Photo: Rae Huo

Best Comedy Show

Leave your judgments at the door. Augie Tulba says what everyone is thinking, but no one wants to say aloud, and he’s consistently funny doing it. At $10 a ticket, his comedy act at Brew Moon’s “Stand Up on the Moon” sells out just about every Wednesday night. The self-proclaimed working man’s comedian has a repertoire filled with universal humor everyone from Honokaa to the Mainland can relate to; Tulba’s DVD, “Augie T. Live @ Hawaii Theatre!” sold more than 150 copies in New York in its first week of release. Brew Moon Restaurant and Microbrewery, Ward Centre, 593-0088.

Longest Stretch Limo

Isn’t it embarrassing when someone else pulls up to valet parking with a longer limousine than yours? Fret no more. Duke’s Limousine Inc. has the longest stretch on the Island: a 42-foot-long custom Lincoln Navigator that fits 18 passengers in luxury. When fully loaded, the Navigator weighs almost eight tons, requiring an extra axle in the back for support. It’s just three feet shy of the federal legal limit for nonarticulated commercial vehicles. Owner Duke Tiet says, “I wanted to max out the legal limit, but somehow Ultra Custom Coach could only build it to 42 feet. But lucky they didn’t make it 45 feet, because I don’t have a parking space that long.” When you absolutely have to fit your entire wedding party in one vehicle, Tiet also has a stretch Ford F-650 that can hold 25 people by dint of its greater width. That one is “only” 36 feet long, though. 738-1878, www.dukeslimo.com

Photo: Gina Finkelstein

Best Salsa Dancing

For the past four years, “Salsa After Dark” at Rumours has been the place to be for all lovers of Latin music. On Thursday nights at the Ala Moana Hotel club, you’ll find pros and beginners, college students and senior citizens out on the dance floor, unable to resist the hot rhythms of DJ Ray Cruz’s play list. “I’m really proud of this event and the popularity of Latin music in Hawaii” says Cruz. “If you look out at the faces in the crowd, it’s not just Hispanics—there’s locals and tourists and military. It’s a hodgepodge of people who love to dance.” Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Free dance lessons from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Rumours, Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive, 955-4811.

Best Jazz Spot

When we called the Honolulu Club to inform them that their Wednesday night jazz shows were the best, they weren’t surprised. “That’s ’cause we are,” replied food and beverage manager Penny Valenta. For the past two years, the club’s bar and lounge has featured jazz musicians from around the globe, as well as many of the best acts in town, including Gabe Baltazar, DeShannon Higa, Noel Okimoto and Azure McCall. “Our bandleader, Robert Shinoda, is part of a global jazz circuit, so he’s able to bring some of the best artists in the world to the club,” Valenta says. “We get crowds of up to 150 people some nights.” You don’t have to be a club member to enjoy the fun. There’s just a $5 cover for nonmembers. Wednesdays, 6 to 9 p.m. 932 Ward Ave., 543-3910, www.honoluluclub.com.

Best Hawaiian Music Venue

For consistent, quality Hawaiian entertainment practically every night of the week, visit Chai’s Island Bistro at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. Its roster includes such local music legends as The Brothers Cazimero and Jerry Santos, as well as up-and-coming stars such as Maunalua and Na- Palapalai. And, as if we needed to tell you, the food seriously rocks. Of course, one artist Chai’s doesn’t feature is the inimitable Auntie Genoa Keawe, who, after more than 20 years, can still draw huge crowds to her Thursday night shows at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. Chai’s, Aloha Tower Marketplace. 585-0011, www.chaisislandbistro.com.

Local sculptor John Higa

Photo: Guy A. Sibilla

Most Collectible Local Artist

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. You can say the same of art. There’s no real way to pick “The Best Artist.” If you ask Allison Wong, associate curator at The Contemporary Museum, to suggest an up-and-coming artist, she’ll rattle off a list of painters, mixed-media artists, glass blowers and print makers. But she can’t say enough good things about John Koga, local-boy sculptor. "He’s a real Renaissance-style artist,” she says. “He sculpts, he makes prints, he paints. And he makes each medium reflect into the others. There is a nice dialogue between his pieces, although his sculptures are truly wonderful.” With that kind of endorsement, he’s worth taking a look at. The Contemporary Museum. 2411 Makiki Heights Drive, 523-3447.

