Surfing Pig offers pau hana in Kaimuki
The Surfing Pig dares to go where many others have gone before: a stretch of storefront on Waialae Avenue between 12th and Koko Head, previous home to Salt and Hale Ohuna.
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Quietly, Kaimuki is becoming a hip food neighborhood enclave. Without the self-congratulatory fanfare that has accompanied other up-and-coming neighborhoods (here’s looking at you, Kakaako), Kaimuki’s restaurant options have expanded from their mom-and-pop origins to bring youthful, progressive eats to the neighborhood.
Now, The Surfing Pig dares to go where many others have gone before: a stretch of storefront on Waialae Avenue between 12th and Koko Head, previous home to Salt and Hale Ohuna.
Kono’s, the restaurant group of kalua pig burrito fame, opened The Surfing Pig as its first full-service restaurant and bar in early April.
“We like to think we’re Kono’s’ sexy older sister,” said manager Dave Sasaki.
THE SURFING PIG
3605 Waialae Ave.
Happy Hour: 4 to 5:30 p.m. daily
>> Draft beer, $2 discount
>> Signature cocktails, $2 discount
>> Street Tacos, $14
>> Smokey Cheesy Mac, $10
It’s got a downtown-dressy atmosphere to match, with an urban vibe, inviting bar and an upstairs seating area with huge black-and-white drone shots of the Honolulu cityscape.
Young professionals will feel right at home in the downstairs bar.
The Surfing Pig is not Kono’s — but that’s not to say its menu is entirely distinct. Kono’s famous kalua pig appears on the Surfing Pig menu as part of its Street Taco sampler, which also includes battered fish and fried shrimp tacos, $14 during happy hour (regularly $15).
We also opted for the Smokey Cheesy Mac, with a gouda-based sauce and pancetta topping ($10, regularly $12) and the shoelace truffle fries, which were delicious, topped with Parmesan and chicharrones ($7, regularly $9).
Most of the rest of the food was satisfying, but not outstanding for the price — until we tried the chef’s special, shrimp and grits ($12.50). It wasn’t on the happy-hour menu, but it was delicious. Made from a recipe that came from the chef’s Georgia-born mother, it featured creamy grits that a friend compared to ricotta, bathed in a savory sauce.
Southern influence shows up in a few places on the menu, especially during brunch, which includes chicken and waffles, gumbo and biscuits and gravy. On return visits, we’d bet on dishes that lean into this homegrown Southern style, a rarity in Honolulu.
The pau-hana menu suggests drink pairings for every dish, and that’s a nice touch. During happy hour, draft beer and signature cocktails are discounted by $2 and wine by $1.
The beer list is short and sweet, including Kirin, Kona Brewing Co. and Stella Artois. The wine list is about four times as long, including rose and prosecco.
We opted to dive straight into the mixed-drink menu, checking out some signature happy-hour cocktails.
These drinks don’t present themselves as modest; instead they’re strong, fun and down to party.
The Pinky Pig ($9), made with vodka, watermelon liquor, lime and mint, is a fetching watermelon-colored pink. A French Cocktail ($10), made with cognac, “French bubbly” and house-made sour, comes nicely presented with a curled lemon garnish.
The Smoking Pig ($12) lives up to its name; it’s a strong, savory take on the Old Fashioned, made with bourbon, bitters and sugar, infused with smoke and topped with bacon.
The Surfing Pig joins the movement to elevate food and drink offerings in Kaimuki, and is a solid option for after-work drinks and nibbles.
“We’re in our infancy; we’re still learning what our customers want,” Sasaki says.
Its great atmosphere and convenient location give the Surfing Pig good odds of becoming a new neighborhood standby. We’d like to see more of the chef’s authentic Southern flair on the menu.