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Hawaiian tuna and spicy ahi tuna with seaweed salad at Ali’i Fish Company in Torrance.
Hawaiian tuna and spicy ahi tuna with seaweed salad at Ali’i Fish Company in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

11 Essential Hawaiian Restaurants to Try in Los Angeles

Plate lunches, Spam musubi, fresh poke, and more

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Hawaiian tuna and spicy ahi tuna with seaweed salad at Ali’i Fish Company in Torrance.
| Matthew Kang

Many of the dishes enjoyed in Hawai’i today, such as pipikaula, laulau, kalua pig, poke, tripe stew, loco moco, and Spam musubi (a delicious pantheon best described in Sean Na’auao’s classic 1998 song, “Fish and Poi”), are living documents of the former sovereign kingdom’s beautiful yet brutal history. Ancient Hawaiians cultivated taro, breadfruit, and sweet potatoes and discovered ingenious uses for fish, limu (edible underwater plants), and other bounties of the sea. European sailors and missionaries introduced cattle and livestock to the islands in 1778, in addition to disease-spreading fleas and viral infections. Later, foreign laborers arrived to work in the growing, exploitative sugar cane and pineapple industries, bringing with them a wealth of culinary traditions from China, Japan, Korea, Portugal, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to form the melting pot of cuisines that have come to define contemporary Hawaiian food.

Today, nearly 40,000 Native Hawaiians call Los Angeles home (an impressive stat beaten only by Las Vegas, Hawai’i’s unofficial “ninth island”). And it’s the islands’ former residents, like the Big Island’s Maile and Bruce Goold, or Kevin Lee, who grew up working in his family’s Korean restaurant Sorabol in Honolulu, who make eating Kahuku-style fried shrimp, shave ice, and saimin so enjoyable on the Mainland. From bowling alley diners to poke shacks, here are the 11 best Hawaiian restaurants in LA.

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Malama Pono Restaurant

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It’s fusion time at Malama Pono, an upscale Sherman Oaks restaurant where yuzu aguachile, garlic naan, seafood ricotta dumplings, and “Abuelita’s vegan ceviche” live side-by-side on the menu. The “Hapa” Style small plate is a lot of fun — two pieces of Spam crispy rice are mixed-and-matched with two pieces of tuna crispy rice.

Aloha Food Factory

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One of the few Hawaiian restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, Aloha Food Factory has been serving homestyle favorites in a blue-brick shack off the 710 freeway since 1994 — even fending off extinction in 2021, when predatory developers planned to turn the beloved Alhambra institution into a car wash. Don’t miss the macadamia nut pancakes, a short but mighty stack slathered in a “secret cream sauce” (their words) that tastes like a big, ol’ dollop of cream cheese frosting made of whipped bananas and a Jack Johnson song.

Macadamia nut pancakes from Aloha Food Factory.
Macadamia nut pancakes from Aloha Food Factory.
Kat Hong

Aloha Catering Services Inc

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With its gigantic patio on Beverly Boulevard in Historic Filipinotown, Aloha Catering is great for parties and celebrations. In addition to standard fare — loco mocos, kalbi and meat jun mix plates— they also serve party platters: trays of spam musubi fanned out, pans of kalua pig and cabbage, and enough macaroni salad to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. 

Aloha Catering Services on Beverly Boulevard outdoor dining area with seating.
Aloha Catering Services on Beverly Boulevard.
Kat Hong

Aloha Cafe

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The origin story behind the loco moco, Hilo’s highly caloric hamburger-rice dish that comes with a gravy blanket, has a familiar narrative shape: One afternoon, a gaggle of boys arrive at a diner, hungry, and demand something off-menu. The chef scrapes together an original dish using whatever ingredients are on-hand, and voila! Both myth and local specialty are born. And there’s nowhere in LA that makes a better, more faithful version of the loco moco than Aloha Cafe in Little Tokyo, a tiny shop with wonky operating hours (it’s currently open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday).

Broken Mouth

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Here’s a quick lesson in Hawaiian Pidgin, the wonderful, idiosyncratic syntax spoken in Hawai’i (also referred to as ‘Ōlelo Pa’i ‘Ai, or “pounded but undiluted taro language”): “Broke da mouth” roughly translates to “so incredibly delicious, you might need to see a dentist.” And what an apt name for this charming Hawaiian Korean counter spot in Downtown Los Angeles. The garlicky, butter-laden fried shrimp served with purple rice, Korean greens, and a generous lemon squeeze is the specialty here, as well as a Korean take on the classic plate lunch found at food trucks on O’ahu’s North Shore.

