Our Top 5: Happy hours 2.0

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Editor’s note: It’s been a couple years since we ran Will Chen’s Our Top 5: Happy hours, and a lot’s changed since then. So here’s Happy hours 2.0, a whole reboot of the original with Maka Kahawai’s picks for everything from best view to best fancy frugal eats. Which is why this Top 5 is presented in no particular order.

When I got home from college with a sad little bank account, every dollar I spent on fun mattered. I wanted to go out with friends and have a good time, but I didn’t want to go broke. And thus, the search for what would become my favorite happy hours began — even after I got a job and started picking up regular paychecks. Who says no to a good deal?

Whether you’re unwinding after a tough day, catching up with friends or just looking for a good deal, hitting up a happy hour can always raise spirits, even the non-alcoholic kind! So without further ado, here are Our Top 5: Happy hours 2.0.

Cheapest drinks: The Safehouse

The Safehouse cocktail
It's not fancy, but they've got all your favorite basics down pat for $3.
The Safehouse cocktail
 
The Safehouse
If they've got it on draft, you've got it for $3.
The Safehouse
 
The Safehouse burger
Surprisingly, The Safehouse makes a juicy burger as well as other food to help your stomach absorb all the drinks you have
The Safehouse burger
 
The Safehouse
A chill, modern spot to drink and chat with your best buds.
The Safehouse
 
The Safehouse cocktails
 
The Safehouse cocktails
 

 
If you’re in it for the drinking, The Safehouse should definitely be your destination. This bar space at the back of The Republik is open on non-show nights to serve up drinks, food and sometimes even live music. At $3 for well liquors, draft beers and house wines, you’ll be set. If you’re feeling fancy, you also get $2 off any signature cocktails and $2 off food items on the rotating menu. Kick back, chill on the couches and order a round for your crew that won’t hurt your wallet.

Tip #1: Park your car right outside and read the signs to make sure you’re in an appropriate free stall.
Tip #2: On slow nights, they have a special $2-baller deal on well liquors and certain beers.

The Safehouse • 1349 Kapiolani Blvd. #30 (up the ramp) • 941-7469
HH: Tues. to Sat. 6 to 9 p.m., except show nights

 

Cheapest food: Shokudo Japanese

Shokudo honey toast
Honey Toast Jr., the half-sized version of Shokudo's popular dessert is on the HH menu for just $3.95!
Shokudo honey toast
 
Shokudo happy hour
Spicy tuna roll ($3.95), steamed gyoza ($3.95) and a big 'ole bowl of garlic edamame ($4.95).
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
Spicy tuna nachos ($3.95) are served with crispy wonton chips.
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
Heard of Russian Roulette? Shokudo plays that game with takoyaki (squid balls) where you end up with one surprise "bomb" in each serving. ($5.95)
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
Ramen salad ($4.95) is like Shokudo's twist on somen---ramen noodles served cold, toppings pilled around, and topped with a miso sauce.
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
The thin-crust sukiyaki kimchee pizza ($5.95) is mild on spice and easy on the kimchee topping, but the flavor is there.
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
Simple, yet satisfying garlic clams ($3.95).
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo happy hour
Dynamite fries ($3.95) are smothered in the same dynamite sauce (not spicy) that Shokudo uses on their dynamite sushi and covered in cheese.
Shokudo happy hour
 
Shokudo patio
Call ahead on and make sure you check if their patio seating is set up before heading down for an early HH, especially if you have a large party.
Shokudo patio
 

 
If you go a little crazy ordering off this happy hour menu, no worries. Any dish will only cost $3.95 to $5.95, seriously. Sushi, noodles, gyoza and fun dishes like Takoyaki Russian Roulette or Sukiyaki Kimchee Pizza will have you happy as a dish of garlic clams. Thirsty? They have drinks for $4 to $5, including a few wines, sakes and signature shots.

Tip #1: If you’re a Honey Toast lover, you MUST get the half-sized Honey Toast Jr.! Enough to finish all on your own!
Tip #2: There’s an early and late happy hour. Call ahead to make sure there’s space if you’re going early.

Shokudo Japanese • 1585 Kapiolani Blvd. • 941-3701
HH: Daily 4 to 6 p.m. and Sun. to Thurs. 10 p.m. to midnight

 

Best view: Signature Prime Steak and Seafood

Signature Prime Steak
Watch the lighting change as the sun sets over Magic Island and the nearby marina.
Signature Prime Steak
 
Signature Prime Steak cocktail
The B.Z.T. is The Signature's twist on a classic Bloody Mary. Made with a spicy blend of Sriracha and wasabi and served with crispy bacon. ($8.50)
Signature Prime Steak cocktail
 
Signature Prime Steak ribs
Spiced honey glazed baby back ribs ($11.95)
Signature Prime Steak ribs
 
Signature Prime Steak truffled fries
A large cone filled with The Signature's Garlic Fries ($6.50)
Signature Prime Steak truffled fries
 
Signature Prime Steak
You can see Diamond Head, just past Waikiki, through their floor to ceiling windows.
Signature Prime Steak
 
Signature Prime SteakSignature Prime Steak tartare
Ahi Tartare ($7.50) is 50% off during HH, and it's a definite must. It goes nicely with a glass of wine and adds an air of fanciness to your meal.
Signature Prime SteakSignature Prime Steak tartare
 
Signature Prime Steak scallops
Fresh Hokkaido sea scallops ($12.95) are sliced evenly and served with ponzu sauce for slight citrusy flavor.
Signature Prime Steak scallops
 
Signature Prime Steak piano table
If you're lucky, you can nab a seat at the piano! Yes, the piano is a "table" you can dine and wine at while a pianist plays live music for the restaurant.
Signature Prime Steak piano table
 

 
Take an elevator to the 36th floor of the Ala Moana Hotel and escape the hustle and bustle of the city below. The pianist will serenade you into a good mood while you look out over Waikiki, sip a B.Z.T. cocktail and nom on some of the half-price pupus while the sun sets. The eats and drinks aren’t as cheap as other happy hour spots, with dishes ranging from $6.50 for garlic fries or spicy garlic edamame up to $16.95 for a half-dozen oysters on the half shell or Rockerfeller style. But I don’t mind paying more for a happier hour at this luxurious spot with a view.

