Cheap Eats

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.

Stop licking the page and go to Andy’s in Manoa, which serves these delicious pancakes.

photo by Lara Hata

>> OAHU

Andy’s Sandwiches and Smoothies

2904 E. Manoa Road, 988-6161.

CHEAP EAT Spinach, Mushroom, Bacon and Cheese Omelet ($7.85), Banana Pancakes ($3.99), Side of Turkey Bacon ($2.25) and a Side of Country Potatoes ($2.25). $16.34 for two people.

We went a bit overboard ordering at Andy’s Sandwiches and Smoothies. Maybe it’s because a full breakfast on a weekday morning has become such a rarity, or maybe it’s because the smell of bacon, pancakes and total yumminess hit us as soon as we walked past the signature green awning of this Manoa gem. Food, hot off the grill, quickly filled our table: A mammoth omelet overflowing with fresh spinach and mushrooms and oozing with melted cheese; a stack of banana pancakes and syrup; a heaping pile of seasoned potato cubes; and a realization that our eyes were much larger than our stomachs. Monday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Saturday, open Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The lamb rogan josh from Bombay Indian Restaurant.

photo by Lara Hata

Bombay Indian Restaurant

Discovery Bay Center, 1778 Ala Moana Blvd., 942-3990.

CHEAP EAT Lamb Rogan Josh ($15.95)
A newcomer to the Waikiki restaurant scene, Bombay Indian Restaurant is thoroughly warm and friendly, from the wait staff to the flavors in the cuisine to the saffron colors on the walls. One of the chef’s specials is lamb rogan josh, a yogurt-based, creamy curry, served over basmati rice. It’s nearly a dessert, the curry on the sweet side, the lamb melt-in-your mouth tender. For just a few dollars over the $20-mark budget, you could add a glass of Kenwood Yulupa sparkling wine ($6) that plays nicely against the curry’s textures, or for $2.50, add a serving of nan bread, baked in the restaurant’s tandoori oven. Dinner daily, 5 to 10 p.m.

Cafe Joy

1028 Nuuanu Ave., 536-1341.

CHEAP EAT Pad Ka Pao, Garlic Mahi and Sweet Chili Chicken Plate Lunch, $7.15
With a name like Cafe Joy, how could you go wrong? Named for owner Joy Vixaysakd, this recently opened lunch spot on Nuuanu Avenue offers a spicy mix of Thai and Lao flavors. There are the usual red, yellow and green curries, but try the pad ka pao, a Lao stir-fry containing ground beef, green beans and Thai purple basil. The garlic mahi, which comes in a wonderful coconut milk sauce, is also a must. Fortunately, it’s easy to sample new dishes—combo plates are $5 for one item, $6.05 for two, $7.15 for three and $8.25 for four, and come with your choice of noodles, or brown, jasmine or sticky rice. We recommend taking your meal in the open courtyard behind the restaurant to get away from the downtown hustle and bustle. Monday to Friday 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., every First Friday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

 

Champa Thai

Pearl Kai Center, Aiea, 488-2881; 2452 Waialae Ave., 732-0054; 33 Aulike St., Kailua, 263-8281.

CHEAP EAT House Special Seafood Soup ($9.25) and Green Papaya Salad ($6.95)
For a twist on the conventional soup and salad duo, head down to one of Champa Thai’s three Oahu locations. The house special seafood soup, or potak, combines fish, shrimp, scallops and mushrooms in an aromatic hot-and-sour lemongrass soup, flavored with ginger and lime (an especially heavenly mixture when you’ve got a cold). For a refreshing complement to the broth, we like the green papaya salad—a traditional Thai dish done perfectly, with crisp, freshly shredded strips of papaya, tomatoes and red chili peppers.
Visit www.champathai.com for lunch and dinner hours.

 

 

 

Dat One Persian Restaurant

801 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

Formaggio

2919 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.

Goldfish

568 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.

 

 

Ramen noodles—like these from Goma Tei Ramen—are a Japanese favorite, but were originally imported from China.

photo by Olivier Koning

Goma Tei Ramen

Ward Centre, 591-9188.

