So buy the shoes and cleats separately. Can't-miss shoe brands include Sidi, Diadora, Northwave, and to some extent Shimanoall good brands that offer models in a wide range of prices, from the Shimano M120G for $100 to the Sidi Dominator 4 for $210. You can often find good deals, too, such as what Supergo is offering on the Northwave Mojave, a fine technical MTB shoeavailable for $70 versus $150 retail (www.supergo.com).
Anyway, as I said, a lot depends on your riding. If you're doing technical mountain biking, then I think the Crank Brothers Egg Beaters ($140 for the basic S model; www.crankbrothers.com) are very hard to beat. Light, simple, extremely easy to get in and out of. But, this is a very small pedal, so unless you're wearing a shoe with a very rigid sole, you'll think you're pedaling on a walnut.
For lower-key mountain biking, touring, or all-around road riding, a pedal with a bigger platformsuch as Time's A.T.A.C. Alium ($100; www.timesportusa.com)is an excellent choice. So too are the Shimano pedals, such as the M540 ($90; www.shimano.com), which offers a good design and easy entry/exit at a reasonable price. Crank Brothers also offers a wide-platform mallett M pedal ($140) that incorporates their egg-beater clip.