Honolulu is constantly battling its image as an expensive destination. It's true that accommodations on Oahu are pricey, but the abundance of ethnic restaurants (born of burgeoning new immigrant populations) and the high percentage of working mothers in Hawaii creates an entirely different scenario for dining. Even with a sluggish economy, residents eat out -- because they're busy, because they want to, and because many popular ethnic traditions aren't so easy to duplicate at home. What makes a good family restaurant in Hawaii? More than the presence of high chairs, we think it's friendliness, affordability, and menu choices that take into consideration the tastes and preferences of multiple generations. Not including the usual fast-food burger joints that are perennially popular with the kids, here are some suggestions for family-friendly eateries in Honolulu.
Genki Sushi, 900 Kapahulu Ave. (tel. 808/735-8889), is part entertainment, part assertiveness training, and part culinary pleasure. Kids love to lunge for their favorites among the freshly made, individually wrapped sushi that parade by on conveyor belts, and the slower ones who miss out the first time around get a chance on the next revolution. Sit with your family around the curvy counters and empty your plates without emptying your pocketbook.
Next to Ala Moana Center, is I Love Country Cafe, 451 Piikoi St., Ala Moana Plaza (tel. 808/596-8108), which offers everything from meatloaf to shoyu chicken, burgers, vegetarian dishes, and stir-fry, for takeout or dining in -- and there's a new branch in Kahala Mall.
In Ward Warehouse, the classic preteen pleaser is the Old Spaghetti Factory, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd. (tel. 808/591-2513), where kids have been sucking in spaghetti and meatballs for years. Ornate Italianate decor, beveled glass everywhere, and an affordable "Just for Kids" menu for those 12 years old and under (offering spaghetti with choice of sauce, meatballs, and macaroni and cheese), make this a bonanza for the fun-loving younger set.
Finally, we come to Zippy's, the mecca of chili and saimin (a popular Hawaiian noodle soup). There are nearly two dozen locations on Oahu alone (call tel. 808/955-6622 or check out www.zippys.com for the one nearest you). All branches feature cheap, tasty chili, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and all-day American fare that's popular among parents and kids. Tasty vegetarian chili and meatless, smoky Boca burgers are among the healthy choices for non-meat-eaters.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.