CHEAP EAT Wakame Shoyu Ramen ($7.50), Pork Gyoza ($6.25) and Kirin Draft ($1.88). $15.63.
With icy cold Kirin Ichiban flowing at 50 percent off all day, we amended the “no drinking before 5 p.m.” rule during a lunch at Goma Tei Ramen. Shortly after ordering, a steaming bowl of chewy ramen noodles, heaped with wakame (seaweed), half a hard-boiled egg and stocks of choi sum arrived alongside an order of gyoza. As gyoza is generally an afterthought at most ramen shops, we were glad that our server recommended Goma Tei’s plumper, juicier version, stuffed with pork and veggies. We rolled out of the Ward Center noodle shop with a barely dented wallet, a tiny beer buzz and a full stomach. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Govinda’s Vegetarian Cuisine

1118 Fort Street Mall; 271-4780.

CHEAP EAT Miniplate and Ginger Drink, $6.60
Vegetarians, vegans and those sick to death of katsu were all thrilled when Govinda’s opened a downtown satellite branch of its UH Manoa restaurant. The ginger drink ($1.80 for a large), is freshly squeezed each morning, and, alone, is worth the stop. It seems to conquer hangovers and raise a sword to colds. Add a mini plate ($4.70), and you’ve got a healthy, but not ascetic, lunch. We had barats (split-pea dumplings) with green peas and cauliflower in a tomato sauce; rice, which we doused with Govinda’s exemplary cilantro hot sauce; heaps of fresh greens; and a small, nondairy sweet cake. “Mini” is an understatement; it’s plenty of food, if not for a Hindu deity, at least for an office warrior. Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Green Time

Manoa Market Place, 988-0588.

CHEAP EAT “Green Time” Tea Party, complete tea service, $15.95
Green Time would have all the trappings of a tranquil afternoon tea, including a spectacular view of the Koolau range and soft bossa nova music, were it not for the large number of Precious Moments figurines and Beanie Babies displayed for sale. The tea service began with a lightly scented rose green tea prepared at the table (a 3-minute timer signaled optimum steep time). Tasty, tea-sized ham and apple sandwiches appeared next, with crunchy cornflake cookies and green-tea biscuits, while an enormous slice of cheesecake dripping with homemade strawberry sauce waited in the wings. A bowlful of bright purple sweet-potato ice cream served as a finale, Beanie Babies be damned. Open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Jimbo

1936 S. King St., Suite 103, 947-2211.

CHEAP EAT Udon feast ($10.60)
Jimbo knows udon. This small McCully restaurant makes its own homemade noodles daily, cooks them to perfection and pairs them with a deeply flavorful broth. There is a full range of toppings from which to choose, from curry to grilled mochi; we’re partial to the kakiage (chopped vegetable and shrimp) tempura bowl ($10.60). The udon is hot and filling on its own, but you really should make room for a side order of agedashi (deep-fried tofu served in a hot tentsuyu broth of dashi, mirin and shoyu and topped with negi), which Jimbo makes delicately flavored and melt-in-your-mouth smooth ($4.60). For dessert, a scoop of green tea ice cream topped with azuki beans ($2.80). Simplicity never tasted so good. Sunday through Thursday, lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:50 p.m., and dinner 5 to 9:50 p.m. Friday and Saturday, lunch from 11 a.m. 2:50, and dinner from 5 to 10:50 p.m.

Pasta & Basta by Donato

Restaurant Row, 523-9999.

CHEAP EAT Risotto Frutti di Mare, $15
After Chef Donato Loperfido closed his M-anoa restaurant last year, we were ecstatic to hear he was back with a new eatery, Pasta & Basta by Donato. It’s strictly no-frills—you’ll have to order at the counter, bring your own booze and eat with plastic utensils. In return, you get the high-quality dishes you’d expect from Loperfido at prices you wouldn’t. Crusty panini, house-made pastas and thin-crust pizzas typically run between $9 and $15. Try the risotto frutti di mare, with its generous helpings of calamari, shrimp, fish and fresh manila clams—all slow-cooked in a slightly peppery seafood broth. Trust us, you’ve never eaten food this good from a Styrofoam box. Lunch Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner Monday to Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.


