Jason Genegabus

Friday, March 5, 2004

‘On Stage’ starts off nicely

WHEN I used to live in an apartment near Kaimuki High School, every once in a while I would grab a beer out of the fridge and just sit on my lanai, watching cars pass by on Date Street nine floors below me.

Earlier this week, I could definitely feel a sense of deja vu as I relaxed just down the street from my old place at On Stage Drinks and Grinds. Today marks three months since the bar opened on the corner of Kapahulu and Winam avenues, and new owner Dave Young is doing a good job of erasing the bad memories some area residents have of prior management here -- the Barfly included.

On Stage Drinks and Grinds
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through
Saturdays; 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays
Location: 802 Kapahulu Ave. (On the corner
of Winam and Kapahulu)
Phone: 738-0004


FORMERLY known as Rose's Sports Bar and Restaurant, this establishment was a joke back when I reviewed it for the Star-Bulletin in May of last year.

With only one television in the room, draft beer that tasted more like dirty bathwater and service that could only be described as pathetic, it was no surprise that repeat customers were non-existent in the months that Rose's stayed open.

While the space that houses On Stage Drinks and Grinds hasn't undergone much change (about eight barstools and nine tables are available to provide seating, by my count), Young's approach to running his bar is what redeems the location and makes it worth another chance. Your first clue to his mindset lies in the name of the place -- gone is the emphasis on sports, replaced by a focus on live entertainment.

A musician himself, Young knows what it's like to be in a band that has no place to perform. So he offers an open mic on Monday and Tuesday nights, with a set of house bongo drums and a house guitar for people to use.

The rest of the week is dedicated to different genres of music, with live jazz on Wednesdays, DJs Kee and Bless in the mix on Thursdays, various live bands on Fridays and Saturdays, and local boy John Cruz on Sundays. Be sure to call the bar for an updated entertainment schedule before you go.

Chuck White and Sole enjoy the ambiance at On Stage Drinks and Grinds on Kapahulu Avenue Tuesday.

ANOTHER NICE touch is the addition of vinyl album covers from classic artists from the '70s and '80s on the walls of On Stage. Over five dozen different covers are up there, including albums by Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Steely Dan, Billy Idol, Poison, Hall and Oates, Chicago and Chaka Khan.

It was also pretty cool to see the Beamer brothers, Cecilio and Kapono and the Sunday Manoa up on the walls, and my drinking partner flipped a little when he saw one of his all-time favorite albums up there -- "Worlds Away," by Pablo Cruise. All the covers are from Young's personal collection, which he had amassed over the years and had been collecting dust at home.

Four dart machines, karaoke, a Megatouch game and a pool table round things out here, and I'm happy to report that Young has added a big screen to the smaller television that sits above a corner of the bar. Although he took a few minutes to "sing for his dinner," there wasn't anyone else there to take advantage of the open mic, so it was nice to have a basketball game to watch instead.

AS MY friend proceeded to run the pool table for over an hour at On Stage, I sat back in my seat at a nearby table with my beer and took it all in. Most of the customer base here is from the surrounding houses and apartments on Winam Avenue, so there's a set of regulars that seem to get VIP treatment. But that's to be expected, especially if they're the ones keeping Young in business.

Watching the traffic flow down Kapahulu, I thought about the other problem people from outside the immediate area might run into -- parking. There's a lot across the street at Go Banana's that you can use after 7 p.m. daily, but a limited number of spaces means that, on a busy night, you might be forced to look for a spot on side streets in the area. Not good.

For the time being, however, parking is a breeze in that free lot, and TheBus runs along Kapahulu Avenue along with the Kaimuki Trolley for those who can't find a designated driver.

How much for a Bud Light?
Draft pints go for $2.50 at On Stage Drinks and Grinds; get there between 4 and 7 p.m. and you'll score a happy hour discount. Unfortunately, pitchers aren't available -- something you might not notice if you're there by yourself, but go with a group of friends and you'll understand the need for them.

Get things to do?
Although the pool table had everyone's attention when the Barfly visited this week, live entertainment is what Young wants his bar to be known for. My picks for the best nights to visit would be Thursdays with DJs Kee and Bless, and Sundays with John Cruz. The Dave Young Band is scheduled to play tomorrow night, starting at 10 p.m.

What about the grinds?
If Rose's Sports Bar and Restaurant had one thing over On Stage Drinks and Grinds, it would be the free pupus that were served as soon as we sat down and ordered our drinks. The menu these days is listed on a dry-erase board near the bar, with choices like shrimp tempura, jumbo garlic shrimp, garlic mussels and chicken wings available for $8 each. Soybeans, french fries and fried mondoo will cost you $5 each. The rib eye steak ($10) we ordered was seasoned well, but there was way too much fat that didn't get trimmed, and the extra dollar I paid for mushrooms should have been for fresh ones, not the canned variety!

And the help?
Young and his girlfriend are the only employees here, so service is spotty at times. Unless you're sitting at the bar, expect a bit of a wait for drinks and any food you get (especially if there are other orders before yours). I had no problems getting refills for the first couple rounds, but then I had to wait once a few regulars showed up and things got a little busier.

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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