Dave & Buster’s family game and sports bar has undergone some changes since December. Experienced Hawaii restaurateur Andrew Shimabukuro, the new general manager, has been finessing the eatery into a local gathering place.
Shimabukuro said Dave & Buster’s has given him generous leeway to adapt the menu and ambience — so he’s added dishes like a fresh catch of the day, kalbi ribs, ahi tacos, edamame and loco moco.
Events and specials have also been added for each night of the week. These include kids eating free on Mondays and $1 taco Tuesdays. Shimabukuro says he has additional plans in the works for making D&B the go-to place for local families.
Pau Hana Patrol readers may be interested in Dave & Buster’s live music on the Sunset Lanai, Wednesday and Friday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. These are followed by club night on Wednesdays and silent disco on Fridays from 10 p.m. to closing.
Meanwhile, construction that caused a parking snafu in the area over the past couple of years is largely complete, so there is now ample parking.
The three-story establishment has a multi-level restaurant on its first floor (second floor of the Ward entertainment complex), an arcade on the second, and an open-air lanai on top that opens at 5 p.m. The Lanai has a separate, limited happy-hour menu, and that’s where 21-and-over clubbing happens, complete with body paint, oversized Jenga, Connect Four and beer pong.
My group started on the lanai where we enjoyed views of Diamond Head toward the east, and boats bobbing in Kewalo Basin Harbor across the street, as the sun’s rays calmed and tiki torches were lit. It was a Wednesday, the day Shawn Garnett plays music, and he was busting out catchy tunes, like Mad World. (On Fridays, various artists play the venue.)
We also went into the restaurant, where there are five items on the happy hour menu. On this main floor is a split-level bar, and a few steps below that is a large dining area with window views and a smaller, tucked away dining area that can also be rented out for large parties. The scene was mellow – a few groups of young professionals at the bar and local families at the tables, with friendly staff and fast service.
The Lanai’s $6 happy hour bites were Bavarian Pretzels and Loaded Potstickers. Both are also on the main floor’s $6 happy hour menu, which also includes guacamole with chips, Mexican Street Corn Quesadillas and Asian Chicken Wonton Nachos. These five dishes are either unique to Dave & Buster’s happy hour, or appear on the regular menu in a different form.
The pretzels came warm, with just the right texture of dense chewiness inside and a firm, golden brown exterior speckled in rough salt grains. They were served with a side of beer cheese that lived up to its description with a rich lager flavor.
Just smashed, chunky guacamole is always a winner, and this one was no exception. Paired with a basket of freshly made tortilla chips, it was topped with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion and cheese crumbles and had plenty of garlic.
Quesadillas are another simple crowd-pleaser, but these had nuance in the crispy tortilla with its hearty cheese and corn interior. The palate was teased by a pleasant hint of heat from the addition of jalapenos and a sriracha lime vinaigrette. We polished this one off easily and found ourselves craving more than the four wedges provided.
Nachos and potstickers were hands-down winners. Where some nachos come with a stack of chips and a sheer layer of topping, there was no skimping on these fully loaded nachos. The chips were hardly visible under the pile of meat, sauces and jalapenos. The chicken wonton bites were especially good, with a crunchy shell and juicy middle.
The pork potstickers came on a bed of greens drizzled with a tangy sauce. Inside the golden crust, the meat was moist and supple.
Happy hour cocktails are half off, and we ordered three popular items: Strawberry Watermelon Margarita ($5, normally $9.99), Dangerous Waters Island Punch ($5, normally $9.99) and Original Coronarita ($5.50, normally $11).
The margarita came with a festive rim of green lime salt and strawberry-infused ice cubes. The fruit puree was doused with tequila and triple sec. The drink initially tasted of fresh watermelon juice, then the alcohol hit, and finally a touch of strawberry.
Island Punch was a blue drink garnished with a slice of pineapple. It had a sweet and sour tang and was made with rum, curacao and pineapple juice.
The hit of the evening was the Coronarita: A mini bottle of Corona was turned upside down in an icy cup of blended tequila and triple sec with a sliver of lime. Reminiscent of German radler or beer mixed with lemonade, the drink was light and effervescent with a citrus flavor. Each sip refreshed and prompted a second sip as the taste buds queried, “Is this beer? Or lemonade? Or liquor?” It was a delightful mélange.
Dave & Buster’s has the same food and gaming-friendly, family atmosphere it’s always had, but now with a focus on catering to locals.
The bar bites have been chosen wisely, as all five dishes are popular comfort food and inspire a desire to try out the regular menu variations.
Of the drinks, the Coronarita easily stood out — creative and casual, just like the environment. My party agreed we’d come back just for that.
DAVE & BUSTER’S
Ward Entertainment Center, 1030 Auahi St.
Happy Hour: 4-7 p.m. weekdays, 9 p.m.-close Sundays through Thursdays
>> $6 bar bites
>> Half-off all cocktails
>> $1 off 22 oz. drafts and glasses of wine