Jason Genegabus

Friday, May 7, 2004

Fridays has a familiar feel

IT SURE didn't feel like a Friday night, but a stop at TGI Fridays earlier this week helped show me why neighborhood watering holes will always have a place among Honolulu's drinking crowd.

Walk into the restaurant, and you're likely to see the same faces at the same tables almost every evening. A number of high-rise apartment buildings are located in the immediate area, so residents often walk over for a bite to eat and a few drinks before staggering back home.

While one table might be occupied by law students discussing an upcoming assign- ment, you'll also spot retired couples dining together here, professionals in their 30s and 40s knocking a few back with co-workers at the bar, and even a few recent guests of the Honolulu Police Department, just released from the cell block down the street.

TGI Fridays
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays;
11 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Location: 950 Ward Ave.
(Corner of South King Street
and Ward Avenue)
Phone: 524-8443


WITH APPROXIMATELY two dozen barstools and a television set hanging in each corner, the bar serves as a centerpiece for the dining room at TGI Fridays.

Just tell the host or hostess who greets you that you're going to have a few drinks, and you're home free. The barstools aren't the most comfortable, but luckily there is a rail for you to rest your feet on while you're seated.

Lots of wood and stained glass help to provide a "Cheers"-like atmosphere here, and the slightly-dimmed lighting makes it feel more like a bar and less like a restaurant, especially after most of the sit-down crowd stops showing up around 10 p.m.

The only time you're likely to see a lot of customers at this place is when there's a performance at the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall across the street. Otherwise, it's a good bet there will always be a seat waiting for you if you decide to stop by.

FOOD SELECTIONS aren't that bad here either, and you'll find that prices tend to be the same as other bars in town. At the same time, order something like the Jack Daniels Chicken ($11.99) or sirloin steak ($10.99), and you'll get sides to go with your food -- a pleasant surprise if you're used to paying those kind of prices for just an entree without anything on the side.

A variety of salads ($7.49 to $8.99), burgers ($6.89 to $7.49) and pastas ($11.49 and up) are also on the menu, and don't forget about bar favorites like buffalo wings ($6.89), pot stickers ($6.89), Tuscan spinach dip ($6.89) and potato skins ($7.29), if you'd rather snack on a number of dishes instead of focusing on just one.

THE BIGGEST problem I had during my stop didn't have anything to do with the beer I was drinking, or the guy pouring it on the other side of the bar.

As is often the case while knocking a few back at a restaurant, there is simply nothing to do if you're not into whatever is on television.

Without live entertainment, Megatouch machines or any of the other standard distractions available at other establishments, TGI Fridays gets old real fast if you don't have friends along with you who can make up for the lack of things to do.

But if you live in the area, or have turned into a regular after visiting a number of times, this shouldn't be much of an issue. Of the dozen customers I watched belly up to the bar, I was the only one who didn't seem to know the staff on duty. And once things slowed down a bit, the bartender working that night took the time to introduce himself and talk story while cleaning up for the night.

How much for a Bud Light?
It is possible to get a Bud Light here, but the Barfly decided to go for quality this week, opting for a $4 draft of Killian's Irish Red. Fifteen taps service the bar here, dispensing brews like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Heineken, Newcastle, Sam Adams, Budweiser and Coors Light. For the budget conscious, order a Miller Lite draft -- they're just $2 all day, every day of the week!

Get things to do?
Other than watch television or talk story with the customer sitting next to you, there's not much else to do at TGI Fridays while having something to drink. One easy fix would be to add a Megatouch machine or two at the bar area, or possibly a jukebox for use after the dinner crowd fades away later in the evening.

What about the grinds?
Both the chicken quesadilla ($8.69) and French dip ($8.29) the Barfly ordered were tasty, although the portions seemed a bit small compared to other bars in town. If you're a Jack Daniels fan, be sure to try the Jack Daniels salmon ($13.99), steak ($18.99) or glazed ribs ($16.99). All come with a side of Jack Daniels dipping sauce, and I've heard nothing but positive comments from anyone who's ever ordered the dishes. The chicken capri ($11.99) and shrimp marinara ($12.49) are also worth a try, as are the chargrilled beef fajitas ($12.49).

And the help?
Sitting at the bar in almost any watering hole guarantees you prompt service, and things were no different at TGI Fridays. Rex, the bartender on duty earlier this week when the Barfly visited, was quick to refill an empty glass and made sure there were enough plates and napkins to deal with once my food was brought out from the kitchen. Although he didn't really do anything special, Rex covered all the bases that night trying to make sure his customers stayed happy.

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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