Happy Hour Is Back and Bountiful at Stripsteak Waikīkī
The barside happy hour is a proper pau hana with refreshing craft cocktails, unique pūpū and a hefty steak dinner.
During my years spent working in the liquor business, Waikīkī’s one-way streets were my stomping grounds. Between stuffy parking garages and schlepping bottles and computer bags in heels, the respite was the daily pau hana with coworkers that gleamed on the day’s horizon. These days, happy hours are harder to come by, despite a need for them that seems to have quintupled. Especially elusive are Waikīkī’s happy hours, fit for visitors and working locals alike.
My favorites are found at luxe eateries where you can drop in and go pinkies up for a taste of elevated fare that doesn’t cancel out what you earned that day. So, when Stripsteak Waikīkī announced its happy hour was back with a slew of appetizing bites and cocktails to boot, I immediately suggested that our weekly Frolic editorial meeting be held at the bar. While the meeting didn’t happen, we were treated to a hosted sampling of happy hour offerings.
With three craft cocktails ($9 each) and over a dozen specially priced pūpū—including sushi handrolls, sashimi and a redux of Stripsteak’s popular Sunset Supper—there is enough on the menu to choose from, even for a group of weekday warriors.
It’s hot and naturally, we want cocktails. As head bartender Chris Penn hand-macerates a bunch of cucumbers and lemon peel into a clear spirit across the bar, we know we’re in the right place. I go for the Lo-Tide, which showcases the result of the muddling we witnessed with vodka, lemon and ginger. I’ve had many cucumber infusions; this concoction manages to bring the sweetness out of the cucumbers and leaves you with a bright vegetal finish with no heat from the vodka.
Frolic assistant editor Thomas Obungen orders the Beach & Breaker, a mix of gin, shochu, lemon and vanilla. We aren’t ready for how beautiful the Beach & Breaker is. It’s even lighter and more complex than the Lo-Tide with a base of Kai lemongrass shochu and vanilla shaken with ice into lemonade and the purple gin layered on top. Penn infuses the gin with butterfly pea flowers for up to 24 hours, turning it deep violet, and the shochu lends earthy layers to its smoothness. Both cocktails are garnished with local edible flowers and are easy, balanced and dangerously refreshing. Although they read simple on paper, we are surprised and delighted with our crafty $9 libations.
With regards to food, we basically go for everything: truffle duck fat fries ($7), edamame ($6), chilled lobster tacos ($6 apiece), shrimp tempura ($12) and crab rangoon dip ($11). Our favorites, especially considering their value, include the fries, edamame and the crab rangoon dip.
The duck fat fries are like your favorite frites’ hot older sibling: rich and crispy golden-brown. The portion is generous but half the fun is bouncing between the umami truffle aioli and sweet tangy ketchup. The edamame is served in a big bowl, coated with a divine combination of sake beurre blanc and bright red tobiko. As locals who have had almost every iteration of soybeans, this one is a surprise and we can’t stop reaching for it.
When I read crab rangoon dip on the menu, my first thought is why didn’t I think of that? Served with fried nori and shrimp chips, it’s a creamy, crunchy situation with flakes of fresh crab and pops of chive that hit all the right buttons. Bright acid balances the richness in a way that keeps you going back to dunk other things in. We also appreciate that there are enough chips to last until the very end, even for healthy dippers.
Although we destroy the pūpū spread, we also order a Sunset Supper to split. It starts with a spicy ‘ahi handroll and a choice of either a 10-ounce Prime New York Strip steak ($49) or a macadamia nut-crusted mahimahi filet ($42), served with sides. Being at a steakhouse, the obvious choice is the steak, but it’s nice knowing there’s an alternative.
Previously, the Sunset Supper featured an eight-ounce steak with duck fat fries for $40. This time around the steak seems bigger than 10 ounces and comes with dollops of silky pomme purée and garlic spinach. With a seared crust and a red center, it’s cooked perfectly to temperature (medium-rare), but my favorite bite is the roasted fat cap, of course. After splitting the steak, we’re left impressed and very stuffed.
After a conversation with general manager Chris Burman and executive chef Denecio Urias, it’s clear that an obsession with the whole experience coming together for guests is a the common thread in Mina Group’s philosophy. In today’s challenging business climate, changes happen behind the scenes so that diners can still feel special when they go out. In this case, happy hour now coincides with new hours. Previously known as a destination for late-night nibbles, Stripsteak’s dinner hours span 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and happy hour is available around the open-air bar from 4 to 5 p.m.
Perhaps it’s the quieter time of the new happy hour that gives us reign over the airy space with extra attention from the bar team, or the fun and satisfying bites. Either way, happy hour barside at Stripsteak is a little taste of pre-pandemic life and for that, I’ll definitely be back.