30 Meals Under $30

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.



Photo: Rae Huo

Café Sistina

$25! Scampi alla vodka ($17.25), iced tea ($2.50), Gianduia (chocolate hazelnut) gelato ($5.25).

This restaurant captures you from the moment you walk in the door. The interior alone takes your breath away: owner and chef Sergio Mitrotti’s magnificent re-creations of various Sistine Chapel murals speak to his hidden artistic talents. Mitrotti’s culinary skills are just as terrific—his menu ranges from traditional Italian favorites to Mediterranean fusion dishes. We chose a mid-range entrée. Scampi alla vodka, a strong, hearty scampi with Manila clams and a gorgonzola-caper-vodka sauce mixed into spinach fettuccine. The rich, creamy Gianduia gelato (via La Gelateria) provided a sweet finish to this filling meal. Lunch Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner nightly, 5:30 to 9:30. 1314 S. King St., 596-0061.


Photo: Mark Arbeit

Good to Grill

$13.98!  Chocolate lover’s pancake ($7.99) and breakfast tacos ($5.99).

Chocolate may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to breakfast, but after trying the chocolate pancakes at Good to Grill, you may want to reconsider. The pancakes are light and a perfect balance between chocolate and batter—not too rich, and they still taste like pancakes—topped off with strawberries and whipped cream. Add some variety to your breakfast with a tasty trio of breakfast tacos, packed with scrambled eggs, tomatoes, pulled pork and potatoes. These breakfast tacos are the best we’ve had! Breakfast Saturday and Sunday only from 8 to 11:30 a.m. 888 Kapahulu Ave., 734-7345, goodtogrill.com.


Restaurant Epic

$28!  Cioppino ($21) and Maso Canali Pinot Grigio ($7).

Get your seafood stewed  with Epic’s cioppino, which includes Alaskan King crab, shrimp, U-10 scallops, white fish and clams in a white wine and tomato stew with crostini. Sure, that’s an awfully Italian-sounding entrée from a place that seems part pan-Pacific, part bistro, but we loved it, along with the glass of pinot grigio. It’s enough to remind downtowners that Epic isn’t just a lunch spot, it’s one of those places which make it worth staying in the neighborhood for dinner, too. Lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m., Friday, 4:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday 5 to 11 p.m.  1131 Nuuanu Ave., 587-7877, restaurantepichawaii.com.


Photo: Ryan Siphers

Mekong II

$28.85!  Spring rolls ($7.95), pad Thai noodles ($9.95) and yellow curry chicken ($10.95).

This restaurant makes you feel at home with its simple décor and casual charm; parking that’s a cinch doesn’t hurt at all. We tried the spring rolls to start. There were six in the order, but they flew off our plates due to the yummy mushroom, pork and carrot goodness. Luckily, the service was fast, so our main entrées, a yellow curry chicken and pad Thai noodles, were not far behind. The food was flavorful and completely comforting, making an evening out for dinner a prequel to an early night of slumbering. Lunch Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner nightly 5 to 9:30. 1726 S. King St., 941-6184.



Le Bistro

$29.60!  Escargot de Bourgogne with garlic, parsley and olive butter ($9.80), red wine and peppercorn short ribs ($19.80). 

This fine French dining  institution has never been a spot for penny pinchers, but we didn’t have to compromise our love for decadence to keep things affordable. Escargot de Bourgogne started the meal off right; each bite of tender snail with garlic, parsley and olive butter made us swoon. Then Le Bistro’s slow-cooked and amazingly tender red wine and peppercorn short ribs completely demolished us. If escargot is a no-go for you, we recommend swapping it out for a bowl of Le Bistro’s classic French onion soup gratinée, with Gruyere cheese and baguette croutons ($7.80). Pure happiness. Open nightly from 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. 5730 Kalanianaole Highway in the Niu Valley Shopping Center, 373-7990.


Photo: David Croxford

Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch, Crab & Big Aloha Brewery

$28.95!  Kalbi marinated butterfish ($23.95) and Stellina di Notte pinot grigio ($5).

