Dan Ito's Guide to Pau Hana
Blog by Daniel Ito - Photos by Austin Kino
What they call “Happy Hour” on the mainland, we call “Pau Hana” in Hawai‘i. “Pau” means “done” and “hana” means “work” in the Hawaiian language. So when Iʻm done with the 9 to 5 that means itʻs time to have a beverage. My day job as the digital media director at Hawaii Business magazine has me stationed in the epicenter of Hawai‘iʻs business community, Downtown Honolulu. So when it’s Aloha Friday my “Pau Hana” starts at downtown’s classiest bar: Bar Leather Apron.
Address: 745 Fort Street Mall Suite #127 Honolulu, HI 96813
There is something magical about a great, handcrafted cocktail. When done properly the alchemy of premium alcohol and ingredients make an intoxicating concoction. Combine this with an enchanting atmosphere of muted-lighting, exotic wood furniture and intimate seating for only 25-30 people, and you have the magic of Bar Leather Apron.
The magicians behind this craft cocktail destination in downtown Honolulu are Justin Park and Tom Park. Despite having the same last name they are not related, but both bring the experiences of their travels around the world and a mutual desire to make Bar Leather Apron a world-class and unique experience. The first cocktail I usually order is their signature drink, the BLA Ol Fashion. Itʻs still the best Ol Fashion Iʻve ever had!
The handcrafted cocktails at Bar Leather Apron are delicious and strong so I usually downshift to beer because a good Pau Hana is a marathon and not a 40-yard dash. I like to head to Kaka‘ako, which historically has a great craft beer scene. One of my favorite watering holes in this zone is Village Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, affectionately known as Village Beer to the locals.
Address: 675 Auahi Street Honolulu, HI 96813
This is Honolulu’s first bottle shop and tasting room, and features over 500 carefully curated beers. I’ll usually ask Village Beer co-founder and fellow journalist, Timothy Golden, what is the latest local brew on tap, and order a pint of that to start. I also like to get one of their tasty pot pies, which are similar to Aussie meat pies, as a pūpū with my beer. Golden writes the “On Tap In Hawai‘i” column in the Honolulu Star Advertiser and is good surfer as well. I covered surfing for the newspaper for years so I really enjoy talking story from one journalist to another about beers and barrels with him.
Perhaps, one of the best parts of Village Beer is its close proximity to Pow! Wow! Headquarters, Lana Lane Studios. This gives me a chance to twist the arm of artist Kamea Hadar to leave his studio and have a pint with me. Since we’re both fathers of young children we talk extensively about how to balance career with fatherhood while keeping our wives happy, and a nice glass of craft beer helps the conversation flow. Moral of the story: it takes a “Village Beer” to raise a child and keep friends in touch.
Address: 2300 Kalākaua Avenue Honolulu, HI 96816 (Holiday Inn Resort Waikiki Beachcomber)
Currently, my all-time favorite beer is Maui Brewing Co.’s Bikini Blonde so when Kamea has to get home to his daughter I call a Lyft and head to the Maui Brewing Co. Waikīkī. I look up to the way Maui Brewing Co. designed their business to be environmentally sustainable and how they’ve championed Hawai‘i nationally and internationally.
I’ve been fortunate to make friends with their owner Garret Marrero, who was named the 2017 National Small Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration with his wife Melanie. If you’re ever on Maui I highly suggest taking the tour of the Maui Brewing Co. brewery because if you’re a craft beer lover like me then that is your chance to be “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.” But, when I’m in Waikīkī I’ll always try to make it a point to stop in Maui Brewing Co. to get a pūpū (I suggest the nachos) and order a flight of beers.
I order the flight to find the Maui Brewing Co. beer that I want to take home in a crowler. Maui Brewing Co. Waikīkī Brewpub is the only place I know on O‘ahu where you can get a 32 oz. crowler made to order. Since, I usually have a sixer of Bikini Blonde stocked in my fridge so I’ll usually cop a beer that isn’t sold in stores. This Pau Hana has me going home with their tasty POG IPA.
Okay, so I’ve got a good buzz going and I haven’t received a “where you stay, babe?” text from my wife yet so it’s time to squeeze in a night cap on the way home. I live in Kaimukī –which is 10 minutes away from Waikīkī– and we lovingly call our neighborhood “The Shire.” One of the best places to get a cool cocktail and a locally- sourced bite to eat is Mud Hen Water.
Address: 3452 Wai‘alae Avenue Honolulu, HI 96816
Chefs Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero curate an amazing menu of locally-sourced food at Mud Hen Water, but by the fourth quarter of this Pau Hana I’m looking for something greasy and tasty. To go with the spicy Vishnu’s Vice cocktail in my hand I order the Preserved Akule (big eye scad) that is served with organic pickled vegetables, soda crackers and butter infused with limu (seaweed). Couple that deliciously fishy pūpū with the beet poke (beets, avocado, gorilla ogo and smoked macadamia nuts), and it’s an amazing way to cap the night without bogging yourself down with greasy processed food.
My friend and Hawai‘i Business magazine colleague, Jeff Hawe, lives down the street from Mud Hen Water so I hit him up to join me for the ending of this Aloha Friday Pau Hana. Although this is the start to our weekend, we can’t help but to talk about our jobs and other passion projects we plan to tackle on Saturday. When you’re a creative in Hawai‘i even though you’re “done with work” you’re still always working – even when you’re drinking.