Best Bars '08: The Pau Hana Edition
Everyone, everywhere, has a “happy hour,” but nowhere else in the world will you find “pau hana.” These two little words get to the heart of what one might be happy about at 5 or 6 p.m. on a weekday. Work is done. Pau. Finished.
Pau hana drinks could segue into a great night out or a quiet night at home. They put a neutral zone between the strain of the office—your official, “on the spot” public self—and the real, private, domestic you. Drop the mask. Take a load off. Unwind.
Here you’ll find some bars we thought were worth a stop at the end of the day. Drink specials? Pupu deals? Found those, too. We also took note of who seems to favor each spot, so you can either find—or avoid—your professional kin.
Another perk of pau hana: truly affordable bar tabs for these uncertain economic times, and a time limit (the latest happy hours seem to wrap up at 8 p.m.) that encourages moderation.
Amuse Wine Bar
WHO WE FOUND: 20- to mid 30-year-old artsy hipsters
This chic wine bar with a twist is the new place to be seen at. On the second level of the Honolulu Design Center, Amuse is a self-serve wine bar boasting 80 wines, plus sake. Think of it as a wine dispensing soda fountain. After purchasing an Amuse debit card, you insert the card into the dispenser for a 1-oz serving of any wine you care to smell, swirl and sip. Prices for the 1-oz. tastings range from 99 cents to more than $25. Although there are no pupu specials, the deal to look for is the Wine Lover’s Night on Mondays and Thursdays, where you can purchase a $50 Amuse card for $28. To compliment your wine, we recommend the cheese platter with a variety of cheeses and crackers, nuts and fruit for $12. 1250 Kapiolani Blvd (on the corner of Piikoi and Pensacola Streets), 237-5428. Open Monday-Saturday 5-10:30 p.m., no set pau hana hours.
WHO WE FOUND: A melting pot of people from downtown businessmen to college students.
Calling all beer connoisseurs. If you want to learn more about beer, or just drink it, then head over to Bar 35 on Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. for the House of Brews. For $20, you and your friends can enjoy nine domestic and international beers chosen by beer expert Andy Baker, in an informal beer tasting setting. Come early and enjoy first- come-first-serve samples of its Valentini Fusion-Gourmet pizzas—we liked the thin-crust Tuscan Sun the best ($12 pizza feeds two). The bar’s other pau hana specials include $3 Skyy cocktails and $4 select beers. We loved the dainty but yummy Lemon Drop. 35 N. Hotel St., 537-3535. Pau hana Tuesday-Friday 4-8 p.m.
Drink your Hefeweizen or Kona Longboard like a king (or queen) in these chilled 18-oz. goblets for $3.
Brasserie Du Vin
WHO WE FOUND: Sales representatives and real estate agents.
For those who don’t care for loud bars and loud music, Du Vin is your place. “Do you come here often for pau hana?” we asked a furniture sales rep. “This is my usual spot after work to meet with clients,” says Gail Moore, “It’s upscale—an adult place.” The French eatery’s pau hana specials are $4 cocktails and martinis and nine half-price pupu. We found the baked brie with pecans and dried cranberries delicious ($7), but stay away from the Du Vin Martini, unless you like really sweet drinks. If you’re looking for a discount from Du Vin’s extensive wine list, you’ll have to come around 10:30 p.m.; there are no wine specials during pau hana. 1115 Bethel St., 545-1115. Pau hana Monday through Saturday 4-6 p.m.
E&O Trading Co.
WHO WE FOUND: Mainly established professional couples in their late 30s, cocooning, and a couple of older gents who came to the bar equipped with newspapers and an understandable interest in bypass surgery.
We get why either of these sets would be drawn to E&O—it’s dark, quiet and stylish. An easy place to hold an intimate conversation. Consider loosening those tongues with the $5 “elixir of the day” drink special. In our case, that was a Tao of Rose, featuring Bombay Sapphire Gin and Ailzé vodka infused with rose and lychee—in keeping with the Far East exoticism that is E&O’s theme. Worth a bite from the pupu specials: sashimi in citrus dressing, $6, and peanut chicken satay, $1 per skewer. The latter had some actual heat mixed in with the sweetness. Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., 591-9555. Pau hana Monday through Saturday 4-7 p.m.
