The Best Bars in Honolulu 2009: Liquid Assets
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12th Ave. Grill
You might know 12th Ave. Grill best as a restaurant. But with its thrice-weekly Craft Bar, it has created one of Honolulu’s most amazing happy hours. The prices are bargain basement—$3 microbrews, $4 martinis, and a tapas selection ranging from $3 to $8—and the quality is on par with the regular dinner menu. (The smoked ahi ravioli changed our lives.) Of course, there’s a catch. It’s also the city’s most exclusive happy hour. Craft Bar runs for one hour only, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the bar’s 10 first-come-first-serve seats fill almost immediately. 1145C 12th Ave., 732-9469, 12thavegrill.com.
Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar
HONOLULU Magazine named Vino as the best wine tasting location this March, citing owner and wine savant Chuck Furuya as one of the most educational sommeliers in town. That same expertise pushes an average evening at the bar over the top, as well; Furuya is wont to circulate among the guests, waxing poetic on the flavor notes and provenance of his menu’s 63 wines available by the bottle. Vino’s revamped tapas menu balances the wines on offer, whether you’re looking for a decadent pan-seared foie gras or a perfect cheese platter. Wednesday and Thursday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 10 p.m., closed Sunday through Tuesday. Restaurant Row, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., 524-8466, vinohawaii.com.
Views from the Top
We visit three bars in the sky.
Penthouse bars with killer views are surprisingly rare in this town, and only one of them rotates to give you a full 360 in retro splendor—Top of Waikiki. Climb up through the tiers of restaurant seating, have a seat at the bar and order the sliders, graced with foie gras. The cocktail menu boasts about 130 wines, but only ordinary cocktails. The better mixed drinks are hidden in the dinner menu, including the tasty Ginger Vodka-tini. Open daily, 5 to 9:30 p.m. 2270 Kalakaua Ave., 923-3877.
The town’s best view can be found in Twist at the Hanohano Room in the Sheraton Waikiki, 30 floors up. The entire bar and dining room have been remodeled since our last visit, and now looks tastefully luxe. Twist specializes in wine pairings, offering flights of one-ounce pours, or dinner pairings that range from $85. The Peking-style duck and foie gras pupu is terrific. Cocktails 5 to 11 p.m. daily, 2255 Kalakaua Ave., 922-4422.
Our editor had the most fun at Sarento’s Top of the “I,” where the bar boasts a Blade Runner-like mauka view from the Ilikai into the high-rises of Waikiki and the Ala Moana area. To find out why, check out this month's editor's page. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., 1777 Ala Moana Blvd., 955-5599.
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