Tag Archives: Oahu

Your favorite happy hours on O‘ahu


Last night I met a girlfriend for pau hana drinks at Bevy, a fairly new neighborhood bar in Kaka‘ako. It’s got a solid happy hour menu, with a new selection of tapas, that we had wanted to check out. Items like house-made goat cheese creme on smoked beets with candied pecans. Or cod-and-caper croquettes served with a sweet chili aioli. Or the popular oysters on a half shell (above) with a papaya salsa and ponzu sauce. (And for $1 each, no less!)

It got me thinking about happy hours.

Anyone who has worked in Hawai‘i knows how much we love our pau hana. We love discounted pūpū and drinks — especially if they’re as delicious as the tidbits we feasted on at Bevy.

But what makes a good happy hour?

I say the following:

1. Great drinks. You can’t have a happy hour with lame, watered-down cocktails and a very limited offering of beers. (Unless you’re Shirokiya and you’re serving cold beers for $1.) We want good, solid drinks at a decent price. I’m not going to pay $8 for a colorful cocktail, even if it comes with a sprig of rosemary.

2. Tasty bites — and size doesn’t really matter. I want to say I appreciate the huge portions some bars dole out, even at happy hour. But I don’t care that much about the quantity as long as the food is crazy-good and reasonably priced. I’ll eat a small plate of food if the dish is absolutely delectable — and the price is right.

3. Fun, lively atmosphere. I might be in the minority when I say this, but I like a happy hour to be fun and lively — not dark or drab or dreary. I don’t need to sit in a cave and eat food I can’t see. If I’ve been sitting in a quiet office for the past eight hours, the last thing I want to do is be in a quiet space after work. I want laughter, I want conversation, I want to swear and dance and toss my head backward in a contagious fit of laughter. Period.

4. Parking. OK, maybe this my 39-year-old self coming out. But I hate having to circle neighborhoods for parking or walk several blocks in heels. I’m just too old for that. Give me valet.

I like places like Brasserie Du Vin in Chinatown, located closed to a cheap municipal parking lot. It boasts a robust happy hour menu like baked Brie, beef sliders topped with caramelized onions and a share-able cheese-and-charcuerie platter. Or Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar near Ala Moana Center, with its late-night menu of contemporary Japanese dishes like unagi rice and sukiyaki bibimbap and sukiyaki kim chee pizza. Or Holoholo Bar & Grill in Mo‘ili‘ili with its take on bar classics like a Hawaiian version of poutine and deep-fried pork ribs.

So, according to that criteria, where are your favorite spots for happy hour?

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Your favorite breakfast spot


Last night Morning Glass Coffee + Cafe in Manoa hosted a breakfast at night event, featuring spiced banana pancakes, huevos rancheros and a breakfast bruschetta with applewood-smoked bacon and aged Vermont cheddar cheese.

Got me thinking — naturally — about breakfast.

I hear this complaint a lot from friends who want to meet up for breakfast — not brunch — during the week: they can’t find a lot of variety out there.

Sure, there are the 24-hour regulars like Anna Miller’s Restaurant in Pearl City and Zippy’s with locations all over the island. And yeah, there are coffee shops and fast food places that serve breakfast.

But I’m talking major breakfast dishes, more along the lines of meals than just bacon and eggs.

Here are three of my favorite breakfast spots on Oahu that boast delicious dishes, great coffee — because that’s important — and the kind of ambiance that makes you want to linger a little longer:

Sweet E’s Cafe (Kilohana Square, 1016 Kapahulu Ave., 808-737-7771) is a quaint little breakfast and brunch spot — with its only downfall being parking. Its menu features signature items such as banana and blueberry pancakes, French toast stuffed with blueberries and cream cheese, and kalua pig eggs benedict (shown above). Breakfast and lunch is served until 3 p.m. daily.

Moena Cafe (Koko Marina Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, 808-888-7716) opened last year by husband-and-wife restauranteurs Eric and Nicole Chang in Hawaii Kai — and it’s been my go-to breakfast spot since. This charming little eatery features items like fried rice, eggs benedict, sweet bread French toast and Belgian waffles. But worth trying are its more signature items like the short rib loco moco, the cinnamon roll pancakes, and the homemade scones. Moena Cafe has lunch items, too, including sandwiches, salads and burgers. Lots of parking is a plus.

Cinnamon’s Restaurant (Kailua Square, 315 Uluniu St., 808-261-8724) is a popular breakfast spot in Kailua with classic morning items like omelets and pancakes. But it also serves up specialities like crabcake eggs benedict, open-face frittata, red velvet pancakes and homemade cinnamon rolls. Huge menu, so you can keep going back.

So what are your favorite spots?

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We love a good storm


What is it about storms that get us out of our houses and to places where we probably shouldn’t be?

Case in point: the last tsunami warning drew dozens of people to Waikiki — even in the surf — despite calls for evacuation.

And today, when weather officials warned people about flash flooding, road closures and possible danger surf caused by Tropical Storm Flossie, what do we do?

