Media site

The Islands of Hawaii

Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations, Inc.
Sonja Swenson
Senior Vice President
(808) 523-8802

For Immediate Release

November 06, 2012


Oahu’s iconic Chinatown is filled with rows of local produce vendors, delicious dim sum hole-in-the-wall shops, and enough herbal medicine to heal you of any ailment. However, this area, which is known to be frequented by locals shopping for their weekly vegetables and traditional Chinese goodies, has turned into one of Oahu’s hottest fashion, arts and dining districts.

In 2003, Chinatown was transformed into an energizing nightlife destination with the launch of the First Friday Gallery Walk. Next year will mark the 10th anniversary of this event which has inspired multiple fashion, art and culinary renaissances in this otherwise traditionally Chinese area of Honolulu. 

The rumblings of a new revitalization movement are getting louder with the opening of new boutiques, restaurants and studios. Now more than ever is the perfect time to explore what lies beyond Waikiki in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

Get Fresh
Daring designs and edgy colors have taken over the window displays on every corner of Chinatown. Boutiques that cater to fashion divas and dudes, who like their jeans dyed and tops cropped, have started to pop up. Below are a few of the new stores worth checking out.

Searching for shoes, strapless minis or sunglasses? Then check out Homecoming Boutique on Bethel Street. Filled from wall-to-wall with fashion that could be described as “Hawaiian rock ‘n’ roll” featuring floral print tops and spiked ballerina flats. 

Rescue your favorite fashions at Barrio Vintage, an affordable retro boutique located on Nuuanu Avenue. Don’t let the vintage name fool you though; all of the clothing and accessories in the store are still style relevant and hot and hip.

Colorful, fun and flirty frocks can be found at Florencia Arias. Just a few steps away from Barrio Vintage on Nuuanu Ave, this boutique carries the perfect outfits for lounging, shopping and dining in style.

What started as a pop-up shop has turned into a chic boutique. Located on Bethel Street, the House of Aria is stocked with working girl fashions and accessories perfect for the office or hitting the town.

Get lost in La Muse. From books to bracelets and kitty rings to rainbow machines, there are tables and racks of treasures to explore in this charming boutique.

Honolulu’s own “Project Runway” superstar, Andy South, has opened her brand new studio on King Street. The elegant two-story space is the perfect backdrop to showcase the graceful yet bold fashions of this brilliant designer.

Snack, shop and shave. Men can find a place to escape in the heart of Chinatown after a long day of snacking on manapua at Mojo Barbershop. Haircuts, straight razor shaves, and a cold beer all while watching the latest game on TV sounds like the perfect “bromantic” experience.

Vivid and Vibrant

Known as the “arts district,” every corner of Chinatown is filled with provocative graffiti, galleries or freshly inked patrons doubling as walking pieces of art. From classic oil paintings in elegant showrooms to jazz music hovering from a loft window, Honolulu’s Chinatown oozes creativity and leaves visitors feeling inspired.

The Arts at Mark’s Garage is long standing artist run non-profit located in the heart of Chinatown. This arts hub is also responsible for revitalizing the Chinatown community through creative street celebrations like First Fridays. Each year 30,000 people are attracted to cutting edge multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary exhibits, performances, lectures, screenings and workshops.

Hawaii art enthusiasts would agree that no island collection is complete without a Pegge Hopper painting.  View her collection at the Pegge Hopper Gallery located on Nuuanu Avenue. Everything from prints, posters and lithographs are available for purchase.

Eat, breathe and sleep art at Chinatown Artists’ Lofts. Located on Maunakea Street, the loft complex offers a creative haven for artists wanting to live in the epicenter of the art movement. During the First Friday Gallery Walk, some of the artists open up their spaces to showcase their projects that range from photography to music.

Black Cat Tattoo is not just a tattoo parlor but a fully functioning art studio where services include commissioned art pieces, custom shoes and apparel, and of course, tattoos. The shop is owned and operated by local artists who mandate that their employees have interest in other art mediums outside of tattooing. In true Chinatown fashion, Black Cat Tattoo is also involved in First Fridays, the art districts event.

Chinatown Chomp Down
A few brave chefs and restaurateurs have set up shop in Chinatown, an area known for its generations old, hole-in-the-wall eateries.  These new restaurants are adding an energizing flavor to an already eclectic dining line-up.