 

The Contemporary Cafe

2411 Makiki Heights Drive, 523-3362.

CHEAP EAT Bacon and Broccoli Puff, $12 and Bibingka $5.50
A sublime lunch setting rests in the mountains that peer over town, surrounded by old banyan trees, willows, and … a monstrous metal bra? You’ll walk past the bra sculpture on your way to The Contemporary Cafe. We had the daily special, a crispy phyllo puff stuffed with hearty slices of bacon and broccoli florets, served with creamy mashed potatoes and a spicy tomato sauce ($12). We had enough money to splurge on the dessert special, bibingka ($5.50), a cakier version of butter mochi, drizzled with strawberry and toffee sauces, and topped with chocolate shavings. Open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


>> BIG ISLAND

Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel

62-100 Kaunaoa Drive, Kohala Coast, (808) 880-1111.

CHEAP EAT Chinese Chicken Salad, $14
If you’re a Honoluluan holoholo-ing on the Big Island, chances are you’ll end up at the beach. The beach bar at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel is open to the public, with umbrella tables poised by the pool, and serves salads, sandwiches and individual pizzas in the $9 to $15 range. The Chinese Chicken Salad is a mini-feast of favorite tastes—crunch on crispy won tons, slurp rice noodles, munch almonds and mandarin oranges in a sweet-tangy Chinese plum dressing. Fish and Chips, at the same price, features a different fresh fish every day. Toast with a cool glass of chardonnay and enjoy the killer view. Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with drinks till sunset.

Kona’s best-kept secret? The fresh fish at Honokohau Boat Harbor. photo: Macario

 

Honokohau Boat Harbor

Honokohau Boat Harbor, Kona, (808) 326-4166.

CHEAP EAT Fresh Fish and Garden Salad, $9.95
Kona’s best kept secret may be hidden at Honok-ohau Boat Harbor. A big, meandering open-air dining room with views of the marina, Harbor House Restaurant’s p-up-u, fish specials, hot entrŽes, sandwiches and salads range from $4.50 to $10.50, and all taste great with an 18-ounce frozen schooner of draft beer ($2.25 during happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m., 5:15 p.m. on Sundays). Our pick here is the dinner plate, piled with lettuces, shredded carrot and tomato wedges and three generous pieces of nicely grilled fresh catch, right off the boat—usually ahi, sometimes ono. If you’re really hungry, the fresh fish sandwich ($9.75) is good, too, with sides such as edamame ($2.75), poke ($8.95) or spring rolls ($5.75.) Open daily, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with drinks till sunset.


Waimea Ranch House

65-1144 Mamalahoa Highway., Waimea, (808) 885-2088.

CHEAP EAT Assorted Bruschetta, $7.95
Chef-owners Steve and Kim Greenspan have always loved now-trendy “modular dining,” where guests share tasting portions of several dishes. At their elegant-paniolo Waimea Ranch House, the antipasti items team up nicely. The assorted bruschetta is fresh-made three ways: with Steve’s hummus, spicy white cannellini bean with garlic, and Nakano tomatoes with kalamata olives and organic basil from their “landscape garden.” Add Caesar salad (yes on the anchovies) for $6.95, a stack of garlicky broccolini ($7.95), escargot Persillade ($8.95), and a couple of good wines by the glass, and you have two happy opu for about $40. On Friday night enjoy Hawaiian music by Frank Naope (Uncle George’s brother) James Kaili, and whoever stops by for kani ka pila. Open daily, except Tuesdays, for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and dinner, 5 to 8:30 p.m.


>> KAUAI

Hukilau Lanai

Behind Coconut Marketplace, Kapaa. (808) 822-0600.

CHEAP EAT Awesome Shiitake Meat Loaf, $17.95
As one easily surmises from its name, the Hukilau Lanai is all about fish: mahimahi, ahi, ono, opah, opakapaka. But the real catch is the meat loaf. Made with Island-raised ground beef and Hamakua Heritage Farm mushrooms and topped with a fresh corn relish, this dish is definitely not your grandmother’s meat loaf, except for its generous serving size.

