By Jason Genegabus

Friday, February 14, 2003

Magoo's Promotions Director and bartender Kelli Mashon serves up yet another pitcher at the University Magoo's at Puck's Alley.

Magoo’s true
to its brew roots

Hours: Open 11 a.m.
to 1:30 a.m. daily
Location: 1015 University
Ave. (Puck's Alley)
Phone: 946-8830 or 949-5381


WHEN THE Barfly first started knocking pitchers back at Magoo's at the tender age of 21, the famous Puck's Alley restaurant and bar was all about pizza and beer. That formula hasn't changed much over the past four years, though owner Gilbert Sakaguchi has taken things to another level with new sushi and pasta offerings and the installation of enough beer taps to offer more than 100 different types of brew.

The trick to visiting this place, at least to the Barfly, is stopping by for a beer when it's not too crowded. Even though the original space Magoo's called home has now expanded to include what used to be two other restaurants and a pawn shop, the bar is packed on weekends and whenever a major sporting event is on television. When the Barfly showed up last weekend there were maybe two dozen people in the place, making it a lot easier to spread out at a table with a few pitchers and relax for a while.

Other than recent renovations to increase the seating capacity, not much has changed at Magoo's over the years. Two big-screen televisions take up space along with five smaller sets and a nine-screen video wall that's set up near the front door. A jukebox is also near the door, and a hodgepodge of tables and chairs are scattered around the centrally located bar area. With only one bartender on duty, however, you're going to need to make an effort to get noticed sometimes. But can you complain when pitchers are so darn cheap?

The Barfly goes to University Magoo's at Pucks Alley. Above, Gloria Reed and Craig Goodell, both of Manoa, share some sushi at the new addition to the establishment on Monday night.

It would take the Barfly weeks, if not months, to get through all the different brews available at Magoo's. If you're the type of person who goes to Baskin-Robbins just to get vanilla ice cream, you'll like the sound of $5 Bud Light pitchers on draft. But in order to truly appreciate the 120 taps lined up majestically behind the bar, it's necessary to expand your horizons and try something different. Drop an extra buck for a pitcher of Red Hook IPA, like we did, or try the Barfly's favorite draft beer of all time -- Deschuttes Black Butte Porter. The possibilities are endless!

Unfortunately, the sushi bar wasn't open during our visit, but Sakaguchi had a good reason for the shutdown. Sushi at Magoo's had become so popular lately that the chefs were working almost every day to keep up with demand, so he decided to give the guys Sundays off for a month.

So instead of grabbing a pound of ahi poke for $5.99, the Barfly tried the chicken alfredo ($8.50) and steak dinner ($11.95) instead. Now I'll be the first to admit you get a lot of food for the money at Magoo's, but I'm going to have to suggest sticking to the tried-and-true pizza and french fries instead of pasta and steak. The chicken alfredo we got was really over-seasoned (presumably to encourage more beer sales), and the steak was a bit tough even though we ordered it medium rare. You're better off just ordering the simple pasta with red or white sauce ($5.15) or a hibachi grilled steak salad ($8.95).

As what is probably the closest thing to a true college town watering hole, Magoo's continues to provide cheap brew in a relaxed atmosphere to both UH students and local residents alike. The variety of pupus available definitely help attract more people to the place, but, in the end, it's all about the beer.

How much for a Bud Light?

Grab a draft mug of Bud Light for just $1 if you're not too thirsty -- get a $5 pitcher if you are. Mixed drinks are also available, but why would you want to ignore the 100-plus beer taps that are just begging for attention?

Get things to do?

Other than eating, drinking and watching television, there's not much else to do at Magoo's. Not to say that's a bad thing -- it's always fun to check out the wide variety of customers the bar attracts, and your friends will be much more entertaining themselves after four or five pitchers. Otherwise, check out the Megatouch machines on either end of the bar or the establishment's jukebox.

What about the grinds?

You can't go wrong with the pizza at Magoo's -- prices range from $5.50 for a personal pan with cheese, to $25.99 for a large "Magoo's Famous Combination" with pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, pork sausage and bell peppers. The garlic-cheese fries ($5.25) go perfectly with a cold beer, as does a hot grilled steak and onion sandwich ($5.99 for a six-inch, $9.95 for a foot-long). And don't forget to try the fresh ahi poke for just $5.99 a pound. Most items are also available for takeout or delivery to certain parts of Honolulu.

And the help?

Magoo's is able to keep its drink prices reasonable by cutting back in other areas, and service is one of them. Everything at the bar is self-service: You need to go to the bar to order drinks and stand in a different line to order food. Employees do come around pretty often to collect empty pitchers and dirty plates, so you're never going to be sitting at a table covered with trash. And I've never run into a grumpy bartender at Magoo's -- always a good sign.

Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.

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