It's a strange time we live in. We mourn the passing of restaurants that gave us years of good memories and ono grinds — at the same time we celebrate newcomers to the scene. Many of these were in the works or opened just before COVID-19 threw them a ginormous curveball; others sprang up when newly unemployed dreamers made the leap to entrepreneurship.
We decided to record a bright spot of the pandemic: nearly 40 new restaurants, other eateries and food trucks that have opened since March this year. We'll keep adding more as we find them. Here are places that, against enormous odds, continue to evolve our food scene.
A new izakaya-restaurant on Kapahulu specializes in flame-seared meats, cheesy steak fried rice, a worthy chicken karaage and more. Opened two days before the statewide shutdown in March, it was a one-man show for a time and is now back with dine-in and takeout.
740 Kapahulu Ave. • Kapahulu • 738-1038 • @aburiya_ibushi
See video: Two-minute takeout: Aburiya Ibushi
Agnes Bake Shop truck
Kailua's iconic crusty, fresh-fried malassadas are back, this time served out of a food truck that roves around the island.
See video: Agnes' malassadas are back in Kailua
Agostino's Pizza truck
Thin-crust Sicilian pizzas made by a seventh-generation Sicilian. Check the Instagram — this truck roves.
940-2029 • @agostinos_pizza
Beer Lab Pearlridge
The local brewpub's third location features food from a rotating lineup of food trucks. First up: Flyin' Ahi and Sistah Truck.
Brick Fire Kaimuki
Chinatown's certified Neapolitan pizza shop has moved to spacious new digs in Kaimuki.
Totoro Tuesdays featuring Hayao Miyazaki's lovable forest creature in mochi waffle form are back at a quirky new spot in Liliha. Also on the menu: sandwiches, salads, fruity teas and rotating specials.
1805 Liliha St. • Liliha • 551-6645 • @conversations.hi
12-hour braised beef noodle soup, tongue-numbing mala wontons, pork-basil stirfry with cheese and scallion pancake chips: Fooki is old Taiwan meets new Hawaii.
The neighborhood poke shop from Kaimuki and Kaneohe just opened a third location in Pearl City.
Multiple locations • @freshcatch808
Mochi fans waited over a year for Fujiya Hawaii, one of Honolulu's last remaining old-school mochi shops, to reopen in its new spot after closing the iconic factory and counter in Kalihi. We checked out its brand new spot across town.
Who can resist Fruity Pebbles french toast or a $17 plate lunch overflowing with crab legs?
1311 N. King St. • Kalihi • 913-2131 • @guiebcafe
America's favorite national Korean supermarket chain finally debuts in Hawaii.
458 Keawe St. • Kakaako • 219-0924 • restaurantji.com/hi/honolulu/h-mart-kakaako
Not an oxymoron: A new okazuya has opened in Waipahu.
94-235 Hanawai Cir. • Waipahu • 677-5503 • @hashiokazuya
Proprietors of downtown's Square Barrels are behind a new concept in the old Ichiriki nabe spot in Kaimuki; opening is delayed but the restaurant was temporarily open for takeout, which is now on hold.
1127 11th Ave. • Kaimuki • @heiho_house
The former owner of Kona Kai Sushi offers elevated rice bowls topped with misoyaki butterfish, yakitori chicken, grilled steak, shoyu garlic salmon and more, plus musubi, cup sushi and salads. It's on temporary hiatus while he tends to business in Japan.
3221 Waialae Ave. • Kaimuki • @higoto_japanese_eatery
Holey Grail Donuts truck
Kauai's taro donut cult sensation is now serving up its plant-based donuts and coffee on top from a truck six days a week.
Doraku and Blue Tree Cafe's Kevin Aoki bills his latest restaurant as Hawaii's premier Southeast Asian cuisine destination.
Islander Sake Bar
Hawaii's first sake brewery in three decades opened its dine-in sake bar on the day in March all bars were ordered to close. You can still buy bottles of freshly brewed daiginjo and other sakes as well as a rotating selection of amazake panna cotta, sake kasu breads and cheesecakes at its brewery and shop.
