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Feb 28, 2009 11:06 AM

Review: Kahuna's Tiki Bar & Grill: The Hawaiian Hooters

Kahuna's Tiki Bar & Grill
6301 W. Parmer Lane
(Plaza w/Chipotle's and Little Woodrow's)

Living in NW Austin, there aren't a lot of non-chain options.
So, I get a little giddy when I see something in the Hardhat Report thread or notice construction when I'm out and about.
But, sadly, a lot of restauranteurs are letting us uptown girls and boys down (see the thread on the Los Reyes Mexican Grill opening).
And, most of you beat me to the punch of reviewing a place, so here goes with my first attempt!

It didn't bode well that I called ahead to ask for a menu faxed to my office, so that my co-workers and I could make lunch plans.
The person who answered the phone said she didn't know how to use the fax, so she would email it to me...and it never came.
Oh well, I thought, I'll try it anyway.

The place:
This is in the old Curra Long Bar's location.
And while their service was horrendous, and certainly contributed to its demise, it was still really nice to have a place nearby where I could get some tacos and a marg.

The space is almost the same, except for the Tiki decor, which consists of some straw skirts tacked about and some pseudo-Polynesian masks.
There are a LOT of flat screens all over the place, and it was kinda giving me ADD because they were all tuned to Extreme sports.
It was extremely loud, and very cheezy hard rock was pumpin' (David Lee Roth, anyone?).
The hard rock was pretty funny, considering that it was doubtful any of the waitstaff were born yet when it was recorded.

The staff:
They clearly recruited from McNeil High School up the street, because all of the wait staff were barely pubescent pretty young things.
The exception was one dude, in cargo shorts, who was too busy hitting on all the short-short girls to do much of anything.
There was a guy with a huge gut camped out at a corner table, who I can only assume was the manager or owner. I say this because there were several girls sitting with him and chatting, including my server, who was too busy re-applying lip gloss and black eyeliner to notice that the hostess had seated me.
The really funny part is that there are about 5 or 7 Latino guys in the kitchen, standing at the counter and watching everyone, while this other guy stands around in full-on chef-ware.
Like this place needs an Executive Chef or something.

Speaking of shorts... Who wears short-shorts? Kahuna girls wear short-shorts!
he girls were wearing what can only be described as khaki hot pants.
They were the shortest shorts I have seen in a restaurant, ever.
And the rest of the uniform consists of little midriff-baring tanks.

It made me really uncomfortable.

The meal:
The menu is actually a laminated placemat, which I didn't realize at first.
The fare consists of the typical burgers and tacos type stuff that is so common here in Austin.
I was confused by the $13 rib app, as the price point exceeds the entrees.
That is just an odd thing to do.

They have a Happy Hour M-F 4-7, which is just $3 drinks (wells, margs & beer).
Even though they have been open for over a week, they still don't have their frozen margarita machine.
I had ordered one, but then was informed of this later and had to go with a marg on the rocks.
Apparently, they never heard of a blender, but I digress.
The drink was pretty watery, so I ended up needing to have 2, whereas a well-made single drink would have normally done it for me.
Since they were only $3 a pop, I guess I can't complain too much.

After deciding on fish tacos (tilapia breaded with panko, served with shredded cabbage, pico, chipotle ranch on corn tortillas, $8.95), my waitress gushed that they were her favorite.
Pet peeve alert: restaurants, do not specify that your dish is made with certain ingredients when it is not!
The tilapia had regular unseasoned breadcrumbs, more akin to a chicken parm than a fish taco.
The corn tortillas were much too small for the tacos, so they doubled them up.
It was so impossible to eat, I had to use my knife and fork, which made me look way daintier than I really am.
They were just okay.
The fish was very hot, which is the nicest thing I can say.

It took my server so long to come back to me that my marg had already turned into "second drink (The Office reference, haha).
I was still REALLY hungry but decided it was best to leave.

All in all, I am not sure I will be back.
I do like to give places a few tries, but I'm going to have to wait a bit 'til they work out the kinks.

They need to decide if they want to be a restaurant, or a place where former frat boys congregate to look at underage eye candy while drinking $3 bud lights.