WHO WE FOUND: Hotel managers and a vacationing oil company owner.
It’s not uncommon to see people standing outside this upscale sports bar listening to the game being played on the 17 42- and 50-inch plasma televisions inside. Well, stop loitering and head to the bar where you’ll see six of those televisions at one time, playing anything from the World Series to the UH football game. Throw in $3 domestic drafts, with an unlimited supply of two free slices of Round Table Pizza per drink, and you’re in sports heaven. 227 Lewers St., 923-2100, Pau hana Monday through Friday 3 – 6 p.m.
WHO WE FOUND: North Shore residents in their late 20s and up; many regulars.
When we dropped in on a Friday, the bar area was humming with a mostly local crowd. One patron lives in Waialua, works in town, and visits Haleiwa Joe’s two to five times a week. He says that with Haleiwa Joe’s good food and good people, “You can’t go wrong.” The bar is very clean (everything shines—from the wooden bar, tables and chairs to the glasses and dishes and large wooden slippers mounted on the wall), the food is yummy (the sizzling mushrooms are bathed in hot butter and garlic for $5.25, and other pau hana specials range from $2.50 to $10.50), and nearly every seat is filled. 66-011 Kam. Hwy, Haleiwa. 637-8005. Pau hana Monday-Friday, 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Having kids doesn’t mean that you can’t pau hana. There are fun, kid-friendly bars that you can take your kids to, such as at Senor Frogs, seen here.
Photo by: Rae Huo
A $5.75 kids menu, balloon hats, karaoke and kids’ games. On Sundays, they add a 20-foot bouncer, which means more margaritas for you. 2201 Kalakaua Ave., 440-0150.
Personal Round Table pizzas for $6.95, and watch the game on any of 17 TVs. 227 Lewers St., 923-2100.
Dave & Buster’s
More than 200 games to choose from, and half-priced cocktails during happy hour. 1030 Auahi St., 589-2215.
Tiki’s Grill & Bar
An oceanfront view, a $6.95 local kid’s menu, live music and a relaxing vibe. 2570 Kalakaua Ave., 923-8454.
Pinky’s Pupu Bar & Grill
Every Tuesday is kids’ night, with balloon artists and a $5.95 kids meal that comes with a free toy from the treasure chest. And of course, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. plenty of happy hour drink specials. 970 N Kalaheo Ave., Kailua. 254-6255.
WHO WE FOUND: Construction workers and travel industry employees.
Ichiriki Loft is Honolulu’s best kept happy hour secret—though, not for long. This new spot offers unique cocktails such as Purple Rain, a mixture of vodka and hand-squeezed grape juice, and the Japanese version of a mojito, the Shiso Mojito at $8 each. One taste of these cocktails and you’ll be reserving the free VIP section for your next visit. A small plate of complimentary pupu, including carrots, crackers, broccoli and sausage is given with your drinks. Still hungry? Consult the menu for an assortment of dishes offered all night. Visit Monday through Thursday for drink and food specials from $4 martinis to 25 percent off your bill, Friday for $3.50 beers, Saturday for $5 shots and Sunday for 25 percent off industry nights. 510 Piikoi St., Suite 202, 591-5638. Pau hana Monday through Sunday 5 – 8 p.m.
WHO WE FOUND: Interior designers and teachers.
You’ll find many 20- to 30- something professionals frequenting the Green Room Lounge at Indigo during happy hour and for good reason. It offers more than 30 martinis at $4 each, making it a perfect spot to get together and chat with friends and co-workers. The crowd favorite is the Lychee Martini, but also try the Pomegranate or the aptly named Woowoo. Arrive at 4:30 p.m. and you can sample Indigo’s complimentary garden buffet including greens, fruit chutney, sautéed mushrooms, noodles and chicken, or order directly from its delectable appetizer menu. 1121 Nuuanu Ave., 521-2900. Pau hana Tuesday through Friday 4 – 8 p.m.
