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Scene: Lounge Lizard

The Dragon Upstairs is Hank’s Café’s jazz-filled, martini-swilling alter ego.


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The Dragon Upstairs
1038 Nu‘uanu Ave., 526-1410. Tuesday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to closing. Live jazz starting at 9 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.
In addition to martinis, The Dragon Upstairs offers prosecco, espresso—even soup. photo: Cory Lum
The second-floor space that was formerly Sharky’s Tattoo on Nu‘uanu Avenue has morphed into The Dragon Upstairs, an upscale club open Tuesday through Saturday, with live jazz on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Owned by Hank Taufaasau, of Hank’s Café Honolulu, The Dragon Upstairs is every bit as kitschy-cool, with walls covered in mirrors, various knickknacks and, of course, dragons. In fact, the painted dragon that runs along the back wall, a leftover from Sharky’s , inspired the bar’s name.

The tie-wearing, buttoned-down barkeep, Rick, is a throwback to a time when bartenders were bartenders because they knew how to make a good martini, not because they were a pretty face with bulging biceps who could sort-of pour you an appletini. The martinis, which are indeed good and strong, are, like all well drinks ($7 each), made only with the good stuff (Bafferts, Ketel One, etc.). There’s also a small but decent wine list, with bottles (ranging from $26 to $69) and a few by the glass ($7), as well as Champagne ($29 and $69) and bottled beer ($5).

On a recent Friday night, the crowd was a hodgepodge of older and younger couples, 20- and 30-something singles and a few of the “ladies” taking a break from strolling Merchant Street. All were there to enjoy the upbeat jazz performed by Pierre Grill, who deftly manages to play the piano and trombone simultaneously, and singer Ginai, a regular on the local jazz circuit, whose most recent album is entitled Jazz Island. As Hank made the rounds, greeting every guest in the joint, couples filled the tiny dance floor, fitting into whatever space they could, and someone in the audience even scatted along with Ginai. Improvisation—now that’s jazz.

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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