To some it may seem silly to care about what the interior of a restaurant looks like. If the food is good, it’s good, no matter the décor. But I have to admit, when I’m traveling to a new city and deciding which eateries make the itinerary, or even when I’m at home figuring out which new spot is worth a splurge, the aesthetics are something I always check out.


Hau Tree beautiful restaurant interior bar woman bartenders rope pendant lights

The Hau Tree bar at Kaimana Beach Hotel / Photo: Surf Please, Courtesy of Henderson Design Group



Call it ambiance, call it a vibe. If the food is meant to dazzle your taste buds, then the hundreds of design details that go into a restaurant’s interior are a feast for the eyes. From cool patterned tiles and original wallpaper to chic lighting and painstakingly handcrafted trims—taking it all in is a huge part of the experience.


If the same goes for you, then you’ll enjoy this handy little cheat sheet, put together with the help of my fellow style editor Stacey Makiya and dining editors Mari Taketa and Martha Cheng. It spotlights some of the most beautiful restaurants in Honolulu, from the elegantly minimal and modern-meets-tropical to the deliciously daring and oh-so-luxe.



Podmore beautiful restaurant interior bench seats wood floor bar area

Photo: Olivier Koning, Courtesy of Podmore




Delivering yourself from downtown Honolulu’s bustling, concrete-laden business district directly into Podmore can be a shock to the senses. The effect is akin to stepping straight into a luxe jewel box. Inside the brunch and cocktail destination, you’re met with lush velvet-clad banquettes and bar stools in moody emerald and amethyst hues, brass trims and a lustrous porcelain-finished bar. Owners Katherine Nomura and chef Anthony Rush tasked architecture firm WRNS Studio with giving the space a bit of British flair, a nod to Rush’s home country and the duo’s affinity for London’s grand hotel bars and private members clubs. Even the elegant wisteria wall mural has a tie to England, mimicking a corner of Rush’s parent’s garden in Devon. For Nomura’s connection to the bloom, keep an eye out for a treasured framed needlepoint crafted by her grandmother.—BT


202 Merchant St., (808) 521-7367,, @barpodmore



Hideout At The Laylow beautiful restaurant interior breeze block blue benches bar area

Photos: Nash and Kim Finley/The Nomadic People, Courtesy of The Laylow, Autograph Collection



Hideout at The Laylow

It’s amazing how a slight change in elevation can result in a major shift in energy. Such is the case at Hideout, the oasislike restaurant at The Laylow hotel perched two stories above busy Kūhiō Avenue in Waikīkī. A quick trip up the palm-lined escalator lands you in a world of soft coral and ocean hues, earthy textures and midcentury modern details—a welcome respite from the crowds below. To create its breezy island take on the design style, Portland studio Official MFg. Co. took cues from architect and master of Hawai‘i modernism Vladimir Ossipoff, employing terracotta breeze blocks in the main dining space and a marmoreal bar top, tambour finishes and vintage slatted Arthur Umanoff stools in the bar-lounge.—BT


The Laylow, Autograph Collection, 2299 Kūhiō Ave., (808) 628-3060,, @hideoutwaikiki




Rigo beautiful restaurant interior green ceiling green banquettes tabes curved-back chairs

Photo: Leah Friel




The blood-red focal point is a rarity among Honolulu restaurants—but then again, so is the large bull’s head pushing through that vermilion curtain as if through a matador’s cape. That’s the allure of Rigo’s design: Like much of Spanish and Italian culture, whose dual cuisines are its focus, it mixes the unabashed with contemporary chic. High ceilings in sea-foam green, tile floors in alternating shades of slate, and a mezzanine-level display of hundreds of wine bottles frame an open space that invites the kind of lively, passionate conversation these two countries are known for.—MT


885 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 735-9760,



Bar Maze beautiful restaurant interior light wood wall paneling upholstered chairs exposed bulb pendant lights

Photos: Courtesy of Bar Maze, Martha Cheng



Bar Maze

In a wisp of a space, as if shaved off the Dry Bar salon next door, Bar Maze is an airy room of blonde wood and two-story windows that even at night convey a luminosity. The interior is accented with indigo and brass, like glimmers of sunlight on a dark sea. You’ll find nooks in the mezzanine, where the a la carte menu is served, and the solid ash wood counter below sets the stage for the tasting menu, the experience intimate yet lofty, from the food to the interior.—MC


604 Ala Moana Blvd.,, @bar.maze



Merrimans Honolulu beautiful restaurant interior tropical upholstery wood floor tables floor tiles

Photo: Steve Czerniak, Courtesy of Merriman’s Honolulu



Merriman’s Honolulu

Part French bistro, part high-end dining, part Hawai‘i is how chef Peter Merriman has described his first Honolulu Merriman’s location and the airy, 6,000 square-foot eatery blends those aesthetics with ease. For Parisian touches look no further than the eatery’s woven café chairs and chic geometric floor tiles. Above the bar, glass pendant lights enveloped in fishing-style netting add a coastal feel. And anchoring it all are distinctly Hawaiian details—banquettes adorned with tropical-print upholstery by Moloka‘i fashion label Kealopiko, 17-foot log columns crafted from ‘ōhi‘a, and a large-scale replica photo of a captivating dinner scene featuring King Kalākaua.—BT