WHO WE FOUND: The Blackberry set, with thumbs blazing, or taking calls featuring such un-pau hana words as “client” and “meeting.”
On our first visit, the bar at Kincaid’s was packed, not a free stool in sight. Next time we came back earlier, and good thing, too—the restaurant had debuted a new menu in the meantime. The $4 drink specials included the cranberry mojito (imagine a liquid Sweet Tart) and a menu of about 20 half-off pupu. The salmon-wrapped, grilled scallop “lollipops” were delicious ($7.50 pau hana price for three scallops). This venerable eatery has its attractions—a waterfront view, a buzzy atmosphere. “Why’d you guys come here?” we heard one lady ask, as she joined two friends at the bar. “For this!” enthused her buddy, pointing to her bowl of French onion soup. Ward Warehouse, 1050 Ala Moana Blvd., 591-2005. Pau hana Monday through Sunday 4-7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to closing.
Mai Tai Bar
WHO WE FOUND: Mall employees, friends of Mai Tai’s staff and local music lovers.
At night, Mai Tai is wall-to-wall people, a favorite local hangout. Find out what makes it so popular—in a more humane setting—at pau hana. Then, you can actually get a seat at the bar and order $5 appetizers, including large onion rings, Firecracker Shrimp and Chicken Chinois. Get a pitcher of beer for $9, sit back and relax with friends in the open-air bar and watch the game playing on the many TVs or listen to the soloist on guitar play some local favorites, such as “Brown Eyed Girl.” No wonder this place makes for a perfect pau hana. Ala Moana Center, 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., third Level. 947-2900. Pau hana Monday through Sunday 4-7 p.m.
Monterey Bay Canners
WHO WE FOUND: Airport employees, automobile mechanics and 40- to 50- year-old couples.
If you want more food for your buck, visit Monterey Bay Canners’ Oyster Bar and order off of its happy hour menu, each appetizer of which could feed two to three people. For $2, you can order chips and salsa or an oyster shooter. For $7, order the large and cheesy beef nachos or the BBQ pork ribs. And, for $9, you can order potato skins, ahi or tako poke or fried calamari rings. Want beer? On tap is $2.75 per glass, or get a bottle of domestic for $4 and premium for $5. Mixed drink specials are also available. Why go into town and pay more for less? 98-1005 Moanalua Rd, Aiea. 483-3555. Pau hana Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tao of Rose
Not just any old martini, this cocktail’s made with Alze vodka and Bombay Sapphire Gin infused with rose and lychee for $5.
Murphy’s Sports Bar and Grill
WHO WE FOUND: Sports fans, businessmen and housepainters.
One of Honolulu’s original bars dating back to the 1860s (originally called the Royal Hawaiian Saloon, near Murphy’s current location), this bar boasts good service and food by owner Don Murphy and his crew. Not only can you watch your favorite sport on the four TVs, but the pupu—such as the potato skins we ordered—are just the right size and taste great too. Wash them down with your choice of more than 30 domestic and international beers. If your team is losing so bad you can’t bear to watch it any longer, play a round of shuffleboard. 2 Merchant St., 531-0422, open daily 11:30 a.m. – 2 a.m., no set pau hana hours. [2/17/09 This item was edited.]
WHO WE FOUND: Retirees, entrepreneurs, attorneys and a mortgage broker.
Take a break from a pau hana serving nothing but cheap beer at an overly crowded bar and stop in at Nick’s Fishmarket to enjoy a quiet, relaxing pau hana where the pupu menu is half off and there is live music playing soft local tunes on guitar from 6:30 p.m. Enjoy Nick’s blackened sashimi ($8.50, regular price $13.95) and chicken or fish fajitas ($7, regular price $13.95). Mix it with a wine or try their Mermaid cocktail and you’ll understand why attorney Pat Murphy says Nick’s has been “a good place for many, many years, with great food quality.” [Now closed]
O’Tooles Irish Pub
WHO WE FOUND: Twentysomething guys seated at the bar and businessmen smoking cigars.
