Pau Hana Patrol: Crouching Lion Bar & Grill

Aug. 14, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
Visitors Jennifer Villanueva, left, Natasha Asifoa and Bird Levy enjoy the ocean views afforded by the outdoor seating at the Crouching Lion Bar & Grill in Kaaawa. The restaurant's current owners took over in 2008. (Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

Visitors Jennifer Villanueva, left, Natasha Asifoa and Bird Levy enjoy the ocean views afforded by the outdoor seating at the Crouching Lion Bar & Grill in Kaaawa. The restaurant’s current owners took over in 2008. (Bruce Asato / basato@staradvertiser.com)

By NINA WU / nwu@staradvertiser.com

Somehow nearly 10 years have passed since the last time I made a stop at Crouching Lion Bar & Grill in Kaaawa. For all these years, I would drive by it en route to the North Shore from time to time with a fleeting thought of, “Oh, there’s the Crouching Lion. It’s still there.”

The Crouching Lion is indeed still there, still serving up food, drink and live music. Owners Evaldo Ferreira and Alan Huie took over ownership of the place in June 2008. The “Inn” has been replaced with “Bar & Grill.”

People in town sometimes seem to forget that Crouching Lion is open, Huie says. He reminds people that Crouching Lion has been in business for more than 60 years, serving residents living in between Kaneohe and Kahuku as well as townies who happen by.

THE EXPERIENCE

The hourlong drive from town to the Crouching Lion is itself an experience. On a recent Thursday afternoon,

I cruised most of the time along two-lane Kamehameha Highway, then fell in behind a bunch of out-of-town college kids on mopeds who took their time taking in the scenery. But that’s exactly the mode one should be in before heading out this way.

When you park (plenty of it, and free), the place itself offers a stunning view — the lion is indeed perched atop the Koolau, behind the restaurant. Steps take you past a lush garden up to a Nordic-inspired restaurant (formerly a home and a lodge) with tropical decor, including a yellow hibiscus wall mural, hanging shells and floating glass balls.

The place has been renovated with new tile floors since I last came, and still offers a quirky charm. Most customers gravitate toward the breezy lanai overlooking Kahana Bay. Service was prompt and friendly in a laid-back, casual way.

CROUCHING LION BAR & GRILL

51-666 Kamehameha Highway
237-8981, crouchinglionhawaii.com

Happy hour:
4-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 2-4 p.m. Sundays
>> $1 off beer pitchers (Heineken, Longboard $9)
>> 50-cent discount on bottled beers, well drinks
Taco Tuesdays: 5:30-9 p.m.
>> $2-$4 beef, chicken, fish tacos
>> $6 nachos
>> $4 Mexico beers, margaritas

THE FOOD

Plates and prices here are comparable to those at venues in town and Waikiki. There is no happy-hour menu, but you have your usual pupu fare of garlic fries ($6.95), coconut shrimp ($14.95) and fried calamari ($10.95).

Jalapeno poppers ($8.95) — eight peppers filled with cream cheese and deep-fried — were satisfying but had no wow factor. The vegetarian spring rolls ($7.95) were crisp, served with a sweet chili sauce.

From the main menu you can order sandwiches and burgers for $13.95 to $14.95, including a crabcake sandwich ($14.95), which was tasty and served with a refreshing pineapple coleslaw.

Taco Tuesday offers a good deal, with beef, chicken and fish tacos for $2 to $4, and Mexico beers and margarita for $4.

THE DRINKS

The Crouching Lion has a well-stocked bar and lengthy cocktail menu, with friendly bartenders, if not a lot of artistry.

The list of cocktails is of the touristy variety — as in a Lava Flow (Cruzan aged light rum with strawberry puree), a True Blue Hawaiian and Sex on a Windward Beach (vodka, peach liqueur, guava juice), all $7. The “Lion’s Punch” ($9) really does pack a punch — it’s a powerful, sweet concoction of dark and light Cruzan rum, Malibu rum, amaretto, melon liqueur, orange juice, pineapple and grenadine.

If you’re picky about cocktails, then your best bet is to stick with beers, which are discounted during happy hour. Pitchers of Heineken and Longboard, regularly $10, are discounted to $9.

THE VERDICT

Is the Crouching Lion a destination spot for food and drink? Not really. But it is a nice spot if you’d like to get out of town, on the way to or from the North Shore. The ambience is the best part — the views are great, the setting is unique and the service is friendly.

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