Best of Pau Hana Patrol
Some of the best in TGIF’s weekly happy-hour column
When a full meal isn’t absolutely necessary — or when reasonably priced cocktails are — leave it to Honolulu’s thriving bar scene to provide a number of food and drink options.
All of the following establishments have been featured in “Pau Hana Patrol,” the Star-Advertiser’s weekly happy-hour column in TGIF, receiving high praise from our critics. A few restaurants, among them 12th Avenue Grill, Shokudo and Sam Choy’s, would also be on this list, but they have already been noted elsewhere in this year’s guide, so they’re not duplicated here. Another bar, V Lounge, is definitely worth a visit; see Page 63 for details.
The following list is in alphabetical order. Pay a visit to any of these places during happy hour and you’ll find tasty morsels and yummy libations that will help soothe the soul after a long day on the job.
The interior of Apartment3 at Century Center.
1750 Kalakaua Ave., 955-9300, www.apartmentthree.com. Happy hour: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday; also 6-8 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 7-8 p.m. Saturday
Australians of a certain age should be able to recall — granted, with various degrees of clarity — what was once called the “6 o’clock swill.”
This not-so-happy-hour ritual became part of weekday life down under after the Australian equivalent of Mothers Against Drunk Driving got a law passed that forced bars to close at 6 p.m. That gave people who got off work at 5 p.m. just one short hour to “swill” as much as they could before last call.
Fortunately, saner minds eventually prevailed and the law was repealed.
There might be establishments in Honolulu today where the pau hana vibe is about speed-drinking and bottom-of-the-well pours, but Apartment3 offers a far more mature and sophisticated happy-hour experience.
Whether the plan is to stop in after work or to start the night there with a few cocktails and a light dinner, the Century Center hideaway owned by Flash Hansen, Matt “Matty Boy” Hazelgrove and Charles “Chip” Jewitt is a great choice for adults interested in atmosphere as well as affordable food and a well-stocked bar.
An easy choice from the happy-hour menu is any one of the thin-crust pizzas ($5), which are a smaller version of the standard entree but still more than enough to share with friends. Another is the K.F.C. ($1 each), chicken drumettes twice fried and doused in a Korean chili sauce.
The standard menu is too tempting to ignore, and the prices aren’t outrageous. Consider the Mini Sammies ($4 each or three for $11) or the Cheese and Honey plate of fruit and cheese drizzled with honey ($12).
And, if you’re not the designated driver of the group, be sure to take advantage of the pau hana drink specials and sample one or two of the Apartment3 specialty cocktails. Unlike the unfortunate Australians of years past, there’s no need to race the clock at Apartment3.
John Berger, Star-Advertiser
35 N. Hotel St., 537-3535, www.bar35-hawaii.com. Happy hour: 4-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday
This bar not only has the most delicious gourmet pizza in town, but also is a beer connoisseur’s dream, offering more than 100 different beers from around the world. When you walk into the bar, your eyes will need a minute to adjust because the room is dark. This feels a little strange when you have just come in from the bright afternoon sun on Hotel Street, but don’t let that deter you from trying out this place.
The indoor space at Bar 35 is large, with open areas to walk or stand and plenty of seating on high bar stools and comfy, oversize love seats and couches throughout. If you enjoy being outside, there is also a relaxing patio area in the back that is great for lounging.
The atmosphere during happy hour is more laid-back than during the bar’s typically crazy weekend nights. The crowd here is young and the turnout is great, and you can’t beat the happy-hour prices with $3 Skyy cocktails as well as discounted beers.
Pupu at Bar 35 are not discounted, however, and the menu is limited. The gourmet pizzas come with a variety of inventive toppings and have clever names. I would not even categorize it as bar food. Try the Sweet Bangkok pizza, which is prepared with Chinese sausage, sweet chili sauce, cilantro, tomato sauce and mozzarella.
Looking for something to do while you drink? Every night at Bar 35 features a different event. Mondays are Wii game nights, with bowling tournaments and happy-hour prices all evening. Wednesday nights feature “House of Brews,” a beer tasting with complimentary pizza samples from 6 to 8 p.m.