We still miss Sam’s  original restaurant on Kapahulu, so it’s good to know we can enjoy his take on Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine on Nimitz. Since the word “kalbi” seems forever linked to the word “ribs,” we had to see what kalbi marinated butterfish was like—and it was ‘ono. A generous portion of butterfish with a vivid red kochu jang (chili bean paste) vinaigrette on garlic butter-braised baby bok choy. You will not leave hungry after indulging in this famously rich fish. Breakfast Monday through Friday, 7 to 10:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 to 11 a.m. Lunch Monday through Friday 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. 580 N. Nimitz Highway, 545-7979, samchoy.com.


Photo: Mark Arbeit

Soul Café

$25! Chicken, sweet potato and spicy kukui Portuguese sausage gumbo ($14), Southern sampler ($9) and sweet iced tea ($2).

fter checking out Soul Café on a recent weeknight, we couldn’t stop thinking about the scrumptious gumbo, and the Southern sampler, which includes succulent cornbread with honey butter, vegetarian chili, Mao collard greens and the best coleslaw we’ve ever tasted. Is your mouth watering yet? We thought so. Soul Café is the restaurant version of chef and owner Sean Priester’s Pacific Soul lunch wagon. While the parking is tricky, Priester’s food is worth it. We recommend washing down this Southern goodness with the sweet iced tea. If you’re still hungry, order two pieces of the buttermilk fried chicken—yum—for $5; you’ll end up with a $30 meal. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. 3040 Waialae Ave., 735-7685.


The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong

$28.50! “Da Poi Cup” ($9.25), Mākaha mango salad ($12), a glass of “Pinot Pinot” ($7.25).

he Pineapple Room received a much-needed facelift last October, so the room now looks as fresh and contemporary as the flavors served there. We sampled executive chef Lance Kosaka’s “Da Poi Cup,”—a smoky, salty scoop of kālua pork dropped right into a bowl of Hanalei poi, topped with lomi tomato—as well as a menu item straight out of mango season: Spiced kiawe-grilled shrimp with Mākaha mangoes, Golden Delicious apples, Ma‘o spicy greens and a mango-yuzu-chili dressing. We added to that a glass of “Pinot Pinot,” a blend of pinot blanc and pinot gris made specifically to complement Alan Wong’s cuisine. Breakfast Saturday, 8 to 10:30 a.m., and Sunday, 9 to 10:30 a.m. Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner Monday through Saturday, 4 to 8:30 p.m. Macy’s Third Floor, Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., 945-6573, alanwongs.com.

Photo: Ryan Siphers

3660 On The Rise

$26.75!  Potato-crusted crab cake ($12), clam and corn chowder ($6.75), Mile-High Waialae Pie ($8).

At the casual, yet upscale 3660,  we took on the “smaller” dishes, which actually weren’t so small: a generous-size crab cake accompanied by an equal amount of Nalo greens and a healthy serving of creamy clam and corn chowder. For dessert, we indulged in layers of coffee and vanilla ice cream in the Mile-High Wai‘alae Pie. Mix and match these and other tempting appetizers, desserts and drinks, including the piled-high shichimi seared ahi salad ($11), harlequin crème brûlée ($8), and 3660’s signature lychee martini ($7). Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., closed on Mondays. 3660 Waialae Ave., 737-1177., 3660.com.



$29!  Goat cheese salad ($9) and housemade gnocchi ($20). 

This hip new eatery  at the top of Wai‘alae has its fair share of big-ticket dishes—filet mignon, lobster—but it’s also got the basics down pat. We opened up simple—a goat cheese salad with mesclun greens, candied walnuts, strawberries and an orange balsamic vinaigrette. For the entrée, we chose supremely tender gnocchi, made in-house every day. Sundried tomatoes gave welcome bursts of flavor to the already rich and creamy Gorgonzola sauce.  Monday through Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday, closed except for private events. 3605 Waialae Ave., 426-3552.


Big Island

Photo: Joshua Fletcher

Huli Sue’s

$18! Cornmeal-crusted catfish with ranch-dill slaw and garlic-smashed potatoes ($11), corn pudding ($4), and a “bottomless” Ball jar of sweet tea ($3).  

