Best of Honolulu – Entertainment

New York poet Ove takes the stage at last month’s First Thursdays slam. photo: Jimmy Forrest


Hawai’i’s biggest, best open-mic event is the monthly First Thursdays poetry slam at the Hawaiian Hut. It’s almost 3 years old now, and draws standing-room-only crowds of more than 600. Believe it or not, it’s the largest registered poetry slam in the world. “We’ve created a really awesome community out here,” says founder Kealoha. “People come to listen, then they write and perform, and it just builds.” Every First Thursday is different–painters create art onstage, Mainland musicians and poets drop in to perform–but the competitive aspect gives the event a reliable spice. In February, a talented roster of poets got their lunches taken by 13-year-old up-and-comer Ittai Wong, who rocked the crowd with a passionate “Letter to Poetry.Every first Thursday of the month, Hawaiian Hut, Ala Moana Hotel,


Best Cocktails: LEWERS LOUNGE

“Sometimes the secret to a great drink is simplicity,” reads the menu at Lewers Lounge, “but simple does not mean easy.”

photo: Monte Costa

Dale DeGroff, the best-known mixologist in the United States and author of The Craft of the Cocktail, has gotten Honolulu shaking, stirring and lighting little citrus peels aflame. Hired by the Halekulani to make over the Lewers Lounge, DeGroff transformed the lounge into what now could be a personal ad: curvy, copper-colored, jazz loving and understated. Cocktails, such as the Pink Elephant or James Bond Martini, run $8.50 to $12; a menu of light food is also available. It’s a little pricey for Hawai’i, but the subtle flavors, unexpected fusions and iconoclastic concoctions, all prepared by DeGroff-trained staff, are worth it.

“The Lewers Lounge has ruined all the other bars for me,” moans cocktail enthusiast Doug Richardson. “You have to have cocktails here or just make them at home. With some places, you want to climb behind the bar and say no, no, no–you do it like this.” Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, 931-5040.

Best Beer Menu: BAR 35

Best check your Heineken habit at the door, once you get to Bar 35. This swank, New York-style lounge–one of the reasons why it’s now hip to hang out on Hotel Street–carries 120 beers from all over the world. Among customers’ most popular picks: Chimay, a Belgian beer made by Trappist monks, and Red Stripe, which is brewed in Jamaica. “I want people to enjoy beer,” says owner Dave Stewart. “Drinking it should be like tasting wine.” Happy hour (Monday through Friday, 4 to 8 p.m.) is the best time for beer-o-philes to get their fill–any 12-ounce bottle is $3. 35 N. Hotel St., 537-3535.

Best Free Wine Tasting: HASR

photos: Karin Kovalsky

You can swirl, sniff, sip and spit for zip, zero, zilch at HASR’s (Highly Allocated Spoiled Rotten) tastings on Tuesdays and Fridays from 5 to 7 p.m. On a recent Friday, aspiring oenophiles gathered around the small serving bar for a lesson on Spanish wines, conducted by Walter Calinuan, a part-time employee, full-time wine connoisseur whose down-to-earth approach is contagious and refreshing. A footnote: Don’t expect full-glass pours (it is free, after all); in fact, don’t expect to sit down (there are no chairs or tables). What you can expect, however, is to sip anywhere from six to a dozen or so quite tasty wines in a range of price points (the cheapest was $5; most expensive, $45). 31 N. Pauahi St., 1B, 535-WINE.

Best Local Brewery: KONA BREWING CO.

We tried to find the best beer brewed in Hawai’i, and while we couldn’t get a consensus among the local beer aficionados we called, we did notice a pattern in their responses. Jonathan Schwalbenitz of Murphy’s Bar & Grill, whom our readers voted “Best Bartender” in our 2004 Hale ‘Aina Awards, raved about the Hula Hefeweizen at Kona Brewing Co. George O’Hanlon, owner of The Liquor Collection in Ward Warehouse, praised the Kona Coffee Stout at Kona Brewing Co. And it just so happens that a certain local brewery’s Black Sand Porter earned a gold medal at the 2005 Great American Beer Festival, the nation’s largest beer competition. Yup. It’s Kona Brewing Co.

photo: courtesy of Kona Brewing Co.

Since opening in 1995, Kona Brewing has become the largest brewery in the state, expanding its retail distribution to the Mainland and Japan. While bottles of its lighter brews are sold in most Hawai’i supermarkets, beer buffs get most excited about the stuff they can get only on tap at Kona Brewing’s two brewpubs.

“We have a broad, diverse selection of beer styles, from our light, thirst-quenching Duke’s Blonde Ale to our Kona Coffee Stout,” says Rich Tucciarone, director of brewery operations. Its biggest brewpub seller? The Castaway India Pale Ale. Hawai’i Kai: Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalaniana’ole Highway, Building I, 394-5662. Kailua-Kona: 75-5629 Kuakini Highway, (808) 334-1133.

