Jason Genegabus

Late delight

COUNT this columnist as one of many who were disappointed when Denny's closed its location at the end of Waikiki last summer.

In a city with limited late-night dining options, the restaurant overlooking Kuhio Beach was popular with clubbing types who wanted to get a bite to eat before heading home.

And since it occupied such prime real estate, I was convinced that whatever replaced Denny's would be marketed toward upscale tourists willing to pay higher prices, and not local residents more concerned with value.

Lulu's Waikiki Surf Club
Hours: Open 24 hours
Location: 2586 Kalakaua Ave.
(Corner of Kalakaua and Kapahulu)
Phone: 926-5222


AS IT turns out, I was partially correct.

Lulu's Waikiki Surf Club does go after visitors who have no problems shelling out big bucks for food and drinks, but they've also made it attractive for night owls by staying open 24 hours a day and serving alcohol until 4 a.m.

Walk up those familiar stairs on the Kapahulu side of the building, and the first thing you'll notice about Lulu's is the addition of a full bar with about 20 barstools on the mauka side of the room. Another half dozen high tables are positioned for customers who want to order a cocktail while watching one of the six 32-inch televisions over the bar.

The rest of the room contains restaurant-style seating, with beautifully decorated tables that share the Lulu's logo and a map of the Hawaiian Islands. And while this place retains the open-air atmosphere that Denny's had, the numerous ceiling fans now in place keep things nice and cool no matter how warm it is outside.

Want a view of the ocean while you sip a Mai Tai? Skip the regular table seating and grab a chair overlooking the water. Six more televisions are built into the wall above the makai side of the room, so all you have to do is look up in order to keep track of whatever sporting event happens to be on that day.

Olga Brandao, left, holds a beer in Lulu's Waikiki Surf Club's signature glass (that you get to keep) and a Big Lush LuLu's Lava Flow while manager Max Watts holds two of their popular pupu dishes, Black & Blue Ahi and Fried Won Tons. The bar took over the spot that Denny's used to house.

ALONG WITH the attention to detail that Lulu's has given to its decor, it's obvious that management wants to keep their alcohol-drinking customers happy when they visit.

Sure, it's impressive to see all those beer company logos on everything from surfboards to clocks (there are even Pacifico and Corona advertisements plastered on the ceiling here), and I got a kick out of the "autographed" celebrity photos that plaster the walls.

Hula girl dolls are also glued to the ceiling between the ads, and a mix of pufferfish and grass skirt-style lamps add to the overall vibe.

But pick up a menu, and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the variety of bottled and draft beer available. Lulu's pours all the standards, and you can get a pint of Guinness ($6), Kona Big Wave Ale ($4.50), Widmer Hefeweizen ($4.50) or select Gordon Biersch, Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada brews ($4.50 each).

Stick with bottles, and you've got options like Beck's Dark ($4.25), Bohemia ($4.25), Hinano ($4.25), Red Stripe ($4.25) and even Pabst Blue Ribbon ($4.25). Want something frozen? Lulu's Lava Flow tops the list of standards, which cost anywhere from $6 for a 10-ounce cup to $13.99 for a special coconut souvenir glass.

I'm also a fan of the various specialty drinks here, like the Girls Gone Wild ($8.50) with its mix of mango rum and iced tea. Show Me the Melons ($5.75) is another favorite, a watermelon concoction that tastes like a liquid Jolly Rancher going down.

BESIDES LIVE sporting events, Lulu's also offers $5 martini specials and $5 pupus on Saturday nights, with the Sounds of Brazil performing from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. DJs spin tunes on Thursday, Friday and Sunday evenings.

I've been here a number of times since the restaurant first opened in November, and recommend it if you're looking for someplace new to try before heading over to the recently opened Maharaja Ultra Lounge and "Club 25" at Sansei. Just keep in mind that you will pay Waikiki prices here, and the place tends to get crowded with tourists in the afternoons and at dinner time.

But roll through after 2 a.m. and you'll have no problem ordering a nightcap, getting some food and catching up with all the sports headlines on ESPN.

Not a bad way to finish the evening, if you ask me.

How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly upgraded to bottles of Red Stripe ($4.25) at Lulu's earlier this week. Pitchers aren't available, so ordering draft pints can get kind of expensive at $4.50 per glass.

Get things to do?
Take the time and look around while you're here -- I spotted pictures of Bill Paxton, Chris Farley, Johnny Carson, Clint Eastwood and even Buckwheat on the walls during my most recent visit, and the bathrooms are pretty cool too (everything is hands-free and operated by sensors). An upstairs performance space will also open in a few months.

What about the grinds?
The Tiger Eye Sushi ($11.95), Black-N-Blue Ahi ($10.95) and Prime Rib Pupu ($10.95) are the best of the pupu choices; order a Magnum P.I. (bacon, cheddar cheese and guacamole; $8.95) or Bearded Lady (Maui onion rings, bleu cheese, salsa and jalapenos; $8.95) burger if you're looking for something a little more affordable. A variety of pasta and seafood dishes are also available ($15.95 to $19.95), and a full breakfast menu is served from 2 to 11 a.m. daily.

And the help?
Lulu's makes the claim of "Red Carpet Service at Shag Rug Prices" on its menu, but I've yet to be treated like a VIP after a number of visits at different times of the day both during the week and on weekends. Service is hit or miss, depending on where you sit and who is working that particular day.

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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