IT HAD BEEN another one of those days -- I was forced to wake up a lot earlier than I wanted to, got cut off in traffic by a bus driver back on the job for the first time in a month and spent 13 hours doing what I needed to do in order to pay my rent.
By the end of it all, I just wanted someplace to sit down and grab a bite to eat. A cold beer would definitely help, too. But it was pushing up on 11 p.m. and I wasn't in the mood for a burger at Jack in the Box or a plate lunch from Zippy's. And did I mention that a beer needed to be part of this equation?
Hours: 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday;
and 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday
Location: 2227 S. Beretania St.
GOOD THING I had the Drinking Buddy riding shotgun; not only is he good at running interference when I need to surreptitiously take some notes while "doing research" for this column, but he also knows enough about bars to be able to recommend a place when all I'll tell him is that I'm hungry and want a few drinks to wash the food down.
His suggestion for this hungry columnist? Cafe Anasia, located a couple of blocks Ewa on South Beretania from the Japanese Cultural Center and Anna Bannana's.
While it doesn't have the history or live music vibe that Anna's has, don't think that Anasia isn't worth stopping by for a beer or two and something to munch on.
There were about 15 or 20 people in the bar when we stopped by earlier this week, some of them cruising at a table while others shot pool or threw darts. It was pretty obvious that we were among regulars as I sat down at a booth and grabbed the pupu menu in front of me. Customers would call out to the servers by name, who would then take a moment to talk story after dropping off another round.
AFTER TAKING CARE of the task at hand -- getting a pitcher of Bud Light and two mugs -- the Drinking Buddy did a quick scan of the menu before telling me he already knew what to order. It turns out that Anasia offers something for everyone, from plate-lunch fare to Vietnamese food and everything in between.
If you're looking for a late-night meal, this is a great place to go since the kitchen stays open until 1:30 a.m. Order a pair of summer rolls ($3.75) or some french fries ($3) to start, but why even bother with pupu when plates like curry chicken ($5.95), barbecue beef ($5.75), beef stew ($6.95) and pork chop with egg ($7) are available and affordable?
A variety of phó ($5.95-$6.50) is also on the menu, along with a few other soups and noodle dishes. And for those of us on a budget, the pair of teri burgers ($3.99) that the Drinking Buddy ordered are probably the best value for the money. Sure, the buns and patties are probably the same as you'd find at Costco, but at two bucks a burger you can't go wrong.
A COUPLE OF pitchers later, we were well fed and fighting off the urge to order more $3 shots of Southern Comfort (it's one of the bar's perpetual house specials, I'm told) when I realized why Anasia didn't register in my head when thinking of someplace to go that evening.
It had been more than a year since I last stepped into the bar, but suddenly the memories came rushing back. It started out with having to wait way too long for my first drink of the night, and then being forced to rely on a grumpy server who tried to overcharge us when it came time to settle our bill. I left with a bitter taste in my mouth, and after discovering Ocean Sports Restaurant just down the street, I figured there wasn't a point in going back.
As it turns out, Ocean Sports closed down, and I ended up getting served at Anasia this time around by one of the more talented employees I've encountered while writing this column. The lovely Elsa made me forget all about my day at work and the bad experience I'd had during my last visit. For a couple of guys who just happened to drop in, she made us feel welcome from the moment we sat down until she stopped for a minute to say goodbye as we headed out.
And that's what turns customers into regulars -- treat them right, offer reasonably priced grinds and keep the beer cold. Anasia covered all its bases when I visited, and that's what will end up bringing me back here again, this time a lot sooner rather than later.
How much for a Bud Light? The Barfly and his Drinking Buddy drank $5 pitchers of Bud Light during our visit. Domestic bottles are available for $2 each, with Corona and Heineken at $3 a bottle and 21-ounce bottles of Kirin for $4.
Get things to do? In addition to the pool tables and dart machines at Anasia, there's also karaoke and a couple of video games. Feeling athletic after a couple of beers? Try the basketball game near the front door.
What about the grinds? You can't go wrong with the menu at this place -- the garlic steak ($9.95) I ordered wasn't as fatty a cut as I've found at other places, and they've even got a loco moco ($6.50) on the menu.
And the help? Not only was our server easy on the eyes, but she was efficient without hovering over our table. From the time she politely asked to see our I.D.s when we sat down, to her willingness to answer our silly questions, Elsa made us feel welcome and helped to redeem this place after a bad experience on an earlier visit.
See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.