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.
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
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Watched @AnthonyBourdain Parts Unknown on #Netflix Saw he stopped at @ethelsgrill_kalihi for lunch. My family and I had to try this place out for ourselves. We had the Kimchi ahi tataki bowl, Japanese hamburger steak, fresh ahi plate, ahi tataki side dish to name a few. We’ll def be back! Be prepared though... space is very limited so expect to wait to be seated. Oh and bring CASH as a form of payment. Enjoy when you go! 😋😋😋
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
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Can’t leave Hawaii without stopping in for a bowl of udon! 🍜 This tastes better than the one back home in SF 🌁 ➖➖ #baygirlseat #onthetable #yelpelite2018 #yelpelite #yelphawaii #delicious #hawaiieats #foodporn #foodphotography #imhungry #bayareafoodie #hawaiifoodie #explorehawaii #baygirlstravel #noodsnoodsnoods #noodlelift #udon #visithawaii
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
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.