Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Rum is on Fiyre.
Image: Kelli Bullock

Pau Hana Spirits

Here are 11 top pūpū bars that are easy on the wallet and rich with the rewards

Food & Drink / The term “Happy Hour” dates back to the 1920’s. Folks gathered nightly at their local speakeasy (illegal drinking establishments during Prohibition) to revel in a stiff cocktail or two before dining out where spirits were sure to be missing from the menu. Fast-forwarding to 2011, we’ve found a few Oahu locales that uphold this cheery tradition.

Amuse Wine Bar

Located in the Honolulu Design Center, this watering hole is pretty posh, with glass walls overlooking the busy street and luxurious furniture to relax into at the end of a long day. Delight in the $5 cocktails of Amuse Wine Bar and hors d’oeuvres by Stage Restaurant, 5-7pm, Monday through Friday. Grab the Sexy Back–strawberry vodka and strawberry puree with fresh mint sprigs and a champagne float and a sugar rim. Let the crispy fried tofu with ponzu, red radish and kaiware sprouts bring a little lightness to the end of your day.

Kona Brewing Co.

If you crave refreshment outside the city, at water’s edge, with a fresh breeze and low key vibe, head to Kona Brewing Co. at the Koko Marina Shopping Center in Hawaii Kai. Weekdays from 3-6pm, well liquor and brews on tap are $3.50. This is the one bar that made our list despite a limited pupu selection–three types of pizza rolls, to be exact–but at $3 a pop, they are full of pepperoni and homemade marinara wrapped in fluffy, homemade bread. Alongside a Wailua Wheat or Longboard Lager, you really can’t go wrong.

Doraku Sushi

When eats are your pau hana focus, make a beeline for Doraku Sushi at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in Waikiki. Doraku is open and airy, yet has the feel of a sleek, Los Angeles Asian fusion joint. The $5 happy hour menu is not only expansive but exceptional, boasting California rolls, spicy ahi tartar, and karaage chicken, for starters. Since food and drink are on special from 5-7pm, consider dinner done.

Formaggio Bar and Grill Kailua

For winding down on the Windward Side, pull into Formaggio Bar and Grill in Kailua. With drink specials served from 4-6pm and discounted pupu until 5pm, the day wraps up nicely in this woody, chandeliered space reminiscent of the big Paris boulevard cafés; the 50 wines available by the glass are the gems here. Have the crab-stuffed mushrooms or the smoked salmon pizza and you’ll feel thoroughly indulged.

Pearl Ultra Lounge

Never seem to make it out of work in time to catch happy hour? No hele, just sashay over to Pearl in the Ala Moana Shopping Center between 6 and 8pm. Dine on $6 pupu, including San Francisco-style crab cakes, crispy fried coconut shrimp and mini Kobe burgers, and quench your thirst with $3 beers and $5 cocktails like the Mandarin Blossom Cosmo.

Rum Fire

If you do escape earlier (do!), before Pearl rolls out the happy at 6pm, begin with the live music and sunset view at Rum Fire in the nearby Waikiki Sheraton Hotel. Roll up in style and valet park (it’s free) from 4-6pm to snack on signature pupu like sesame glazed edamame or fresh fish tacos. Try the sweet and bubbly Gidget’s Crush with a watermelon vodka base for $5. You’ll be golden as the sun sets.

Ryan’s Grill

For friendly buzz in a local-style pub, you can’t beat Ryan’s Grill on the top floor of Ward Centre. From 4-7pm and again from 10pm-12am, look for $4 cocktails, beers and wells. The bright orange li hing mui margarita holds its own with hot king crab ($8) and artichoke dip or roast duck ($8). Don’t miss the sweet potato fries with barbecue aioli dipping sauce.

Brasserie du Vin

Midnight in Paris starts at 4pm at Brasserie Du Vin on Bethel Street. Your pedestrian soucis will quickly disappear as you sip martinis and indulge in hors d’oeuvres with the aid and abettance of the congenial staff. The beet and goat cheese salad ($6) and the pomme frites ($2.50) are satisfying to the max. Bons temps rouler!

Yard House

Sports fans and those craving cold beer on a hot afternoon get their game on at Yardhouse in Waikiki. The more than 100 beers on tap are priced at $3.50-$4.75 a pint from 2:30-5:30pm and 10:30pm-close daily; many snacks and appetizers half off. Go for blends like the Belgian shandy (pear cider and leffe blonde), classic Black and Tan or Maui Big Swell IPA paired with blue crab cakes, pork sliders, spicy tuna rolls, and so on. The booths are comfy, the music pumping and the deals are sweet.

Hiroshi & Vino

D.K. Restaurants is known for their contemporary sushi, innovative fusion seafood and the guidance of Master Sommelier Chuck Furuya, and they have a great deal on pupu at the bar–they’re half price–starting at 5:30pm. Hiroshi’s signature Hamachi shioyaki–well, that’s our publisher’s favorite. As for the rest of us: LaBelle Farms foie gras sushi ($10.50) and their steamed Kurobuta pork belly ($12.95) are worthy of any pau hana. At Vino, don’t miss the house-made three cheese gnocchi ($16) and the crispy calamari ($7).

Plumeria Beach House

Slip down the coast to the Kahala Resort and Spa. Friday and Saturday between 3 and 7pm, their extensive wine list and draft beers are all 50 percent off. Gobble a generous portion of fresh spicy ahi poke, or togarashi fries drizzled in kabayaki sauce and wasabi aioli, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been here before. Once known as the “presidents’ hotel,” this ain’t no speakeasy, but, while it’s a bit more pricey, if you’re looking for luxe, you get the real deal.