Bar Elixrs in Downtown Honolulu Offers Authentic Mexican Food and Chill Vibes
With black curtained windows and low leather couches, Bar Elixrs is more low-key lounge than “Honolulu’s Hottest New Party Spot.”
Photos: James Charisma
If one can say anything about the space at 1153 Bethel St., it’s that the venue hasn’t quite made up its mind about what it wants to become. In 2011, this location was Rakuen Lounge, offering late-night sushi and fusion cocktails. In 2014, it was the Bethel Street Tap Room, a beer tap house that served hoagies, homemade pickles and freshly prepared cupcakes and pastries.
Its latest incarnation is Bar Elixrs (Deliberately spelled without the second “i,” possibly to save time. Who knows.) It’s the creation of business partners Robert Osorio and veteran nightclub owner George Kail, known for past local hotspots Paparazzi, Pink Cadillac, Blue Zebra and The Maze.
The sign hanging out front says Bar Elixrs but the menu says “Alejandro’s Authentic Mexican Food,” as in the same Alejandro of Alejandro’s Mexican Grill in Kalihi and the former Alejandro taco stand in Waikīkī. He’s the man who designed the dishes here and who helped open Bar Elixrs (but who is no longer involved as a partner), offering a simple selection of burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, ceviche and bonus sides including beans, rice and roasted peppers. The 10-inch flour tortilla burritos range in price from $8 to $10, depending whether they’re filled with carnitas, chicken or carne asada, and all come with a modest amount of rice, beans, cheese, salsa verde, onions and cilantro. The traditional-style four-inch corn tortilla tacos come with the same meat options and are priced from $3 to $5 and topped with salsa verde, onions and cilantro. During happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., you can get most of the menu for between $2 and $7.
All the dishes are a little smaller than one would hope, especially considering Bar Elixrs is facing some serious Mexican food competition nearby with Encore Saloon, Taco Kabana and Maria Bonita’s. But the quality is there; the carnitas burrito I enjoyed was rich and flavorful and the orange salsa it came with was almost too spicy, but so good that you didn’t want to stop pouring it on. The nachos ($7) were a big heap of tortilla chips in a tray with nacho cheese, beans, cilantro, sour cream and onions piled atop (avocado and various meats could be added on for more), although some kind of salsa was noticeably absent. The shrimp ceviche ($12) was an equally delicious surprise, with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a decent helping of tasty shrimp in a lemon-lime juice but, alas, it’s already being phased off the menu.
I also ordered the roasted peppers, thinking it’d be something else. It wasn’t, and I ended up just with two grilled jalapeño and two serrano peppers. This was my mistake.
There’s no specialty cocktail menu, but the bartender who served me promised that he could make “most anything.” The drinks are your typical sports bar selection: beers listed as either “super premiums” ($8) or domestic and draft beers ($5 and $6), plus wine ($6), well drinks ($5) and so on.
Inside, with its gray painted walls and dark blue carpet, Bar Elixrs somehow feels smaller than either Rakuen Lounge or Bethel Street Tap Room. But this is a good thing; it feels intimate.
The one thing it for sure doesn’t feel like is “Honolulu’s Hottest New Party Spot,” as advertised on rave cards tucked into tableside drink menus. The flyers make it seem like Bar Elixrs has the same energy and feel as The District Nightclub or SKY Waikīkī. Maybe it’s trying to fill the void of the former eleven44 nightclub across the street.
But with its black curtained windows and billowy fabric draped across the ceiling, low leather couches and glass cocktail tables lining the perimeter and framed abstract paintings featuring the likes of John Lennon, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Prince on the walls, Bar Elixrs is begging to be a low-key rock and blues lounge.
There is a chill ambiance here, and low light twisty glass lamps and designer fixtures. Coming in off the street, one expects to find a jazz trio riffing in the corner or a couple of singer-songwriter types playing guitar on the couch. Maybe a hookah setup in the back. This is that venue. The music playing on this particular night is by The Beatles, CCR, Led Zeppelin and selections from Pink Floyd’s The Wall. “Rob [Osorio] loves the classics,” the bartender says about the music.
I do, too. And I think Chinatown could go for a place like this. But the vibe and interiors paint a very different picture from the sleek hot nightclub that Bar Elixrs appears to want to be known as. Who knows; maybe if you show up when the DJs are in the house at 9 on a Friday night, this place will be banging. But it seems as though, even after all this time, 1153 Bethel still has some figuring out to do.
Bar Elixrs, 1153 Bethel St., 753-2991
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA