Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

The 5 Best Places to Get Cheap Eats on Oahu

Our 2019 Editors’ Picks on where to get ono grinds on a budget.

It’s not every day that you want to splurge on the best restaurant you can find. For those busy days, casual lunches or when you only have enough time and money to grab and go, we’ve got you covered. The HAWAII staff put our heads together and came up with this list of affordable and quick local favorites we’d head to, or recommend to our friends, for good cheap eats.

1. Rainbow Drive-In

Rainbow’s got a lot going for it: big plates, cheap prices, fast service and a flagship location that’s been feeding hungry people on Oahu for more than 50 years. A mix plate (barbecue beef, fried fish and boneless chicken plus two scoops rice and one scoop mac salad or slaw) will run you $9.95 and fill the hungriest of appetites, while other solid favorites like the loco moco ($8.95) or shoyu chicken plate ($8.75) are great under-$10 deals. Want a cheeseburger? That’ll be just $3.25. Locations in Kapahulu, Kalihi and Pearlridge Center on Oahu, rainbowdrivein.com.

2. Zippy’s

Zippy’s signature chili.
Photo: David Croxford

If you’re on Oahu, there’s a Zippy’s somewhere nearby. The iconic Hawaii chain is fast, convenient, affordable, open 24 hours a day and easy to find. Plus, the full breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer and dessert menu that covers the gamut from Asian to American food is extensive enough that you can eat there multiple times a week without getting tired of the selection, or breaking the bank. Multiple locations on Oahu, zippys.com.

3. Ethel’s Grill


Ethel’s Grill, established in 1978, delivers large servings of Japanese and local grinds for under $10. Visitors, locals and even some celebrities (look for the late Anthony Bourdain’s photo on the wall) head to this hole-in-the-wall for dishes like the amazing seared ahi tataki, taco rice and mochiko or garlic chicken, with prices ranging from $9 to $15, sides included. Warning: Ethel’s is cash-only and closes at 2 p.m. daily. 232 Kalihi St., Honolulu, (808) 847-6467.

4. Marukame Udon


Often referred to as the “McDonald’s of Japan,” Marukame’s udon dishes are quick, fresh, filling and cheap for a generous quantity. Aside from the signature bowls of noodles, which are priced in the $4 to $7 range, there are also options like musubi, salads and fried sides at this popular chain. Locations in Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu, marugameudon.com.

5. Musubi & Bento Iyasume

An assortment of musubi from Musubi & Bento Iyasume's Ala Moana Center branch.
Photo: Kiana Yasana

Locals and visitors alike swear by this tiny spot with its flagship location in the heart of Waikiki, perfect for a cheap grab-and-go musubi or bento box. With prices starting at $2.50, you can try a few musubi (we recommend the one with avocado, bacon, egg and Spam) or onigiri and continue on with your day, without breaking the bank. Cash only, locations in Ala Moana Center, Hilton Hawaiian Village and at 334 Seaside Ave., Honolulu, tonsuke.com/eomusubiya.html.

Additional Information: 

For all the winners from our 2019 HAWAII Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards, pick up a copy of our March/April 2019 issue by calling our Circulation Department at (800) 788-4230, emailing help@hawaiimagazine.com or buy online now