An impressive beer list, amazing pizza, great crowd and friendly bartenders make Bar 35 the place to be after work in downtown.
Carey Reynolds, Special to the Star-Advertiser
‘H.A.B.I.T.’ at Bonsai
500 Ala Moana Blvd., 525-5080, www.bonsaihonolulu.com. Happy hour: 5:30 p.m.-midnight Tuesday
When Hanson Nguyen decided he wanted a new place to go on Tuesday nights for drinks and down time with friends, he did the only thing he could do: He planned and launched the party himself.
“H.A.B.I.T.” — Hospitality and Bar Industry Tuesday — launched in June, with different party choices for guests bringing distinct groups of people into the restaurant at Waterfront Plaza during different times of the night. The multilevel space with additional outdoor seating gives Nguyen plenty of real estate to execute different vibes within the same location.
On the other side of the room, a table of women lounged next to a couple enjoying drinks and pupu. Soon, the first movie of a scheduled double-feature would start, followed by resident DJ KT jumping on the decks — and TV screens — with his style of video mixing until midnight. Throughout the evening, Nguyen added, the upstairs dining room at Bonsai would remain available for those looking for a slightly quieter place to hang out.
Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser
Cafe Duck Butt
901 Kawaiahao St., 593-1880. Happy hour: 5-8 p.m. daily
Cafe Duck Butt is a strange bird, but I enjoy the hell out of it. From the goofy name to the electric color scheme to the extensive menu, this karaoke joint is a jolt to the senses.
The main room is bathed in neon colors — lime green, electric blue, violet. The tables are booth style, with comfortable bench seats, set up for convivial gatherings. Korean karaoke videos play nonstop on multiple screens. The effect is contempo-budget-Asian, slick, bright and comfortable.
Come early enough during the daily happy hour, and you may be the only party or see just a few other people. But later in the evening, on weekends particularly, Cafe Duck Butt may fill to capacity with karaoke-room revelers and tables full of in-the-know locals who have the good grinds and reasonable drink prices wired.
The food is good, the service relatively fast and friendly. When I visited with a party of four, the manager dropped by to check on our reaction to the Korean tacos recently added to the menu, of which he was justifiably proud.
While I’m neither young nor Korean — the primary crowd at Duck Butt — I’ve been a few times now, and each time I’ve been greeted quickly, with my questions answered promptly and food served right away.
The karaoke rooms, one of which I recently experienced at a friend’s going-away party, are similarly comfortable, and the service (order by wall phone) is just as responsive. Staffers were even good-natured when my big karaoke party’s members insisted on starting beaucoup individual tabs. That’s when you know you’ve got a professional, patient crew.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski, Star-Advertiser
346 Lewers St., 626-5362. Happy hour: 6-8 p.m. daily
The happy-hour drink specials at the Genius Lounge are great, but the biggest thrill about this buzz-worthy hangout is the location itself.
Genius is the kind of place that makes you think, “Why didn’t I know about this already?” And then, “How soon can I come back?”
It’s cute and cheery, with a hip, Japanese sensibility. It’s comfortable but not shabby. It’s in Waikiki! And yet it’s not that pricey.
If I lived in Waikiki, I would probably stop in to Genius often — honestly, it’s that attractive. Just skip up the stairs around the side of the Genius Outfitters boutique on Lewers Street, and the crush and noise of touristville fade away.
At the top of the stairs: Boom! Complete change of environment, from concrete jungle to airy hideaway.
The word “pretty” comes to mind as I gaze on the back lanai — the first thing you see upon scaling the stairs. It’s small but well ordered, ideally suited to catch the late-afternoon sun, then transition into a softly lit landing place, scattered with cocktail tables and a love seat, and embellished with a candle-lit wall.
Inside, there’s a bar and a few tables, with repurposed home furnishings serving as side cabinets. It’s shabby chic — but more chic than shabby.
Keep going toward the front, and another lanai overlooks Lewers, high enough to keep you above the fray. As the sun sets, small lights strung along the wrought-iron fencing give the place a twee glow.
