Kamehameha Shopping Center, 1620 N. School St (841-3733). Sat-Wed 6am-10pm; Thu 6am-11:30pm; Fri 6am-midnight. $9-$17. MC, V.
Kenny’s is a great old-fashioned diner, where you can sidle into a booth and get your eggs over easy. Salads are mountains, and burgers are big. Those in the know go for the fresh fish of the day program.
Kiawe Grill BBQ & Burgers
1311 N. King St. (841-5577), 2334 S. King St. (955-5500). Mon-Sat 10am-9pm, Sunday 10am-8pm; $2.15-$16.95; AmEx, MC, V.
Skip the B.B.Q. and hone in on the burger column of the menu, where the Kobe beef burger with cheese is a standout. Gild your burger with doubly smoky kiawe grilled bacon and a side of steak cut French fries, ample, salty and crisp.
Nico’s Pier 38 Restaurant
1133 N. Nimitz Hwy. at Pier 38 (540-1377). Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm, Sat 6:30am-2:30pm. Dishes $6.25-$10. AmEx, MC, V.
Nico brings a high-end angle to the lowbrow plate lunch. In addition to breakfast features like sweetbread French toast and lunch faves such as beef stew and fried calamari salad, Nico’s serves furikake-crusted ahi and ginger-garlic cilantro dip with nalo greens.
Soul De Cuba Cafe
1121 Bethel St. (545-CUBA), across from the Hawai’i Theatre. Lunch 11:30am-2pm; dinner 5:30-10pm. Starters: $5-$9. Entrees: $9-$16. AmEx, DC, Disc, MC, V.
Start with the devil crab appetizers; the crispy outside, the thick, stuffing-soft layer of dumpling and the inner pocket of seasoned lump crab are addictive. The restaurant’s signature entree, the Pollo Soul de Cuba, is a breaded chicken breast smothered in a chunky warm salsa that boasts sweet, meaty chunks of guava and mango, citrusy pineapple, buttery rum and black beans.
Chinatown Cultural Plaza, 100 N. Beretania St. at River St. (532-1868). Daily 10:30am-2pm, 5:30-10pm. Dim sum: $2.85-$3.75 per plate.
Legend is Honolulu’s gold standard for dim sum. Nearly every dish is textbook perfect in preparation and freshness. Look fun stuffed with scallops melt in the mouth and minifootballs of fried mochi stuffed with dried shrimp and pork are irresistibly crisp and sticky-soft.
Discovery Bay Center, 1778 Ala Moana Blvd at Hobron Ln (955-8668). Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm; Fri, Sat 11am-1am. Starters $3-$10. Entrees: $8-$50. AmEx, DC, Disc, JCB, MC, V.
Shanghai Bistro is wall-to-wall teak–everything, from the high-backed slatted chairs to the long bar is imported from Taiwan. The restaurant aspires to fusion fare (Peking duck burger, flash-fried ahi rolls) but generally the menu yields well-done Chinese classics (kung pao chicken, whole fried sea bass).
2671 S. King St (946-7580). Mon-Sat 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight; Sun 11am-2:30pm, 5:30-9:30pm. Entrees: $8.95-$19.95. AmEx, Disc, JCB, MC, V.
Bistro Sun has the alarming tagline ‘Italian Fusion Style.’ But you can have a good comfort dinner by mixing and matching dishes such as kakuni (long-simmered pork in a sweet shoyu sauce), maguro carpaccio and a really eggy carbonara (with or without kimchee).
Buon Amici Ristorante
3605 Wai’alae Ave. (732-5999). Daily 5:30-9pm. Pastas $18.50-$22.50, entrees from $20.50. MC, V.
The restaurant strives to retain Italian-style neighborhoodiness. Fresh pastas are a standout, including classic Bolognese, papardelle with sausage and pancetta and gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce. BYOB for now.
Caffe Latte Italian
339 Saratoga Rd, second floor (924-1414). Wed-Sun 6:30-10pm. Three-course prix fixe: $35. MC, V.
The menu here is prix fixe only–choose an appetizer, soup or salad, an entree and dessert. The 13 different house-made pastas are the stars. Choose from selections such as pillowy gnocchi in a tomato sauce, tagliatelle bolognese and butter-sage ravioli.
Japanese & Okinawan
2626 S. King St, Diamond Head of University Ave (941-2626). Mon-Sat 5-11:30pm. A la carte: $2.50-$12.50. Beef shabu-shabu: $18.50. AmEx, DC, MC, V.
Exemplary classic Tokyo-style sushi is as close as you’ll come to Sushi Sasabune in this price range. Order a parade of beautifully composed plates–grilled butterfish, seaweed salad, chilled kabocha pumpkin, shabu-shabu salad–to go with sips of sake and shochu. The sake list is short but sweet.
Osake Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge
1700 Kapi’olani Blvd. (944-4848). Wed-Mon 5pm to 2am. Dinner service until 1am. Sushi rolls: $12-18. AmEx, Disc, JCB, MC, V.
Without traditional dining tables, it’s not the most conventional place to eat, but that isn’t to say they don’t serve quality sushi and excellent sashimi. They do. Sushi rolls like the Candy Cane Roll, a serviceable California roll topped with red ahi and white ika, are inventive, and the uni is first-rate.
Ala Moana Pacific Center, ground floor, 1585 Kapi’olani Blvd. at Kaheka St. (941-3701, [shokudojapanese.com]). Daily 5pm-2am. Starters: $2.75-$9.75. Entrees: $6.75-$18.75. AmEx, DC, Disc, JCB, MC, V.
Dishes range from fresh house-made tofu to teriyaki chicken pizza. Grilled sliced steak, spinach salad, unagi rice and multi-ingredient maki are all to be had. Take your pick of a range of refreshing shochu cocktails at the giant square bar.
Southeast Asian & Indian
1117 S King St. between Pensacola and Pi’ikoi Sts. (597-8201). Daily 10:30am-9:30pm. Appetizers: $2-$8.95. Entrees: $5.75-$14.75. Payment: MC, V
Husband-and-wife team Tam and Kimmy Huyng run a family affair, and the food is home-cooking good in this bright utilitarian eatery. Pho is memorably peppery and lemony, but the menu goes beyond the usuals with dishes like stuffed baby squid and a pungent lamb curry.
Nu’uanu Open Market, 1627 Nu’uanu Ave. (585-8839). Mon-Sat 10am-8:30pm. Plate lunch: $4.95. A la carte: $6.45-$7.45. MC, V.
Yes, it’s in a garage, but this no-frills five-table Liliha eatery is all restaurant (and market). You can order an impressive array of snapping-fresh dishes.
Bombay Indian Restaurant
Discovery Bay Center, 1778 Ala Moana Blvd. (942-3990). Daily 5-10pm; Main dishes $9.95-$21.95. JCB, MC, V
Curry house classics are served in a pleasant, Pier 1-esque dining room. The tandoor is the basis for grilled meats, baked breads and the chef’s special chicken tikka masala. The awesome rendition of gulab jamun, deceptively light spherical fried dumplings made from powdered milk and steeped in cardamom-infused honey syrup, will make you re-think Indian desserts.