Pau Hana Patrol: The Modern offers patrons a choice
Pau Hana Patrol is all about finding places where you can wind down after work (or play) and get a deal that allows you to potentially live beyond your means. Take advantage of happy-hour offers, which are designed to bring in more patrons during off hours, and you can nibble and sip at world-class locations such as Nobu, or completely pig out at homey spots such as Dixie Grill, and get value for your dollar.
At The Modern Honolulu you’ll experience something of an upper middle ground. The surroundings are sublime and the grinds are satisfying.
THE MODERN HONOLULU
1775 Ala Moana Blvd.
Some finer aspects offered under previous management at the hotel, when it was branded as the Waikiki Edition, are no more — the waiters and service staff are more casual, and the pool bar’s featured cocktails are not as upscale and complex. It does not feel as exclusive, but from a value-oriented customer’s point of view, that may be a plus.
On the Thursday I visited, the tables and bar stools were almost fully occupied at the Modern’s Sunrise bar, where a “Sunset Happy Hour” goes on from 4 to 7 p.m.
After the sun went down, I moved inside to the hotel’s chic Lobby Bar, hidden away from the check-in counter by a swinging bookcase, and encountered a laughing group of local professionals holding a social hour.
There were enough patrons at both locations to create a pleasant buzz.
THE BOUGAINVILLEA-adorned, wooden-floored pool deck of the Modern, looking out over the boats bobbing in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, is a great place to sit as the sun sets. Draft beer (Kauai Gold, Longboard Lager, Bikini Blonde and Waialua Wheat) is served for $4. The atmosphere’s beachy and relaxed.
My pick for a bite at the pool would be the hotel’s fresh fish tacos. At $12 for two, along with crispy tortilla chips, it’s sized generously enough for a decent meal. My order came with an outsize pile of sliced jalapenos, which I found rather strange — not exactly pretty to look at, and more than enough to give even jalapeno lovers a good case of heartburn — but the tacos themselves were tasty and satisfying.
Other basic bar offerings are also available, including Margherita pizza ($11), hot wings ($8 for six), chips and salsa ($5, $9 with guacamole) and edamame ($5).
I kicked my shoes off and enjoyed the fresh fruit flavors in a Dragon Berry Hai cocktail ($9), made with Bacardi Dragonberry rum, strawberries, fresh lime and ginger, and watched the sun turn red over the harbor. Tourists lined up to take photos of the boats, ocean and sky. I’m pretty sure we all felt pretty lucky at that moment.
SERVERS AT the Sunrise bar wear board shorts and pareu, so you shouldn’t feel you need to dress for drinks. At the Lobby Bar the atmosphere is more stylish. I would feel underdressed in slippers, clunky sneakers or cargo shorts — and I appreciate that. With no windows, the focus in the Lobby Bar is on cocktails and customers, and the space makes me feel I should be on good behavior, looking my best.
Sitting at a comfortable, cube-shaped table against the wall, with pillows against my back and a view of the Lobby Bar’s neutral tones and modern decor open before me, I felt securely cosseted. I would enjoy this place on a rainy day.
We have an uneasy relationship with sophistication these days — it feels slightly retro, like a ’60s concept. With its swinging door and James Bond-inspired martini, the Lobby Bar recognizes that and runs with it.
At this site I recommend the Agent Rouge ($9), the bar’s twist on Bond’s “Vesper” made with Russian Standard Imperial vodka, gin and Lillet Rouge, “shaken, not stirred.” It has style, looks and bite.
I ordered a Petite Sliced Ribeye ($12) and Cuban Sandwich ($12). The rib eye, a small portion served with ponzu and radish sprouts for garnish, was dainty and delicious. The Cuban was more substantial and satisfying, but the “spicy fries” served with it were far too salty.
You can get chips and pizza at the Lobby Bar, too — the food at both sites comes from the same kitchen. Other choices I plan to try later include antipasti ($11) and a smoked-cheddar, bacon and avocado-topped burger ($11).
There may be further adjustments coming to the Modern, which is in the process of changing ownership. During my visit, the outdoor upper-level bar (upstairs from the Sunrise Pool) was closed, causing me to wonder what’s planned for that space. And indoors at the Lobby Bar, a respected local bartender who has relocated from a top-end Waikiki hotel was greeted warmly when he arrived. What changes might he bring to the cocktail menu? As it stands, though, The Modern Honolulu is attractive for its environment and value at pau hana. (Valet parking is free for bar guests, too.) The pool bar’s sunset views and the Lobby Bar’s martini are certainly worth your time.
—Elizabeth Kieszkowski / firstname.lastname@example.org