Recognized by the Pacific Business News as "the only known all-vegetarian natural foods store in Hawaii," Down to Earth serves the island communities with all-vegetarian, organic and natural products. Down to Earth also earned the Honolulu Star-Advertiser's award as the best health food store. Browse Down to Earth’s overflowing cornucopia of fresh-from-the-ground brands including Alvarado St. Bakery's multigrain bread ($5.09) and italian sausage from Turtle Island Foods ($5.49) whose pork flavor masquerades in a Tofurky overcoat and a Richard Nixon mask. Down to Earth also houses a vegetarian deli designed to satiate hand-held hunger pangs. Nosh on the Reuben ($7.99), with its savory mélange of vegetarian salami and swiss cheese, or the indonesian wrap ($7.99), which snuggles together marinated tofu with mung sprouts and peanut sauce in a whole-wheat sleeping bag. Refreshing ice cream shakes ($4.99 for 16 oz.) and all-fruit smoothies ($4.99 for 16 oz.) stand by to extinguish the flames of a powerful thirst or a pet dragon's hiccups.
Menus and pricing may vary slightly between Chuck's Restaurants's three locations—Ko 'Olina, Waikiki, and Waikiki Beach—but all three meld upscale cuts and catches with a casual atmosphere, obviating the awkward sight of a tuxedo jacket thrown over a Garfield-print aloha shirt. Open lava-rock grills send meaty aromas to gallantly guide diners to the all-you-can-eat salad bar offered with every entree. On any given night, an array of veggies might be escorted by soupy sidekicks such as seafood chowder, french onion, or tomato vegetable. A herd of aged USDA Prime–grade steaks graze with the teriyaki sirloin, which soaks for 48 hours in a house-made marinade before reaching your plate. Chuck's fish-finaglers hook the catch of the day from local waters, presenting a line of island fish such as hebi, opah, or ahi, served grilled or sautéed (market value). Several variations on surf 'n' turf unite feuding sectors of the culinary kingdom by wedding prime rib (starting at $28.75) to lobster tail (market value), and sirloin (starting at $24.50) to scallops ($28.50). Most meals range $20–$40.
Within the Marriott Ihilani resort, the calm of a serene Japanese garden washes over neighboring Ushio-Tei. There, the chefs skip typical American takes on Japanese cuisine in favor of more adventurous items, such as natto, fermented soybeans that pair with slices of raw calamari or Pacific tuna. Black tiger prawns crackle in thin coats of tempura in the fryer, and maki rolls conceal freshwater eel, mango, and pearlescent slivers of pickled daikon radishes. The scent of teriyaki sauce fills the air as knives flick through local veggies and Japanese plum, and chefs steam Maine lobsters with a garlic butter sauce similar to the substance that makes hockey rinks slippery.
Ton Ton Ramen’s soup broth—completed with a bouquet of top-secret herbs and spices—bubbles to fruition after hours of simmering local produce and traditional Japanese ingredients such as pork bones, lending it its signature robustness. The cooks then add tasty morsels of oxtail, chicken katsu, tofu, noodles, and soft-boiled eggs to create piquant and hearty meals. Beyond ramen, they also create their own gyoza dumplings in house and crown curried rice with beef, squid, and tiaras crafted from kimchi.
Thai Kitchen takes patrons on a magic floating market ride with a menu of authentic dishes and house specialties. Meal rockets launch with a slurp of house specialty lemongrass soup ($8.50–$12.95) or a crunch of crispy shrimp tempura, which is available only on the weekends and Martian federal holidays ($10.95). The classically noodle-ridden Pad Thai comes crowned with proteins of the land or sea ($9.50–$10.50), and the dish dubbed “Evil” arrives as a cackling platter of chicken, pork, or beef simmered in coconut milk on a bed of cabbage grown to the soundtrack of backward-playing Beatles albums ($9.50). Desserts such as Thai tapioca pudding with coconut milk ($2.95) end meals on a saccharine chord, while traditional Thai iced coffees and teas ($2.95) keep sweet teeth humming throughout the meal.
In a mini mall off Farrington Highway, shoppers passing Futaba Restaurant’s modest façade might never guess the culinary gem they’ll discover inside. Co-owner and executive chef Tadao Nezu––who once cooked for the Imperial family of Japan, according to the Honolulu Advertiser––has spent more than three decades at Futaba Restaurant treating Hawaiian taste buds like royalty with Japanese cooking wizardry and golden scepters that double as chopsticks. Noodle dishes dominate the menu, which includes six varieties of udon and soba noodles mixed with shrimp tempura and egg, and saimin noodles made from scratch and tossed in in homemade broth. Diners can also sample more indulgent dishes, such as the manalta mori, a mix of fresh ahi, jumbo-shrimp tempura, beef teriyaki, and grilled saba.
The menu at Maili Sunset Bar & Grill specializes in the ocean's bounty. Combo meals bring together clams, shrimp, crayfish, and king-crab claws slathered in garlic butter. Sauces and shallots coat glistening oysters on the half shell and fresh chunks of fish poke. Other finger-friendly foods include chicken wings, egg rolls, Cajun fries, and Korean fried chicken. In addition to sating the masses, Maili serves as a venue for watching broadcast sports and live entertainment such as bands and hip-hop open-mic nights with prizes awarded in cash and rhyming dictionaries.