This Irish Pub has 13 beers on tap, from Guinness to Pabst Blue Ribbon, and is one of the only bars left on the Island that still sells cigarettes to its patrons—but you didn’t hear it from us. Happy hour is more like happy 10 hours with $2.75 well drinks and beer specials running from 10 a.m. (!) to 8 p.m., and additional beer specials like Killian’s each night. If you’re planning on staying later, stomp and clap to live music starting at 9 p.m., including Irish favorite, the Doolin’ Rakes. 902 Nuuanu Ave., 536-4138. Pau hana Monday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., no food.
WHO WE FOUND: Tourists eating dinner, businessmen drinking cocktails and twentysomethings in club attire ready to party.
Try the Kobe Burgers and Fritto Misto (calamari), said the bartender, they are favorites. It’s obvious why. At $5 per appetizer, this is a steal. The Mini Kobe Burgers were perfectly cooked, lightly pink in the center, and extremely tasty. Wash them down with $3 domestics or a $5 martini, such as the Once in a Blue Moon mixed with Grey Goose, Watermelon pucker, Blue Curaçao and pineapple juice. And listen to the soloist on stage play Hawaiian songs, such as “Kuu Home o Kahaluu” in a Jack Johnson-style, relaxing voice. Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace, 3rd Level. 944-8000 Pau hana Monday through Saturday 4-7 p.m.
Alternative Pau Hana
Pau hana doesn’t always take place in a bar, nor is it always served on the rocks. Here are some non-bar ways to unwind after work.
From writing your first screenplay to improving your golf swing, learning something new can be a fun way to blow off steam. The UH system offers evening noncredit courses year round. Visit www.hawaii.edu.
Karaoke is the pastime of Hawaii. So grab a mic and sing like you’re trying out for American Idol. We recommend either location of Krazy Karaoke. 98-199 Kamehameha Highway, Suite H13, 484-0269, or 1308 Young St., 591-8843.
What better way to unwind than catching some waves before its dark? North Shore’s Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, Lani-akea or Chun’s Reef has some stellar swells this time of year.
In your office
Some offices party more than others. For those that do, nothing beats the illicit thrill of pouring drinks amid the cubicles, but follow these guidelines: 1) Keep your clothes on and the noise down; 2) Steer clear of the company copier; 3) Invite the boss.
Pinky’s Pupu Bar and Grill
WHO WE FOUND: Neighborhood families, Marines from just up the road and couples in their golden years.
This pupu bar has an eclectic funky vibe and is always bustling with people. While it doesn’t discount its pupu, the drink specials make up for this. We tried the half-price pink Shakarita (a margarita with a splash of cranberry) on the rocks that you pour yourself for $2.50 and an 18-oz. Kona Longboard that comes in a glass goblet so big and heavy you need two hands to drink it ($3). We suggest munching on the kalua pig nachos—an Island version of the classic snack—piled high with cheese, tasty pork, jalapeños, tomatoes and green onions on colorful chips for $10.95. 970 N. Kalaheo Ave., Kailua, 254-6255. Pau hana Monday through Friday from 3-6:30 p.m.
The Brew Moon
WHO WE FOUND: Small, scattered groups of twentysomething friends, and dentists by the dozen.
