Oahu?

    You'd be surprised.

    As picturesque as Oahu may be, not many restaurants have stellar views of the ocean or lush mountains.

    While there are a few — including the Top of Waikiki and Mariposa at Neiman Marcus — the best view right now happens to be at one of the island's newest steakhouses.

    The Signature Prime Steak & Seafood recently opened at the top of the Ala Moana Hotel, in the 8,150-square-foot space vacated by Aaron's and Nicholas Nickolas. And while two restaurants had signature dishes and stellar wine lists, folks went for the view. (See above)

    There’s really nothing like it. Two sides of the restaurant have ocean views. You can see the Friday night fireworks at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. And you won’t get a better seat for dinner on Fourth of July, either.

    This 275-seat fine dining restaurant features a menu with aged prime cut beef, fresh seafood, specialty cocktails and signature desserts. One of the menu’s standouts is The Signature Seafood Tower (priced for two) with Maine lobster, jumbo shrimp cocktail, New England sea scallops and oysters on the half shell.

    It's one of those special occasion restaurants, when you want to impress your date or celebrate a milestone in your life.

    Double points if you book the "fireworks" table, too. 

    The Signature Steak & Seafood, Ala Moana Hotel, 36th Floor, 410 Atkinson Dr. Hours: 4:30-10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (808) 949-3636
  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best places to hear live music in Oahu?

    Halekulani Hotel There's no better place to listen to Hawaiian music under the stars than in iconic Waikiki.

    Here are my three favorite spots:

    Duke's Waikiki, Outrigger Waikiki

    One of the most popular spots to listen to Hawaiian music right on Waikiki Beach is Duke's Waikiki, a bustling restaurant and bar right on the beach. Every night there are local bands and artists like Henry Kapono and Maunalua playing everything from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary reggae-inspired fare on the sands of Waikiki. Enjoy fresh island poke or fish tacos while listening from the restaurant or nurse passion fruit daiquiri or lava flow from the Barefoot Bar.

    House Without a Key, Halekūlani Hotel

    There’s nothing better than lounging under the century-old kiawe tree at the posh Halekūlani Hotel in Waikiki, sipping on a tropical mojito and enjoying some of the best live Hawaiian music around. This casual dining spot has featured live music nightly for years, making it a beloved tradition at the upscale hotel. Watch the sunset, dine on coconut-crusted shrimp and beef curry puffs, and watch some of Hawaii’s finest hula dancers take the stage fronting the lawn. Up next: House Without a Key features live music nightly, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Don’t miss the Sunset Serenaders — a duet featuring Kanoe Miller dancing hula — who plays on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Kani Ka Pila Grille, Outrigger Reef on the Beach

    Imagine listening to live music while relaxing poolside in Hawaii, drink in hand. This imagination can be a reality at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki. In addition to entertainment by some of Hawaii’s best artists such as Weldon Kekauoha and Cyril Pahinui, indulge in the restaurant’s pūpū (appetizer) menu, which features ahi poke, a creamy spinach-artichoke-crab dip, deep-fried calamari, edamame dressed in a shoyu chili sauce, or coconut shrimp served with a sweet orange-chili dipping sauce and pineapple wedges. The music — and menu —are served nightly. Entertainment runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Up next: Award-winning artist Sean Na‘auao plays on Monday nights and popular Mānoa DNA headlines Saturdays.
  • On July 30, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best places to hear live music in Oahu?

    Halekulani Hotel There's no better place to listen to Hawaiian music under the stars than in iconic Waikiki.

    Here are my three favorite spots:

    Duke's Waikiki, Outrigger Waikiki

    One of the most popular spots to listen to Hawaiian music right on Waikiki Beach is Duke's Waikiki, a bustling restaurant and bar right on the beach. Every night there are local bands and artists like Henry Kapono and Maunalua playing everything from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary reggae-inspired fare on the sands of Waikiki. Enjoy fresh island poke or fish tacos while listening from the restaurant or nurse passion fruit daiquiri or lava flow from the Barefoot Bar.

    House Without a Key, Halekūlani Hotel

    There’s nothing better than lounging under the century-old kiawe tree at the posh Halekūlani Hotel in Waikiki, sipping on a tropical mojito and enjoying some of the best live Hawaiian music around. This casual dining spot has featured live music nightly for years, making it a beloved tradition at the upscale hotel. Watch the sunset, dine on coconut-crusted shrimp and beef curry puffs, and watch some of Hawaii’s finest hula dancers take the stage fronting the lawn. Up next: House Without a Key features live music nightly, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Don’t miss the Sunset Serenaders — a duet featuring Kanoe Miller dancing hula — who plays on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Kani Ka Pila Grille, Outrigger Reef on the Beach

    Imagine listening to live music while relaxing poolside in Hawaii, drink in hand. This imagination can be a reality at Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach in Waikiki. In addition to entertainment by some of Hawaii’s best artists such as Weldon Kekauoha and Cyril Pahinui, indulge in the restaurant’s pūpū (appetizer) menu, which features ahi poke, a creamy spinach-artichoke-crab dip, deep-fried calamari, edamame dressed in a shoyu chili sauce, or coconut shrimp served with a sweet orange-chili dipping sauce and pineapple wedges. The music — and menu —are served nightly. Entertainment runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Up next: Award-winning artist Sean Na‘auao plays on Monday nights and popular Mānoa DNA headlines Saturdays.
  • On July 21, 2013
    Catherine E. Toth answered the question: Catherine E. Toth

    What are the best seafood restaurants in Oahu?

    Catherine E. Toth Seafood is plentiful in Hawaii, and you'll find a variety of prepartions and offerings on Oahu.

    Here are three very different eateries that serve up some of the best dishes from the ocean:

    53 By The Sea, 53 Ahui St,. Honolulu, (808) 536-5353

    One of the newest restaurants on Oahu, this upscale fine-dining spot is located right on the ocean near Ala Moana Center — and so close to the local fish auction, you can expect the the seafood to be fresh. Signature dishes include the Seafood Showcase with Kona lobster, king crab, sashimi and oysters; escargot-stuffed mushrooms (shown above) with a spicy tomato sauce; Chilean sea bass prepared Hong Kong style with tomato concassé and baby bok choy; and mahi mahi with hearts of palm, broccolini and a mango beurre blanc. The view from the dining area are best during the day.

    Nico's Pier 38, 1133 N Nimitz Hwy., Honolulu, (808) 540-1377

    Last year Nico's expanded from a quaint 80-seat eatery on Pier 38 to a 160-seat open-air restaurant complete with full bar and fish market. Owner Lyon-born Nicolas “Nico” Chaize combined his French background with local ingredients and flavors. Seafood dishes to try include a fukikake pan-seared ahi served with Nico's ginger garlic cilantro dip; fried ahi belly topped with a spicy tomato salsa; and the restaurant's signature steamed clams with tomato, onion and garlic, served with garlic butter bread. It has a great happy hour and live music, too.

    Alicia's Market, 267 Mokauea St., Kalihi, (808) 841-1921

    One of the best-kept secrets in Honolulu is this little convenience store in Kalihi that prepares some of the best poke (a local dish of raw, cubed fish often seasoned with sea salt, soy sauce, roasted crushed candelnut, sesame oil, seaweed and chopped chili pepper) on the island. Our pick: the ahi poke with flying fish roe and wasabi.