There’s a pretty simple recipe for creating a great pau hana environment.
You need cheap drinks — the colder, the better. Good food helps. So does a good atmosphere. If the location is convenient, you’re even better off.
But the mystical unicorn of all the ingredients seems to be good service. Some spots appear to have it, while others know what it is but just can’t seem to grasp it.
IGE’S RESTAURANT & 19TH PUKA
98-761 Oihana Place
» 3 to 7 p.m. daily
» Shoyu Pork ($7.50)
This recipe is really quite simple. There are bars I frequent that don’t excel at all five; you can have a great pau hana spot if you excel at three things and average at the other two. If you’re the absolute best at any one thing, you’ve got a chance. But when a restaurant or bar is simply average at four of those categories, it would have to be outstanding at the fifth to get my repeat business.
Ige’s Restaurant & 19th Puka easily hits the average mark for drinks and food. Unfortunately, Charles Barkley would use the word "turble" (that’s "terrible" to the rest of us) to describe the service.
Located in Aiea just across from Buzz’s Steakhouse, Ige’s has the name that rightfully suggests it is half restaurant and half bar. The fact that it is nowhere near a golf course wasn’t too much of a distraction to me. At 5:30 p.m. one day last week, I expected a crowd out the door, but was pleasantly surprised to be following a host to our seats within seconds of walking in.
I WOULD be lying if I said the good service continued after this point. As the place was not quite bustling, but had a few tables occupied, I felt pretty confident that I would be drinking a beer in no time. Good thing I’m not a gambling man.
Our server didn’t arrive for 30 minutes — no joke, exaggeration, lie or broken watch — to take drink orders. Even my uncomfortable stares and half-nods didn’t garner much more than a glance. I settled on a pitcher of Coors Light, since our server was "pretty sure" it was a happy-hour special. What I’m definitely not sure of is how much we even paid for that thing.
When we got around to ordering food, we didn’t hesitate to try their signature dish, the Shoyu Pork. The familiar chicken recipe went surprisingly well when replaced with tender pork. The Baby Back Ribs tasted great, but were a little tricky to eat with only chopsticks and a single napkin for each person at our table. (I like to keep it clean when I’m with the lady.)
Finally, we tried the Deep Fried Baby Akule, which was the best of the bunch. By the time we stuffed ourselves with all that food, it was late into the evening, and hell if I’m gonna pay the baby sitter another hour’s pay for just one more pitcher — we’re in a recession! So it was time to head out.
I completely understand how busy restaurants can get, and how understaffed some places run. Ige’s was neither.
Maybe I just need to accept the fact that I’m not yet a regular. I’m sure that if I showed up every day for two weeks and waited my 30 minutes for a beer, I would eventually earn my place among the served.
Or maybe I’ll just order takeout and sit in the parking lot with a cooler next time.
Pau Hana Patrol is a weekly look at Honolulu bar and restaurant happy hours. E-mail happy hour tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.