Hungry for good values, we combed through the Islands in pursuit of delicious meals for $20 or less. We lunched, we brunched, we wined, we dined. And we found you can eat well, accompanied only by a minted portrait of Andrew Jackson. The secret is not just knowing where to go, but what to order. So grab your wallet, and follow us.
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Dat One Persian Restaurant801 Alakea St., Ste. 109, 791-1616.
CHEAP EAT Ghormeh sabzi & fesenjoon plate, $6.50
A new addition to downtown’s lunchtime scene, Dat One Persian Restaurant offers up a refreshingly exotic palette of flavors. From the various stews in their buffet-line pans, we opted for ghormeh sabzi (beef with chives, parsley, fenugreek and dried lemon, with red kidney beans) and fesenjoon (boiled chicken stewed in a walnut and pomegranate stew). The first was a bit bitter, not unlike laulau with its ratio of meat-to-dark-green-leaves. The second was sweet and aromatic, like something you’d serve on a holiday. For an extra treat, visit on Friday’s for the beef kabob special ($7). Lunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m. daily.
Don’t be fooled by the olive-oil cake’s name—it’s actually quite light and airy at Downtown.
photo by Lara Hata
Downtown, Hawaii State Art Museum 250 S. Hotel St., 536-5900.
CHEAP EAT Italian Soda, Duck Confit Sandwich, Olive Oil Cake, for $19.25
Downtown, the new Ed Kenney offering on the ground floor of the Hawaii State Art Museum, has both a counter for takeout, as well as a lively, trendy-but-not-pretentious dining room. The Italian soda ($2.75; we chose pomegranate flavor) is a layer of syrup, topped with club soda and milk, which you stir to create a pink concoction. The duck confit on grilled rye ($10.50) has a joyful, date-spiked mustard, while the olive-oil cake ($6) comes topped with cooked Kula strawberries. A meal here tastes like a summer afternoon in Europe, with your window open. 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
photo by Olivier Koning
Formaggio2919 Kapiolani Blvd., 739-7719.
CHEAP EAT Kobe Burger Panini ($13.95)
The best burger in Honolulu isn’t served at a burger joint—or even on a bun. It comes from a wine bar. Formaggio serves up a patty of wagyu beef (U.S.-farmed, Kobe-style beef) with mozzarella cheese, lettuce and tomato, served on focaccia. The intensity of the beef flavor, versus typical burgers, is like the difference between black and white and color film. And the mozzarella will make you regret every plastic-wrapped slice of American cheese you’ve ever encountered. What could be better with such a politically incorrect meal than the appropriately named Australian red wine, Evil ($7.25)? Well, a side of fries. Get on it, Formaggio! Dinner Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m.-12 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Goldfish568 Halekauwila St., 721-8800.
CHEAP EAT Temaki Combo, $11
Goldfish is a hidden gem, the kind of place where you almost feel like you’ve left Oahu and traveled somewhere new. With about a dozen tables, a sushi counter and a BYOB policy, there’s a decidedly relaxed feel; you have to go two doors down, past a nail-supply store, to use the restroom. We ordered the Temaki Combo ($11), three plump, well-stuffed cones with vegetables: one contained a large, tempura shrimp, surrounded by crab salad; one contained spicy tuna, and one offered sweet, chopped scallops. Add the garlic, pan-fried edamame ($5), with rich, smokey flavors, but skip the miso soup ($2), which comes in a miniscule bowl. Open Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.