Despite the legendary stamp of Dale DeGroff on the menu (he created it), drinks are of the sweet, fruity variety, like the refreshing ginger lychee caipirissima ($12). More ambitious efforts like the Amante Picante ($12) -- tequila with cucumber, cilantro, green tabasco -- have the right idea but lack balance. All in the execution?
What is impressive is the bar's dessert menu. The ever-popular Halekulani coconut cake ($9) is ordered for weddings all over the islands, even from as far as LA. Adult gourmet versions of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches on ice are also available. One can always order from the spirits and wine lists and enjoy a sip of brandy and a slice of cake while taking in Tennyson Stephens and Rocky Holmes’ delightful jazz duo.
No, I am not recommending La Mariana Sailing Club for the drinks -- this write-up is a nod to the historical appeal and charm of a rundown but well-loved space. One of the last remaining kitschy tiki bars from the 1950′s, it can be an adventure just getting here.
Located way out on a harbor, you won't be sure you’ve found it even when you’ve arrived at the right spot. Park on the street near the "sailing club" sign, then walk around to the right side of the building and enter through the back along the water. Tiki decor and thatched roofs abound in a multi-room layout with open air patio.
The day after the Japanese tsunami hit Hawaii’s shores, I sat here with a pina colada watching boat owners pull their damaged sailboats out of the water. Crusty, sun-scorched sailors sipped mai tais and beers around me, comparing damage done to their boats.
If you go, be sure to read the story of owner Annette Nahinu on the menu. She’s the sort of local character that will make you fall in love with Honolulu and its colorful international history.
Note: I tried to make it to a new Honolulu hotspot that local bartenders recommended, Apartment 3, but couldn't make it there on a day when Kyle was bartending (Friday nights at the moment). I hear he’s a whiskey lover like myself, and I was sure he'd be another envelope-pushing bartender on this list.
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