First Look: Off the Wall Emerges as Ward Village’s Newest Happy Hour Hot Spot
If the chimichurri wings don’t get you, serve yourself 16 local brews, wine, hard cider and kombucha on tap.
Chimichurri sauce keeps these wings moist and flavorful.
Photos: Terri Inefuku
First, they created a refreshing spot to fuel customers throughout the day. Now, Nalu Health Bar and Café co-owners Tomas Kloosterboer and Jota Muñoz have the perfect way to end it.
To be fair, their newest venture, Off the Wall, is also open for lunch. But we suspect the restaurant’s self-serve wines and local craft beers go down best after a long day, with live music and small plates ready to whisk away work-related troubles.
Off the Wall opened quietly after Christmas, a 60-seat, 1,400-square-foot restaurant with a patio next to Scratch Kitchen and Meatery in Ward Village’s South Shore Market. The space is small, yet impeccably designed with long, narrow slabs of reclaimed wood (Re-use Hawaiʻi’s entire inventory at the time, I’m told) and muted brick contrasting nicely with rows of glossy, high-tech touchscreens.
The self-serve concept, while not a new one, gets an interesting twist here with three red wines, three white, hard cider and even kombucha, alongside 16 craft beers all made in Hawaiʻi.
Kloosterboer and Muñoz had always wanted to open a bar, and when the opportunity presented itself, they decided local breweries would be front and center. “We’ve got something so unique going on here. We don’t need to look anywhere else,” says Kloosterboer.
When we visited, the taps featured 16 local craft beers, Paradise Ciders’ Killah Dragon and Sky Kombucha’s ginger-pitaya kombucha as well as wine. Water is also available.
Sure enough, the local beer lineup takes up the majority of the restaurant’s main wall while wines are on the left, next to the kitchen. Breweries include Aloha Beer Co., Island Brewing Co., Big Island Brewhaus and Kāneʻohe-based Inu Island Ales.
Diners receive a microchip-enabled card that can be used at any tap. The touchscreen above not only lists the drink and price per ounce, but shows how much you’ve poured and the total price. Grab an empty glass from the shelf (there are different sizes), give it a quick rinse at the water spigot, then it’s time to start drinking.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the beer offerings, Kloosterboer and Muñoz advise starting on the left, where the lightest ales are located. I made a beeline for Açai Nectar, an exclusive collaboration with Beer Lab HI using fresh açai imported from Brazil (the key ingredient in Nalu’s signature bowls), which provided a tart flavor without being too sour.
The taps may have the spotlight, but the food deserves just as much focus. The menu is a nod to Kloosterboer’s and Muñoz’s South American roots, created by chef Jose Albino Ramos—who hails from Puerto Rico—in collaboration with Scratch owner Brian Chan.
The empanadas are a must for the table.
Our meal started off strong. The empanadas ($11) stuffed with spiced Kualoa Ranch beef, potatoes, olives and onions, accented with a drizzle of chimichurri sauce, were an instant hit. We also devoured the chimichurri wings ($13), perfectly seasoned with bright, refreshing flavors and coated in a light, crispy batter. I don’t typically like chicken wings, yet my brother and I found ourselves fighting for the last piece.
The Kualoa beef sliders ($16) were small but hearty—juicy patties tucked into taro buns with arugula, tomato and Gouda cheese for a rich, nutty bite that paired well with sweet bacon jam.
Ceviche on tostones provides a light, refreshing bite.
The ceviche on tostones ($15) is a mix of fresh mahi mahi, cilantro, lime, tomatoes, red onions and avocado, served in small plantain cups. The dish, Kloosterboer explains, was inspired by one they discovered on their last trip to South America. While delicious, I found the combination difficult to eat and wound up scooping out the delicate ceviche first before biting into the chewy plantain cup.
The cinnamon and Oreo churros come with hot fudge and raspberry coulis for dipping.
Taryn Haʻi is in charge of the desserts, a rising, young talent who worked at Nalu and, the owners tell me, is still in culinary school. Her hot cinnamon and Oreo churros ($9) with hot fudge and raspberry coulis were the perfect end to our dining experience—the epicurean version of a warm hug.
While the libations cater to the 21-and-over crowd, Off the Wall has a close-knit family feel that celebrates strong relationships and vibrant food. The restaurant offers live music on occasion via a small stage with speakers embedded throughout the space, and Kloosterboer and Muñoz have plans to host trivia nights, along with special dinners that showcase the talents of more culinary students à la Haʻi.
My only gripe is with the restaurant’s intimate size, which is prone to fill up quickly, though the experience, I’ve found, is worth the wait.
Off the Wall is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.–midnight; and Sunday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. 1170 Auahi St., (808) 593-BEER (2337). No reservations are accepted. offthewallhawaii.com, Instagram: @otwhawaii.