Convenient location
Happy Hour drink specials
Full bar

Off-putting over-sexualized wait-staff
Weak drinks
So-so food

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  1. Dina, I'm sorry you didn't like it more, but that was a really entertaining review! ... "apparently they never heard of a blender"... loved it!

    1. I went there with a friend on Saturday around lunch time. The big-gut manager/owner guy that you described was kind enough to change one of the TV's to a basketball game we wanted to watch. Beyond that though, the rest of the experience was pretty bad. Our waitress felt the need to actually sit at our table with us and talk to us, even though we were making it pretty apparent that we didn't want to chit chat with a high school girl. We ordered wings and onion rings. The wings were the crappy soggy-breaded kind, a la Hooters, and the onion rings sat in the deep fryer for about twice as long as they should have. Pretty disgusting meal overall. Our experience was pretty comparable to the OP's.

      1. Kahuna's Tiki Bar & Grill. You say Tiki Bar and I think Mai Tai's, Pina Coladas, Hawaiian music. Tiki Bars were a Thing in the 50's and 60's and I kind of expect a strong retro vibe. Tiki Bars have a kind of style, ala Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London." ("I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vics./His hair was perfect.") My husband used to play in a surf band, so when Kahuna's opened near us, he was eager to try it out.

        There are surf boards, and a kind of beachy decor. There are also a dozen TVs on tuned to an Xtreme sports channel where young guys were doing very not-retro things on motorcycles. The music was "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues which is a whole different kind of retro. Not one drink in a coconut shell. Not even a drink with a paper parasol.

        The place was not even half full, but with a concrete floor, hard walls and tables, and lots of TVs, the sound level was high. The menu is mostly bar food, although they advertise a Kalua flavored pulled pork sandwich. We weren't ready to order right away, as we were deep in study of the laminated placemat which serves as a menu. It has numerous corrections--which are done by covering the original in a white sticker sort of like the ones they used to use in grocery stores. The waitress said she'd be back and eventually she was. She was very young, very nice, and really rather clueless. Many young girls in shorts and Kahuna toshirts and sneakers wandered around although not many seemed to actually do much.

        My husband ordered a grilled tuna sandwich with a ginger wasabi sauce. I ordered an Island burger which is a hamburger with American cheese and lettuce, tomato and pickle. I had to get her attention back to say i wanted the onion rings instead of fries. It just never occurred to her to ask, 'Did I want mayo? Fries or onion rings?' I did ask for mayo on the side.

        My husband liked the sauce with his grilled tuna sandwich, but the bun was Wonder Bread (yet another kind of retro.)The burger was fine, not great, not awful, also served on wonder bread. It came without mayo, but they just turned to the guys in the kitchen and asked for mayo and it was up right away.

        A Tiki Bar is supposed to be a bit of an experience. Kahuna's Tiki Bar & Grill is a surf themed sports bar with mediocre bar food and a nice but young and indifferently managed staff. The happy hour drinks are cheap and if you want to spend an hour sitting at a bar watching surfers or snowboarders, drinking a $3.00 drink, it's probably okay. But if I were a werewolf, I'd never be seen there.

        1. We popped into Kahunas on Sunday during the Grand Opening. I tasted the kalua (sp?) pork sliders and conch fritters (which they passed out to everyone) and a pulled pork taco. Loved the pork sliders--great flavor, just the right amount of bbq sauce and a pickle on sweet hawaiian type roll. I thought the flavors were great--and actually ate 4 of them by myself--which frankly, filled me up. So I tasted the conch fritter w/ a spicy mayo sauce. Liked that too--but would probably get the pork sliders first. Then ordered dinner and managed to eat a few bites of the pulled pork taco. Again, great meat--juicy and good flavors. I'd order it again when I was hungrier. My SO got the fish tacos and liked them too--said the fish was well cooked and moist--not dry. As for the waitstaff, well, yeah, they are young and wear short shorts, but I don't find it as overt as hooters or bone daddy's. Our waitress at the table was very attentive and sweet--and even split up the bill for our group by individual order (which was nice) and got it right (which, in my experience, is amazing). They also had a surf band playing--and they were wearing mexican wrestling masks. Fun, funky surf music--had a great vibe. We'd go back, listen to music and eat those pork sliders!