Jason Genegabus

Friday, June 13, 2003

Eastside Grill patrons Shawn Felipe of Mililani, left, Kaleo Auld of Kapahulu and Elroy Entendencia also of Kapahulu enjoy a round of drinks at the University Avenue bar and grill.

Puck’s Alley
version of ‘Cheers’

Location: 1035 University Ave. (Puck's Alley)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Phone: 952-6555


MENTION Puck's Alley as your destination for a round or two of drinks, and most people automatically think of cheap pitchers of beer and a younger, more lively crowd than some other places around town.

With the loss of Pa'ina a few months back, that description does fit almost every bar in the area -- Bedroq, Magoo's and Players University all cater mainly to the UH crowd (although the beer prices at Players are definitely not cheap).

But Robbie Acoba, owner of Eastside Grill, has proof that a more diverse crowd lives and drinks in the University area and its surrounding neighborhoods. On any given night, you have a good chance of being on the fringe of a celebration: People of all ages come together for fund-raisers, graduation parties, company events and even baby showers at the establishment.

"Having the university" as a primary source of potential customers "is an advantage," according to Acoba, who has called Puck's Alley home for almost three years. "But you need a neighborhood bar ... the locals have to have someplace to come to in this area, too."

Eastside Grill patrons Alan Osato and wife Joan Osato enjoy a round of drinks at the University Avenue bar and grill.

COMFORT IS BIG at Eastside Grill, and everything from the entertainment to the food items served are meant for those of us just looking to unwind and relax for a bit.

Take a seat at the main bar, or find some room to spread out at one of the many tables throughout the room. Be sure to check out the stained glass in part of the ceiling while you're waiting for that first drink -- it's one of the remnants of Moose's from its heyday in the area, before the space became home to other nightclubs like Liquid Surf Den and the Blue Room.

Depending on the day, entertainment varies from free karaoke and live music to comedy nights and live sports. Three big screen televisions are available for customers; another half-dozen smaller screens provide even more coverage, making it easy to catch a game no matter where you're sitting.

The menu at Eastside Grill is full of choices, and I haven't been disappointed yet by anything I've tried when I visit. The peppercorn-style seasoned rib-eye steak ($12.75) arrives on a sizzling platter with mushrooms and onions, but be sure to ask for a side of rice ($2) if you want to make it a meal. And I was simply overwhelmed by the size of Da Eastside Dawg ($5.95), a foot-long behemoth covered with sauerkraut, lettuce, tomato, melted cheese sauce and thousand island dressing. And it's served with french fries!

WHILE GOOD FOOD and reasonable drink prices are important for a bar to survive, Acoba recognizes the need to keep things fresh in order to keep his regulars happy.

Football season is always a big draw for Eastside Grill -- all the NFL games are shown live (including Monday Night Football) and UH fans flock here on game day to take in the Warriors' efforts both at home and on the road. And breakfast is legendary here on Sunday mornings during the fall, if you can get up early enough.

Throw a few prize giveaways and drink specials into the mix, and you've got everything it takes to ensure repeat business.

"We're like any other local bar," Acoba said. "It's a 'Cheers' atmosphere ... just say hi, take care and they'll come back."

It seems like such an easy formula, but relatively few places compare to Eastside Grill when it comes to good food, cold beer and a mellow vibe. Check this place out the next time you're around Puck's Alley and want to stop for a drink.

How much for a Bud Light?

The Barfly drank $3 bottles of Anheuser World Select at Eastside Grill. If you like a bit more body to your beer without the bite that comes with other green bottle brews, be sure to try this stuff. Having just arrived in local bars last week, World Select is enjoying a significant marketing push right now. As a Bud Light drinker, I can see myself buying this stuff as long as it's on special at the bar I'm visiting.

Get things to do?

A dart machine and "House of the Dead 2" video game are located in one corner of the bar here; televisions and Megatouch game machines are spread throughout the rest of the room. Throw in free karaoke on certain nights and you've got enough variety to keep almost everyone who visits happy.

What about the grinds?

Eastside Grill has a full kitchen setup and offers just about anything you'd want to go with a cold beer. Shoestring fries ($4.95), hot dog bites ($5.95) and oyster shooters ($1.25) are some of the lower-priced items on the menu; garlic pepper shrimp ($12.75), oriental chicken salad ($7.75) and a mixed plate with pork chops, mochiko chicken and fresh fish ($9.25) are available if money isn't an issue.

And the help?

Owner Robbie Acoba takes pride in the low turnover rate of employees at his bar. Since opening in 2000, he estimates that about 80 percent of his current employees have stayed since the first day of business. We had no problem ordering drinks or food, and one of the servers remembered the Drinking Buddy from an earlier visit and stopped to chat. After a few visits, it's a good bet that Acoba himself will take a minute to say hello, a simple gesture that underscores his dedication to keeping Eastside Grill a comfortable place to visit.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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


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