Cheap Eats Hawai‘i: The Best Food for 15 Dollars or Less for Your Dining-In or To-Go Pleasure

We’re all about deals, and after months of takeout—where our only view was of the TV or our single Zoom-ready bookshelf—if it comes with elevated ambience and unexpected finesse, even better.


Fete Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich

Photo: Olivier Koning




Fête, $11

Fête’s Korean fried chicken sandwich always satisfies with a thick slab of tender, moist meat, crunchy Asian pear slaw and spicy gochujang sure to drip down your wrists out of the super soft brioche bun. A side of field greens ($4) adds a nice peppery kick. —KV


2 N. Hotel St., (808) 369-1390,, @fetehawaii


Mailes Thaimixed Bento

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino




Maile’s Thai Bistro, $15

Maile’s Thai Bistro began offering this massive plate of spicy green curry with beef, Thai fried chicken, salad, pad thai and jasmine rice for takeout at the start of the pandemic, and while both locations—in Hawai‘i Kai and Ward—have reopened for dine-in, you can only get this lunch special to go. It fed me for three meals. —KV


Multiple locations,, @mailesthaibistro


SEE ALSO: When it Comes to Survival During the Pandemic, Everything’s on the Table for These Hawai‘i Restaurants


Broken Rice Lemon Grass Pork Chop

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino




Broken Rice, $14

The signature dish at Broken Rice is executed exactly as it is in Vietnam—with lemongrass- and fish-sauce-marinated pork chops, a sprightly dipping sauce and fragrant, nutty steamed broken rice. Except you get two generous chops on your $14 plate, and instead of being pounded into thin, tough submission, these are a half-inch thick and juicy. It’s enough for two good appetites or three smaller ones; either way, pour the dipping sauce over the chops and rice. —MT


3607 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 729-0230,, @brokenricehi



Youngs Fish Market Laulau

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino




Young’s Fish Market, $14.75

If you don’t mind snoozing through your afternoon meetings, the kanak attack-inducing plate at Young’s Fish Market includes a perfectly balanced lau lau, pipi kaula, sweet potato, lomi salmon, and poi and rice. You can also pick up just a lau lau for $6.50 (including a tasty frozen vegetarian version to warm up at home) or add on lomi salmon, poi or rice for $5 more. —CY


Multiple locations,, @youngsfishmarket



Coco Bloom Katsu Sando

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino




Coco Bloom, $10.50

Forget the paper-thin layers of pork in many katsu sandos—the hefty slice of crispy-coated pork loin here is enough to push Coco Bloom’s version toward the top of our list. The pork is marinated overnight in shio koji for a tender and flavorful bite, then fried in rice bran oil and topped with red cabbage drizzled with tonkatsu sauce and surrounded by slices of La Tour Bakehouse’s soft shokupan. —CY


3221 Wai‘alae Ave., Suite A3, (808) 784-0206,, @cocobloomkitchen


SEE ALSO: Katsu Sandwiches and Burgers Headline a Healthy Menu at Coco Bloom Kitchen—Really


Dagon Rainbow Salad

Photo: Olivier Koning





Dagon, $12.99

The tea leaf salad often gets all the glory, but don’t overlook this option at Dagon. A trio of noodles is mixed—tableside when dining in—with more than a dozen other ingredients including fried tofu, fried onion, potato and ground sesame seeds in a tangy tamarind dressing. Opt out of the dried shrimp to make it vegetarian. Dagon’s sister restaurant, Rangoon Burmese Kitchen on Nu‘uanu Avenue, offers a similar salad, but you will pay a few more dollars to eat in its stylish setting. —CY


2671 S. King St., (808) 947-0088


SEE ALSO: Expanding Tastes: What You Should Order at Rangoon Burmese Kitchen in Chinatown 




Lam’s Kitchen, $9.75

Lam’s Kitchen in Chinatown serves up solid Cantonese comfort food, epitomized by the long-simmered beef and tendon over look funn in soup (a version with gravy instead of soup is also available). Hearty chunks of tendon and beef (the English menu says flank, but it’s more like brisket in fattiness) are rendered soft and supple, a perfect match for the fresh, wide rice noodles. Choy sum and green onions add freshness. —MC


1152 Maunakea St., Suite A, (808) 536-6222


SEE ALSO: HONOLULU Staff Favorites: The 8 Best Noodle Soups on O‘ahu for Rainy Days 


Pioneer Saloon Salmon Kama

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino




Pioneer Saloon, $12 when available

The portions are generous, true, but it’s also because the food is addicting and there are so many choices that Pioneer Saloon is a multi-entry shoo-in for this list. Whether it’s the garlic rib-eye, grilled salmon, deep-fried baby tako, mochiko chicken, pork hamburger menchi katsu croquettes or salmon kama special, every non-‘ahi plate on the menu is $10 to $15 (those here are loaded and recommended). Keto-friendly à la carte options come without rice and pasta salad and are $2 cheaper.—MT