Tip #1: They don’t take reservations for happy hour, so make sure you’re there before they fill up!
Tip #2: Park at the mall for free. Ala Moana Center’s third-floor parking near Macy’s has a ramp that goes right across to the Ala Moana Hotel.

Signature Prime Steak and Seafood • Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Dr. (36th floor) • 949-3636
HH: Daily 4:30 to 7 p.m.

 

Frugal fancy: MW Restaurant

MW Restaurant truffle mac n cheese
If you only order one thing, make sure it's the rich and creamy Truffle Mac and Cheese ($10). It only gets expensive if you spring for the extra truffle shaving, tee hee.
MW Restaurant truffle mac n cheese
 
MW Restaurant bruschetta
Hawaii Island Goat Dairy Bruschetta ($5) with Ho Farms tomatoes
MW Restaurant bruschetta
 
MW Restaurant arancini
Unagi and butterfish arancini ($5) sit on a nori tsukudani (simmered seaweed) and are topped with kabayaki mustard.
MW Restaurant arancini
 
MW Restaurant pizzadilla
When a pizza and a quesadilla have a baby, you get a Pizzadilla ($10).
MW Restaurant pizzadilla
 
MW Restaurant chicken wings
Fried Jidori chicken wings ($5) are slightly sweet and deliciously dippable.
MW Restaurant chicken wings
 
MW Restaurant ribs
Don't be afraid of getting your hands a little dirty. Order the barbeque Kurobuta pork ribs ($10).
MW Restaurant ribs
 
MW Restaurant cocktails
There are a few $5 cocktails on the HH menu, including the Cucumber Collins (left) and the Tahitian Lemonade (right).

 

MW Restaurant cocktails
 
MW Restaurant scallop tempura
Two words: Scallop. Tempura. ($5)
MW Restaurant scallop tempura
 

 
Created to bridge the gap between the lunch and dinner crowd, MW’s happy hour is definitely a winner. Three-fourths of the items on their small plates menu are just $5 and half are sourced from local farmers, like the OK Farms bacon-dashi chawanmushi, the Ho Farms watermelon radish salad and the Hawaii Island Goat Dairy bruschetta (one of my faves).

A few plates like the Truffle Mac and Cheese and the Pizzadilla are $10, but worth it. By the way, did I mention the Truffle Mac and Cheese is totally worth it? Yeah, get the Truffle Mac and Cheese and eat it while the creamy, cheesy macaroni goodness is still hot.

Tip #1: If you’re skipping the valet, parking is easiest on the weekend. Central Pacific Bank (next door) closes early, so their free parking is open for MW diners, and street parking along Kapiolani Blvd. is open all day on Sunday.
Tip #2: If you’re going on the weekend, make a reservation in case you aren’t the only one with the same idea. Many people can’t make the happy hour time during the week, so they head down on Saturday.

MW Restaurant • 1538 Kapiolani Blvd. #107 • 955-6505
HH: Mon. to Fri. from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sat. to Sun. from 4 to 5 p.m.

 

Best late night: Yanagi Sushi

Yanagi Sushi ahi sashimi
Blackened Ahi Sashimi ($7.95) is served up on a nest of daikon with a special ponzu sauce.
Yanagi Sushi ahi sashimi
 
Yanagi Sushi sake
Of course, you can order hot or cold Sho Chiku Bai sake ($3.95 to $7.75, depending on volume and temperature).
Yanagi Sushi sake
 
Yanagi Sushi spicy tuna roll
Spicy tuna roll ($4.75)
Yanagi Sushi spicy tuna roll
 
Yanagi Sushi fried tako
Fried baby tako (octopus) ($5.50)
Yanagi Sushi fried tako
 
Yanagi Sushi katsu
Mini chicken katsu ($4.25) and mini tonkatsu ($5.50) are both on the HH menu.
Yanagi Sushi katsu
 
Yanagi Sushi unagi donburi
If you're willing to spend a bit more, there's an Unagi Donburi on the HH menu. $13.95 gets you a nicely grilled eel filet slathered in sauce and served on rice.
Yanagi Sushi unagi donburi
 

 
You started your night somewhere else and now you just want to eat and (continue to?) drink, but you already half-drained your wallet. There aren’t a whole lot of choices for happy hours at midnight, but Yanagi comes to the rescue. Suck down some $3 Kirin or $4 sake and nom some Japanese classics. You can keep it cheap with $3.95 gyoza or $4.95 chicken teriyaki, or you can fill up with bigger, pricier dishes like the $8.95 6-oz. teriyaki New York or $9.95 spicy tuna donburi.

Tip #1: It gets really crowded on weekend nights — call ahead or make a reservation.
Tip #2: Don’t trouble yourself with their tiny parking lot. Street parking in front of nearby car dealerships is open and free by the time late happy hour rolls around.

Yanagi Sushi • 762 Kapiolani Blvd. • 597-1525
HH: Mon. to Sat. 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.