One whiff, one bite of this soft, white, steamy-crisp Louisiana catfish was a flashback to breakfast in Grandma’s kitchen on the days Grandad went fishing early. We go in for a Huli Sue’s barbecue fix: finger-licking pulled pork with li hing “crackseed” sauce (you can also buy it by the bottle), and come out full of catfish, mixed-cabbage coleslaw, fluffy, not-too-sweet corn pudding and recipe-box memories. Like Grandma’s, the floor creaks, the speckled tin cups clatter and the kitchen smells like it’s somebody’s birthday. Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. 64-957 Mamalahoa Highway, Kamuela (Waimea), (808) 885-6268, hulisues.com.



Photo: Courtesy of Village Burger

Village Burger

$16.75!  Kahua Ranch Wagyu (Kobe style) Burger ($10.50), with toppings ($3 each) and an iced Thomas Kemper Natural Root Beer ($3.25).

Locavore nirvana in a corner café, Village Burger goes as far as to post on the wall where your food comes from and who provides it. One good chomp, and you can taste-travel from Hāmākua through Waimea farmlands and up to North Kohala ranch country, or down to the ocean for fresh-caught ahi, all patty-caked by hand daily and perfectly grilled to order. Top off your burger with “stuff” like Ahualoa chipotle goat cheese, avocado, tomato marmalade, Kekela Farms baby greens or “60-minute onions.” And, everything’s served on Eco-Stripe sustainable products. Monday to Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Parker Ranch Center, 67-1185 Mamalahoa Highway, Kamuela (Waimea), (808) 885-7319.


Reuben’s Mexican Food

$17!  Homemade chips and salsa ($1.25), the No. 2 combo: two cheese enchiladas, beans and rice ($10.25); a side of corn tortillas ($1.25), beer ($4.25).

Step out of a rainy  Hilo night into an exploded rainbow of a room, festooned with serapes and sombreros, strung with cut-paper flags fluttering to mariachi CDs. Crunch homemade chips, fired up with hot salsa, and down a cold Negra Modelo while you read all 44 combinaciones. Then surrender to Reuben’s big, buttery cheese enchiladas with refried beans and spicy rice, sizzling on a platter awash in just-right sauce, not too fiery, salty or heavy (don’t forget the extra tortillas). Or, blow the dinner budget on a shot of Don Julio Real ($50), just to say you did. Ole! Lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 12 to 10 p.m. Sunday, 12 to 8 p.m. 336 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, (808) 961-2552, reubensmexican.com.


Photo: Joshua Fletcher

Monstera Noodles & Sushi

$26.90!  Calamari salad ($10.95), Caramel Monstera ($8.95), and a Hitachino Nest-White, a Japanese microbrew beer ($7).

hef Norio Yamamoto hates to sit still. Good thing, since he moved from The Fairmont Orchid early this year to boldly open this busy, izakaya-style eatery.  The sushi bar’s a piece of tasty theater in itself, but undisputed non-sushi favorite is the chef’s lively calamari salad, with crispy-light seasoned rings on a pu‘u of Big Island greens, perfect with the gingery-citrus “witbier.” (Sauce-freaks, ask for spoons; the spicy garlic dressing is unslurpable with hashi). Do not skip dessert: a very fun munch of whole itty-bitty coconuts drizzled with warm, rich house-made caramel … and fresh fruits on Tropical Dreams Tahitian Vanilla ice cream. Lunch served daily, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner, 5:15 to 9:30 p.m. The Shops at Mauna Lani, Upper Level  No. 111, (808) 887-2711.


Café Il Mondo

$24.95!  Garlic foccacia bread ($5), salad ($4.75), Greek calzone ($11.25), macadamia-nut pie ($3.95).