Broken Mouth dish in Downtown.
Broken Mouth dish in Downtown.
Kat Hong

Ali'i Fish Company

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The key to Ali’i Fish Company’s fresh, authentic-tasting poke? Quality control. The poke shop gem (which has outposts in El Segundo and Torrance) sends buyers to O’ahu’s Honolulu Fish Auction to seek out local catches from sustainable oceans resources. The result is a raw fish quality rarely seen on this side of the Pacific Ocean: supple cuts of ahi, generously portioned, laid out splendidly in understated marinades — the aromatic ginger soy is a standout, as is the tobiko-speckled spicy ahi — that elevate the fish’s pureness and enhances its flavor. 

Poke bowl from Ali’i in Torrance.
Poke bowl from Ali’i in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

Rutts Hawaiian Cafe & Catering

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The move at Rutt’s Cafe — one of Los Angeles’ longest-running Hawaiian restaurants with outposts in West LA, Azusa, and Gardena — is to arrive for breakfast. Since 1976, this Hawaiian restaurant has been serving local favorites, like Spam and eggs, and a kalua pig breakfast sandwich served over a sweet roll.

Colorful Hawaiian plates on a slatted table with sauces, eggs, spam and rice.
Colorful plates from Rutts
Matthew Kang

Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop

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The Hawaiian Royal served at this South Bay fixture is chop-suey heaven: thick chunks of braised pork belly are stir-fried together with green onions, Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs, and teriyaki sauce, then unloaded over white rice. It’s sweet and salty perfection, a juxtaposition of disparate parts, much like the strange but wonderful combination bowling alley, billiards hall, and arcade the decades-old diner is housed in.

A bowl of Hawaiian noodle soup.
Saimin from Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.
Matthew Kang

Aunty Maile's Hawaiian Restaurant

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The Aloha spirit lives on at Aunty Maile’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Torrance, a family-run joint that began on the Big Island then expanded to outposts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. On any given Saturday, one might find a band of aunties and uncles out front, talking story and strumming their ukuleles while sitting on lawn chairs. And although the entrees and appetizers are very nice, what’s most impressive are its local snacks and treats: macadamia nut-encrusted cheesecakes, the taro pudding known as kūlolo, and gummy bears dusted with mouth-puckering lemon peel. 

Fried goodness and rice from Aunty Maile’s.
Fried goodness and rice from Aunty Maile’s.
Kat Hong

Jus' Poke

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A great poke bowl is like filing taxes: the less complicated, the better. At Jus’ Poke in Redondo Beach, there are only six fish options to choose from, including an excellent shoyu ahi that comes loaded with diced green onions and ogo, a light, savory seaweed with a reddish-brown color. Pair with a scoop of rice or seaweed salad. 

Jus’ Poke with furikake, rice, and fish.
Two poke plates from Jus’ Poke in Redondo Beach.
Matthew Kang

Back Home In Lahaina

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Los Angeles shines brightest when its establishments embrace a kitschy theme (Atwater Village’s Tam O’Shanter and the Baked Potato jazz club immediately spring to mind), and Back Home in Lahaina aces this litmus test with an island flair: the dining room at this Carson restaurant looks like a recreated Maui streetfront, complete with floor-to-ceiling wooden facades and dolphin murals featuring sea creatures smiling next to lava rocks. The saimin is a must-order, a steaming bowl of soft wheat egg noodles served in a clear dashi broth, garnished with diced green onions and bright-red barbecue pork.

Saimin from Back Home In Lahaina.
Saimin from Back Home In Lahaina.
Kat Hong

Malama Pono Restaurant

It’s fusion time at Malama Pono, an upscale Sherman Oaks restaurant where yuzu aguachile, garlic naan, seafood ricotta dumplings, and “Abuelita’s vegan ceviche” live side-by-side on the menu. The “Hapa” Style small plate is a lot of fun — two pieces of Spam crispy rice are mixed-and-matched with two pieces of tuna crispy rice.

Aloha Food Factory

One of the few Hawaiian restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley, Aloha Food Factory has been serving homestyle favorites in a blue-brick shack off the 710 freeway since 1994 — even fending off extinction in 2021, when predatory developers planned to turn the beloved Alhambra institution into a car wash. Don’t miss the macadamia nut pancakes, a short but mighty stack slathered in a “secret cream sauce” (their words) that tastes like a big, ol’ dollop of cream cheese frosting made of whipped bananas and a Jack Johnson song.

Macadamia nut pancakes from Aloha Food Factory.
Macadamia nut pancakes from Aloha Food Factory.
Kat Hong

Aloha Catering Services Inc

With its gigantic patio on Beverly Boulevard in Historic Filipinotown, Aloha Catering is great for parties and celebrations. In addition to standard fare — loco mocos, kalbi and meat jun mix plates— they also serve party platters: trays of spam musubi fanned out, pans of kalua pig and cabbage, and enough macaroni salad to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. 

