The Best Bars in Honolulu 2009: Liquid Assets
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When we pulled into the parking lot of the Creekside Lounge on a Tuesday afternoon, we noticed a young couple inspecting their motorcycle. “We had a fall at the intersection down the street,” the man said, his chin still bleeding. “This bar is great; they even patch you up when you crash.” Yes, bikers feel at home at the Kailua lounge, but, owner Shawne Garliepp adds, “We get all kinds, from marines to doctors and judges.” Alas, no beers are on tap, but there are free hot dogs on Sundays. Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Thursday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. 153 Hamakua Drive, 262-6466. creeksidelounge.com.
Lucky for Windward residents, Formaggio Grill makes it easy to skip the drive into town. Expect 60 wines by the glass, a hearty dinner menu (steak and lobster included) and an upscale vibe—slippers are, of course, always welcome. Other perks include a daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. and live music on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 p.m. until midnight. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Kitchen closes one hour prior to closing.) 305 Hahani St., 263-2633. formaggio808.com.
Haleiwa Joe’s, Kaneohe
It’s not often that you see a tourist dining at Haleiwa Joe’s in Kaneohe. Why? “It’s not that we don’t like tourists, they just can’t find us,” says managing partner Tim York of the restaurant’s tucked-away location at Haiku Gardens, which also overlooks a freshwater spring. It caters to locals with fresh fish items, large portions and reasonable prices. On the bar menu, we thoroughly enjoyed the Thai fried calamari ($8.50) and sweet kalbi ribs ($9.95). Daily, 4:30 to 10:30 p.m., except on Friday, when it stays open until 11:30 p.m. 46-336 Haiku Road, 247-6671. haleiwajoes.com.
The distinction between a bar and a restaurant can be fuzzy and we confess, we’re pushing it here. The bar inside Hoku’s has only five stools, and doesn’t even face the ocean, but, when you think about it, why wouldn’t you want your bar pupu to come from Hoku’s kitchen? The giant ahi musubi, the pan-seared day boat scallops, heck, the entire Hale Aina Award-winning menu. The cocktail menu is decent; we thought the After Dark—made with Absolut vodka, cranberry, orange and peaches juices—was the perfect antidote to Kona weather. Daily 5:30 to 10 p.m., 5000 Kahala Ave., 739-8760.
Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand
This gay bar has been a Waikiki mainstay since 1974. By day, learn to belly dance, practice yoga or take in the view of Diamond Head while munching on a kālua pork quesadilla. By night, mingle with the friendly crowd and get down on the dance floor. On our last visit, the well-sculpted bartenders were serving up cold drinks shirtless. Daily, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m., 134 Kapahulu Blvd., second floor of the Waikiki Grand Hotel. 923-0669, hulas.com.
Consider it Honolulu's most undervalued bar asset—the bar at Hy’s Steakhouse. By all rights, it should be packed. This is a dark, wood-paneled, manly, old-school bar, the kind of place where Mad Men’s Don Draper would out-drink his clients. It felt so old fashioned, we ordered an old fashioned and it was only $5.25, about half the going rate for a drink in Waikiki. What’s not to like? Monday through Friday, 6 to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. 2440 Kuhio Ave., 922-5555.