We all head out to look for it.

At least that’s what I did.

I can honestly say I enjoy a good storm. And I prefer to see it for myself, then wait at home for the impending thunder claps. (I’m actually not a fan of that.)

I’ve jumped in my car to see lighting storms — even while I lived in Chicago — and went down to the beach almost every time there’s been a tsunami warning.

And let’s not forget how Melissa Chang and I braved the streets of Taipei City during Typhoon Soulik.

I’m not one of those storm chasers or crazy people who think they can outrun a tsunami or brave monstrous surf. I’m way too chicken for that. But I like to see unusual weather patterns, I enjoy a good lighting storm, and I love seeing the rain roll in over the ocean.

And I’m not alone.

When I drove to the Halona Blowhole earlier this evening, I almost couldn’t find parking. Lots of people gathered at the lookout on the southeastern shoreline of Oahu to witness Flossie, now downgraded to a tropical depression. It’s still packing a punch, though, with winds and rainfall hitting the Big Island and Maui and now heading to Oahu. Wind gusts are still expected to be fairly dangerous, reaching up to 40 miles per hour by tomorrow.

So what are your storm plans? Going to work? Braving the surf? Heading out, like me, to Instagram?

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What’s happening to the North Shore?

Awhile back, I had written a post that was never published on how much Waikiki had changed since I was a kid.

It was aimed to run after the $115 million renovation to the Royal Hawaiian Center, which, in June 2008, transformed the more than 310,000-square-foot shopping and dining complex along Kalakaua Avenue. It’s got a decidedly Mainland feel, with huge storefronts for such retailers like Apple, Bebe, Tourneau and Bvlgari, just to name a few.

I was conflicted at the time: the streets were cleaner, the landscape more inviting. But it didn’t feel like the Waikiki I remembered growing up. And I couldn’t see the ocean.

But it’s Waikiki. It’s a playground for visitors to Oahu, with rows of hotels, restaurants and shops lining Kalakaua Avenue on both sides. It’s supposed to be tourist-friendly, accessible and self-contained. I get it.

But the North Shore?

The changes out there have been even harder to accept, with Haleiwa looking more like how Disney would interpret Hawaii for Disney World. You can’t rebuild old plantation-style structures and turn-of-the-century buildings. It just doesn’t feel sincere or authentic.

So when I heard about Kamehamehama Schools’ $12.6 million plan to redevelop four acres in this historic town, I didn’t know how to feel, exactly.

The plan calls for demolishing four of nine existing buildings — including the one that houses Aoki’s Shave Ice — and restoring two. The famous (particularly with visitors) Matsumoto Shave Ice will be spared.

It pits two long-time, family-owned shave ice stands against each other, and that makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

Talking with owner Stanley Matsumoto, there has never been an unfriendly rivalry between the two shops. They have coexisted for more than 30 years, offering similar but different flavors and goods. And both have devoutly loyal followings.

So it’s no surprise the outpouring of support for Aoki’s when several media outlets — and the shop’s own Facebook page — reported it would be closing up shop.

It’s hard to watch the North Shore turn into this visitor destination, though I know it was only a matter of time.

Folks are lured to this area primarily for the massive winter swells. But over the years, shops and restaurants have seen increases in traffic during the flat summer months, with visitors flocking here because of its reputation. The beaches are pristine, the snorkeling stellar. And now, thanks to development, there are lots of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes to patron.

It’s a hard balance: you want businesses on the North Shore to survive (and thrive!), but you don’t want to change its appeal and charm.

And building new and more shops and buildings may not be the answer.

What’s your take?

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Post-APEC: Let’s see how long this lasts

Post-APEC: Let’s see how long this lasts

The other morning I was walking down Kalakaua Avenue after an early surf session and noticed something odd.


Flowers and decorative plants and ti leaves — all newly planted along the street.

I guess the naupaka wasn’t enough for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), in town for the week.

The city, it seems, has been taking major steps in beautifying downtown Honolulu and Waikiki in recent weeks, all in preparation for the leaders of APEC’s 21 economies and their massive entourages. There are new palm trees lining Nimitz Highway, cleaner streets in Waikiki and a noticeable decrease in homeless communities in the areas in and around the APEC zone.

Civil Beat’s Chad Blair shows you Honolulu before and after. (Read the story here.)

Here are my two unsolicited cents:

First, I’m annoyed that the city thinks this expensive facelift is only necessary for APEC. Never mind the 800,000 people who live on Oahu — or the thousands who live, work and play in Waikiki everyday. Why would we need a beautiful place to call home?

And secondly, I’ll take bets how long the city will let this temporary beautification project go to the wayside. We watched city workers plant lush patches of Saint Augustine grass around coconut trees and delicate decorative plants in front of waterfalls — knowing full well these adornments won’t last a month after APEC packs up and leaves.

So what’s the point?

It’s a temporary fix to a long-term problem. And don’t we, the people who actually have to live here beyond APEC, deserve a solution?

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