Value drinks in a charming setting: That’s enough to make you feel a bit smarter than before you discovered the joint.
Elizabeth Kieszkowski, Star-Advertiser
1913 Dudoit Lane, 949-9885. Happy hour: 6-7 p.m. daily
Bars are a little like recording artists and their songs: Some put out hits for a short time and then fizzle out, while others entertain generations of fans. Some are great during the holidays, and others just can’t be remade. Then sometimes Michael Bolton takes a great thing and goes and stamps his creepy mark on it and ruins it for the world.
Thank God I don’t care about transitions, because writing about a Michael Bolton bar would be terrible. Instead, I get to write about a bar that’s much more like the Ramones.
The Ramones didn’t offer much refinement or production value in their music, and I’d really be surprised if there were more than four chords to any Ramones recording before 1985. They didn’t need it. Same goes for the Hideaway Bar on the fringe of Waikiki. You won’t find gimmicks here, just cheap drinks.
But it’s not only punk-rock types who frequent this prototypical dive bar. Club kids looking for a place to start (or end) their nights as well as businessmen are often seen sharing space with heavily tattooed bikers. The Hideaway appeals to many different kinds of people, and those who are too intimidated by its surly reputation are probably more Michael Bolton’s crowd anyway.
During “Power Hour” from 6 to 7 p.m. daily, all domestic beers and well drinks are $1. “Power” is fitting, since I’ve never had a watered-down drink here. Normal drink prices are what most other bars call their happy-hour specials, so even if you don’t make it during “Power Hour,” you’ll never overpay for drinks.
Unfortunately, about the only food available is the gum stuck to the bottom of a few of the tables. But hey, the Ramones never ate. They only drank, right?
There’s really no excuse to pass on a trip here. They open at 6 in the morning and sell cheap drinks that get even cheaper at dinnertime. And they are nothing like Michael Bolton.
Kawika Kanae, Special to the Star-Advertiser
Kochi Restaurant And Lounge
1936 S. King St., 941-2835. Happy hour: 5-7 p.m. daily
When I was growing up, a visit to 1936 S. King St. meant just one thing: a short stack of pancakes from King’s Bakery.
Now that I’m all grown up, a visit to the same spot means happy-hour drinks and pupu at Kochi Restaurant and Lounge, owned by the same family as Gulick Delicatessen located next door. There’s no mistaking the space Kochi resides in as a coffee shop, since it was completely redone when the establishment first opened in 2007.
About a dozen bar stools surround the square-shaped bar in Kochi’s lounge, with a handful of small tables designed to seat two or three customers and a pair of longer tables that can accommodate larger groups. Couches round out the seating options, which are designed to provide a clear view of the flat screens that hang in the lounge.
Food options are plentiful, with a variety of Japanese and local-style pupu plus a couple of surprises. You can’t go wrong with the Chicken Katsu ($5) or Spicy Teri Edamame ($3.95), but also consider the Popcorn Tako ($5) and the Corned Beef Hash Balls ($5). The former is a nice substitute for popcorn shrimp, while the latter goes surprisingly well with beer (guess you really can deep-fry anything and serve it in a bar).
Pau hana regulars at Kochi tend to skew a bit older, so don’t expect the same type of people who might also visit bars like Tsunami’s or Uncle Bo’s. Still, if you’re looking for a quiet spot to finish the day with drinks and food, Kochi is a worthy pick.
Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser
39 N. Hotel St., 599-2552, www.thirtyninehotel.com. Happy hour: 4-8 p.m.
New happy-hour options in Chinatown have sprung up in recent years, but the best place for pau hana continues to be a cornerstone of the neighborhood’s renaissance since it opened six years ago.
The really cool thing about thirtyninehotel is the variety of experiences it offers. Visit on a First Friday and the place is in total art mode, serving as a gallery for local artists and a meeting place for those who love to express their creativity.