A former farmers market stall is now Hawaii's in-spot for upscale Mediterrean fare.
The pandemic forced two furloughed dental hygienists to jump-start their dream business. The result: a tiny shop where crispy fried rolls are filled with standards like meat and vegetable, Shanghai and banana; fancier ones have Okinawan sweet potato, pastele and strawberry cheesecake fillings. Every one is fried to order.
517 N Vineyard Blvd. • Liliha • 400-1855 • @j.s.lumpia.spot
King of Thai Boat Noodles
New Thai place across Walmart has loads of noodles dishes and other standards like fried fish cakes, with or without touches like fermented crab and blood cakes.
Kitoko food truck Maui
Spago Maui's furloughed executive pastry chef's new truck has upscale Japanese fusion lunches and amazing desserts.
1 Piikea Ave. • Kihei • 808-214-7582 • @kitokomaui
See also: Gourmet fusion food truck opens on Maui
West Oahu's first tonkatsu on wire racks, Japanese style. Also on the menu: assorted katsu sandwiches and katsu curries.
Kula Shave Ice
Syrups made with organic sugar and local fruits and strong matcha flavor this North Shore stand's offerings. And yes, haupia cream hats are available.
Little Joe's Steakhouse
Liliha Bakery Nimitz' new next-door neighbor is also a Peter Kim eatery: a steakhouse that's more affordable than his Signature Prime & Seafood.
Killer slow-braised beef luau, roast chicken with taro mushrooms and Hamakua alii mushrooms, and malassada crullers worth driving for.
It's up there in Nam Fong territory but you need to call ahead. Lots of other takeout and plate lunch options too.
4618 Kīlauea Ave. • 739-1388 • mandarinkitchenhi.com
A James Beard Award-nominated chefs updates a Kaimuki classic.
3446 Waialae Ave. • Kaimuki • 734-2737 • @mirokaimuki
Nana Ai Katsu
Another pandemic rebirth story brings a luscious tonkatsu to Ohana Hale Marketplace. Expect small crowds at lunch and dinner.
Ohana Hale Marketplace • 333 Ward Ave. • Kakaako • 772-0146 • @nana_ai_katsu
Noods Ramen Bar
Black garlic tonkotsu, miso pesto and other ramen bowls star at this popup-turned-permanent spot. The simple garlic fried rice side also gets buzz.
Original Magoo's Pizza
Memories are as big a draw as the food at this brand-new Kapahulu takeout spot, a resurrection of Oahu's legendary pizza-and-sub chain after a nine-year absence.
3110 Winam Ave. #G1 • Kapahulu • 949-5381 • @originalmagoospizza
Vietnamese standards like pho and banh mi sandwiches get upscale twists at this new spot.
Part of a resurgence of local-style foods, Hawaii's beloved sherbet gets twists like kalo and mochi in the Tundah Taro and flavors like Li Hing Belts and Milk Tea Swirl at this McCully storefront.
1915 S. King St. • McCully • 722-8584 • @scoopscoopshi
See also: The scoop on Honolulu's new sherbet shop
Spot-on flavors from a food court stall. If the coconutty laksa is too mild for you, add in the amazing shrimp-and-chile sambal.
Ala Moana Center Makai Market • 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. • Kakaako • @singmatei
Tanaka Ramen & Izakaya
A mainland ramen chain debuts in Kapolei with 10 kinds of ramen plus izakaya-style shared pupus like truffle tempura brussels sprouts and chicken karaage. According to its website, more sites are planned at Pearlridge and Ala Moana Center.
New Taiwanese food truck parks at Don Quijote Kaheka with popcorn chicken, Taiwanese fried chicken, pork chop, scallion pancakes.
Chinatown's newest Mexican spot just soft-opened across the street from Little Village Noodle House.
Two Hands Corn Dog
Korean-style hot dogs on a stick have arrived on Oahu: crunchy, savory, sweet and fresh-fried.
91-919 Fort Weaver Rd. • Ewa Beach • 689-7429 • @twohands_hawaii