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
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
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
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
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
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.