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Top 10 Cheap, delicious, clean, Hawaii Restaurants in Honolulu Hawaii. Hawaiian Food at its Best!

Updated on October 5, 2010

Rainbow Drive In -- Top of the List

Cheap, good and a local hangout for over 45 years.
Cheap, good and a local hangout for over 45 years.

I know what you are thinking. Aren’t I supposed to be lying on the beach or getting out the boogie board instead of looking for cheap, good restaurants in Hawaii? Well, you got to eat sometime and Honolulu does have good, cheap places to eat. Why not eat in the best restaurants adored by locals for less? Let me say right off, the people in Honolulu are wonderful to talk with so why wouldn’t you want to go a bit off the beaten track to get to meet them?

How Did we compile this list of great Food Hangout Spots?

Compiling a top ten list of my favourites was difficult as we found many that would fit. So, we narrowed them down by:

· Price: By Price I mean having a great feed for $10.00 or less per person. The lower the price, the higher up the restaurant went on the list.

· Hawaii flavour: If the restaurant offered Hawaiian dishes, they would get higher consideration.

· Not a Franchise: Although many franchises offer good food, I wanted to experience uniqueness instead of cookie-cutter. It is always nice to try a place that puts a nice twist on fish, hamburger, chicken and pork dishes.

· Easy to get to the restaurant by bus: I like using public transit where ever I go. It is cheaper, you get to see sites you would not normally see and you get to meet locals.

· Number of locals eating there: Meeting the people from the area gives you perspectives beyond measure. Also, locals know best where to go eat.

· The quantity of food given and the quality of food provided. Need I say more here?

· Clean: All restaurants had to look clean and have clean washrooms to receive any consideration.

NOTE: You should know to bring cash for all places recommended as many do not accept debit or credit cards. Also, many of the restaurants recommended do not offer alcoholic drinks.

1. Rainbow Drive In (3308 Kanaina Avenue, Honolulu). This little gem has been in business for over 45 years. You place your order at the window and enjoy your meal on picnic tables provided. My personal favourite is the roast pork with gravy. The menu offers other tasty items like boneless chicken, breakfast items and a cheeseburger for only $2.50! You can add a mountain of fries for $1.95. While I was there, I was able to talk with the locals to get their opinion on the Rainbow Drive In. Their opinions ranged from “Hawaii’s best kept secret” to “Best food for the price” to “I come here at least three times a week.” Getting to the Rainbow Drive In is easy by bus.

2. Ono Hawaiian Foods (726 Kapahulu Avenue, Honolulu). Although Ono’s outer appearance looks run down, the true Hawaiian food cooked inside is wonderful. I would suggest you order the combination plates which consist of kalua pig, pipi kaula (a Hawaiian beef jerky), lau lau (pork and taro tops steamed inside the leaves) and lomi lomi salmon (with tomatoes and green onion). Menu prices range from $6.00 to $17.00 and the portion sizes are generous. The place is small so you will see people eating on the street. Walking to Kapiolani Park located just down the street with your Ono take out is the way to go in my opinion. Comments received from locals were “If you want true Hawaiian food, go to Ono” and “You haven’t been to Hawaii if you haven’t been to Ono.”

3. HK’s (946 Coolridge Street, Honolulu). Anyone for Fried noodles? No one, in my opinion does fried noodles better than HK’s. They also offer an excellent Teriyaki Pork sandwich, Barbeque Chicken, Roast Pork with gravy and Hamburger Steak. Price varies but you can get a Coke, Cheeseburger and a generous side of freshly made fries for $6.50. All the other prices are very reasonable. My favourite comment from a local was, “Yummy stuff and that ain’t no guff!”

4. 99 Cafe (174 North King Street). If you like Vietnamese Pho, this is the place to go! The noodles, broth and vegetables are fresh. The portions are generous and the staff is friendly. 99 Cafe is located in the heart of China Town which is an interesting place to visit in itself. If you want fresh fruit and vegetables, buying them in Chinatown will save you plenty of money. One local called the 99 Cafe, “A Mecca in Vietnamese food.”

5. Liliha Bakery (515 North Kuakini Street, Honolulu). This place has been around since 1950 and makes great Coo Coo puffs. Liliha Bakery also serves breakfast and lunch too. You have to go for the sweet bread toast and try their buns. As one local put it, “You will be licking up your plate and begging for more.” For $10.00, you can have plenty of tasty grub sure to make your tummy say thank you!

6. Ethel’s Grill (232 Kalihi Street, Honolulu). When I went into Ethel’s Grill, I had to wait about half an hour to get a table. I almost left, but was sure glad I waited. Apparently, they do take out orders and this may be the best way to go if you don’t want to wait awhile for a table. The pork chops there were outstanding. I have to say they were the best chops I have ever eaten. The "favorites" list on the menu was tried over the course of three visits. The Mochiko chicken was fried, but surprisingly very light and tasted great. I really liked the daikon. The ox tail soup was huge and delicious! My favourite local comment was, “Ethel’s pork chops are better than sex.”

7. Mitsu-Ken (1223 North School Street, Honolulu): This is THE PLACE for Garlic Chicken and for only $6.50! I have been told by locals they also make great breakfasts. My favourite local comment was, “You haven’t lived until the garlic hits your mouth.”

8. Nippon Bento and Catering (123, 420 Waiakamilo Road, Honolulu). You will be stuffed like a pig here for about $7.00. I tried the butterfish / mochiko chicken combo and boy was that good. The fish was light and flaky. The chicken just melted in my mouth. As one local put it, “Be sure to wear stretch pants when you come to eat at Nippon.”

9. Meg’s Drive In (743 Waiakamilo Road, Honolulu). When I first arrived at Meg’s Drive In, a local came up to me and asked me if I was a Visitor (Gee, did the camera give me away?) Anyway, she recommended the steamed opakapaka with ginger sauce. I liked it, but it didn’t come close to their beef stew! Words cannot describe how good the beef stew was. You just have to try it and you will be speechless too. Also, you must try the Chicken Katsu, Roast Pork with Stuffing and side Teri Beef Mix Plate. It was worth dying for too. My favorite local comment was, "Meg has put a peg on my tummy."

10. Nico’s Pier 38 (1133 North Nimitz Hwy, Honolulu). Nico’s offers fresh and delicious plate specials that leave your mouth watering for more. In my opinion, Nico’s is one of the best seafood restaurants I have been at because of the freshness of the food. This place is near the airport so you can try them first or last as you come in or leave Honolulu. I understand this place was featured on the television show, “Diners, Drive-Inns and Dives.” One local told me, “My mouth waters just thinking about Nico’s.”

There you have it folks. Next time you go to Honolulu/Waikiki, keep your stomach and your wallet full by trying these great places. You can get to all of them by bus. Simply type in the address at and enjoy the sites en route. It will make your next trip rewarding, fun and richer.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      What a great post, heading to Hawaii for the second time and wanted to try something local, this list should keep me busy ;) thank you!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Luv this place! No place lasts this long bad food...45 years and counting. Gotta respect that!

    • profile image

      tariqm. amin5 

      8 years ago

      You are welcome and hope you enjoy those places as much as I have. Mahalo.

      You are welcome and hope you enjoy those places as much as I have. Mahalo.

    • pennyauctionviewe profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      You are welcome and hope you enjoy those places as much as I have. Mahalo.

    • Becky Puetz profile image


      8 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for sharing all the great information.


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