Jason Genegabus

Spada has it all

GRABBING A drink in downtown Honolulu is a lot like making a trip into Waikiki for cocktails. Sure, there are a number of different choices in both neighborhoods, but things always get a bit sketchy when it comes to finding a place to park.

Do you spend an extra half-hour circling side streets in hopes of finding metered parking? Or do you shell out five bucks (or more, if you include the tip) to valet park your ride?

The decision is a lot easier if you're visiting Spada Bar and Restaurant, located on the ground floor of the First Hawaiian Bank Center, where free validated parking is available after 5 p.m.

And if the lure of free parking isn't enough, keep in mind that there are 10 different kinds of martinis on special for just $4 before 7 p.m.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays
Location: 999 Bishop St., Suite 150 (First Hawaiian Bank Center)
Phone: 538-3332


HEAD TO Spada around pau hana time, and you're likely to see all eight tables outside the restaurant filled with soldiers from downtown's Aloha Shirt Army.

Off to the left of the front entrance, the bar's 10 seats are usually occupied by the same crowd -- a slightly older, more affluent bunch than the trendy types who flock to Indigo. I'm also told that First Hawaiian Bank honcho Walter Dods is a regular guest, often arriving with friends to enjoy a few bottles of expensive wine at an upstairs table.

But you don't have to be raking in the big bucks to enjoy a drink here. Besides the $4 martinis during happy hour, beer prices are reasonable, and you won't find yourself paying too much more to enjoy high-end liquors.

The Finlandia Pink Kitty ($4.80) I ordered, for example, didn't set me back any more than it would at other bars in town. And with the size of the glass it came in, I wouldn't need more than two or three before getting a nice buzz.

Spada is also the first establishment that I've seen pour Armadale vodka, the brand owned by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. The Blueprint 2 ($6.72) is a mix of vodka, blue curacao and pineapple juice, and got extremely high marks from a friend I brought with me during a visit last week.

Other selections off the extensive martini list that caught my eye include the Bacardi O Purple Haze, a mix of rum, lemonade, grenadine and blue curacao, and the Sapphire Grass Skirt, with Bombay gin, triple sec, grenadine and pineapple juice. You'll have to return more than once just to try all the different drinks the bartenders serve here.

The Spada Bar and Restaurant in downtown Honolulu.

IT ALSO won't cost you a lot to get pupus to go with those drinks, or even some pasta or pizza if you've got a hearty appetite after a long day at work.

Stick with items like fried calamari ($6.95) or tuna carpaccio ($8.95) if you're looking for something small. Friends have also recommended the garlic clams ($8.95) here, although I didn't try them when I stopped by.

If you're dining with another person, the pizzas ($9.95) at Spada are big enough to share. Topping choices include pepperoni, chicken pesto, Italian sausage and BBQ chicken, or go for the mosaic vegetable pie if you want to take the slightly more healthy route.

Pasta dishes are another option, with items like fettuccine alfredo ($7.95) and house-made ravioli ($9.95) on the menu. Big spenders might want to try the linguine con vongole ($13.95), lamb shank ($15.95) or the fresh ahi ($17.95).

Chef Alfredo sets out a Pizza Prosciutto e Arugula and other gourmet pupus for from left, Chris Apo, Ross Uchida and Kevin Rickard.

SITTING AT the bar with a beer, it's pretty easy to forget there are two floors of dining tables behind you, especially after the dinner crowd begins to dissipate around 8 p.m.

With lots of metal and tiled surfaces, it feels a little like you're sitting at someone's kitchen counter instead of in a downtown bar. Just never mind the fact that there are more than 60 bottles of liquor on the shelves across from you, including 15 different varieties each of whiskey, scotch, tequila and rum.

While talking story with the bartender on duty that night, I learned that the busiest day of the week for Spada is Friday. Last week, the bar featured live entertainment by the Stewart Cunningham Jazz Duo, and they hope to expand entertainment offerings to other nights of the week.

More nightly entertainment could definitely be a good thing. Push back last call to 11 p.m. or midnight on certain nights and incorporate some of the same types of entertainment that nearby establishments offer, and Spada could easily become a favorite among those who live, work and party in the area.

Parking a problem? The Barfly stops off at a downtown watering hole where free validated parking is available after 5 p.m.

How much for a Bud Light?
The Barfly paid $3.95 for a 16-ounce Bud Light draft during a visit to Spada. Six taps service the bar and you also can get quality bottled beers such as Bass Ale, Guinness and Birra Moretti for $4.50 each. And don't forget about the lengthy martini list!

Get things to do?
Other than two big-screen plasma televisions, there isn't much else to do but enjoy your drinks and strike up a conversation with the bartender.

What about the grinds?
The pepperoni pizza ($9.95) is big enough for two people, with a thin crust that goes well with the different beers on tap. An order of penne pasta with meatballs ($8.95) arrived lukewarm, but was finished off pretty quickly nonetheless. A variety of salads ($6.95 to $12.95) and piadine sandwiches ($9.95 to $10.95) also are on the menu.

And the help?
There were only two other customers at the bar during our visit to Spada, so we had no problems ordering drinks or pupus from the bartender on duty.

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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