Jason Genegabus

Friday, November 5, 2004

Smoke House has friends

THERE ARE few stretches of asphalt left in Waikiki that can claim to be on the road less traveled.

Tourists roam freely on the main drags of Kalakaua Boulevard and Kuhio Avenue, venturing out among numerous side streets and up Monsarrat Avenue towards Diamond Head.

But on Hobron Lane, at the other end of Waikiki, the majority of pedestrian traffic is local. Tourists will pass through the area in rental cars, but most of the time, it's because they've taken a wrong turn and just want to get back to Ala Moana Boulevard.

Da Smoke House
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to midnight daily
Location: 444 Hobron Lane (Eaton Square)
Phone: (808) 945-0233


WITH SUCH a high concentration of residential condominiums and timeshare rentals near Eaton Square, it's easy to see why Da Smoke House is popular among neighborhood regulars.

Located on the first floor of the complex next to the Food Pantry, the bar is comprised of a single room that faces the street.

Walk down a short set of stairs from the sidewalk, and you've got two choices upon entering. Take a left and grab one of seven barstools at the bar, or venture further inside to sit at one of about a half-dozen tables.

Memories of my childhood came rushing back when I first sat down here earlier this week. No, my parents didn't take me along when they went bar hopping -- the space that Da Smoke House occupies used to be part of the dining room for King's Bakery back in the day.

But instead of eating pancakes with a glass of orange juice and the comics page like I used to do a couple of decades ago, I was ordering a beer and looking over the menu of "country bar-b-que" that's been offered since the bar first opened here in 1998.

IT'S EASY to spend a lot of money on food here, but there are also a number of choices for those who want to save money for more drinks.

The rotisserie chicken ($11.95), beef brisket dinner ($15.95) and ribeye steak ($18.95) are among the most expensive items on the menu, and come served with a choice of two side dishes.

For those with a monster appetite, go for the combo platter ($27.95) served with two beef ribs, four pork ribs, a quarter of a rotisserie chicken and a hunk of ham steak. Slabs of BBQ chicken ($27.95) and ribs ($27.95) can be ordered as well.

Want something a little smaller? Go for a sandwich made with ham, chicken or beef. A ham and chicken club sandwich, saloon steak sandwich and old-fashioned cheeseburger will cost the same price here -- just $5.50.

ABOUT A dozen customers were in Da Smoke House when I visited earlier this week. Except for a couple of guys at the bar who appeared to be in their late 30s or early 40s, the majority of folks here looked like they were retirees.

Over the course of the next hour or so, only a few customers got up to leave as I sat with a friend in a corner booth. The bartender on duty seemed to know everyone, and she greeted newcomers by name with a broad smile while serving up their usual drink.

Topics of conversation in the bar that night ranged from who would win the football game on television to the type of medication one customer was taking. While some people were easily recognizable as "snow birds," part-time residents who live in Waikiki during the winter months, others appeared to be longtime kamaaina who were simply enjoying themselves at the neighborhood watering hole.

WHILE NOT necessarily the most exciting place to grab a drink, Da Smoke House helps to illustrate the diversity of bars that are located in Waikiki.

For tourists looking to experience the kitsch of fruity cocktails and tropical music, there are a number of other places further down Kalakaua that cater to those types of customers.

At the other end of the spectrum are the bars that cater to those who work and live in the area. They might not be the prettiest places, but they still pour the same liquor as the classy joints.

Da Smoke House might be a little off the beaten path for the tourist crowd, but it serves its regulars well with cold drinks, a comfortable place to sit and friendly faces to talk story with.

How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly drank a $3 bottle of Bud Light during his visit to Da Smoke House. Draft beer is also available here, but your choices are limited to Budweiser or Michelob Amber Bock.

Get things to do?
Three television sets are located throughout the bar, although only two of them were on earlier this week. A Golden Tee video game sits in one corner of the room, but it was unplugged as well. A piano sits covered on the Diamond Head side of the room, which is used on Friday and Saturday nights for live entertainment. If you're bored, be sure to check out the jukebox near the bar -- it appears to be one of those newer, Internet-capable machines that allow for a diverse selection of music.

What about the grinds?
Although there were about a dozen customers in the bar during our visit, it looked like we were the only ones eating food. Maybe we should have taken the regulars' lead -- the ribeye steak ($18.95) and pork spare ribs ($8.20 for a half order) weren't worth the Waikiki prices. And while you get two choices of side dishes with dinner items, be sure to stick with tried-and-true items like cole slaw or corn on the cob. The steamed rice I got was undercooked, and the potato mac salad tasted way too sour.

And the help?
After promptly greeting us and fetching our first drink of the night, our server spent most of her time taking care of regular customers when we visited. Although the room was small enough that waving her over wasn't really a problem, it would have been nice to be checked on before our glasses were empty, not after. As always, sitting at the bar will get you better service, especially in a place you're visiting for the very first time.

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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