Pau Hana Patrol: Suck’em Up Bar and Lounge

Mar. 28, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Bartender Kanani Villanueva pours a cold beer from the tap during happy hour at Suck'em Up Bar in Kapolei. (Jamm Aquino / jaquino@staradvertiser.com)

Bartender Kanani Villanueva pours a cold beer from the tap during happy hour at Suck’em Up Bar in Kapolei. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

BY STEFANIE NAKASONE / snakasone@staradvertiser.com

While Oahu’s west side has many of the amenities of town, the one thing it seriously lacks is a variety of pau hana options.

One of the few is Suck’em Up Bar and Lounge, on the west end of Kapolei Marketplace.

I want to make on thing clear upfront: If food is as important as drinks during happy hour, Suck’em Up is not for you. The menu lists only a handful of basic bar foods (none of which are discounted during happy hour), and these are really just a salty accompaniment to the bar’s many beers and liquors.

SUCK’EM UP BAR
AND LOUNGE

590 Farrington Highway

(808) 888-7004
facebook.com/Suck-Em-Up-Bar

HAPPY HOUR
4 p.m.-8 p.m. daily

» $3 draft beer
» $10 pitchers
» $1 off bottles
» Daily drink specials

The front of the bar has no windows; a sign posted on its door will tell you when it is “OPEN.” It was a little jarring when my friend and I first entered the bar, going from a sunny and peaceful Kapolei afternoon into the cool darkness of a lowly lit, windowless room with hip-hop and Hawaiian music blaring over the sound system. On a hot day, though, it’s a chill haven.

The bar is quite spacious, with lots of seating and methods to keep one occupied, including more than a dozen large flat-screen TVs, two pool tables and four dartboards. It is also very sleek and clean. I definitely wouldn’t categorize this place as a “dive.”

We decided to sit in one of the booths closest to the bar. But because there was only one waitress/bartender working, it would have been better to sit at the bar for faster service. In all, we spent more than two hours at Suck’em Up, with a lot of that time spent waiting.

Except for the slow service due to understaffing, the waitress was exceptional. When we asked for a few televisions to be changed to a certain basketball game, she happily obliged, juggling an armful of remote controllers to find the right remote-television combination.

AS THE name of the bar might indicate, Suck’em Up is focused on keeping the drinks flowing.

Happy-hour specials are beer-oriented: $3 glasses, $10 pitchers and $1 off bottles. But for cocktail lovers like myself, there are also daily specials that include many popular flavored vodkas and rums.

For the first round, I tried a Cruzan coconut rum mixed with Coke in a $5 daily special, while my friend had a glass of Blue Moon. My drink was good and strong; my friend had no complaints about his beer.

Later he tried one of the bar’s specialty drinks, the Twisted Cola, made with a “house mix,” vodka and soda ($7, not discounted). Whatever’s in that secret mix, my friend loved it, saying the drink tasted like those cola gummies remembered from small-kid days.

I also ordered a bar’s featured drink, the Bad Mother ($8), which usually consists of mango puree and Grand Leyenda silver tequila. However, after searching the bar, the waitress politely told me she couldn’t find any mango and offered to make me the drink with another juice — and if I didn’t like her concoction, she would make me another.

I decided to stick with the Bad Mother, with orange juice instead of mango. It was essentially a tequila sunrise without the grenadine (or screwdriver with tequila instead of vodka). Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

While Suck’em Up’s drink selection is vast, the food is an afterthought. We tried the regular-priced kalua pig nachos and meatballs, which at $10 each were the menu’s most expensive and complicated items. Both dishes tasted fine — we particularly liked the nachos, which came loaded with jalapenos and cheese — but they were nothing special. The meatballs were pretty much just those frozen ones from the store, smothered in a teriyaki sauce — hardly worth a visit.

Suck’em Up is at its best as a laid-back pau hana spot before or after a meal. It’s a good place to meet up with friends and toss one back on the west side. Save the romance or foodie rendezvous for another location.

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