Jason Genegabus

Friday, August 27, 2004

Still on Chart

Location: 1765 Ala Moana (near the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor)
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Phone: 941-6669


AFTER 35 years in business, the Chart House Honolulu doesn't have to worry about advertising these days.

As one of the few watering holes in town that's remained virtually unchanged over the years, local residents, Hawaii ex-pats and tourists alike know where to go for a drink in an atmosphere that reminds you of decades past while still appealing to current customers.

IF YOU don't know the history of the Chart House Honolulu, the restaurant and lounge originally opened for business in 1969, eight years after local surfer Joey Cabell opened the first Chart House in Colorado with partner Buzzy Bent.

Although the Waikiki location has always been independently owned by Cabell, he later sold his interest in the mainland chain that now has 25 locations in 10 mainland states. There also used to be Chart House restaurants in Kaneohe, Haleiwa, Lahaina and Wailea, but they're all gone, with the last closing almost five years ago.

Once you walk through the restaurant's front entrance, go ahead and grab a barstool or table in the lounge area in front of you. All of the seating in this area is open, so you can either belly up to the bar or slide into one of the numerous booths around the room.

SINCE YOU'RE drinking in a tourist area, a scan of the menu turns up a number of fruity concoctions that you'd expect from a place like this.

Want to order a Chi Chi, Blue Hawaii or Pina Colada? Go ahead, they're all on the menu.

But take my advice and sample one of the house specials instead, like the Bloody Malia ($5.75), a Bloody Mary made with a homemade mix. Or try the Chopin Shave Ice ($6.75), made with Chopin vodka, raspberry and mango liqueurs and fresh cream. The menu calls it a trip to Matsumoto's -- for adults.

Other notables include the Chart House Pink Lemonade ($6.25) and a drink called Absolut-ly Nuts ($6.50), made with Absolut vodka, creme de banana and Frangelico. Just one of these had me feeling nice and toasty.

ONCE YOU'VE ordered something to sip on, sit back and soak in the vibe -- there was a nice mix of tourists and kamaaina in the lounge earlier this week, and everyone seemed pretty friendly.

Pick your seat right, and you'll have a good view of the television, people who walk into the lounge and the live entertainment. Almost all the seats on the makai side of the lounge will give you a nice view of the Ala Wai marina.

While prices are always higher in Waikiki, you've got a better chance at avoiding the crowd at Duke's or the kitsch of Tiki's by spending time at the Chart House. Keep this spot in mind the next time you're looking to impress an out-of-town guest.

How much for a Bud Light?

The Barfly drank $3.25 bottles of Bud Light during his visit to the Chart House. Two bucks more gets you a draft pint of either Samuel Adams or Fosters.

Get things to do?

A single television set hangs over one end of the bar, although there is also live entertainment in the lounge. Tino Berinobis, Dean and Dean, Emerald House and 2 Point 5 are among the entertainers that perform here nightly.

What about the grinds?

Get ready to spend some money if you're hungry -- the super prime rib sandwich ($16.50) was filling, but very overpriced. Other menu items include prime rib pupu ($29.95), Slavonic steak ($37.95), baby back ribs ($15.95) and pork chops ($12.95). Cheaper items are also available, and you can save even more by visiting during happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

And the help?

All the bartenders appear to have been with the Chart House for years, if not decades, so you can be sure they know what they're doing. A number of servers work in the lounge as well, so you never have to wait very long to get another drink.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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



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