SuperCity: The unseen bar scene

Sep. 25, 2013 | 0 Comments

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BY CHRISTA WITTMIER / Special to the Star-Advertiser

I love that my close friend and fellow Honolulu Pulse blogger Derin Derego mentioned his favorite under-the-radar spots last week. There must be something going on that had both of us thinking the same thing at the same precise time. It’s not like we ever really get tired of being at all the scene-y, be-seen scene spots, really.

For as much emphasis as we put on the “place to be” it’s a thousand times more cool to find your own spot. Derin called it “under the radar,” but I think it’s more like “neighborhoody.” The bars where you can go by yourself, sit at the bar, talk story with the bartender and trust them to come up with a cocktail that might suit your mood. For people who have to be “switched on” for most of their day, heading to one of these hidden gems where the quality of service is truly valued can be the best way to unwind.

Restaurant & Bar Manager & Mixologist Dave Minch with some (not all) of his infused vodkas at Sway Restaurant & Bar (Courtesy of Christa Wittmier)

Dave Minch with some (not all) of his infused vodkas at Sway Restaurant & Bar (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

Under normal circumstances, I would never put spots like this on blast — and you can bet there are a few others I will never reveal. It’s too precious to have such greatness without worrying about hundreds of others being keen on it as well. Try to grab a barstool at Bevy or Pint & Jigger after work any night they are open and you know exactly what I mean.

As impossible as Waikiki is for a townie like me, I was pleasantly surprised after plopping down at the bar at Sway to overhear someone asking the bartender how many infusions he was working on.

“Eight” he answered, pulling jar after jar of different colored liquids from a fridge under the bar.

EIGHT?!?

The bartender was also bar manager Dave Minch, who watches over the spot tucked neatly away in chic boutique hotel Stay. The location is very neighborhoody for Waikiki, behind the Hyatt Regency Waikiki and next to Wang Chung’s. You pretty much need to work or live nearby to get there.

I happened to be in the area and was able to walk over. Watching condensation drip down the ice-cold bottles of Minch’s infused vodkas, I was very happy about this.

Minch said the pistachio macadamia nut was a popular choice, along with the very mixable orange-lime-pear. He had a pineapple-strawberry-habanero and a blackberry-vanilla bean, too. Most people order these straight up or on the rocks, but some of the vodkas offer endless mixing possibilities. If you decide to check him out, ask about his holiday infusions (including peppermint stick and pumpkin).

The lobby bar in the Hilton Waikiki Beach has music nightly and drinks that are less than $5 during Happy Hour (Courtesy Christa Wittmier)

The lobby bar at the Hilton Waikiki Beach offers live music nightly and drinks under $5 during happy hour. (Christa Wittmier)

Forget about finding parking if you visit Sway, but around the corner you can valet at the Hilton Waikiki Beach hotel on Kuhio Ave. (where you park to visit Mac 24/7). They have a fantastic bar in the lobby with live music nightly from 6 to 9 p.m., but also offer affordable drinks during their happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. $3 for a beer in Waikiki with live music sounds pretty good to me. The music comes from award winning musicians including Sunway, Johnny Helm and the Pushoverse.

Live music is also back at the old W Honolulu, now known as Lotus Honolulu. The Park Restaurant is the same space you might remember, but updated with a couch area by the windows for guests to come in and enjoy music with cocktails without having to order a full dinner.

Dinner here, by the way, is fantastic. Young and talented executive chef Michael Collantes has an incredibly fun menu of interesting flatbreads and eclectic vegetable dishes I loved, including a fried curry cauliflower and crack-like brussell sprouts.

Check their website for the music schedule, as they are planning out October now.

Oh, wow. I can’t believe it’s already October. October means HIFF among other things. It’s definitely time for busy on a whole new level.

I’m ready.
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Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young’s Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular “Bacardi Pool Party” on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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