Best Sports Bar

We expect a lot from the best sports bar in town. It must offer decent drink specials and televise all the big games. Live. It should also have good food (especially of the finger variety), multiple TV screens (no matter where customers sit, they shouldn’t have to miss a single play), dartboards and pool tables. And the best sports bar must also have an inviting atmosphere—a no-frills, it’s-all-about-the-game, have-another-beer kinda feel. The Shack in Hawaii Kai fulfills all those requirements, with its Margaritaville decor, affordable menu (we especially like their burgers and buffalo wings) and attentive service. Plus, it’s right on the waterfront, with a great view of Kuapa Pond. Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, 377 Keahole St., 396-1919.

Best Indie-Film Theater

Yes, we, too, wish that the Hawaii International Film Festival were a year-round affair. And that Wallace Theaters didn’t transform its Arthouse at Restaurant Row into a discount haven for second-run flicks. But don’t despair of ever sating your indie-film fetish. The Honolulu Academy of Arts’ Doris Duke Theatre can help. “Not only does it have a great selection of movies, but it’s one of the few places that continually shows independent films,” says HIFF executive director Chuck Boller. “It is a lot less limited in its film selection, and it’s a great venue.” General admission is just $5, $3 for Academy members. Since the Doris Duke has just one screen, films change weekly. For this month’s schedule, call 532-8768 or visit www.honoluluacademy.org. To receive info on upcoming films, e-mail film@honoluluacademy.org.

Photo: Karin Kovalsky

Best Downtown Hideout

It’s only been open a year, but Mercury has already become one of downtown’s best hideaways. Tucked into Chaplain Lane off of Fort Street Mall, Mercury is an unexpectedly cozy refuge, with comfy couches, cool art on the walls and a friendly mix of Hawaii Pacific University students, Bishop Street professionals and art patrons walking over from Marks Garage. There’s even a hideout in the hideout—a secluded upper room with a dimmer switch and pillows galore—perfect for a private party with friends. For the more gregarious, Mercury also has a full schedule of regular live events such as Audiolab (first and third Friday’s of the month) and the Freestyle Lounge (every Wednesday). 1154 Fort Street Mall, No. 10, 521-2519.

Best Hiking Trail

Aaron Lowe has hiked every trail on Oahu. “It’s a job," he says, "but it’s a good one.” Lowe, the Hawaii State trails and access specialist for Oahu, says his favorite out of all of them is the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail. “It’s pretty spectacular for experiencing the native Hawaiian rainforest in the central part of the Island,” Lowe says. A close second goes to Kealia Trail, near the Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore, which has an amazing elevation for watching whales breach and gliders swoop overhead. On the other side is an endless view of the leeward coast above Makua Valley. Check out the official state Web site for more information, including topographic maps. www.hawaiitrails.org, 973-9782.

Best Block To Geek Out On: Waialae Avenue’s 3600 block

Best Comic Book Store

This one’s a shoo-in—no other comic book store on the island comes close to the selection at Gecko Books and Comics, both new and old, mainstream and underground. As owner Ted Mays says, “Take all the other comic books stores in Hawaii, put them together and you’ve only begun to scratch the surface of our inventory. When it comes to vintage and back issues, we are basically it.” Some 600 new issues arrive every month. Mays has been in the comics business since 1978, boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of his domain and is more than happy to shoot the breeze. 3613 Waialae Ave., 732-1292.

Coffee Talk - Honolulu's best coffee shop

Photo: Gerlinda Gorla

Best Coffee Shop

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg posits that, in addition to home and work, citizens need a third place, where they can meet people, relax and bond with their community. Coffee Talk fulfills that mission. With its kitschy art, fresh pastries baked on-site, Internet-ready computers, regular live music and high ceiling, the shop perched on Waialae’s peak has become a social hub for university students, local residents and anyone looking for a cool hangout. The coffee’s pretty good, too. 3601 Waialae Ave., 737-7444.

Best Wi-Fi

This year’s winner, Coffee Talk, edges out our other favorite, Kahala Mall, by providing that most crucial of hi-tech amenities: electricity. It has a number of power outlets throughout the premises and, as long as you don’t camp out for eight hours, you’re free to plug in to keep your laptop alive while surfing. And hey, you’re also in the best coffee shop in town, in our opinion. 3601 Waialae Ave., 737-7444.

Best Toy Store for Adults

Video gaming can be an expensive hobby, with new games often costing $60 or more. Toys n’ Joys stocks hundreds of used games for the PS2, Xbox, GameCube and older systems like the NES and SNES. But you may not save any money after all, because the store also has an amazing assortment of toys and collectibles you didn’t know you needed until you walked into the place—mech robot kits, too-sexy-for-children anime figurines and other impossibly cool stuff from Japan. 3620 Waialae Ave, 735-4546.


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