Jason Genegabus

Fred Bauld of Haleiwa and Alison Tasaka of Honolulu enjoyed pupus and beers at The Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana Shopping Center.

All’s well alfresco
at Ala Moana

Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily
Location: Ala Moana Shopping Center
(3rd floor, near Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.)
Phone: 947-2900


LAST WEEK'S visit to La Mariana got me thinking about the tourist/kamaaina dynamic that occurs at some bars around town. A few readers had e-mailed me to wax nostalgic about the "good old days" when local folks would party in Waikiki right along with people visiting our islands for the first time.

And that made me wonder: Is there a place to go and mingle with folks you may have never imagined having a drink with? Aloha Tower Marketplace immediately comes to mind, but most of those places are restaurants with limited bar space. Tiki's in Waikiki also seems like an option, but parking can be a pain if you don't feel like tipping the valet guys at the hotel when you leave.

Instead of Aloha Tower or Waikiki, why not head over to Ala Moana Shopping Center for a few drinks at the Mai Tai Bar? Parking is never a problem, and this place opens every day at 11 a.m. to accommodate the lunchtime rush and those of us who might need to stop and take the edge off in the middle of the afternoon.

Being housed in Hawaii's biggest shopping center helps the Mai Tai Bar to attract a wide variety of customers to the open-air establishment. Depending on the time of day you visit, locals ranging in age from their mid-20s to upwards of 50 or 60 years old lounge at the barstools and various couches that are spread throughout.

A few tables away from us, Japanese tourists sat together sipping on frozen fruity cocktails, comparing their sunburns and giggling at each other. Over at the bar, a group of what looked to be conventioneers were sharing a pitcher of beer and yelling at an instant replay being shown on television. If you're into people-watching while knocking back a few, the Mai Tai Bar usually offers an interesting mix of patrons from the United States and around the world.

But make sure your timing is right if making a trip over to the shopping center -- happy hour at the bar is from 8 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 4 to 11 p.m. on Sundays. If you want to get blasted on a budget, get down there during happy hour for $5 pitchers and half-priced cocktails. My guilty pleasure every time I visit here is the Lava Flow, a blended mix of fresh pineapple, platinum rum, coconut and strawberry. And they taste even better during happy hour, when the price drops from $6 to just $3.

Live entertainment is a staple at the Mai Tai Bar as well. You can expect more than just music off a jukebox on Monday through Saturday nights from 9:30 p.m. until closing; on Tuesday through Thursday afternoons from 4 to 7 p.m.; on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.; on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.; and on Sunday nights from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Call the bar for a current entertainment schedule.

With no cover and a relaxed atmosphere, you won't be making a mistake by stopping for a few at Ala Moana Shopping Center's Mai Tai Bar. Whether it's a Sunday afternoon sipping Mai Tais and listening to slack-key guitar, or Friday night skanking along with a Heineken, check this place out for an enjoyable time with an interesting mix of people from all walks of life.

How much for a Bud Light?

The Barfly drank $9 pitchers of Bud Light during our visit to the Mai Tai Bar. During happy hour, the price drops to $5, so plan your visit accordingly if beer prices are an issue. A variety of premium drinks are also on the menu and are worth a try; most are priced at $6 and are half-off during happy hour.

Get things to do?

A few televisions are spread throughout the bar area, but you won't be able to hear what's going on if music is playing over the speakers. Live entertainment is also scheduled seven days a week.

What about the grinds?

The Barfly tried the coconut shrimp ($7.95) and chicken chinois ($6.50) and wasn't disappointed; other menu items include spinach and artichoke dip ($4.95), charbroiled mahi mahi sandwich ($7.95) and shrimp and sausage quesadilla ($8.50). The garlic bread bruschetta ($5.50) is another menu item worth trying.

And the help?

More than enough servers were on duty at the Mai Tai Bar when the Barfly landed, making it very easy to get a drink when we arrived. (The servers are easy on the eyes, too.) Pupu menus are readily available, and we even got a bowl of Maui-style potato chips to munch on while waiting for our drinks.

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


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