It’s been a few months in the making, but 12th Avenue Grill’s Kevin Hanney is ready to unveil his new bar and dining concept tomorrow in the former Salt-turned-Hale-Ohuna space on Waialae Avenue. He refers to it as “12th Avenue Grill’s little brother,” which is how he came up with the name.
The menu came from 12th Avenue Grill, too … actually, from suggestions at the bar. Thus, this new spot will be a little more casual, a little more affordable, but still an elevated watering hole experience. The bar will offer an extensive beer, wine, and whiskey menu along with unusual, handcrafted cocktails; the kitchen will have a wide range of items from classy snacks to full entrees, sliders, burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and even dessert.
I want to be clear that this is just a preview of the place, not a review, as it’s not even open yet. But at least you can get a peek at some of the things they’ll be serving and the price range.
The guys behind the menus are young but ambitious, and have had some decent experience. Bar Manager Joseph Arakawa, who is a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserve, was previously at Mud Hen Water; Chef Robert Paik is a graduate of the Kapiolani Community College culinary program and was previously at Vintage Cave.
One of the featured items is the duck fat popcorn, which is tossed with chicharrones and lime for a different approach to the salty/zesty snackage. The Earth + Sea is a cocktail comprised of tequila, Fernet Branca, aperol, lemon, lime and salt. Get it? Salt from the sea, herbs from the earth.
Rage + Envy is a mild, refreshing blend of Thai basil-infused tequila, Caffo Solara, jalapeño and lemon. Green with envy and the angriness of the spice (it’s not that angry).
We were hooked on the tender chipotle barbecue jidori chicken wings, which have a sweet/salty tang and a stimulating stab of chipotle on the tongue. Eat it together with the compressed apples for a nice contrast in texture and flavors. Next to it is The Vaccine, a cocktail of ginger-infused scotch, lime, and egg white. Joe grates cinnamon over the top for an aromatic touch.
About 60 to 70 percent of the ingredients are local, and they make as many of the items as possible. For example, you can’t get wheat grown in Hawaii, but the Avenue’s breads are made in-house. The items on the antipasto plate are made in-house, too: pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, pickled Ho Farms okra and carrots, marinated tomatoes and olives. The smoked ahi spread from 12th Avenue Grill (and now here) is so popular, you can buy it at grocery stores under the Kokohead Foods brand. Kevin laments that we can’t get anchovies here, as he used to enjoy pickling them himself when he was on the mainland.
Another exotic handcrafted cocktail: The Sparrow + the Lord, comprised of chai-infused rum, Ophir gin, Angostura, Dolan Blanc and Caffo Solara.
Here’s fried chicken done right: moist but crunchy jidori chicken in a buttermilk batter, smothered with corn-bacon gravy. The pickled okra is a nice touch to cut the richness.
We enjoyed the lamb burger, which was moist and not very gamey, plus was full of flavor thanks to the sundried tomatoes, house-made feta cheese, nalo arugula and Meyer lemon aioli. The fries were nicely crunchy and went well with the roasted sweet pepper ketchup (not shown).
If you really like herby cocktails, try the Sages + Monks, which has sage-infused vodka, yellow chartreuse, aperol and lemon. Oh, there’s the sweet pepper ketchup.
The pork burger is very moist and can stand on its own without all the condiments, but they do add some zing to the dish. It’s served with Sumida Farms kim chee watercress and sambal aioli, all made in house.
I tend to not like commercial sauerkraut because it’s way too sour, so it was nice to have Kevin’s caramelized Ewa onions as a milder substitute in this local version of a Reuben sandwich. The local pastrami is house made, topped with aged Gruyere cheese and Hawaiian Island dressing (their twist on Thousand Island dressing).
The smoked ahi spread makes another appearance on an open-faced sandwich with Muenster cheese, Hauula tomatoes, kaiware sprouts and piquillo coulis. This is a grown-up version of the classic tuna melt, very smoky and a little spicy.
If you order Death’s Door, have your video ready. It’s got Death’s Door gin, scotch, mescal and yellow chartreuse, finished with a flaming lemon twist.
There’s a lot of potential in this new spot and we’re looking forward to trying the rest of the menu. See you there!
Avenue’s Bar + Eatery
3605 Waialae Ave.
Sunday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
For more photos, click here.