Show up on the last Friday of the month for “Soul Clap,” on the other hand, and the Nocturnal Sound Krew’s DJ Eskae and friends keep the same room jumping all night with solid party bangers and Chinatown’s cool kids.
But my favorite time to be at thirtyninehotel is during pau hana from 4 to 8 p.m. Anyone who has tried former bar manager Christian Self’s creations, which remain on the drinks menu, will tell you they’re worth the $10 they normally cost — but get there during happy hour and they’re all $5 each.
Thirtyninehotel’s drinks menu includes only quality liquors and fresh ingredients, and the attention to detail is evident.
Food is available at thirtyninehotel as well, with a variety of small plates available after 5 p.m. Items are affordably priced, although the one-man kitchen can easily get bogged down when it gets crowded.
The solution? Order as soon as you can find a place to sit.
Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser
Tony Roma’s Pearlridge
98-150 Kaonohi St., 487-9911. Happy hour: 3-6 p.m. weekdays.
If you can come to terms with visiting Tony Roma’s and not ordering ribs, happy hour at the national restaurant chain’s Aiea location is one of the best deals on the Leeward side of Oahu.
From 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays, some of the most popular appetizers on the menu here are discounted more than 50 percent off regular prices. The only catch? You have to sit at one of about 10 bar stools at the bar proper. Happy-hour drink specials, on the other hand, are available to all customers in the restaurant.
Even if you weren’t planning on sitting at the bar, once you discover the perennial Tony Roma’s favorite, the Onion Loaf ($4), is on special, you won’t want to sit anywhere else. And when you realize the Kickin’ Shrimp ($4) and Red Hot Buffalo Wings ($4) normally cost $8.99 and $9.99, respectively, you’ll end up staying put at the bar.
Can’t make it out that early in the day? Head to Tony Roma’s between 9 and 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and all the same specials will be in effect — just keep an eye on the time, since most of the employees are focused on getting a jump on cleaning up the place at the end of the night. On Fridays you’ll get an extra hour to cruise, thanks to an 11 p.m. closing time.
While there might be more true barlike environments in the surrounding neighborhood, the convenience of having a quiet place to sneak away for a drink and some pupu makes Tony Roma’s a viable pau hana pick.
Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser
Tropics Cafe Bar & Grill
1020 Auahi St., 591-8009. Happy hour: 4-7 p.m. weekdays
Wander through the Ward Entertainment Complex and you’ll find a number of options for drinks and pupu, from a complete restaurant experience to the neighborhood bar complete with regular customers and friendly owners.
Go ahead and mark your mental checklist now — Ryan’s, Paparazzi, Ka, Dave & Buster’s, Bucca di Beppo, Kincaid’s. Plenty of restaurants and what passes for nightclubs these days. But a neighborhood bar?
Tropics Cafe Bar & Lounge sounds like a mouthful when you say it, but wander inside the bar on the edge of the Ward Farmers Market property closest to the movie theater complex, and you’ll find a cozy little spot with a seemingly secret second floor.
And, yes, despite the drawn blinds and closed door, Tropics is open for happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays. The early start is why everything looks shuttered from the outside; indoors it’s nice and dim, with plenty of booths and tables to go with the handful of bar stools at the first-floor bar. This isn’t the Tropics that most associate with weekend reggae ragers that feature live bands downstairs and an upstairs lounge that offers darts and pool in addition to another full bar.
Most of the pupu here are of the fried variety, especially if you’re ordering off the happy-hour menu. The Wing Dings ($3) are available in varying degrees of hotness, while tried-and-true items like garlic fries ($3), gyoza ($3) and cheese quesadillas ($2) round out the offerings.
The catch, however, is that Tropics cuts the happy-hour servings down in order to keep costs low. Be sure to check out the entire food menu if you’re hungry, because there are a number of other options if you’re willing to spend a few extra bucks.
The garlic ahi ($10.95) is one of those dishes that isn’t on special, but order it seared and the buttery slices of fish with heaping mounds of garlic on top will disappear very quickly when accompanied by a cold pitcher of beer.
If that’s not true happiness, what is?
Jason Genegabus, Star-Advertiser