Aloha Catering Services on Beverly Boulevard outdoor dining area with seating.
Aloha Catering Services on Beverly Boulevard.
Kat Hong

Aloha Cafe

The origin story behind the loco moco, Hilo’s highly caloric hamburger-rice dish that comes with a gravy blanket, has a familiar narrative shape: One afternoon, a gaggle of boys arrive at a diner, hungry, and demand something off-menu. The chef scrapes together an original dish using whatever ingredients are on-hand, and voila! Both myth and local specialty are born. And there’s nowhere in LA that makes a better, more faithful version of the loco moco than Aloha Cafe in Little Tokyo, a tiny shop with wonky operating hours (it’s currently open from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday).

Broken Mouth

Here’s a quick lesson in Hawaiian Pidgin, the wonderful, idiosyncratic syntax spoken in Hawai’i (also referred to as ‘Ōlelo Pa’i ‘Ai, or “pounded but undiluted taro language”): “Broke da mouth” roughly translates to “so incredibly delicious, you might need to see a dentist.” And what an apt name for this charming Hawaiian Korean counter spot in Downtown Los Angeles. The garlicky, butter-laden fried shrimp served with purple rice, Korean greens, and a generous lemon squeeze is the specialty here, as well as a Korean take on the classic plate lunch found at food trucks on O’ahu’s North Shore.

Broken Mouth dish in Downtown.
Broken Mouth dish in Downtown.
Kat Hong

Ali'i Fish Company

The key to Ali’i Fish Company’s fresh, authentic-tasting poke? Quality control. The poke shop gem (which has outposts in El Segundo and Torrance) sends buyers to O’ahu’s Honolulu Fish Auction to seek out local catches from sustainable oceans resources. The result is a raw fish quality rarely seen on this side of the Pacific Ocean: supple cuts of ahi, generously portioned, laid out splendidly in understated marinades — the aromatic ginger soy is a standout, as is the tobiko-speckled spicy ahi — that elevate the fish’s pureness and enhances its flavor. 

Poke bowl from Ali’i in Torrance.
Poke bowl from Ali’i in Torrance.
Matthew Kang

Rutts Hawaiian Cafe & Catering

The move at Rutt’s Cafe — one of Los Angeles’ longest-running Hawaiian restaurants with outposts in West LA, Azusa, and Gardena — is to arrive for breakfast. Since 1976, this Hawaiian restaurant has been serving local favorites, like Spam and eggs, and a kalua pig breakfast sandwich served over a sweet roll.

Colorful Hawaiian plates on a slatted table with sauces, eggs, spam and rice.
Colorful plates from Rutts
Matthew Kang

Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop

The Hawaiian Royal served at this South Bay fixture is chop-suey heaven: thick chunks of braised pork belly are stir-fried together with green onions, Portuguese sausage, scrambled eggs, and teriyaki sauce, then unloaded over white rice. It’s sweet and salty perfection, a juxtaposition of disparate parts, much like the strange but wonderful combination bowling alley, billiards hall, and arcade the decades-old diner is housed in.

A bowl of Hawaiian noodle soup.
Saimin from Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.
Matthew Kang

Aunty Maile's Hawaiian Restaurant

The Aloha spirit lives on at Aunty Maile’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Torrance, a family-run joint that began on the Big Island then expanded to outposts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. On any given Saturday, one might find a band of aunties and uncles out front, talking story and strumming their ukuleles while sitting on lawn chairs. And although the entrees and appetizers are very nice, what’s most impressive are its local snacks and treats: macadamia nut-encrusted cheesecakes, the taro pudding known as kūlolo, and gummy bears dusted with mouth-puckering lemon peel. 

Fried goodness and rice from Aunty Maile’s.
Fried goodness and rice from Aunty Maile’s.
Kat Hong

Jus' Poke

A great poke bowl is like filing taxes: the less complicated, the better. At Jus’ Poke in Redondo Beach, there are only six fish options to choose from, including an excellent shoyu ahi that comes loaded with diced green onions and ogo, a light, savory seaweed with a reddish-brown color. Pair with a scoop of rice or seaweed salad. 

Jus’ Poke with furikake, rice, and fish.
Two poke plates from Jus’ Poke in Redondo Beach.
Matthew Kang

Back Home In Lahaina

Los Angeles shines brightest when its establishments embrace a kitschy theme (Atwater Village’s Tam O’Shanter and the Baked Potato jazz club immediately spring to mind), and Back Home in Lahaina aces this litmus test with an island flair: the dining room at this Carson restaurant looks like a recreated Maui streetfront, complete with floor-to-ceiling wooden facades and dolphin murals featuring sea creatures smiling next to lava rocks. The saimin is a must-order, a steaming bowl of soft wheat egg noodles served in a clear dashi broth, garnished with diced green onions and bright-red barbecue pork.

Saimin from Back Home In Lahaina.
Saimin from Back Home In Lahaina.
Kat Hong

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