The Queen Bee rules
IT LOOKS like the third time is the charm for one Kakaako watering hole. After stints as Club Yokohama and Eagle Sports Bar, the establishment now known as Club Queen Bee has dropped the "buy-me-drinkee" sales pitch and gone straight.
Now I'm not going to knock Honolulu's various hostess bars because, just like nightclubs and strip bars, there are certain segments of the population who visit these places. To each his (or her) own, but I'd rather stick to a regular bar when it comes to grabbing a couple of beers and getting a bite to eat.
Club Queen Bee
Hours: 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Location: 747 Queen St.
(corner of Queen and Cooke)
WHAT CAUGHT my eye when I first walked into Club Queen Bee earlier this week was how much cleaner the bar looked, even though the layout of the joint was just about the same.
Gone are a couple of pool tables and television sets, but in their place are brand new booths, new carpeting and upgraded lighting fixtures. It's clear that money has been spent to upgrade the bar's appearance -- the interior there is now on par with the likes of King Street Cafe, Tsunami's and Detox.
The second thing I noticed when I walked into the bar? My favorite sushi chef, Grant Kawasaki from Sushi Supreme, is now working here, in addition to the restaurant he and his partner own on Bishop Street.
Not only can you order my all-time favorite kind of sushi, the Spicy Tuna Dynamite Roll ($12), from Kawasaki, but he also serves up a variety of other hand-rolled items such as the Caterpillar Roll ($12), the Shrimp Tempura Roll ($12), the Hawaii Five-0 Roll ($14) and even the L.A. Roll ($12). Traditional Maguro ($6.50), Hamachi ($6.50) and Tekkamaki ($4) are on the menu, too, and there are lots of items that come in the $4 to $6 dollar range, if you're on a budget.
THAT'S NOT to say that you should ignore the regular menu offerings by chef Ron Takara when you visit. Instead, I'd suggest not eating for a couple of hours before showing up, so you have enough room in your stomach for all the fantastic dishes that he makes.
With more than three decades of experience in the restaurant industry, including stints at the Ihilani Resort and Padovani's, Takara decided to join the staff at Club Queen Bee because he needed a break from the stress that comes with working in a corporate environment. At the bar, he can just relax and cook for his customers -- and boy, can this guy cook!
Although there are typical bar food items on the menu, like onion rings ($5), crinkle fries ($5), mozzarella sticks ($7) and buffalo wings ($8), be sure to look at the entire menu before deciding what to order.
The nachos ($8) my friend and I started off with were great, covered in bacon bits, sour cream, ground beef and everything else you would expect, but we were simply blown away by the furikake garlic chicken ($8) and sizzling steak platter with mushrooms and onions ($17) that came out of the kitchen a few minutes later.
And forget about that popular bar a few blocks away that charges an arm and a leg for a plate of pork chops -- the fried pork chops ($9) we tried at Club Queen Bee were just as tasty, and we got a generous serving for half the price!
FROM WHAT I've been told, this could be the bar's last stand under the current ownership. If Club Queen Bee doesn't gain a following this time around, there's a chance it will shut down for good. After getting the chance to visit, I can honestly say this place is worth supporting.
I wasn't a fan of Club Yokohama, and I was sincerely disappointed with Eagle Sports Bar, but Club Queen Bee seems to get it all right. The bar is holding a grand opening celebration Monday and Tuesday, where you can eat and drink all you want for just $20. I've already bought my ticket!
How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly drank $2.50 Bud Light bottles during his visit to Club Queen Bee. Show up before 7 p.m. and you can save 50 cents with the bar's happy hour prices.
Get things to do?
A half-dozen dart machines line the makai wall of the bar, and there are a number of private rooms available to sing karaoke. Television sets are also spread throughout the room, and a projection screen between the dart machines should be put to good use during football season later this year.
What about the grinds?
Unless you plan to come with a lot of friends, it'll take at least two or three visits to Club Queen Bee for you to try everything that's worth ordering. I'll be going back to try the shrimp fried rice ($10), fried udon ($8) and sizzling teriyaki pork ($9), and don't miss out on the skewers combo ($11) and bits and pieces combo ($10), either.
And the help?
I knew things would be better here from the moment we got our first beer of the night -- the two bottles brought to our table had napkins covering the necks! I can't remember the last time I saw that in a bar! We also had no problem ordering drinks, and I thought it was a nice touch for our server to bring over glasses of water while we were chowing down. I felt like I was taken care of, and that makes me want to go back for another visit.
See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend.
E-mail Jason Genegabus at email@example.com with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.