Business doesn’t always end when pau hana arrives. This brew pub’s biggest group the night we visited were dentists and their spouses, guests of some dental implant sales reps. Would this be your usual pau hana spot? we asked one dentist. “No,” he laughed. “I have kids so I don’t get out much.” From the food specials, we were stuffed by an order of “beer crackers” (imagine an entire thin-crust pizza of gorgonzola, roasted garlic and green onion, cut into eight pieces, all for you, for $5), which we washed down with, what else, Brew Moon’s own Black Hole Lager, 16 oz. for $3, made on the premises. Ward Centre, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd., second level. 593-0088. Pau hana Monday through Sunday 3-7 p.m. [Now Closed]
Vodka mixed with fresh squeezed grapes is a match made in heaven that you won’t find anywhere else. Get it for $6 every Thursday.
The Shack (Mililani)
WHO WE FOUND: Everyone. Or at least everyone who lives within a reasonable distance of Mililani.
As the bartender pointed out, there isn’t another bar for a while. The view isn’t great (it’s located in a shopping center—you get to see cars), but the people don’t seem to be there for the view. It’s a neighborhood gathering place. Groups of people—couples and friends and co-workers, young, middling and old, dressed snazzy and dressed casual—watched the football game and gathered in conversation around the small tables, inside and outside. Many patrons are regulars; two who were joking at the bar admitted to meeting at that very spot.
Beer, drafts, wells and wines are $2 during happy hour; the chicken guacamole sandwich was good ($7.95 and an extra $2.99 if you want fries or a dinner salad—there are no pau hana deals for food) and there are video games and pool. 95-221 Kipapa St., 627-1561. Pau hana Monday-Sunday, 4-6p.m. Other Shack locations: Kailua (Pau hana Monday-Sunday, 3-6p.m.), Hawaii Kai (Pau hana Monday and Tuesday, 3-7p.m., Wednesday-Sunday, 4-6p.m.) and Waikiki (Pau hana Monday-Saturday, 4-6 p.m., Sunday, 3-7 p.m.)
WHO WE FOUND: Neighborhood families, local business people and sports fans.
A neighborhood hangout in Hawaii Kai, Therapy Sportsgrill has something for everyone from watching sports on its 10 plasma TVs, to pool tables and darts to drinking $2 drafts or half-off well cocktails while looking out at Koko Marina. There are no food specials, but we found the edamame tossed with poke sauce ($6) and fried garlic chicken topped with furukake ($10) to go great with our beers. 7192 Kalanianaole Highway, 394-8200. Pau hana Monday through Friday 4-8 p.m.
WHO WE FOUND: Four people (a couple young gal pals and a pair of friends). And another two showed up a bit later.
In all fairness, we were there on a Tuesday evening—not exactly hopping pau hana hours. Thirtyninehotel has an indoor lounge and an outdoor rooftop, but it’s not huge, so it’s difficult to imagine the place holding more than 100 people—but it has. Anyone who’s been there on a Friday (when it has live music) knows it can become standing-room-only.
The cocktail menu features some enticing drinks (ingredients include ginger, lemongrass and lavender) created by bar manager Christian Self. The Rose ($4; general pau hana prices are $3 to $11) is a virgin drink made with lavender sour, a splash of pomegranate and European rose essence. It’s tart and yummy (and possibly addicting) and one of the drinks he dubs a “mocktail.” Of course, thirtyninehotel is also a gallery space, giving you something to talk about besides work. 39 N. Hotel St., Honolulu. 599-2552. Pau hana Tuesday-Friday, 5-9p.m.
Wailana Cocktail Lounge
WHO WE FOUND: Avid Warriors fans and construction workers from across the street.
There are corners of Waikiki that locals own—one of them is the tucked away cocktail lounge of Wailana Coffee House. When we went it was packed with a green-and-white-jersey-wearing, bet placing, yelling-at-the-TV boisterous crowd. Although the Warriors lost the game, everyone remained in good spirit, but how can you not with $2 domestic beers or $3.25 Mai Tais? From 3-5 p.m. all pupu are half off, including such favorites as fries, onion rings, edamame and crispy pork wontons. We ordered two beers, the wontons and fries for less than $7. 1860 Ala Moana Blvd. 955-1764. Pau hana Monday through Sunday from 12-6 p.m. and half off pupu from 3-5 p.m.