Cocktails on Oahu??
Leaving for our first visit to Oahu(been to Maui) this Sunday for a week. Looking for any and all recommendations on great places to have a drink/appetizer/people watch that wouldn't necessarily be found in the guide books.
We love out of the way or unique places with local flavor or must do spots with great food/ambiance.
Any locals with hot inside tips would be especially appreciated.
We go to Murphy's Pub quite a bit (I think it's on Smith Street bordering Chinatown) for yummy food and drinks. The Yardhouse in Waikiki has delicious cocktails, but is definitely a party atmosphere, and can be a wait for a table, plus the food is just so-so. Mai Tai Bar at Ala Moana is ALWAYS fun.
I don't exactly hang out in mainstream bars... but you should consider a few of the following:
Indigo - the green room lounge. Nuuanu St. Downtown. Li-hing-mui martinis. Not my thing, but quite popular. There are a couple of other newer places downtown, but I dont know them.
Aloha Tower Marketplace: There is always music at one or two of the placed down there. Especially consider Chais (real good fusion food) and Gordon Biersch, yeah its a chain, but a fun place to hang out.
Restaurant Row: Forget about it any more...
Ward Centers: Nothing really special but some things are not bad. E&O is good, but its a chain, same with Kinkaids. Ryans Grill still does an OK business, and Kakaako Kitchen is good for eats, but no drinks.
Ala Moana Center: The Mai Tai Bar on the upper level is pretty happening after work. There are a few "upscale" chains on the same level. Good mix of tourist and local. Pearl has a mixed reputation.
Waikiki: The popular places now are Tiki's and Dukes (great for beachside pau-hana sunset). It's not local, but Sunset on the terrace at the Halekulani is truly special. Do it at least once. The Banyan court at the Moana is also pretty good. For good pupus and drinks, the bar at the new otani/kaimana beach hotel is good, and out of the way for waikiki. They have music most of the time in the after work hours.
hope this helps
I'd also add the House Without a Key at the Halekulani. Just get there a tad early - seems they open at 5:30PM, but check for this time of the year - and grab a couple of lounge chairs and a little table. Since I'm a wino, I do not know how the cocktails are, but the music is great, the venue is great and the people-watching is great, as well. For their full dining, I was far less impressed.
PS. their wine list is very weak!
Try one of the Big City Diners. Nice casual local hangout. Been to the one in Kailua which is kind of 50s retro. The one in the Kaimuki location is quite homie. The other one in Ala Moana is little more upscale in my opinion but nice. Try their guava BBQ babyback ribs and deep fried calamari. Or if you feel adventurous, try their kim chee fried rice...