Lucky Belly is Chinatown’s newest and trendiest noodle bar created by former Alan Wong’s team members. The menu is an explosion of flavor sure to invigorate your taste buds. Their signature dish and must-try is the Belly Bowl: a bowl of sesame based stock with ramen noodles, pork, bok choy, a boiled egg and sausage.

Adega Portuguesa is an authentic Portuguese restaurant and bar serving up true Portuguese dishes using only the freshest ingredients. The unique atmosphere and live music keep this fun and vibrant restaurant full. Diners can also enjoy various open-mic nights and can share their musical talents with the rest of their guests.

Enjoy smooth beats, sexy sushi and potent martinis at RaKuen Sushi Lounge, located on Bethel Street. The lounge’s innovative menu was created by Chef Stephen Hamada, formerly of Chai’s Island Bistro.

Escape from the crowds of Chinatown and Honolulu’s financial district into the tranquil space of Cafe Julia. With dishes created from the freshest ingredients grown throughout the islands, this restaurant is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate your mind and body.

Watering Holes & Stilettos
Oahu isn’t only about the sand, surf and sun. Visitors looking for exotic cocktails, loud music and beautiful people can find it at Chinatown’s trendy bars and nightclubs. From jazz bars to hip-hop hangouts, visitors can choose from an exciting assortment of places to dance the night away.

With more than 110 specialty beers from around the world, specialty cocktails and innovative, gourmet pizzas, Bar 35 has become one of Oahu’s hot pau hana spots.  On First Fridays, Bar 35’s fully stocked indoor bar and outdoor beer garden are packed with young professionals and hipsters.

Located adjacent to Bar 35 are thirtyninehotel and Next Door.  Thirtyninehotel is an art gallery during the day and a club at night that features some of Hawaii’s best jazz musicians.  Newly renovated, thirtyninehotel boasts a mod indoor bar and swanky outdoor deck complete with wooden loungers and large umbrellas.  Next door to Bar 35 and thirtyninehotel is Next Door, a multimedia venue that hosts live bands and musicians, as well as local and nationally renowned DJs spinning dance and hip-hop music.,

Indigo restaurant serves up more than just award-winning Eurasian cuisine.  The popular downtown Honolulu hangout’s Opium Den & Champagne Bar and Green Room lounge offer nightly drink and food specials.  Live jazz music is played on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and DJs spin reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, and techno on Wednesday and Saturday.

Flashback to Chinatown’s Past
Honolulu’s iconic Chinatown is a neighborhood with a rich history. From its beginnings as an immigrant settlement, this fifteen-block area of Honolulu has a colorful past filled with stories and tales of vibrant cultures, crime mysteries, tragic fires and the rebuilding and renewal of a multicultural gathering place.  No visit is complete without stopping by a few stores that have anchored this evolving neighborhood.

Oahu Market opened its doors in 1904 and is still the “go to” place for fresh meat, vegetables and people watching. This market is definitely a must-see for extreme foodies as many unique delicacies, from pig snouts to chicken feet, are on display at every counter.
If there’s a long line in front of a store in Chinatown, chances are the food sold there is a must-try. Char Hung Sut opens at 5:30 a.m. to a crowd of locals and visitors waiting for their fill of manapua, pork hash, rice cake and other Chinese goodies.

Custard connoisseurs who have tried the pies at Lee’s Bakery & Kitchen agree that they are phenomenal. The pies are made fresh daily and taste the best when enjoyed while they’re still warm and gooey. While pies are their specialty, the bakery also sells Chinese custard buns, peanut butter mochi and creamy pastries. 

Invigorate your sense of smell with a walk down Maunakea Street. With dozens of lei shops, it’s hard not to stop and smell the flowers, and even pick one up to wear. Cindy’s Lei Shop, one of the oldest in Hawaii, sells everything from fragrant pikake leis to innovative orchid leis like the Butterfly Lavender Green lei and Christina lei.

To learn more about Chinatown’s history, visit or check out a walking tour during your next visit to O‘ahu. Guided tours are available through the Hawai‘i Heritage Center, (808) 521-2749, or Waikiki Trolley’s “Stroll the Streets Tour: Honolulu 1941,”

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