Waiwai Collective Brings an ‘Awa Bar to Honolulu with ʻAwa & ʻAi
Waiwai Collective serves weekly opportunities for the community to gather over music, ʻawa and locally sourced pūpū.
In a nod to Hale Noa, Oʻahu’s original ‘awa bar that closed in 2006, Waiwai Collective is bringing back the ‘awa bar concept with regular ‘Awa & ‘Ai nights. “Hale Noa [was] an important place for young Hawaiian professionals to gather and drink ‘awa as an alternative to alcohol,” explains Waiwai’s co-founder and managing partner Mahina Paishon-Duarte. “We wanted to adapt that concept and focus on relationship building.”
Waiwai Collective was founded in 2018 by Paishon-Duarte, Keoni Lee and Jaime Makasobe. The weekly Awa & ‘Ai nights offers guests opportunities to connect over locally sourced appetizers and ‘awa, Hawaiian for “intoxicating pepper.” Extracted from the roots of the Piper methysticum plant, it is a relaxant that is often consumed recreationally and used in sacred Hawaiian ceremonial practices and protocols. Waiwai pairs it with food sourced “not only for our health but also for its cultural significance,” Paishon-Duarte says. “We selected kalo not only because it is a staple but because of its genealogy and sense of connection. We selected ʻulu to be on our pūpū plates because it is a kinolau (earthly manifestations of gods) we ingest for inspiration. Iʻa (fish) and heʻe (octopus) represent the expansiveness of the god Kanaloa and the depths of knowledge. Maiʻa (bananas) were chosen as a symbol of fertility for new relationships and ideas to come to fruition.”
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The menu is available only on ʻAwa & ʻAi nights (Thursday and Friday) and offers small share plates featuring the likes of dried ‘ahi and aku, smoked octopus, taro poke, dried bananas and pickled limu (seaweed) which can be purchased individually (starting at $4) or as a pūpū flight ($12), as well as sweet ʻawa-infused treats like ʻawa brittle, lollipops and ʻawa glass candy. Personal favorites include the rich smoked fish and heʻe as well as the kalo poke and hōʻio salad.
Waiwai strives to be a zero waste facility by banning single-use plastic containers and Styrofoam. Food waste is composted and donated to a neighboring pig farm. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to seek value-aligned partners wherever we could so its reflected in our food. We know exactly where each item is coming from because we have a relationship with the farmer, fisher person or cultivator. We want to uplift the community and tell that story of connection between healthy ʻāina (land) and people,” Paishon-Duarte says.
ʻAwa & ʻAi at Waiwai Collective, entry fee $5, Thursday and Friday from 6 to 11 p.m. and one Saturday each month, 1100 University Ave. #100, (808) 892-1813, waiwaicollective.com
Follow @waiwaicollective on Instagram for updates on weekly entertainers featured on ʻAwa & ʻAi nights. Thursdays highlight contemporary musical artists, Fridays showcase traditional Hawaiian musicians as well as lomilomi massage by Ka Pā O Lono Pūhā. Saturdays vary in entertainment from comedy and theater to improv performances.