Going Out for the Outgoing: An Extrovert’s Guide to Dining Solo in Honolulu
Dining alone doesn’t have to mean eating alone.
Sitting at the bar, you never have to be alone. At the bar, have a drink—heck, have two!—and order dessert before your entrée. Here, you’re your own woman (or man), and no one can tell you what to do. It’s a prime place to go if you’re an extrovert eater looking for some breeze to shoot alongside your Bolognese, to find your flock and strike up a conversation with a stranger, to put away the phone for more than a few minutes in favor of people watching and talking.
Of course, some restaurants are better than others for such things—vibrant ones, where the bartenders are extra friendly and the patrons extra chatty. We’ve singled out some of our favorites below.
Photo: Diane Lee
The bar at Bethel Union is a beaut. It’s lengthy and spacious, with room to spread out all of your many wine glasses (no judgment) and still have room for Italian fare, from the big (hearty pasta dishes such as a short rib pappardelle) to the small (a meatball marinara appetizer that your happy hour needs). It’s also staffed by a crew who will most likely learn your name quicker than you can learn theirs. And, if you’re lucky, just as you’re starting to really feel sheepish, they’ll have also managed to memorize your drink order—and the next time you come in, it will be waiting for you on the counter before you’ve even reached your seat. MVPs right here. (That’s a true story.)
1115 Bethel St., (808) 524-0447, bethelunion.com
Smith & Kings
Firstly, you can get beer with you mac and cheese here, also known as the best part of being an adult. Also, every time I’ve come here, Bob Ross has been playing on the TVs. And once, I came here and there were three—three!—puppies being played with, one of which I got to pet and hold and stroke and love. Both of these occurrences are practically guaranteed conversation starters with anyone who isn’t a monster.
69 N. King St., (808) 537-2222, smithandkings.website
There’s something so neighborhoodly about Town, especially when you dine at the bar, where you'll find the same farm-to-table local-meets-Italian creations served in the dining room. Mr. Rogers would enjoy a no-fuss, no-pressure, ultra-satisfying meal here and, I imagine, whiskey (he seems like the whiskey type, doesn’t he?) at the bar for the walk home. He’d perhaps run into a few regulars having their usual wine and pasta, or a not-so-old aloha-shirted yuppie having a quick bite and easy chat with the bartender before disappearing off to who-knows-where.
3435 Wai‘alae Ave., #104, (808) 735-5900, townkaimuki.com
Proof Public House
Photo: Courtesy of Proof Public House
If you aren’t slipping off to Proof at lunchtime for the best comfort food deals—think salads and vegan pizza, regular pizza and midday coping beer—away from the prying eyes of any of your office mates (because they’re all at Livestock Tavern like one giant, aloha-shirt-patterned wild mammal), you’re missing out. None of the fellow solos stopping in for a what-have-you will judge you or worry about from whence you came. You can let your tongue—and your collar—loose.
1154 Fort Street Mall, #10, (808) 537-3080, proofpublichouse.com
The staff at Encore is very cool even when you’re being a total noob about wtf mezcal is, and helpful with knowledgeable suggestions. What makes us come back every week: the tacos, and because here, finally, is a hipster restaurant where people are also nice. Plus there's food for every mood, from the kinda healthy type (fried avocado magic) to the screw-it-it’s-happy-hour type (churros dipped in chocolate).
10 N. Hotel St., (808) 367-1656, encoresaloon.com
Bar-sitting 101: Sit near a corner for maximum conversationality with strangers (aka friends you haven’t met yet). Rigo’s bar is a curved, sleek, wooden gem that snakes through the space, practically begging you to discuss anything and everything all over, up and around it. Also, the bartenders are the sweetest and the wine list is the best ($7 glasses!), and the Spanish and Italian small bites on the menu are just what your cocktail game wants.
885 Kapahulu Ave., (808) 735-9760, rigohawaii.com
It’s easy to discover new wines and new friends at Vino’s bar. Especially if you get there for happy hour (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.), when every seat is spoken for, dishes are half off, and there are 25 frequently changing wines by the glass to get acquainted with (they’re also available in 2-ounce pours, for maximum acquaintance-ing). And if for some reason you don’t find anyone to talk to, owner and master sommelier Chuck Furuya will swoop in to chat about his latest wine discoveries or travels through Italy—an extrovert’s dream.
500 Ala Moana Blvd., (808) 524-8466, vinohawaii.com