Getting to Know Manoa Valley and its Neighborhoods
Discover the subdivisions of Manoa and learn about its housing.
Next to your neighborhood Long’s (CVS), within Manoa Marketplace, this small but mighty french bakery has pastries, beautiful desserts, breads, sandwiches, and pizzas. They have daily bread specials with options like Coconut Milk Bread and Ciabatta. I personally love their sourdough and classic french baguettes. For breakfast I like to splurge on a chocolate croissant and whatever pastry is featuring local produce, like the lychee streusel. Their desserts are quality, melt in your mouth, I can’t believe I already ate it all quality. Their mini guava cheesecake was one of the most decadent guava-anything I’ve ever tried.
If you aren’t feeling pastries, they offer up breakfast sandwiches like the $8.99 Petite Croissant sandwich: egg, bacon, and Muenster cheese, served on a house-made croissant. A sandwich full of buttery-bacon goodness. They also have 8 inch rustic pizzas. I recommend the Classic for $14.75: tomato sauce, pecorino, mozzarella, parmesan reggiano cheeses, and fresh basil.
Next to tourist destination hotspot Manoa Starbucks, stands Andy’s, a Manoa landmark first opened in 1977 and still going strong. Husband and wife team Andy and Norma Rodrigues own and run this health conscious shop with help from family. They bake fresh bread daily and there’s never a dull moment from the time they open until they close. Once you walk in after waiting in a quick moving line, you'll be greeted ahead by the sandwich making counter and brightly colored, handwritten signs with menu items.
The bulk of their menu contains hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and smoothies. You won’t go wrong with the turkey sandwich or the Bird’s Nest salad. The sandwiches are packed with veggies and a side of tangy papaya seed dressing. These sandwiches are a big bang for your buck, ranging from $7 to $11. They also offer baked goods like cookies, muffins, and energy bars.
Off the Hook get action! Catch this poke market right next to Andy’s. Make sure you are standing in the right line, there are usually two—one for Andy’s and one for Off the Hook. If you aren’t sure, just ask someone in line, everyone is pretty friendly and understanding.
Off the Hook’s hashtag is #alwaysfresh and I can attest to that fact. Walking by one day, I saw them in the back unloading the day’s ahi and da pidgin went off in my mind, “hoooo dat buggah is HUGE!” I had to do a double take. They get their fish fresh daily from the Honolulu Fish Auction. It’s no wonder they won the ‘Ilima Award for Hawaii's Best Seafood Restaurant in 2019 and why there is always a line outside their shop.
When ordering, walk up to the door-turned-window and choose what size poke bowl you want–mini $9.99 or regular $11.99–and your base: white rice, brown rice, sushi rice, or green salad, then choose one or two types of poke. The ahi comes in 7 different flavor profiles like spicy ahi or their signature cold ginger ahi. Not feeling fish? They also have miso ginger tako. You can also forego the poke bowl and just get ahi by the pound.
A few spots down from Off the Hook, on the corner of East Manoa Road and Lowrey Avenue, Feast by Jon Matsubara awaits you. A relatively new restaurant, it is one worth trying out. Famous for its lobster rolls, this elevated plate lunch place has been rolling out some ono-liscious food items. The daily specials include the aforementioned lobster roll with fries, made with a sizable portion of lobster, umami mayo, lemon, and a buttered Hawaiian sweet roll for $30. This is my mother’s favorite, so if I ever need to butter her up, this is my first stop.
There are also some more affordable options available. Try Matsubara’s most popular takes on classic plate lunches like hamburger steak for $14.50 or JFC (Jonny’s Fried Chicken) for $16.50. Both are available in mini sizes. For even cheaper eats check out their Magic Menu with items ranging from $7 to $10.
Located next to the historic blue-wooden Japanese Language School building, Serg’s is serving some of the most authentic Mexican food on island, and is a must-try for anyone visiting the valley. At his restaurant, owner and chef Sergio Arellano uses recipes he learned from his family back in Mexico. The flautas at Serg’s are famous: a 12 inch flour tortilla with your choice of filling, deep-fried, then topped with sour cream, queso fresco, onions, and cilantro. Try one with a side of black beans and rice for $14.95.
I judge a Mexican restaurant by its horchata and tamales, and both at Serg’s are excellent. At $2.95, the horchata is flavorful and not watered down and the tamales are comforting and have a good amount of filling. Just make sure you plan around Taco Tuesday, as the crowd starts coming from 4pm to 9pm and taco prices drop to $2, with specialty tacos like lengua (tongue) at $3.
Across the street from Feast, is the quintessential hipster cafe, Morning Glass. The cafe is about coffee craft and the intentionality of good food. Their coffee is strong and not laden down with sweeteners. I personally like the matcha latte as I can actually taste the matcha and don’t feel like I’m drinking flavored milk. Morning Glass’s food is thoughtful and inventive and the menu always has new items. They were first known for their mac ‘n’ cheese pancakes. They give their food quirky names for bold flavors like the “Hot Hunneh”–a house buttermilk biscuit, bacon, over medium local egg, and “hot honey” made from Manoa honey and Hawaiian chili peppers.
For around $11 they have a mean breakfast burrito with chorizo that is especially delicious after a morning hike, and tasty pastries like guava scones ($3.50) and liliko'i honey butter biscuits ($4.50). They also serve a variety of sandwiches, with burgers available on Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes the line can get long, especially on the weekends, as most of the coffees are pour over coffees and are made to order, so plan accordingly. Your meal and drink of choice with a rainbow and mountain backdrop of Manoa, makes for an insta-worthy photo op.
Located within the Marketplace, on the second floor, Pho Viet is not only one of the must-try places to eat in Manoa, it’s my all time favorite pho place on island. This is especially true on rainy Manoa days. Their broth is on the sweeter side and is consistently great and the service is always friendly. The ambiance feels homey with lace curtains and hand picked decor. The owners cook as well as greet and seat you at one of the many tables. Go there more than once and they will remember you with no problem, go there a few times and they will remember what you like to order.
A bowl of pho starts at $11.95 with a variety of options for customization including round steak, tendon, tripe, chicken, tofu, and seafood. Their broth comes in a beef or vegetarian option. My go-to order is the vegetable tofu pho with regular broth and iced coffee. If pho is not your thing, the menu is diverse, offering sandwiches, seafood, cold vermicelli dishes, and appetizers. Round out your meal with a strong cup of Vietnamese iced coffee like me or a Thai tea.
Are you hungry yet? All the places listed above are within walking distance of each other. Just park at Manoa Marketplace and have a walk around. This list does not encompass all Manoa eateries, not even close! In fact, your best bet would be to take a few trips to see for yourself what Manoa Valley has to offer, not only broke-da-mouth eats, but picturesque scenery, beautiful homes, and a neighborly community.
Discover the subdivisions of Manoa and learn about its housing.
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Learn about the public, private, & charter schools in Manoa.