Tucked like a pocket  handkerchief off old Mamane Street, Café Il Mondo waves fragrances of fresh basil and garlic out the front door. Bring your own bottle of wine (corkage fee is $2 for one person, $3.75 for two to four people). Next, savor your salad and a basket of hot foccacia while you watch Chef Jeff juggle pizza. The Greek calzone has fresh mushrooms, kalamata olives, onions, artichokes, bell peppers, feta and mozzarella cheeses, and housemade marinara. Finish your vino with Hawaiian Vanilla Co.’s new mac-nut pie. (No credit cards.) Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 45-3626 Mamane St., Honokaa, (808) 775-7711.



Photo: Kicka White

Hukilau Lanai

$28!  Five-course tasting menu.

There’s a reason Hukilau Lānai only offers its tasting menu from 5 to 6 p.m.; it’s a steal to get the quality and variety of this sampler made with mostly local ingredients. The five-course menu includes: sweet potato ravioli with a lemongrass cream sauce, arugula salad, fresh catch of fish, meatloaf made with Kaua‘i beef, and a choice of an “Artisan Cheese Duo” with local honey and baguette or a vanilla-bean crème brûlée. To splurge over the budget, pair each course with a selected wine ($40). Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 9 p.m., tasting menu available from 5 to 6 p.m. Kauai Coast Resort, 520 Aleka Loop, Kapaa. (808) 822-0600.


Photo: Courtesy of Verde


$23.48!  Top-shelf margarita ($6.50), guacamole and chips ($3.99), short rib enchilada ($12.99).

Tucked in a shopping  center  in Kapa‘a, you’ll find chef Josh Stevens—who has worked with Alan Wong and at restaurants such as La Mer—creating “New Mexican-Hawaiian Fusion.” The stacked enchilada is the signature dish, layered in a tall tier rather than rolled in a pan. The result is a saucy, artistic presentation and a fresh, updated taste. The housemade chips dusted with dried chilies, and a margarita made with Cazadores tequila, were ideal escorts to this enchilada, which can be made with chicken, pork, fish or veggies. Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 4-1101 Kuhio Hwy., A-3, Kapaa. (808) 821-1400. verdehawaii.com.


Photo: Courtesy of Josselins

Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill

$29.50!  Lychee sangria ($9.50), hamachi tartare ($12), Thai shrimp bisque ($8).

he highly anticipated venture of award-winning chef Jean-Marie Josselin opened in May, offering a sophisticated atmosphere with a wood-burning oven, cozy booths and an extensive menu. Although you can swing an entrée and drink under $30, the specialty here are tapas, and the sangria, which is carted around in glass jars, loaded with fruit. The velvety hamachi is the perfect contrast to crisp cucumber, and the shrimp dumplings swimming in the spicy bisque is complimented perfectly with the sangria, made with pinot grigio, lychee liqueur and passionfruit rum. Dinner nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. 2829 Ala Kalanikaumaka, Kukuiula


Kauai Pasta

$29.90!  Pan-seared crab cakes ($9.95), panini ($11.95) and a glass of Firestone Estate Chardonnay ($8).

Perhaps the most  posh place to eat in Lihue, we’ve found that it’s actually better to order the most simple dishes, such as a panini: salty ham meets sweet caramelized onions, accompanied by melted Gruyere cheese, wilted arugula and stone-ground mustard, a hearty medley layered between grilled Italian bread. Plated with it are local baby greens with a light vinaigrette. Start with the restaurant’s surprisingly light crab cakes and a glass of the Firestone Estate Chardonnay for a perfect lunch or dinner. Daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 3-3142 Kuhio Highway, Lihue (808) 245-2227. kauaipastarestaurants.com.


Photo: Courtesy of Kilauea Fish Market


Kilauea Fish Market

$22.98!  Fresh whole coconut ($5.99), grilled opakapaka with rice and salad ($16.99).

The best-tasting fish  on Kauai comes on a paper plate. Order this tender, perfectly grilled pink snapper topped with a sweet teriyaki glaze and wasabi aioli, next to brown or white rice, and macaroni salad or baby greens. For a different kind of drink, order a fresh whole coconut. It’s a little awkward to hold, but the cool, sweet water inside is refreshing and nutritious. Or bring a bottle of wine; the restaurant has glasses and openers ready for use. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 4270 Kilauea Road No. C, Kilauea 828-6244.



