Editor's Note: Barfly originally appeared from 2002 to 2006 as a weekly feature in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. It returns today on a monthly basis, with Star-Bulletin staff writer Jason Genegabus exploring the island's best bars and local cocktail culture every last weekend of the month here in HiLife.
Unless you live in urban Honolulu, there are relatively few options for those looking to knock a few back after midnight.
Most of the time, these bars perform double duty in their respective neighborhoods. Customers patronize them in waves, with distinctive crowds at lunch and pau hana, in addition to a nocturnal following that keeps the alcohol flowing until 2 (or even 4) o'clock in the morning.
Kailua residents have Boardriders Bar and Grill; Aiea residents have Chez Sports Bar and Grill, and the boonies of Wahiawa are well-served by Kemoo Farms. Now Hawaii Kai residents can get into the late-night act without having to drive into town, thanks to Therapy Sportsgrill at Koko Marina.
When Therapy opened for business three months ago, its owners thought they would only have to focus on people seeking a relaxing drink at the end of a long day.
"We started as a bar," acknowledged manager Brad Kitsu. "But the food took off so much that we've become more of a restaurant."
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jeanette Rhodes and Garrett Terry enjoy the pool table, one of a number of fun things to do at Therapy. There’s also Pop-A-Shot, dart machines and a jukebox.
Sharing a parking lot with retail shops and movie theaters helped introduce Therapy to the surrounding community. And once you get past the tinted front doors, a surprisingly spacious interior and extensive food and drink menu make it apparent this is an establishment geared toward repeat customers.
Walk inside, and about a dozen barstools offer the fastest way to get a drink. But there's more to see, so keep it moving toward the floor-to-ceiling windows across the room. Past the jukebox, Pop-A-Shot and dart machines, a number of booths and restaurant-style tables provide ample seating with an unobstructed view of Kuapa Pond.
That view extends all the way to where a pair of pool tables are set up, near the only bathrooms available in the bar. Flat-screen televisions line the walls here, so nearly every seat is a good one when it comes to watching your favorite sporting events.
According to Kitsu, customers at Therapy range from the college crowd to baby boomers and their families.
"A lot of people come to eat family dinners," he said. "We also get folks coming over for drinks after watching a movie across the street."
Weekends are the busiest, with a steady stream of customers throughout the day and night. Yet I never had a problem finding parking during multiple visits, and a recent Friday after midnight saw a comfortable crowd with a female-to-male ratio of at least 3 to 1.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@ STARBULLETIN.COM
Therapy Sports Grill in Hawaii Kai serves up an alluring Apple Martini cocktail.
People come dressed up on the weekends, too. Maybe they start at the clubs in town and migrate to Therapy for a nightcap – I'm not sure . An earlier, mid week visit saw customers in shorts and slippers, however, so don't worry about a dress code or getting sized up by fashion-conscious door staff.
Besides, you might want to wear comfortable clothes if you plan on eating. With six pages of everything from pupus and sandwiches to signature sushi rolls and chirashi, there's no shortage of options for the hungry.
There are lots of choices for drinks as well. The Barfly stuck to beer during his visits, but don't let that stop you from sampling one of 11 different "Therapy Martinis" or nine different "Twisted Cocktails," all priced at $6. Blended "After Dinner Therapy" drinks appeal to those who like their desserts in a glass, while tourists who wander in after a trip to Hanauma Bay will appreciate "Tropical Therapy" offerings similar to what they would find in Waikiki.
"We've been able to separate ourselves from the other places (around) here," said Kitsu. "We're not a barefoot bar, where you walk inside and be as loud as you want ... we just want people to be comfortable and enjoy themselves."
Location: Koko Marina Shopping Center
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
What did you drink?
Despite its low-budget stereotype, the Barfly stuck with pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($4) during multiple visits to Therapy. With more than 30 other beer choices, signature margaritas and mojitos, and 26 different specialty cocktails, there are lots of different "treatment options" to choose from.
Get things to do?
Pool tables, dart machines and a Pop-A-Shot provide drunken entertainment or distractions for the keiki, depending on the time of day (all ages are welcome until 10 p.m.). A jukebox and karaoke machine are set up as well, and touchscreen game machines are strategically located throughout.
What about the grinds?
Unless you bring a lot of friends and split the bill, eating can get pretty expensive at Therapy. The 12-ounce ribeye ($20) was enough for two people to share, as was the wasabi chicken ($10). But sushi rolls are the specialty here, with most of the two dozen offerings priced between $12 and $16. There are cheaper options, like the mushroom burger ($7.50), fried macaroni and cheese ($5.75), potato skins ($6.25) and loco moco ($7), for those who want to save their money for drinks, but don't cheat yourself!
And the service?
While servers were friendly and accomodating, they were hit-or-miss when it came to timing drinks. Visiting my table every five minutes doesn't accomplish much if you're not paying enough attention to be there at the most vital time -- when my glass is empty and in need of a refill!
Therapy Sportsgrill is the newest bar in Hawaii Kai, but it's quickly becoming known for more than just cocktails. Watch manager Brad Kitsu as he shares the steps involved in making Therapy's popular Super Therapy Roll.
Barfly appears every Friday in the Star-Bulletin WeekEnd section. Reach Jason Genegabus at email@example.com with suggestions of neighborhood bars to visit.