Hawai’i is known for many things - beautiful white sand beaches, pineapple-filled fields, a detective procedural that was a glorified excuse to make Daniel Dae Kim run down Ala Moana Blvd. in slow motion, etc. But what many people on the Mainland don’t know is that this tropical paradise is also an incredible melting pot of cultures. As a result of a long, complicated history that almost reads like a Brothers Grimm fairytale (including princesses, palaces, sugarcane plantations, and military invasion), what we now know as “Hawaiian food” is a unique blend of native ingredients mixed with influences from Japan, Korea, Portugal, China, the U.S., and the Philippines.
And with our close proximity to the Aloha State (just a mere 2,400 miles away lol), it’s no surprise that LA has some of the best Hawaiian food in the continental U.S. From bowling alleys in the South Bay to the #1 poke spot in the city (and all the mac salad in between), here are the best places in Los Angeles to get Hawaiian food.
Life is full of little surprises. Despite their expiration dates, Bed Bath & Beyond coupons never go bad. Al Pacino’s real first name is “Alfredo.” And some of the best Hawaiian food in LA is being served in a bowling alley in Gardena. Almost everything at this tiny diner is great, from the kimchi bacon fried rice to the smokey, fatty kalua pig and cabbage, but what’s on every table (and what should be on yours), is the Hawaiian Royal. This massive plate of eggs, rice, chashu, and Portuguese sausage (also known as linguiça) is an all-out-brawl of flavor in your mouth, which, now that we’ve written it out, sounds kind of unpleasant. But trust us, eating it is nothing but pure, Aloha State-levels of paradise.
This restaurant in El Segundo understands the fundamental truth many of LA’s so-called “poke spots” don’t: That quality fish is king. The owner of Ali’i used to be a buyer at the Honolulu Fish Auction, so the seafood they serve is shipped in from Hawai’i. And you can taste the difference. From the onion limu ahi to the salmon ponzu, all of the poke bowls here are simple and taste exactly like something you would get from a Foodland counter in the Islands. They also serve hot food, but who are we kidding? Get the poke bowl.
Unlike many of the places on this list, you’re not coming to Broken Mouth to leave your busy LA life and escape into a tropical-themed paradise. You won’t wax poetic about how much it reminds you of your vacation to Moloka’i or swear you almost heard the ocean’s roar. No - you’re here because you only have 20 minutes for lunch, and this place serves filling food, fast. Located in the chaotic Fashion District, this manini-sized shop has a small-but-formidable menu with twists on local faves, from a spicy chicken sandwich on brioche to refreshing and crunchy cucumber kimchi. But our go-to order is always the Kahuku-style shrimp plate. Battered and fried to perfection, just like the ones from the trucks on the North Shore, the shrimp comes with a healthy dose of butter and lemon, plus a scoop of mac salad and heukmi bap (Korean purple rice).
Although Aloha Food Factory’s name makes it seem like their food is being produced on an assembly line, what’s actually coming out of the kitchen couldn’t be further from that. Located in a little shack off the 710 in Alhambra, the menu here is filled with hearty, affordable dishes that are made exactly the way you’d have them in the 808. The kalua pork is moist and cooked to perfection, and the Hawaiian Breakfast plate, which is served all day and comes with three eggs and a protein (we like it with Portuguese sausage), is what every child in Hawai’i eats with their family on a Sunday morning. But what you should be focusing on here are the macadamia nut pancakes. Although we have no idea what exactly is in the sweet, fluffy, ambrosia-level cream they top it with (the menu simply reads “secret cream sauce”), what we do know is that it floods our brain with so much serotonin it might biologically be a problem.
Back Home In Lahaina wins the award for the best fully immersive Hawaiian experience. Between the giant murals of humpback whales splashing in the ocean, facade storefronts with names like “Aulani’s Gift Kart,” and their incredible menu of local food, it doesn’t take much (or many glasses of their Kona Brewing Company beers), to forget that you’re not vacationing in Maui. Staples like poke on wonton chips and haupia cheesecake are great here, but their loco moco (a beautiful behemoth that includes two scoops of white rice, a hamburger patty, and a fried egg, all smothered in brown gravy) is one of the best in town.
In addition to those orange bags of sweet, sweet rolls at the grocery store, King’s Hawaiian Bakery also has not one, but two brick-and-mortar restaurants in Torrance. Our preference is the flagship Bakery & Restaurant on Sepulveda Blvd., but not because of the food - everything from the loco moco to the huli huli chicken (which comes grilled, with a brown sugar, ginger, and soy sauce reduction) is honestly kind of forgettable. Plus, they described the lomi lomi salmon to us as “ceviche,” which it most definitely wasn’t. But you’re not here for the food, you’re here for the baked goods you can’t find anywhere else, like the guava chiffon, almond pinwheels, and haupia cake, which is basically coconut pudding on top of vanilla chiffon and is legit.
The menu at Rutt’s is huge, so it’s important to have a game plan when heading into this popular lunch spot in Mar Vista. Right off the bat, you can skip the saimin and kalua pig plate, and if you were planning on saving room for dessert, don’t reserve that highly coveted stomach space for their overly gelatinous cup of haupia. All of the above tend to be just a little bland, and you can get better versions of them at almost any other Hawaiian place on this list. Instead, head straight to their “Famous Royale” section. With onions, bean sprouts, and a side of teriyaki sauce, it’s described as an “open-scrambled omelette,” but it’s actually more like the fried-rice version of your best friend’s older brother after he came home from football camp - large, beefy, and with Spam in all the right places (OK, so the analogy doesn’t track exactly).
Like the name implies, Bob’s is a diner that feels like it was shipped directly from the Islands and placed in Gardena. The walls are lined with leather booths and T-shirts from Hawaiian high schools, and of course, everyone from the kahiko to the keiki are eating Spam musubi or steaming bowls of saimin. The food here is uncomplicated and pretty close to what you’d get in-state, like the salty kalua pork (which is made without cabbage and thus, is on the crispier side) and the silky, butterfish-stuffed lau lau, both of which come on the aptly named “Hungry Hawaiian” combo plate. If you want something sweet, the macadamia nut pancakes should also be a top priority - they’re thick, fluffy, and come smothered in a butter sauce so rich it just booked a first-class flight to Honolulu.