Waikiki: Wasteland / Wonderland

Hotel Street action

Hotel Street action ca. 1960s

Waikiki is Bourbon Street meets the Vegas Strip. People come to the Hawaiian islands and stay a week or longer in Waikiki. Same crew that buys all their wine from BevMO. Then there are other people who fly right past Oahu on their way to Maui, Kauai or the Big Island and stay in a destination resort. They include those who only buy wines rated 90 points or higher. There is more to wine and more to Oahu [ed. and more to the outer islands; g’head and be obnoxious].

new wine shop in Princeville

new wine shop owner in Princeville

After 5 days of rain and grey skies on the north shore of Kauai – and buying wine in the new Princeville Wine Market – we were ready to wash Hanalei right out of our hair. Fortunately, we had set aside three nights and three and a half days in Honolulu because we like the city and the island. It is much more cosmo than Dancing with the Stars.

Next time you find the chance to stay in Honolulu tBoW recommends the following stops.



Stay in Waikiki. The main drag – Kalakaua Boulevard – has all the charm of the Vegas Glitter Gulch and then some… without the sound of slot machines ringing off $100 payouts. We like Jams World for “new” classic aloha shirts and the ancient International Marketplace which has enough beads and trinkets to interest Donald Trump. Most of the hotels in Waikiki beg the question “what came first? Circus Circus or the Hilton Hawaiian Village? Caesars Palace or the Outrigger?” It’s a dead heat.

Salt Wine List

Salt Wine List

12th Avenue Grill is a new find in Kaimuki which is an older neighborhood 10 minutes northwest of Waikiki. This area reminds us of San Francisco with the views downtown and the wave of new restaurant and bars along Waialae Street. The chef had four specials and the bar had four special cocktails. Decent wine list. Winner.

Salt Kitchen and Tasting Bar is 20 feet from 12th Avenue Grill. Our waiter Erin on Monday night at 12th Avenue waited on us again the next night at Salt. She was the only holdover as things are quite different at Salt. This is the emerging sophisticated dining experience for Honolulu or Portland or San Francisco. Great to see this in Honolulu. Plates included flash fried oysters with lemon butter and blue marlin served rare. The charcuterie platter featured all Hawaiian meats and pates. As impressive as the food is the wine list. Equal care went into this list that included a Gavi, Albarino, Bolgheri Merlot and Quarts de Chaume for dessert. Relaxed dining in a space with exposed ceilings drops. Another great place to eat in Kaimuki.

The Hula Grill on the 2nd floor of the Outrigger Hotel [ed. Vegas cool] is owned by the group that runs Dukes. You can get a decent breakfast for $30 while looking at Waikiki Beach.

Ono Seafood is a hole in the wall on Kapahulu Avenue which borders the western edge of Waikiki. We had two kinds of poke and ocean salad for $10. Fresh and tasty however tBoW would not overlook Ocean Express in Kapaa Kauai or the Foodland selection in Princeville.

13th green eye candy

13th green eye candy

Marukame Udon serves fresh noodles in a broth of your choice long as the choice is one of three offered – clear, beef or beef curry. Very popular on Kuhio Avenue which runs one block parallel to Kalakaua but in the opposite direction. Kuhio is to Kalakaua what Argentine Malbec is to Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. Marukame is a good find.

Little Village is a Chinese restaurant in the Hotel Street neighborhood which is the Languedoc of Hawaii: low life dangerous cheap and tawdry without any interest in fine anything. Of course, this is all rep since we know that since ~2000 Languedoc has begun producing wonderful white and red wines and all the brothels on Hotel Street were closed at the end of WWII. The Little Village Cafe is an old time dining spot that serves outstanding traditional Cantonese style dishes prepared with care and served without pretense. They run about a dozen specials each day such as sauteed asparagus in brown sauce and squid tempura. Always fresh. BYOB as they do not serve beer or wine.

Here are a few similarly surprising wine find; two on and three off island.

2011 Clos Ste. Magdeleine Cassis Rose $33: Purchased at Princeville Wine Market on owner Dan’s recommendation. Delicious rose with watermelon flavors and just enough acid to keep it fresh. Outstanding. 12%

2010 Joseph Drouhin Chorey les Beaunes $30: Lots of bright ripe fruit backed with sharp acid that could put off some tasters. We found the two strokes smart and attractive. Also recommended by PWM owner Dan. Nice to have a good source of fine wine so close to Princeville. 13%

gunthersteinmetz2010WEB2010 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett Feinherb $22: Tons of acid. Lean with vivid lemon. Just a hint of sweetness. The Young ‘Uns loved it. Kris-B picks another huge winner. An excellent buy and just over the U20 cap. 9%

2009 JL Chave Selection Saint Joseph Celeste $32: 100% Rhone Rousanne. Young ‘Uns call out anise and ginger. Honeydew. Some bitterness. Nice array of flavors that challenge the palate. 13.5%.

2006 Moraga Vineyards Red Wine $125: One of the original LA wines grown and made in Bel Air just off the 405 freeway. Recently licensed to make wine on site which is the first winery licensed to do so in LA since 1920. Moraga07webSome original vines are more than 20 years old. 60% Cabernet Sauv, 38% Merlot. Shows very nicely. Like so many of the LA vanity winemakers they had to do considerable replanting to match varietals to soil, weather, etc. Medium weight. Balanced. Very nice for a Bordeaux blend from anywhere. Of course the price is ridiculous. Supposedly the winery was recently sold. Asking $29.7MM. U20 infarct!! 14.4%


Got something to add?