Mahina & Sun’s refreshed its menu — and happy hour — over the summer, adding a new menu of pau hana specials and encouraging locals to come in and enjoy a cocktail with week-long enticements for service-industry folks. (There’s a new brunch menu too.)
Happy hour has grown longer, with discounts on the “light bites” menu served at the bar and the Surfjack Hotel’s poolside lanai between 2 and 4:30 p.m. Drinks are on special between 2 and 6 p.m. — or all day, every day, if you’re a service-industry insider.
We stopped in to give it a try — and then went back again, and again, lured by the deliciousness of master chef Ed Kenney’s pau hana fare.
Just around the corner from busy Kuhio Avenue, the Surfjack opens to its now-notorious, Instagram-oriented pool, lettered with the slogan “Wish You Were Here” in script large enough to be seen by the envious “followers” who see your picture posed next to it. Fact is, sitting next to that pool does inspire a feeling of satisfaction. You are “Here,” at least for the moment. The hotel’s colorful, nostalgic mid-century modern design gives you something to look at in every direction. Bright pops of color and bold geometrical patterns add energy to the common spaces.
Grab a seat at the lanai behind the pool or at one of the tables next to the bar and you’ll be offered Mahina & Sun’s Lanai menus for bites and specialty cocktails, beer or wine. Aside from the lounge chairs around the pool, there should be plenty of space available between 2 and 4:30 p.m.
The design and ethic may be on-trend and akamai, but Surfjack’s clientele is diverse — and includes a fair number of older travelers who may be hip to the hotel’s mid-century ethic because they were also there the first time around. This Saturday and each first Saturday of the month from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the hotel joins forces with a local radio station for “The Big Chill,” spinning music from the ’50s and ’60s. It’s an adults-only pool party that is free to enter until noon, with a $5 cover from noon until 3.
It may be best to take a Biki or be prepared to take a hike from wherever you can find parking in Waikiki for under $10 if you’re heading there solo, or trying to save a buck or two. Only valet parking is offered at the Surfjack, and that’s $10 with validation from Mahina & Sun’s – unless you spend more than $50 and join the hotel’s free “Swim Club,” which offers complimentary valet.
As it happens, $50 is the budget for Pau Hana Patrol (before tip), and my party of two spent almost exactly that at a supremely satisfying afternoon pau hana, so it’s certainly within reason to aim for Swim Club status. An added incentive is that with each additional stamp past the first, Swim Club members get an increasingly valuable bonus treat, from a free dessert up through a Mahina & Sun’s entree, Swim Club swag and ultimately a free night’s stay.
Chef Ed Kenney has become a hometown hero, crafting delicious plates from primarily local sources. At Mahina & Sun’s, he calls the menu “elevated home cooking.” His enlightened approach carries through to the Lanai menu, which includes an irresistable, vegetarian option in its Avocado Tacos ($9, regularly $12): filled with panko-crusted avocado, shishito peppers, pickled red onion and not just yogurt, but smoked yogurt.
The other show-stopper, and the reason to make Surfjack’s Lanai a destination, is the Grilled Opah Sandwich ($9, regularly $12). It’s served on soft sweet rolls that can be split to share, but you won’t want to, as the opah is cooked to perfection, with a remoulade that compliments the taste beautifully. If you like fresh fish, you’re going to like this sandwich.
Beef sliders ($12, regularly $15) derived from island-raised cows are another delicious option; topped with cheddar cheese, and served with house-made pickles, they’ll satisfy between-meal hunger.
A filling margherita pizza ($15, regularly $19) and french fries ($5, regularly $7) are also available; they pair well with a group of friends and the Bucket of Maui Can Beers offered as a happy hour special, $20 for six you can keep tableside, on ice (regularly $35).
I’m not sure you can get a bad drink here. Mahina & Sun’s is stocked with bartenders who know their stuff, and as with the dining menu, an emphasis is based on local, elevated ingredients. Even the rum and coke — here dubbed Ain’t No Sunshine — is made with Hawaii rum and a cola made by Maui Brewing Company.
All the happy hour cocktails are $7, regularly $12. Try the Maui Mule, made with Pau vodka, or the Moon Dance, made with Prairie organic gin (a Minnesota distiller), fresh lime and rosemary-infused simple syrup.
With its comfortable, nostalgically hip decor, mouth-watering food and magical cocktail options, the Surfjack is a sure bet for happy hour.
MAHINA & SUN’S
12 Lewers St., 924-5810; surfjack.com
Happy hour: Drinks, 2-6 p.m. daily; food, 2-4:30 p.m. daily
>> Specialty cocktails, $7
>> Bucket of six beers, $20
>> Grilled Opah Sandwich, $9
>> Avocado Tacos, $9