Jason Genegabus

Friday, June 10, 2005

Chili’s bar area is much
less than overwhelming

I'm still not entirely sure why Kahala (and most of East Honolulu, for that matter) is so barren when it comes to watering holes.

Chili's Grill and Bar

Location: 4211 Waialae Ave. (in Kahala Mall)

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Call: 738-5773

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Other than a handful of bars sprinkled along Waialae Avenue and a few restaurants near Koko Marina, there simply aren't that many options on this side of the island. The departure of Ye Olde Fox and Hounds a few months back was a staggering blow, forcing residents to drive even farther if they desired a true neighborhood bar environment.

These days, all that's left near Kahala Mall are national restaurant chains, sanitized versions of pau hana and last calls early enough to make you wonder if you're knocking them back at a retirement home. But I was in the area and had a few hours to kill, so I took a chance at Chili's Grill and Bar.

DRINKING AT Chili's is like taking a warm six-pack of Miller Lite to a picnic -- not exactly my idea of a good time, but it'll get the job done.

Based in Dallas, the restaurant chain boasts locations on the mainland in every state except Montana. And like a Big Mac tastes the same no matter which McDonald's you visit, I'm pretty sure the same goes for drinking a beer at Chili's.

A stand-alone bar is separated from the rest of the dining area by a row of booths, with the ceiling open to expose various pipes and air-conditioning ducts that snake around the room. Additional piping is used as a footrest along the bar, and corrugated metal hangs over a window facing the rest of the mall.

Four television sets hang from the walls, and all were tuned to the NBA playoffs when we visited last week. If that's not exciting enough, some seats at the bar offer a partially obstructed view of the kitchen area. If you're bored, the comments and antics by some employees in this area serve as quality entertainment in itself.

If you're itching for a drink on the east side, Chili's in Kahala Mall will do in a pinch if you're unwilling to head into town.

THE BIGGEST plus about drinking here has to be the emphasis on the variety of drinks offered to customers.

A dozen taps offer draft beers that aren't always available at other bars. Besides the standard Budweiser, Bud Light and Coors Light, you can also order a glass of Gordon Biersch Marzen, Heineken or Sam Adams' seasonal offering (in this case, Summer Ale).

Margarita fans are also in luck, with more than a dozen versions of the tequila-based cocktail available. Whether you prefer them made with top-shelf liquor, or blended to taste like strawberries, Chili's has you covered.

But the combination of bright lighting and a lack of any local personality gives this place a sterilized vibe.

Sure, after four or five drinks you'll be nice and lubricated. I couldn't shake the feeling, however, that I was missing out on something better by spinning my wheels here.

How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly paid $4.75 for a 23-ounce glass of draft beer at Chili's. And the Mandarin Blush ($5.50) we ordered, basically a Cape Cod with lemon-lime soda, was nice and strong.

Get things to do?
Other than watching one of the televisions above the bar, there isn't much to do here but watch the employees work -- not the best choice if you want to stay active while you drink.

What about the grinds?
Chili's shines when it comes to bar food. You can't go wrong with the Awesome Blossom ($7.49), a deep-fried onion served with special sauce. The Triple Play ($10.99), with an assortment of egg rolls, boneless buffalo wings and chicken crispers, is another winner. Salads, sandwiches and other entrees are also on the menu.

And the help?
The bartender on duty during our visit played a big part in keeping us there for more than just one drink. She was a pro at taking care of customers, stopping to talk story while keeping everyone's glasses filled.


Been there,
done that

Scores Bar and Grill
661 Auahi St.
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Scores is an oasis for the active drinker - Megatouch games, a pool table and a ton of dart machines provide hours of entertainment. I just wish they would offer food here.

Cheeseburger Waikiki
1945 Kalakaua Ave.
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Now's the time to visit Cheeseburger Waikiki, before the masses learn how easy it is to find parking and grind some ono burgers late at night. Don't sleep on this one!

Breakers Restaurant and Bar
66-250 Kam Highway
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One of the few bars with a surfing theme to use actual gear, not freebies from liquor sponsors. Beer isn't the cheapest, but it's worth a stop if you're cruising the North Shore.

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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