By Jason Genegabus

Friday, February 21, 2003

Aisea Ratokalau (left) and Wally Shidaki were bar patrons playing pool at the "Top of the Hill" in Kaimuki.

First brew was
also our last

Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Location: 3579 Waialae Ave.
(Across from the old Queen Theater)
Phone: 732-3437


OF THE handful of bars that occupy space on Waialae Avenue, Top of the Hill is probably one of the best known, after being in the neighborhood for years. The place used to be called the Kaimuki Inn, and later the New Kaimuki Inn, before other owners changed the name. When the Barfly walked in earlier this week for a cold one, it quickly became clear that Top of the Hill is a place for their regulars to call home.

What I'm beginning to notice during my travels to different watering holes around the island is that a crowded bar can be a good or bad sign, depending on the type of establishment. For a joint like Top of the Hill, where almost every seat at the bar was occupied when we walked in, it's a bad sign. A crowded bar here means it's the only place you're going to get served. Another 10 tables provide seating throughout the place, but we sat beerless for a good five minutes while we waited for the bartender to get around to us. Not a good start -- especially after she saw us waiting and continued to serve the regulars seated in front of her.

Things didn't go much better once she wandered over to our table either. Noticing a few taps, we tried to order a draft pitcher, only to be told the bar's keg was empty after a busy night the day before. Okay, fine, we got bottles instead.

Another five minutes passed, and the bartender returned with a pair of 22-ounce Bud Lights before hitting us with another blow: Top of the Hill's kitchen was closed. No explanation or apologies were given, so it might be a good idea to call ahead and check for yourself before heading over for pupus.

At least there are a few things to do when you visit Top of the Hill. Three pool tables occupy space right in front of the bar itself, although the number of dart machines in the place have dwindled to just two in a corner. Another room houses a ping pong table and pinball machine, too. Karaoke is also available on certain nights.

But the last straw for the Barfly came pretty quick on the night we stopped by -- first, every television in the place got changed to "Dinner and a Movie" on TBS for the regulars sitting a few tables over from us. I can understand the customers wanting to watch what they want, but every television in the place? At least leave one on ESPN's Sportscenter for those of us who don't want to watch some cheesy comedy.

And when a drunken, older gentleman stumbled over and began to demand a game of darts with the Drinking Buddy, we knew it was time to go. Finishing the rest of our first (and last) beer, we made our way back out onto Waialae without anyone really noticing us leaving.

Unless you're a regular at Top of the Hill, I don't really see much of a reason to pay them much attention either.

How much for a Bud Light? The Barfly got a 22-ounce bottle of Bud Light for $3.50 during his visit to Top of the Hill. 12-ounce bottles are also available for $2. You can also get a beer on draft here, but the kegs were all empty during our visit.

Get things to do? Pool seems to be pretty popular at this bar -- the three tables were pretty busy during our short visit and a tournament is held every Tuesday and Thursday. Dart machines, ping pong and a pinball machine also help to provide distractions at Top of the Hill. Three televisions and a big-screen are spread throughout the place as well.

What about the grinds? It appears Top of the Hill serves normal bar fare -- but the Barfly wouldn't know, since the kitchen was closed on the night we dropped in. Menu items include grilled or chop steak ($10), chicken katsu ($6), corned beef and cabbage ($6), oyster shooters ($5) and more.

And the help? Unless you've managed to score a seat at the bar, expect to wait a while before someone comes by to check on you. A single bartender was on duty the night we visited Top of the Hill, and it was obvious her attention was focused on all the regulars sitting in front of her. If you're going to sit at one of the tables or booths, don't be surprised if you have to get up and order another drink yourself.

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

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