THE YEAR'S TOP PICKS
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Ladies pack the dance floor at SKYLiNE, a twice-monthly party at the Hanohano Room inside the Sheraton Waikiki. In addition to the standard $15 cover, VIP table and bottle service is available to those wanting to splurge on an evening out.
Good vibes define best in bars
Venus Lounge offers good food and fellowship to lead the Barfly's 2005 list
AS THIS YEAR winds down, it's time once again to list the Barfly's Top 5 Bars. We paid a visit to more than 40 watering holes in 2005, and here are the five best places (plus a few extra) we found to toss a few back with friends.
5. (TIE) O'Toole's Irish Pub (902 Nuuanu Ave., 536-4138) and Vino (Restaurant Row, 524-8466)
Although you won't find me in O'Toole's or Vino very often, both of these spots are solid choices for the crowds they cater to.
The Aloha Shirt Army reigns supreme at O'Toole's, although the crowd does skew a little younger than nearby Murphy's Bar and Grill. Its location in the historic T.R. Foster building and more than three decades of service to Honolulu's drinking public make it a must-visit, as does the nightly live entertainment.
At Vino, it's all about wine. Between the wine bar's wide selection and knowledgeable staff, there isn't a more comfortable place in town to both learn about and enjoy drinking adult grape juice.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Bartender Shannon Taguchi serves up a drink at Venus Lounge, located next to Venus Nightclub near Ala Moana Center. The bar doesn't close until 4 a.m.
4. Ryan's Grill (Ward Centre, 591-9132)
There's a reason why Ryan's Grill has been able to keep residents coming back again and again. Actually, there are three reasons.
First, it's in a central location with lots of free parking. Add in lots of drink choices (more than 70 cocktails and 100 bottled beers are available) and an extensive pupu menu, and it's easy to see why there are so many repeat customers.
Just be prepared to wait, especially if there are crowds -- service at Ryan's is notoriously slow when the restaurant is packed.
3. "SKYLiNE" at the Hanohano Room (Sheraton Waikiki, 922-4422)
As I said during my original review of "SKYLiNE" at the Hanohano Room: Every once in a while, it's a good idea to spend the night ballin' out of control.
Evidently, a lot of people agree with that statement. "SKYLiNE" has been a runaway success for the Sheraton Waikiki, as Honolulu's beautiful people line up every first and third Saturday for a chance to boogie on the top floor of the hotel.
While you can get by ordering drinks at the bar and standing around, the experience is much better if you reserve a VIP table. An elevated dining area turns into a exclusive lounge, complete with velvet ropes and bouncers in suits.
If the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on reserved seating and $300 for a bottle of liquor is a little daunting, consider a weeknight visit. Sit at the Cobalt Bar, order a $10 martini and enjoy the view of Diamond Head.
But if you have money to burn, there's no better way to spend a Saturday than at "SKYLiNE." Consider a warmup cocktail at John Dominis or the Lewers Lounge inside the Halekulani if you're want to keep the classy theme going throughout the night.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2004
The Mixers, from left, Art Suankum, Stan Garret and (not pictured) Steve Palmer, perform regularly at O'Toole's Irish Pub on Nuuanu Avenue. Live music is featured daily from 5 p.m.
2. (TIE) Skybox Sports Bar and Lounge (1700 Kapiolani Blvd., 956-1600) and E Lounge and Sports Bar (Kapalama Shopping Center, 841-7412)
There wasn't much separating the top two spots this year -- sports bars dominated the list of 42 bars we visited in 2005.
At Skybox, the appeal is lots of space to spread out and relax. I like how there is enough room between tables here to walk comfortably without having to worry about bumping into someone, or even worse, someone's pitcher of beer.
Four pool tables and nine dart machines complement the many television screens, and couches line the perimeter. Free parking is also available.
Kalihi residents are lucky to have E Lounge, which just opened in September. The former hostess bar has been remodeled into a neighborhood hangout with incredible pupu offerings. Just be sure to get there early in order to score a table, especially on the weekends and during football season.
1. Venus Lounge (1344 Kona St., 945-2686)
Despite strong competition from Skybox and E Lounge, this year's No. 1 pick is Venus Lounge. No matter if you're looking to party, cruise, grind or just hang out, this joint has you covered.
While not as spacious as nearby Skybox, Venus still offers lots to do. Sit along the Diamond Head wall and play Megatouch, or head to the opposite side of the room to throw darts. One corner houses the DJ booth, which is home to the likes of DJs Technique, Goodvybe and Elite.
What sets this place apart for me is its 4 a.m. closing time, close proximity to other nightspots and extensive food menu. No matter if it's my first stop of the night, or the last, I've always felt comfortable and taken care of when visiting Venus Lounge.
E-mail suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit to Jason Genegabus at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barfly appears every Friday in Star-Bulletin Weekend. E-mail Jason Genegabus at email@example.com
with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.