Seems like locals are still 50-50 on the International Market Place. It’s a pleasant place to wander around, cool and calm in comparison to the sweaty, frenetic air of the vendors’ village that preceded it, but also a reminder that experiencing an elevated Waikiki is a more expensive proposition. Some stores have come and gone since its opening in 2016 — but the opening of new shops with mass appeal (including an ABC Store) portends the center’s outreach to mid-income passers-by, including island residents.
One site that’s been sitting pretty from the center’s earliest days is chef/owner Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849, a restaurant with undisguised local appeal. Roy knows and delivers what islanders and visitors crave when seeking a special experience: richly flavored food with a sense of place.
The restaurant’s in a prime spot — right up front on the third-floor dining level of the International Market Place, the first tables you’ll see as you enter from the parking garage. And happy hour is available every day — including weekends, which may be the best option for locals. So it’s pretty easy to drop in and avail yourself of Roy’s good food, emphasizing island ingredients and traditions.
Eating House 1849 is found at the far mauka side of the International Market Place Grand Lanai, on the third level of the shopping center. It’s convenient to the center’s parking; if you walk up from the Kalakaua Avenue side of the International Market Place, you can enjoy the sight of the center’s towering, historical banyan tree before taking an escalator or elevator up.
Ensconced in this open-air level of the shiny, new shopping center, made pleasant with much greenery, the Eating House is adorned with rough-hewn wood and streamlined, rustic interior touches, such as a corrugated-tin awning over the bar. Everything’s comfortable and stylishly simple, in a nod to the restaurant’s plantation-era inspiration. There’s a large window providing views into the kitchen, and plenty of seating, but happy hour is available only at the bar.
During happy hour, from 3 to 6 p.m. daily, the dozen or so seats at the bar may fill up, but otherwise the restaurant will be quiet. Dinner patrons start to file in at 5. This is no rowdy scene; it’s a chill place for pupu in a quiet afternoon setting.
The happy hour menu here is a varied, generous and bound to appeal to a wide range of tastes. I’ve visited with friends in their 20s and 60s, vegetarians and omnivores, and everyone has left happy.
My favorite items were local-style dishes made extra delicious by Yamaguchi’s flair for combining Hawaii flavors.
I’m obsessed with Eating House’s Mongolian Chicken Lumpia ($7 for three), the best I’ve had that haven’t come directly out of a friend’s kitchen — crunchy, not oily, they’re elevated with a tangy, bright vinegar dip and house pickled ong choy.
With beer, I’d definitely go for the pipikaula with small Ho Farms tomatoes and a schmear of just-tangy poi ($12) — so, so good.
A healthy meal could be made from the E.H. Chop salad ($11), a generous bowl with avocado, bacon, tomato, feta cheese, greens and green “Asian Goddess” dressing.
Vegetarians can be happy with the cold Tofu & Noodles plate, textured and filling with green soba noodles, tofu dressed with roasted garlic soy, hijiki (seaweed), small tomatoes, cucumber and carrots.
Yamaguchi’s rib dishes are a signature, rich with flavor, and the Kiawe Smoked Szechuan Baby Back Ribs ($8 for three) are one of the most popular happy hour items.
The cocktail menu for happy hour is limited, but the options are attractive, with drinks at $8 rather than the $12 and up during other hours.
I’ve gravitated to the Sakura, a mix of Suntory Toki whisky with yuzu, ginger, honey syrup and soda with a hibiscus tea float. It’s pretty and light, and it’s gently astringent flavors go well with Roy’s pupu menu ingredients.
My dining mate chose the Chocolate & Smoke, made with Zaya rum, El Silencio Mezcal, Carpano Antica and orange and chocolate bitters. That sounds as if it could be strong and overwheming, but in fact it’s a lively afternoon pick-me-up. The tropical vanilla in the Caparno vermouth mediates the flavors and stimulates the appetite; this is very much a dynamic drink, and shouldn’t leave you sleepy if you can stop at one.
For a full-on tropical drink, try the Hawaiian Martini, with Malibu rum, Absolut Vanilla vodka and Maui Gold pineapple.
Well drinks are $6, house wine is $8 and a rotating selection of Maui Brewing Co., Waikiki Brewing Co. and Kona Brewing Co. drafts are $5.
Consider the Eating House 1849 bar at happy hour as an extension of your lanai — a laid back, affordable place to meet friends for a cold drink or a tasty plate of island-style grinds.