Five (No, Six!) Places for Great Cheap Eats in Honolulu’s Waikiki District

Laura and I are spending some time in Honolulu right now, taking an extended vacation from the USA's east coast to work on our surfing and our fitness.

Whenever we travel, we try to allocate some of our time and money to exploring interesting restaurants, wherever we happen to be. At the same time, however, we try to be as frugal and as healthy as we can. Which brings us to the big challenge here in Hawaii: the extraordinarily high cost of living. Food costs can be outlandish: anyone who's ever been to Waikiki beach and stared down a $15 cocktail at a hotel bar (or even worse, gazed at a $2.29 can of black beans in a local grocery store here) would know exactly what I'm talking about.

And yet, there are still some really good restaurant values here--if you know where to look. So, in today's post, I'll share our favorite low-priced restaurants here in Waikiki, Honolulu's main tourist district.

1) Rainbow Drive In
3308 Kanaina Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 737-0177

An iconic Honolulu eatery, just 25 minutes' walk from central Waikiki. Rainbow's offers delicious, no-frills plate lunches and dinners, with sides of rice and macaroni salad. Eight bucks or so buys you a huge meal. Get the Loco Moco plate or the Combo Plate.

2) Marukame Udon
2310 Kuhio Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 931-6000

Go early! Marukame Udon often has a long line out the door, and for good reason: it’s one of the best values in Waikiki. A cafeteria-style restaurant where you first choose your broth, your bowl size and then select various tempura-coated extras to go with your udon noodles. Staffers hand-make the udon right in front of you while you wait! Delicious and a great value. Three of us ate much more than we should have for a mere $34.

3) Gyu Kaku Japanese BBQ
307 Lewers Street
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 926-2989

A grill-it-at-your-own-table style Japanese BBQ restaurant, located just one block off of Waikiki's main road, Kalakaua Ave. We enjoyed an amazing dinner at this restaurant: three appetizers, two entrees and even a "beer tower" (64 ounces of Kirin Beer!) for only $44, including tip. Recommendations: try the Garlic Noodles, the Yaki-Shabu Beef, and the Pork Belly, all of which were insanely delicious.

PS: This restaurant also intrigues my inner economist, thanks to how it offers "happy hour" pricing at all times except from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. In other words, they use a creative form of surge pricing for the always crowded dinnertime hours. Once again, go early--or go late.

4) Musubi Cafe
2427 Kuhio Avenue (actually the main entrance is around the corner on Uluniu Ave.)
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 921-0168

There's one obvious clue why Musubi Cafe is worth a visit: most of the customers are local employees from all the nearby hotels. They're there because the food here is both delicious and a great value. Enjoy a Spam Musubi, one of Hawaii's all time iconic foods, along with plenty of other simple and handmade food options. Also, if you don't quite get Hawaii's love affair with Spam, this post might help you wrap your mind around it.

5) Me's BBQ
151 Uluniu Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96805
(808) 926-9717

An unassuming restaurant in an impossible-to-miss wildly pink building, offering one of the best restaurant food values in Waikiki. For around $8.50 you can get a gigantic Korean-style meat plate with your choice of four sides. Laura ordered the Fried Man Doo dumpling plate and I had the Chicken Katsu plate. It was so much food that we had plenty left over for another dinner the next day. Delicious.

Me, trying to figure out how I can fit this mountain of Korean food into my belly.

Bonus! 6) Ezogiku Ramen
2146 Kalakaua Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
(808) 926-8616

Ultra-long time readers might recall we featured Ezogiku Ramen in a long-ago post here at CK about cheap eats in Honolulu. Restaurants come and go, of course, and while several of the restaurants we featured back in 2009 have since closed, Ezokigu Ramen lives on--and it's as good as ever, offering big delicious bowls of every kind of ramen you could imagine, all at incredibly reasonable prices. My favorite ramen place in Waikiki.

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1 comment:

chacha1 said...

I've only been to Hawaii once - we spent a week of our honeymoon on the Big Island. Memorable meals there include a dinner at the Four Seasons in Kona (no recollection of what we ate, but lordy the ambiance); sushi in Hilo (tuna sashimi to die for and suspiciously fat cat hanging around outside); diner near Punalu'u with the best banana-cream pie I've ever had.