The $17.95 price includes a choice of soup or salad, a rarity on the island. We like to think of Hukilau Lanai as the friendly, younger sister of owners’ Paige and Russ Talvi’s high-brow Gaylord’s at Kilohana Plantation. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday, 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.

 

 

 

Kauai Pasta

3142 Kuhio Highway, Lihue, (808) 245-2227.

CHEAP EAT Chicken Parmesan, $14.95
Sure the daily specials at Kauai Pasta rival those of Roy’s Poipu Bar and Grill where co-owner Russell Stokes was once the executive chef, but it’s the classic Italian dishes we go for at this Italian eatery. Take the chicken parmesan ($14.95). It’s topped with a family-recipe marinara sauce and homemade mozzarella cheese and paired with a side pasta of your choice. Because the kitchen doesn’t practice portion control, you’ll be sure to go home with leftovers.

If you don’t have a super-size hunger, though, you might opt for the cappelinni pomodora. With angel hair pasta tossed with vine-ripened tomatoes, Parmeggiano reggiano, fresh basil, roasted garlic and olive oil, it somehow feels lighter. Must be the thin, angel hair pasta. Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

 

Polynesia Cafe

Ching Young Village, Hanalei, (808) 826-1999.

CHEAP EAT Mac-Nut, Herb Crusted Ahi, $16.95
The tasty meals at the no-frills Polynesia Cafe make it easy to overlook the paper plates, counter service and industrial picnic tables sprinkled throughout the shopping center that serve as the cafe’s dining room. It’s not so easy, however, to overlook the measly, plastic forks. At least, not for the grinding we like to do here. Try the crowd favorite—eight ounces of sashimi-grade ahi seared in a flaky, macadamia-nut crust, topped with swirls of pesto sauce and served on a king-size bed of brown rice ($16.95).

Bring a bottle of wine—and a couple of sturdy forks—and head to Hanalei Bay for a sunset dinner. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.


>> MAUI

This tureen will haunt your dreams. Other favorites at Bangkok Cuisine include the summer rolls.

photo by Nina Lee

Bangkok Cuisine

395 Dairy Road., Suite F, Kahului, (808) 893-0026.

CHEAP EAT Tom Kha Ta Lay (Coconut Seafood Soup), $13.50
Bangkok Cuisine is a living room-size restaurant less than a mile from the airport. The cozy atmosphere is completed by scents of exotic spices and the tinkling of Thai music from speakers overhead. When we haven’t had its Tom Kha Ta Lay for too long, we dream of it—an aromatic soup seduction of coconut milk laden with lemongrass, green onions, shrimp, scallops, fish and mussels. The soup, which serves two, is best when heaped atop a mound of rice. Other Thai favorites include shrimp summer rolls ($9.50). Lunch daily, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., dinner daily from 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Cafe Des Amis

42 Baldwin Ave., Paia, (808) 579-6323.

CHEAP EAT Indian Mahi Mahi Curry, $15.95
It’s easy to become entranced with Paia’s diverse culinary choices. Among these is Cafe Des Amis. Its candy-colored art and Caribbean music is enough to have anyone reaching for one of its Nutella crepes or fabulous Italian coffees. Try the Mahimahi Curry, generous pieces of fish simmered in yogurt, tomatoes and spices. It’s served with basmati rice and two kinds of chutney. Pairs flawlessly with a glass of Wolf Blass Shiraz ($9). Other goodies include a Mediterranean platter for two piled with pita and hummus ($12.95), or a brie-and-apple crepe with black pepper ($8). Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Longhi’s

The Shops at Wailea, (808) 891-8883.

CHEAP EAT Ahi Carpaccio, $16
Honoluluans are no strangers to the Longhi’s name, with a location at Ala Moana Center. But when on Maui, visit Longhi’s for the ahi carpaccio—yellowfin tuna splashed with lemon juice and served atop tomato basil and caper bruschetta. Wasabi and soy sauce with olive oil accompany it, while Estancia chardonnay compliments the dish nicely ($8). Also try the grilled portobello mushroom with basil pesto, warmed goat cheese and mancini peppers ($9.50). Open weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and weekends, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.