Photo: Nina Lee

Bistro Casanova

$23!  Chicken Parmigiana ($16), salad and crêpe ($7).

ake our word for it: Bistro Casanova is an excellent lover. The Parmiagiana is the culinary threesome your tastebuds have been longing for. Organic chicken (breaded and fried) plus homemade marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella, layered together and baked to perfection, with an organic salad. Not that there’s much room for dessert, but the Marilyn crêpe—topped with strawberries, cream and light drizzle of chocolate—was too tempting to pass up. Who could refuse Casanova? Monday through Saturday, lunch, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., tapas, from 3 p.m. Dinner, 5 to 9:30 p.m. 33 Lono Ave., Kahului, (808) 873-3650, casanovamaui.com.


Flatbread Pizza

$29.50!  16-inch pizza ($20.25), organic house salad ($7.50) with tomato ($1.75).  

Freshest of the fresh ingredients,   organic-mostly-everything, local suppliers and the experience of watching your pizza bake make Flatbread no ka oi when it comes to Maui pizza. Splitting toppings on the pizza—a homemade sausage on half, fresh mozzarella and a zesty red sauce on the other, means everyone’s happy. The organic house salad, Kula Farms mesclun and organic lettuce tossed with the house ginger, tamari and pineapple vinaigrette comes topped with shredded green papaya, carrots, seaweed and toasted sesame seeds. We added vine-ripened tomato, but you can add pretty much whatever you want, from avocadoes to cucumbers, for an additional $1.75. Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. 89 Hana Hwy., Pāi‘a, (808) 579-8989, flatbreadcompany.com.


Photo: Courtesy of Da Kitchen


Da Kitchen

$25.94!  Kalua pig plate ($10.95), Chinese chicken salad ($8.99), side of teriyaki beef sticks ($3.75) and a fruit punch ($2.25).

Da Kitchen is notorious  for plates so full that even a famished sumo wrestler would have issues finishing the meal. The kālua pig plate could easily feed two, though admittedly, it’s hard to give up even a bite of the lightly smoked and perfectly salted meat, which is so soft it practically melts in your mouth. The Chinese Chicken Salad is refreshing, balanced with greens, tender chicken and crisp wonton chips. Be sure to specify the teri beef sticks as appetizers, or you’ll never get to them. Wash it all down with an extra-large fruit punch. Tip: ask for the “to-go” glass, which is made of durable plastic. It will hold up for the week it’ll take to finish the drink. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.  425 Koloa Street Suite 104, Kahului, (808) 871-7782, da-kitchen.com.


Photo: Nina Lee

Max World Bistro

$29!  Kona Kine Crab Cakes ($8) and steak ($21).

You will never have a more difficult time choosing something to eat. The heart of this eclectic restaurant is, “Comfort food from around the world,” which couldn’t have been worded better. Case in point? Two 100-percent real-crab cakes enhanced with a delicious blend of spices and coconut (yes, coconut) for a fraction of what the imitation, breadcrumb-filled competitors cost. The steak is the famed Maui Cattle Co.’s New York cut, grilled to order and topped with tobacco onions and a delicious Montpellier butter. Think garlic and capers, with a hint of anof anchovy. Dee-lish! Tuesday through Sunday, 5 to 9:30 p.m. 810 Kokomo Road, Haiku, (808) 575-2629, maxworldbistro.wordpress.com.


Izakaya Matsu

$26.95 for two people!  Matsu Gozen Combo dinner.

Matsu Gozen is the most popular  dish at this small establishment, where locals and visitors alike with good reason covet reservations: authentic Japanese food at a fair price. The value lies in the diversity and quality of the grinds, which includes shrimp tempura, maguro, hamachi and salmon sashimi; three different sushi (California roll, maguro [tuna] and a light hamachi and shrimp delight); a steaming bowl of rice; miso soup that’s perfection; and blanched nanohana, a leafy green similar to spinach, but more exotic. Maybe it’s just the name. Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, until midnight. Sunday until 11 p.m. 1280 South Kihei Road, Kīhei, (808) 874-0990.

(edited: 9/26/11)