Multiple locations,, @pioneersaloonhawaii




Yama’s Mediterranean Cuisine, $13

There’s something satisfying about a classic gyro: a mix of ground lamb and beef roasted on a spit, then sliced and wrapped inside a warm pillowy pita. Yama’s Mediterranean Cuisine does it right with spiced meat that’s crispy on the outside yet tender inside, and dressed with raw onions and tzatziki sauce. It comes with your choice of Greek salad with a bright citrus dressing, garlic fries, dolmades, hummus, spanakopita or baba ganoush. Upgrade to the $15 super gyro for a pita-busting half-pound of meat. —CY


1020 Keolu Drive, Kailua, (808) 263-4075


SEE ALSO: From Greece to Papakōlea: Get Your Greek Fix in the Hills of Tantalus


Okims Confit Pork Belly Brulee

Photo: Olivier Koning




O’Kims Korean Restaurant, $13.95

The colors hit you first at O’Kims Korean Restaurant—a green salad drizzled with black sesame dressing and a dish of purple rice, pink pickled onions, red kim chee and sprinkles of sesame leaf. Then there’s the burnished sliced pork belly that melts in the mouth. One of chef-owner Hyun Kim’s most popular menu staples, this is a singular indulgence that draws regulars back month after month.  —MT


1028 Nu‘uanu Ave., (808) 537-3787,, @okims_honolulu


SEE ALSO: What Restaurants Want You to Know: Here’s How You Can Help Maxed-Out Eateries


Beetbox Cafe Portabella Stachewich

Photo: Courtesy of The Beet Box Café





The Beet Box Café, $13.75

The Beet Box Café’s Stache’wich (named for mustachelike slices of portobello) is a whole wheat bun that struggles to contain a tower of portobello and zucchini, sautéed and made juicy with balsamic vinegar. It may be vegetarian (and can be made vegan), but everything is generously proportioned here, down to the lavish spread of feta and garlic aioli. —MC


Locations in Hale‘iwa and Kailua,



Juicy Brew Hirata Buns

Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino





Juicy Brew, $13

Don’t let the photos fool you: Juicy Brew’s pitalike sandwiches are giant. The saffron-hued steamed kabocha buns threaten to overflow the takeout container and are stuffed with crispy teriyaki-and-yuzu glazed soy curls (the restaurant’s satisfying mock chicken), shredded veggies dressed in an ume chimichurri and accented with welcome vinegary notes from tsukemono. Each order comes with two of the hearty buns but don’t be surprised if you can only finish one. —CY


3392 Wai‘alae Ave., (808) 797-9177,, @juicybrew


SEE ALSO: 2021 Hale ‘Aina Award Winners: The Best Restaurants in Hawai‘i


Neighbor Islands


Cheap Eats Papaaina Anna Kim Photography

Photo: Courtesy of Papaʻaina





Papa‘aina, $12

The smashburger at Papa‘aina at the historic Pioneer Inn in Lahaina is special to chef-owner Lee Anne Wong, who took over the restaurant space in the iconic hotel last year. She sources her beef from Lopes Farm on Maui, which feeds its cows a diet of grass, unsold veggies from local farms and spent grain from Maui Brewing Co. The restaurant gets a half steer once a month, serving it as burgers, steaks and guava-kalbi short ribs. The crispy-edge smashburger comes with American cheese, sliced Kula onions, house-made pickles and Wong’s secret sauce. —CTF


658 Wharf St., Lahaina, Maui, (808) 661-3636,, @papaainamaui





Sale Pepe, $14

Restaurateurs Michele and Qiana Di Bari—he’s from Milan, she’s from Brooklyn—moved to Maui in 2013 and opened Sale Pepe, a charming Italian restaurant tucked away in the Old Lahaina Center on Front Street. Its menu features hand-rolled arancini and classic lasagna layered with local beef ragu, béchamel and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The polpette on the restaurant’s small-plate menu uses Maui Cattle Co. beef, rolled into fist-size meatballs and simmered in tomato sauce with a side of fettunta (Italian garlic bread). —CTF


878 Front St., Lahaina, Maui, (808) 667-7667,





Tin Roof, $9

In 2016 Hilo-born chef Sheldon Simeon turned a 580-square-foot former bento-ya in Kahului into one of the most popular takeout spots on Maui. One of the best sellers at Tin Roof is the Kau Kau Tin with mochiko chicken. Thighs are marinated overnight in ginger and shoyu, then battered and fried—then refried to order. The perfectly crispy chicken is topped with a miso sauce, gochujang aioli and house-made furikake. All tins come with your choice of a base—rice, spicy or garlic noodles, or kale salad—and you can add eggs, kamaboko or Spam. For $1 more, since you can afford it, add a scoop of ‘ulu mac salad. —CTF


360 Papa Place, Suite Y, Kahului, Maui, (808) 868-0753,, @tinroofmaui





Jo2 Restaurant, $15

Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Jo2 Restaurant in Kapa‘a on Kaua‘i switched to what chef-owner Jean-Marie Josselin calls a “dim sum tapas menu,” which has been so popular, he’s keeping it. Though considered a small plate, the pork belly Bolognese is big on flavor, bolstered with the unexpected flavors of cumin, soy bean paste and chile. It’s served with extra-large, hand-cut noodles—made in-house—and finished with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and fried garlic. —CTF


4-971 Kūhiō Highway, Kapa‘a, Kaua‘i, (808) 212-1627,, @jo2restaurant