Best Place to get Your Bowl on: SCHOFIELD BOWLING CENTER

Schofield Bowling Center’s sparkling 46 lanes, friendly staff, good food and cheap beer bowled us over. It’s $2 per person to bowl (for civilians), Monday through Sunday, and $1.50 to rent shoes. For added fun, there’s Cosmic Bowling on Fridays at 10 p.m., Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m.

The snack bar has the usual fries, hot dogs and loco moco, as well as more heart-friendly items such as a salmon burger. For the 21-and-over crowd, the bar is stocked with Bud, Bud Light, MGD, Heineken, Corona, Sam Adams and Killian’s, with pints priced at $2.25 and pitchers at $7. There’s a small arcade in the corner (including, to our delight, a Ms. Pac-Man game), as well as a Pro Shop and, if you’re in need of a trim, a convenient barbershop. Civilians can get on base by going through Lyman Gate off Kunia Road and applying for a day pass. All vehicle registration and personal identification must be current. Building 557, Burr St., Schofield Barracks, 655-0573.

photo: Hoku Smith


For the past 20 years, Hawaiian Brian’s Billiards has been the place for serious pool players–39 championship tables, weekly tournaments, late-night hours and a pro shop where customers can pick up cue sticks, balls, sportswear, even tables. Players can fuel up at the snack bar (the menu includes sandwiches, burgers, saimin and chili) or take a break at its extensive arcade. Over the past year, Brian’s has gotten even better, thanks to family-friendly improvements, such as banning smoking, offering discounts for families with kids under 14, starting an afterschool program for teens and hosting parties and fund raisers. “What we’re trying to do is create a family entertainment center, rather than just a pool hall,” says Violet Anderson, who co-owns Brian’s with her husband, Glenn, and the business’s namesake, “Hawaiian” Brian Hashimoto. 1680 Kapi’olani Blvd., 946-1343.

Best Karaoke: KARAOKE HUT

photo: Alex Viarnes

OK, so it doesn’t have the most organized song catalog and you have to handwrite your selections. Nevertheless, Karaoke Hut is No. 1 of O’ahu’s private karaoke rooms. While other spots we checked out looked more like cinderblock prison cells, Karaoke Hut offers seven, spacious rooms (spiffed up with nature wallpaper murals and cushy seats), a full bar (most other private rooms are BYOB) and attentive staff who make sure to keep the songs and drinks coming. Hourly rates are affordable, too, ranging from $30 for a seven-person room to $60 for 30 people. Come before 8 p.m. for half off the regular room prices. 909 Kapahulu Ave., 734-7771.

Best Happy-Hour Specials:

When we set out to find the best happy-hour specials, we had only one thing in mind: They had to be cheap. Here, our picks for the best budget-friendly venues:

* The place of choice for those drinking on a dime is MAGOO’S PIZZA. It’s always happy hour and the bar has about 80 beers on tap. Mugs start at $1 and go up to $2, and pitchers cost between $5 and $10. You’ll find local brews Big Aloha Ehu Ale and Kona Longboard Lager, as well as harder-to-find pints such as Rogue Dead Guy Ale and Smithwick’s Irish Ale. There are also $2 Long Island ice teas, $3.50 apple martinis and $4.50 Jager bombs. 1015 University Ave., 946-8830.

* The place to be for the 9-to-5 set is INDIGO’S MARTINI MADNESS, Tuesday through Friday. The bar’s fabulous martinis, including the lychee and sake, are all $2.75. 1121 Nu’uanu Ave., 521-2900.

* MAI TAI BAR‘s happy hours (yes, plural) are always going off. Every day from 4 to 7 p.m., there are specials on pupu and drinks, including the bar’s extremely potent mai tais. From 8 to 11 p.m., the drink discounts continue, with additional savings on well drinks and beers. 1450 Ala Moana Blvd., Ste. #3247, 947-2900.

* The best bar for frugal sports enthusiasts is SKYBOX. Happy hour, from 6 to 8 p.m., includes $2.50 domestic beers, $3 imports, $3 Crown and half off food. The outstanding pupu include killer steak fries with four different dips, garlic chicken wings, Spam musubi, loco moco and fried pickles. You can catch the game on one of several TVs, shoot pool, play darts or engage in a friendly round of foosball. 1700 Kapi’olani Blvd., 956-1600.


They look like your run-of-the-mill kanikapila band; you know the one with your uncle, his friend, your cousin, and anyone else at your potluck. But once these guys start to sing, it hits you–these guys are pros. Albert Maielua and his buddies have been entertaining downtowners for years with Hawaiian music and the occasional walk-by hula dancer. “We let anyone join. If they can share, share; and we share back,” says Maielua. With a permit from the city and county and a tent from the Fort Street Business Improvement District, these guys play–rain or shine–at lunchtime under a white tent at the mauka end of Fort Street Mall. This isn’t their first gig; they’ve all been performers at some point, from hotel showrooms to dinner cruises–and it shows. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Hawaiian time).


