Pau Hana Patrol: Puka’s
BY STEVEN MARK / firstname.lastname@example.org
Puka’s, a new bar next to the Whole Foods Market Honolulu, is a welcome addition to Kahala’s dining and drinking scene, adding a trendy venue to quaff a beer or have a sip of wine and get a bite to eat.
Whole Foods Market Kahala
Daily specials, all day
Folks working regular hours will have to knock off early to take advantage of happy hour, which has recently been rescheduled to 2 to 5 p.m. from its original 4 to 7 p.m. Because happy hours are available seven days a week, though, you can try it on a weekend. Whenever, it’s a fun little spot to hang out.
Puka’s is in the former site of a Cinnabon shop, so perhaps it’s a spot that generates quaint memories of those hot sweet buns. Now the site has been redecorated in sharp, chic stylings, with dark interior walls, ocean-themed artwork and an elegant-looking bar with multiple beer taps. Two televisions entertain patrons, and the space has another corner tucked away, where there’s some privacy.
You can also sit outside, alongside patrons of the mall’s food court and the Whole Foods buffet; the outdoor dining area has been expanded. Puka’s patrons can signal a waiter by placing a service block on the table.
There was entertainment on one day that I visited, which really enlivened the place. A schedule for entertainment is in the works.
As part of the Whole Foods Market, Puka’s can be expected to serve up tasty, health-conscious food. There are daily specials — served independently of happy hour — including chicken wings (with choice of sweet whiskey Sriracha sauce, porter barbecue sauce or a Korean sauce) and beer on Mondays for $10, or fish and chips with a brew on Fridays for $12.
Whole Foods specifies the beers available for pairings, and the choices will vary.
I went on a Thursday, which offers a $10 Burger and Brew special. The bartender told me the burgers were made of local beef and made up fresh every day, so you can’t get much better than that. Served with hot, crisp fries, it went down perfectly with a Maui Brewing Big Swell from the tap.
The menu also has sushi at $4 to $7 for four-piece plates, a nice selection of specialty sandwiches and burgers, and even a New York Steak and Frites for $17, which definitely deserves a look for those times when we can treat ourselves to steak. (The kids, meanwhile, can get poi-battered Corn Dogs for $6.)
A big selection of beverages is available: 24 beers on tap, including local brews from Oahu, Hawaii island and Maui; Guinness from Ireland; Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse DeBourgogne and Chimay Triple from Belgium; and several mainland beers.
I’ll have to try the Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout from California sometime, balancing that out with a later trip to try some of Puka’s gluten-free beers.
If you prefer head-to-head taste testing, check out the beer flight: four beers (any that are $10 or less per glass), served in 4-ounce glasses, for $10. They’re served in a skateboard with holes cut in it, sitting on a rack.
It’s a fun and funky service, but don’t worry — the wheels have been jammed so the skateboard won’t go rolling off the table and on the floor, even if you do after having a couple.
Kahala Mall has a few other restaurants that offer alcohol: California Pizza Kitchen, Chili’s, The Counter. Puka’s is a good, intimate addition to this mix.
Because it’s small and discreetly located, it almost doesn’t feel like Whole Foods, but its own hangout.
The name is appropriate, since the space is of hole-in-the-wall-size, but the offerings are worthy of the trendy Whole Foods brand.