Best Bars 2007
Almost everyone over the age of 21 has a spirited opinion on the best bar in Honolulu. Because "best" is a somewhat magical recipe: Mix one shot of location, and one part drink specials, shake in a sports game or an appealing decor, and garnish with friends, dates and cute bartenders.
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Best Bar for the Cool Kids
Everyone wants an Uncle Bo. At his place, you get a seat at the cool-to-the-touch marble bar, a place to hang your bag and sometimes a sample of a new dish to go with your thick, milkshake-like Guinness. Classy. Uncle Bo's is a hip-kid hangout, like a super-swanky treehouse, but for adults. The music: soft enough to have a conversation over; the décor; stylish enough that you'll want to stay. Part-owner Ho Suk Lee recommends the signature house drink, a lemongrass martini made with a homebrewed lemongrass tea. Cheers, to your new favorite uncle. 559 Kapahulu Ave., 735-8310. 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Photo by Daeja FernandezSlammers
Best Bar Food
SLAMMERS BAR & GRILL
When we strolled into unassuming sports bar Slammers Bar & Grill on a Saturday afternoon, all we wanted was a few beers, some pupu and a comfy booth to catch the UH game. But after our first few dishes arrived, it hit us: The onolicious food was just as satisfying as watching the Warriors whack their latest victim. We recommend the pepper-crusted ahi, the furikake garlic chicken, the kimchee steak and the lup cheong fried rice, which gives Side Street Inn's venerable version a run for its money. And please, we beg you, do not miss Slammers' spicy smoked pork. Slammers also has a pizza bar where cooks whip up made-to-order combos like Portuguese sausage and onion confit or, our favorite, the Sicilian, with salami, pepperoni, prosciutto and roasted peppers. 1683 Kalakaua Ave., 946-4209. 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Photo by Olivier KoningLa Mariana Sailing Club may be a local favorite, but Mainlanders are on to it, too—Esquire picked it for its story, "Best Bars in America."
Best Bar for Time Travel
LA MARIANA SAILING CLUB
If there were a wormhole off Sand Island Road, it would take you straight back to 1955 and be called La Mariana Sailing Club. If you've already been, you know what we mean. The last of the old-school tiki bars, La Mariana is an experience not to be missed, if only for nostalgia's sake. The wooden, open-air structure is situated right on Keehi Lagoon and you get the distinct feeling the décor hasn't changed much in the past 50 years. Fish nets on the ceiling, a thatched-style bar, blow-fish lanterns, leftover lamps from Trader Vics, and tables and chairs from Don the Beachcomber make for a most unusual night out. The $5 mai tais are popular—and very, very strong. 50 Sand Island Rd. 848-2800. 11 a.m. to whenever people stop drinking.
Photo by iStock
Best Bar for Beer Lovers
TIE: Sam Choy's Big Aloha Brewery and Kona Brewing Co.
Honolulu's beer scene just keeps getting better, notes Cheryl Tsutsumi, author of the Hawaii Beer Book. Tsutsumi used a "Beer Board" for her book, and says, "My discriminating Beer Board puts Sam Choy's Big Aloha Brewery and Kona Brewing Co. at Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai in a tie for first place for best local craft beers served on Oahu. They say, 'Each of their beer styles is very well brewed and the quality of the beers is consistently good.'" Big Aloha Brewery is inside Sam Choy's Breakfast, Lunch & Crab restaurant, 580 N. Nimitz Highway. 545-7979. Daily from 10:30 a.m. to closing; 9:30 Sunday to Thursday, and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Kona Brewing Co., 7192 Kalanianaole Highway, 394-5662. Bar open daily, 11 am. to 11 p.m.
Photo by Monte CostaBrasserie Du Vin
Best Wine Bar
BRASSERIE DU VIN
There's a certain stay-a-while vibe that emanates through Brasserie Du Vin. Maybe it's the candlelit tables, the mismatched chairs, the live mellow music or the French relics adorning the mustard-colored walls. The outdoor patio with exposed brick and umbrella-covered tables seems to call for a decent round of philosophical conversations, too. Whether you're a novice or veteran vino-sipper, the wine list is easy to sift through, thanks to its "by the grape" or "by the region" search options. This is helpful, since there are more than 260 selections from areas such as Napa Valley, Australia, Italy, Hungary and South Africa. What's more, from 10:30 p.m. to closing select open bottles of wine are half off. 1115 Bethel St., 545-1115. 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Saturday.
Best Hidden Bar
It's easy to miss this more than 20-year-old pau hana favorite in Mapunapuna, an area more known for its warehouses than its watering holes. But if you manage to find the nondescript entrance of Henry Loui's, hang a right into its classic wood-paneled lounge, where you can watch the game and feast on pulehu ribs, while everyone else slogs through after-work traffic. 2850 Paa St., 833-3728, 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Best Bar for a Private Party
THE DRAGON UPSTAIRS
The Dragon Upstairs averages at least one private party a week, says owner Hank Taufaasau, and it's all about location, location, location. "The second floor location is removed from the hustle and bustle of the street. It feels private, but it's still downtown." With a beautifully appointed décor, courtesy of Hank's wife, and two separate levels, the Dragon Upstairs maintains an intimate sense of atmosphere perfect for parties. Bartender Rick Hoffman explains: "It's a great room. No matter what kind of music is playing, if it's loud or quiet, it feels comfortable." Let them cater the party for you from a wide selection of liquors and food, or hire an outside caterer. They will create a signature drink for you, or, try the "The Hankover," served in a 3 oz. souvenir jigger. 1038 Nuuanu Ave., 526-1411. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursdays to Saturdays.