There’s a reason local celebs like chef Roy Yamaguchi and Mayor Mufi Hannemann can be spotted at Side Street Inn, a no-frills sports bar where locals knock back Bud Lights, watch the big games and sing karaoke in front of patrons who couldn’t care less. Simply put, this bar cooks up the best local grinds in town. Customers go nuts over Side Street’s pan-fried pork chops, its mountain of fried rice and its fresh yakisoba. We love the liliko’i baby back ribs and pocho clams, steamed with Portuguese sausage and peppers. Then again, you’re safe ordering anything on the menu here–it’s almost impossible to go wrong. 1225 Hopaka St., 591-0253.


Access to information of almost any kind is just three or four clicks away, thanks to the Internet. And there are scores of useful local Web sites. But our favorite is Pukas in Hawai’i: The Short List to Hawai’i Web sites ( Here you’ll find an alphabetical list of links to more than 200 helpful sites, everything from Craigslist Honolulu to the Full-On Pidgin home page. Add this site to your favorites list, and you’ll be a click or two closer to anything you’re looking for in these Islands. –Terry Hunter, KGMB9


photo: courtesy of Lisa Rose Doll House and Tea Room

Know a little one who dreams of being a princess? The staff at Lisa Rose Doll House and Tea Room can make it happen in one hour flat. For $320, the birthday girl and seven of her guests transform into princesses, with a makeover, including make-up, an up-do or hair extensions, manicures, a dress and costume jewelry. In addition, they have their portrait taken, put on a fashion show and have a lunchtime tea party. And, if you know a little one who is not so princess-like, Lisa Rose also offers etiquette classes, covering basic manners, including telephone etiquette, posture and sportsmanship. 1365 Nu’uanu Ave., Suite 11. 528-4552.

Late-Night Eats:

You’ve boogied, boogied, boogied and you just can’t boogie no more. Now, you’re starving. But where can you get a decent meal at this hour?

ANNA MILLER’S: 98-115 Kaonohi St., ‘Aiea. 487-2421. Open 24 hours daily.
BIG CITY DINER: 3565 Wai’alae Ave., Kaimuki. 738-8855. Ward Entertainment Center, 591-8891. 108 Hekili St., Kailua, 263-8880. Gentry Waipi’o Shopping Center, 94-800 ‘Oke’e St., 678-8868. Tuesday through Thursday, dinner till 10 p.m., late-night menu (including drinks, pupu and breakfast items) till 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, dinner till 10:30 p.m., late-night menu till 12:30 a.m. Sunday and Monday, dinner till 10 p.m.
THE BISTRO AT CENTURY CENTER: 1750 Kalakaua Ave., 3rd Floor. 943-6500. Tuesday through Sunday, dinner till 10 p.m., late-night menu till 1 a.m. Monday, open only for lunch.
THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY: Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, 924-5001. Friday and Saturday, dinner till midnight. Sunday through Thursday, dinner till 11 p.m.
COMPADRES BAR AND GRILL: Ward Centre. 591-8307. Monday through Friday, dinner till 11 p.m. Saturday, dinner till midnight. Sunday, dinner till 10 p.m.
DENNY’S (three locations): 2345 Kuhio Ave. 922-9522. 205 Lewers St. 923-8188. 98-151 Pali Momi St., ‘Aiea. 488-6311. Open 24 hours daily.
EGGS ‘N THINGS: 1911B Kalakaua Ave. 949-0820. Open overnight from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m.
FOOK YUEN: McCully Shopping Center, 1960 Kapi’olani Blvd. 973-0168. Open till 3 a.m.
LIKELIKE DRIVE-INN: 745 Ke’eaumoku St. 941-2515. Open 24 hours daily.
LITTLE VILLAGE NOODLE HOUSE: 1113 Smith St., Chinatown. 545-3008. Sunday through Thursday, open till 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, open till midnight.
LULU’S WAIKIKI SURF CLUB: 2586 Kalakaua Ave. 926-5222. Open 24 hours daily.
MR. OJISAN: 1018 Kapahulu Ave. 735-4455. Monday through Thursday, open till 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, open till 1 a.m.
RYAN’S GRILL: Ward Centre. 591-9132. Open until 2 a.m. daily.
SANOYA RAHMEN: 1785 S. King St. 947-6065. Open until 3 a.m. daily.
SORABOL: 805 Ke’eaumoku St. 947-3113. Open 24 hours daily.
SUSHI KING: 2700 S. King St. 947-2836. Wednesday through Monday, open until 2 a.m. Tuesday, open until 10 p.m.
TOKKURI-TEI: 611 Kapahulu Ave. 739-2800. Monday through Saturday, open until midnight. Closed Sunday.
YANAGI SUSHI: 762 Kapi’olani Blvd. 597-1525. Monday through Saturday, open until 2 a.m. Sunday, open until 10 p.m.
ZIPPY’S: Various O’ahu locations. Many open 24 hours daily.