1108 Auahi St., (808) 215-0022,,




Sushi Sho beautiful restaurant curved wood ceiling sushi counter wood chairs

Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikīkī Beach



Sushi Sho

You enter at the midpoint of a tunnel-like room, your gaze immediately drawn to the right. Here, where long, dark-wood slats of a semicircular ceiling meet the polished arc of a blonde cypress sushi bar, is center stage at Sushi Sho. All the lights shine down on this space, illuminating Edomae sushi masters as they slice precisely cured seafood, shape them onto rice and place the morsels of nigiri sushi before diners ringing the stage. The effect is not unlike that of an oyster, shining and opalescent, revealing its pearl—the result of a collaboration between chef-proprietor Keiji Nakazawa and Japanese design firm Nomura Co.—MT


The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikīkī Beach, 383 Kālaimoku St., (808) 729-9729,, @sushishowaikiki




Mahina And Sun's beautiful restaurant interior tropical seat cushions bartenders bar area bar stools

Photos: Mariko Reed, Courtesy of The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club



Mahina & Sun’s

This buzzy eatery in The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club manages to draw locals to Waikīkī on the regular (no easy feat) thanks in part to its cool, midcentury aesthetic peppered with nostalgic nods to 1960s Hawai‘i surf culture. To achieve the look, Honolulu design firm The Vanguard Theory tapped dozens of local artisans to create custom work for the space. Mixed in with the Hans Wegner wishbone chairs, you’ll find shaka-patterned wallpaper by Andrew Mau, sculptural hand-cut wood pendant lights from Mark Chai and upholstered seating featuring archival prints from fashion label Tori Richard.—BT


The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, 412 Lewers St., (808) 924-5810,, @mahinaandsuns



Et Al beautiful restaurant interior bar area stools pendant lights mirrored wall

Photo: Courtesy of Foodland



Et Al.

When you consider its diverse aesthetic references, it makes perfect sense that this Foodland-owned eatery’s name is derived from the Latin phrase meaning “and others.” Local design firm The Vanguard Theory combined signatures of Mediterranean architecture, such as stucco and dramatic arches, with elements of Hawaiian, Japanese and Portuguese culture to stylish effect. Look out for seating upholstered in palaka, a plaid fabric made popular in Hawai‘i’s plantation days, a concrete bar top finished with kintsugi-inspired gold inlay, and our favorite touch, bar stools that look as if they’re draped with colorful lei.—BT


Kāhala Mkt., 4210 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 732-2144,, @etalhawaii



La Vie beautiful restaurant interior wicker bench green floor tile glass pendant lights wood bar

Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikīkī Beach



La Vie

Brunch is easily my favorite meal at this swanky French eatery, if only because the soft morning light allows for the best viewing of its lovely design details. It’s hard to take your eyes off the gorgeous leaflike hex floor tiles, which Guerin Glass Architects employed to channel the island’s lush greenery, but a glance upward is rewarded with La Vie’s sleek bronze bar top, clean-lined white oak paneling and a smattering of elegant glass orb pendants suspended overhead.—BT


The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikīkī Beach, 383 Kalaimoku St., (808) 729-9729,, @laviewaikiki



Istanbul Hawaii beautiful restaurant outdoor patio tables chair kitchen wood benches servers

Photos: Mandy Davis



Istanbul Hawai‘i

Istanbul, she is gorgeous. But what sets it apart is the narrative behind its warm, inviting, Mediterranean-meets-Anthropologie aesthetic. Owner-chef Ahu Hettema and her family designed and made by hand most of the stunning décor themselves due to early budget constraints—necessity being the mother of invention. Hettema imagined the pieces she wanted, blueprinted her ideas, then handed them over to her husband and father, both engineers. The result? Distressed, cerulean-stained doors that double as bench backs; Spanish-inspired tiered chandeliers; a massive arched bar that is STUN-NING; and rustic wood tables and floors that allow the earthy, rich tones of the space’s accessories, including ceramics and a 100-year-old rug from Turkey, to shine. Hettema notes, “This is my version of a modern Turkish home.”—SM


1108 Auahi St. Suite 152, (808) 772-4440,, @istanbulhawaii




Herringbone beautiful restaurant interior plant wall handing wood ships tables chairs

Photo: David Croxford




Situated on the sun-drenched rooftop of Waikīkī’s International Market Place, Herringbone offers a California coastal atmosphere that pairs nicely with its “fish meats field” cuisine. Nautical design details such as dinghies and skiffs, strung up with ship rigging, serve as a through line from its first location in La Jolla. And while the verdant living wall in the main dining room is wow-worthy, we always seem to beeline for the garden lānai and the chance to dine al fresco among its floating wood planter boxes, spilling over with ferns and tropical blooms.—BT


International Market Place, 2330 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 210-2656,, @herringbonewaikiki




Hau Tree Lanai beautiful restaurant outdoor has tree lanterns gallery wall couch

Photos: Surf Please, Courtesy of Henderson Design Group



Hau Tree

When Waikīkī’s New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel was revamped in 2021, emerging as the fresher, hipper Kaimana Beach Hotel, its Hau Tree eatery (named for its beloved 100-plus-year-old trees) was reimagined as well. Its resulting “beachside casual-luxury” aesthetic, dreamt up by Henderson Design Group, starts with teak and rope-trimmed chairs and a relaxed coastal palette in the open-air dining room and carries over to woven light fixtures and custom accent tiles at the bar. And, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the view of the nearby lounge area’s showstopping gallery wall featuring tropical art in a punchy mix of turquoise, pink and orange.—BT


Kaimana Beach Hotel, 2863 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 921-7066,, @thehautree




SEE ALSO: 2022 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: The Best Restaurants in Hawai‘i




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