Nico's Pier 38

Price: $6.95 to $10

Downtown workers, fishermen and savvy tourists have a favorite seafood restaurant in Honolulu: Nico's Pier 38. And we agree. The seafood here is so fresh, you know it just came off the boat. Actually, the Honolulu Fish Auction is next door; each day, owner Nicolas Chaize chooses what he'll serve that day. Try the pan-seared ahi ($8.45) or the succulent opah ($8.15); the seafood plates are accompanied by fresh organic baby greens and rice. Order inside and eat on the busy patio or at a picnic table near the fishing boats.

We loved. . . the freshness of the fish.

We didn't love. . . the lack of air conditioning on the patio.

Nico's Pier 38, 1133 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu; (808) 540-1377, www.nicospier38.com.

Uncle's Fish Market & Grill

Price: $5.95 to $15.95

There's only one seafood restaurant we like as well as Nico's, and this is it. Conveniently, it's next door, so if one has an overflow crowd, try the other. Uncle's is the new kid on the pier -- open three months -- with an open kitchen and lively, sea-oriented, casual décor. The menu here is larger than at Nico's, offering more types of fish, plus pastas, salads, deli foods, sandwiches, burgers and chicken. As at Nico's, customers are served a huge fillet of fish.

We loved . . . the décor, the freshness of the fish and the variety of the menu.

We didn't love . . . using a public outdoor restroom (although it was clean).

Uncle's, 1135 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu; (808) 275-0063, www.unclesfishmarket.com.

Helena's Hawaiian Foods

Prices: $2.25 to $15.65

If you're looking for aloha spirit, Helena's is the place. This funky hole in the wall is a Honolulu icon. Locals come here for real Hawaiian food; visitors in the know skip the hotel luau and drop by to taste kalua pig ($2.90), poi ($2.25), squid luau ($3.15) and fried butterfish collar ($3.95). The James Beard Foundation called Helena's "a regional classic."

We loved. . . the friendly staff.

We didn't love. . . the run-down neighborhood, which includes a radiator shop and a feed store.

Helena's Hawaiian Foods, 1240 N. School St., Honolulu; (808) 845-8044.

Mei Sum Dim Sum