Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii: 8 Spots Where Tony Ate

If you’re looking for paradise, there are few places that compare with Hawaii. Best of all for Americans, there is no passport needed – though one could argue that it should be, given Hawaii’s political history. Hawaii has five main tourist islands: the Big Island (Hawaii), Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and Oahu. Each has something special to offer, and all retain Hawaii’s cultural uniqueness.

Anthony Bourdain visited Hawaii on two occasions, first to film season 4 (episode 9) of No Reservations and then later in his seminal series, Parts Unknown to film season 5 (episode 7). Both episodes featured tropical sites and authentic, delicious meals. 

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii Hero

If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii, you really can’t go wrong no matter which island you choose – and luckily, there are Bourdain spots on almost all of them. The only island he didn’t visit was the Big Island; he spent the most time on Oahu, the “Gathering Place.” Read on to discover the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii that you can still visit today.

This post was originally written in April 2023 and was updated most recently in April 2024.

In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Nā moku ʻehā peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

No Reservations (2008)

For his first visit, Bourdain visited Kauai and Oahu; these two islands are popular with visitors, so they’re a perfect introduction to the Hawaiian islands. Here’s where he ate during this trip.

Puka Dog

Tony begins his journey on the island of Kauai. He grabs his first Hawaiian meal at Puka Dog, a cherished hot dog joint. They serve hot dogs but with their own Hawaiian twist. Bourdain chooses a Polish Dog topped with mangoes and other peculiar toppings. The buns are also interesting, completely encircling the dog like a glove. 

‘The toasted bun, while disturbing in appearance, is ingenious in design.’

Ono Hawaiian Food (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii - Lau Lau

Bourdain next ventures to Oahu to join another chef named Colin. They dine at a small joint called Ono for a taste of authentic local food. Together they dig into some lau lau: pork and butterfish steamed inside taro leaves. Salted salmon and beef are served with a bowl of poi. The grey paste is a Hawaiian staple, made of mashed taro root. You should dip whatever meat you have into the paste, essentially using it as a sauce. 

Unfortunately, it seems this restaurant may have closed; if you can verify this, please let me know in the comments.

(Thanks to Kirk who confirmed that Ono definitely did close back in 2017.)

Side Street Inn

Later that night, Bourdain visits Colin’s bar/restaurant, the Side Street Inn. And a host of local chefs come by for the meal. Tony fits in just fine with his culinary colleagues; together they booze and eat well. Fried Gizzards, Fried Shrimp, and Fried Pork Chops fill the table. A Chinese-style steamed fish is brought out along with baby abalone. 

Bourdain proclaims how awesome Hawaii is to the local chefs. ‘An amazing blend of Asian cultures, and you don’t even need a damn passport to come here.’ 

New Uptown Fountain (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii - Spam Sushi

Tony closes this episode with one more restaurant. He was never quite fond of SPAM, and another local chef makes it his mission to turn Tony ‘to the dark side.’ 

They start with an assortment of SPAM dishes: Spam sushi, omelets, and chicken tofu. Tony actually seems to be enjoying it too. They close the meal with some SPAM chili. And Tony seems to have changed his heart: “I get it now.”

Unfortunately, this restaurant closed not long after Bourdain’s visit in 2007; by the air date of the episode in March 2008, there was a note on the website that the restaurant had shut down.

La Mariana Sailing Club

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii - Zombie

While the last meal was at New Uptown Fountain, Bourdain stopped at La Mariana Sailing Club by the airport to try some authentic tiki drinks. He sits with the owner and together they have a zombie: a combination of five rums served in a tiki skull: “Anything served in a skull is better.”

A band plays soft music in the gorgeous restaurant, but a plane descending overhead reminds Tony that he needs to go. 

Parts Unknown (2015)

On his second visit, Bourdain again visited Oahu but also spent time on the islands of Maui and Molokai. Here are the places he ate.

Town (CLOSED)

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii - Roast Mahi Mahi

This eatery in Honolulu, unfortunately, closed in 2020. But it seemed like a great spot to grab a roasted mahi mahi. “It’s pretty damn good,” Tony said. 

Ethel’s Grill 

Tony’s next stop is this restaurant in the Kalihi neighborhood. He dines with two other Hawaiian chefs. Well, Tony calls them Hawaiian, but they seem to have conflicting definitions of what makes someone Hawaiian.

One chef labels himself as second-generation Japanese, while the other – a second-generation Korean – says he would also call himself Hawaiian. They continue the very interesting conversation over tripe, pig’s feet soup, taco rice, and other unnamed Southeast Asian dishes. 

Tasty Crust

Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii - Plate Lunch

Bourdain flies to Maui and meets a local writer at the diner, Tasty Crust. Together they order the classic Plate Lunch, a Hawaiian staple. It consists of two scoops of rice, a potato salad, and a protein option. You can choose ahi fish, chicken, or hamburger steak. Tony calls the meal delicious. 

Local Dining Experiences Tony Had in Hawaii

Below are various local dining experiences Tony had across the two episodes. They weren’t at any restaurants you can visit, but you should definitely look for a local luau! 

  • Lunch at the house of Peter Cole, a famous surfer. 
  • A luau at a local house in Kalihi; there he has red snapper, homemade poi, and ahi poke. 
  • Lunch on a volcanic island with a man who lives in isolation. That man was forcibly removed from the island shortly after the No Reservations episode. 
  • A Luau on Molokai. Known as the least-welcoming island, Molokai residents were actually very friendly to Bourdain. But it is not recommended to venture here, as it lacks much tourism infrastructure.

After an array of beautiful meals, Tony closes the Parts Unknown episode by going whale watching on a sailboat. The humpback whales have arrived after their long journey and are happy to celebrate. The final two minutes of the episode feature no dialogue. It’s simply a mesmerizing segment of Bourdain swimming in the waters with the whales.

Have any questions about the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hawaii? Let me know in the comments below.

Joseph Corbin Headshot

Joseph Corey is a writer, editor, and photographer from Washington D.C. He spends much of his time traveling, looking for the next great meal. He’s active on Instagram @josephcoreyblog and writes on substack: Joseph’s Journey.

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