The first time I walked into Luibueno’s, I immediately wanted to get a divorce.
Wow. I’m definitely going to have to explain that statement to my wife, who is my only faithful reader. (God bless her and her bad taste in columns.) So here you go: Have you ever been someplace and thought it was the absolute perfect place to take a girl on a date? If so, having a spot like this in mind is money. And since I’m no longer trying to win my wife over, Luibueno’s gave me the idea of a do-over.
Before permanently reserving myself a spot on the couch, let me state this a little differently: Luibueno’s Mexican and Seafood Restaurant is the kind of place I wish I could have taken my wife on our first date. It’s out of the way, affordable, and it’s got a great ambience. A first kiss over cocktails in a cool Haleiwa eatery is probably a lot more romantic than a first kiss in a Zippy’s parking lot.
Maybe I should just call a mulligan and hold another "first date" here.
LUIBUENO’S MEXICAN AND SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
66-105 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa
LUIBUENO’S will never be the most popular pau hana locale for one main reason: Haleiwa is convenient to only about 0.5 percent of Oahu’s population. So locale is a definite downside if you’re not finishing up a day of "work" on the North Shore. For anyone willing to make the drive, however, Luibueno’s adjusted its happy-hour schedule to be accessible to more people.
From 3 to 5 p.m., then again from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m. ("Bueno Hours"), you can choose from a smaller, discounted pupu menu and order discounted drinks. Draft beers, which include two different Dos Equis brews, go for $3.50, as do Primo bottles. Classic margaritas, lychee martinis and sangrias are $6, but I’d opt for one of their specialty margaritas if you’re going that route. Wells are $4.25 if you feel like a more classic approach to boozing.
The menu during Bueno Hour isn’t huge, but it does offer up a few tasty choices. The Calamari Frito ($5) was OK, but the ceviche ($5.50) was excellent, and both were good-size portions for just about five bucks. Highly recommended would also be their San Felipe Style Beer Battered Fish Tacos and Burritos ($3 for the tacos, $5.75 burritos).
Our orders arrived within a few minutes after being put in, and our server was friendly and attentive without being overbearing. Not that there’s anything wrong with being overbearing. (Had to throw that in since my father-in-law is one of my "occasional" readers.)
WHAT puts Luibueno’s over the top is the atmosphere. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I learned that they took over the old Rosie’s Cantina spot, but they did a pretty good job of separating themselves from Rosie’s on a few different levels.
The lighting, decor and layout really suit a small group of friends or a romantic outing with a loved one more than a typical pau hana spot, designed for a batch of friends after work. But with good food and prices, a full bar that boasts more than 30 different tequilas, and a few TV screens, I’m sure it wouldn’t be such a bad "Monday Night Football" spot, either.
It’s more than worth a drive out to Haleiwa, if you haven’t already been. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a first date to plan with my wife.