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30 Meals Under $30


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By Starr Begley, Jennifer Ching, Lois Ann Ell, Tiffany Hill, Christine Hitt, Michael Keany, A. Kam Napier, Catherine Tarleton and Kathryn Drury Wagner

Thirty dollars used to be  plenty of cash to buy a nice meal. But recently, we’ve noticed that restaurant entrées are routinely pushing that threshold, with many menus showing dishes costing $30—and up. That’s why we were particularly inspired to find entire meals that cost less than $30. Real, satisfying meals, at nice restaurants, even with a glass of wine. It can be done—here’s how.


Photo: Monte Costa


Baci Bistro

$25.40!  House salad ($5.50), linguine with clams ($13.95) and profiteroles ($5.95).

A cozy little spot with Italian music playing and plenty of wine available, Baci Bistro is the perfect place for meeting up with friends. We tried the house salad, topped with an artistic ribbon of beets and carrots, then tucked into a giant bowl of sweet clams and linguine. Our server had recommended the “natural” sauce, but you can also choose a white or red sauce if you like things a little heartier. Decadent, chocolate-topped profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream finished our meal. La dolce vita!  Lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner nightly from 5:30 to 10. 30 Aulike St., 262-7555. bacibistro.com.


Photo: Linny Morris

Mermaid Bar

$20! Soup du jour ($6.25), Mermaid custom salad with sautéed shrimp ($13.75).

There’s no need to jockey with the hoi polloi for a seat in the crowded food court at Ala Moana Center. The Mermaid Bar, tucked away on the second floor of Neiman Marcus, offers a secluded, peaceful lunch experience, for just a few dollars more than you’d spend on a regular old plate lunch. On a recent Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful chicken lentil soup and a fresh salad made to order with all our favorites: broccoli, cucumber, blood oranges, tomatoes, bacon, croutons. We also sprang for the sautéed shrimp, which added $4 to the tab, but, all in all, it was an entirely reasonable bill for an entirely civilized lunch. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Neiman Marcus, second floor, 951-3428.


Gyotaku Japanese Restaurant

$21.70!  Zaru-soba, California roll and tempura combination ($15.95), iced tea ($2.50), green-tea ice cream ($3.25).

The golden tempura, the colorful sushi rolls—we couldn’t decide, so we got it all: cold zaru-soba noodles, four pieces of California roll and three pieces of spicy tuna sushi, tempura and a small tossed salad in one combination plate. Top it off with a refreshing dessert—green-tea shave ice or ice cream, or the new Okinawan sweet potato and haupia pie. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.  King Street location:  1824 King St., 949-4584. Niu Valley location:  5730 Kalanianaole Highway, 373-2731. Pearl City location:  98-1226 Kaahumanu St., 487-0091. gyotakuhawaii.com.


Photo: Mark Arbeit


Sapori Enoteca/Birreria

$24.50!  Stuffed pork-loin chop ($18) and a glass of pinot grigio ($6.50).

Sapori Enoteca/Birreria  is a mouthful to say, but your stomach will thank you for stopping by. Sapori means “flavor” in Italian, and chef Donato Loperfido creates dishes that live up to the name. Nestled in the ground floor of the Uraku Tower, Sapori is a classy, tapas-style place. Looking for a larger dish, we opted for the stuffed pork-loin chop. The dish’s aroma captured us even before the waiter set it down. The pork is stuffed with Montasio cheese and speck (a type of dried ham) and neatly sliced, with a red wine tartufata sauce. The entrée featured roasted potatoes and haricot vert on the side. With a glass of pinot grigio and complimentary bread, you’ll leave more than satisfied. Open nightly from 5:30  to 10 p.m., except for Fridays from 4:30 to 10 p.m. 1341 Kapi‘olani Blvd., 955-3582, saporihonolulu.com.


Photo: Linny Morris

JJ Bistro and French Pastry

$24.95! Four-course meal special: spicy-lemongrass soup, Lao Rock and Roll chicken summer rolls, lamb Wellington, strawberry cheesecake and mini crème brûlée.

This restaurant offers high-quality food and a friendly, neighborhood vibe—we wound up chatting with people at the table next to us to strategize on what to order. The first course, a lemongrass/chicken soup, tasted magically comforting, like it could cure the common cold, while the summer-roll appetizer featured unusually tasty summer rolls. When the lamb Wellington arrived, the scent of rosemary rose up and surrounded us. Too full for the cheesecake? Yes, but it was too delicious for us to pass up. Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, noon to 9 p.m. 3447 Waialae Avenue, 739-0993, jjfrenchpastry.com.


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