Busy Mai Tai Bar packed with fun
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Staff Writer
Allison Hu (left) and Kristen Kawachi enjoy inexpensive, but tasty drinks. Excellent service and good bands help make Mai Tai a popular place to be. Fortunately, the crowd is a mellow bunch.
Photos by Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
So crowded, in fact, that it took about five minutes for us to make it from the entrance of the corralled open-air bar to our own minuscule piece of General Growth Properties real estate near the stage. Seats, you ask? We probably should've tried to secure those about two hours earlier. Uncomfortably crowded? At times, yes.
What ultimately saved our night at Mai Tai Bar (and probably brought in most of the gathered), were the free cover, great live entertainment, inexpensive drinks and commendable service.
Considering the space available, Mai Tai Bar's patrons turned out to be a generally mellow bunch out to have a good time with friends at the end of a long workweek, or maybe, just maybe, hook up. Believe me, there was quite a bit of the latter going on.
Mai Tai Bar wisely keeps a changing lineup of bands working its Friday-night shift. When we dropped by, Backyard Pa'ina was in the middle of a set of mostly familiar crowd-pleasing hits.
Our drinks were punchy, super-sized and inexpensive. Dawn's mai tai ordered "'cause it's the damn Mai Tai Bar" was, she said, "the best I've ever had ... really fruity yet strong." My bartender's iced tea was loaded enough to make me seek fresh air and elbow room outside the fence.
A couple dozen people also seeking shelter from the Mai Tai crowd (sans drinks, of course) sat on benches or hung out between California Pizza Kitchen and Bubba Gump's, talking story or listening to the band. We hung out on the railing overlooking the parking lot with others before heading back to take in nicely done Backyard renderings of Kalapana's "The Hurt" and 311's "Amber."
Mai Tai Bar was as wall-to-wall with bodies when we left at 11:30 p.m. as it was when we arrived.
What: Mai Tai Bar Friday Nights
Where: Mai Tai Bar, Ala Moana Center, third floor, 947-2900
When: Open until 1 a.m. Fridays; live entertainment 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
Younger than 21 OK?: No
Age of crowd: Early-20s to mid-30s
Dress code: None
Attire we saw: Casual and dressy. On men: polo shirts, dress shirts, solid tees, jeans, dress slacks. On women: stretch tops, tank tops, camisoles, cocktail dresses, jeans, dress pants
Our arrival/departure: 9:30 p.m./11:30 p.m.
What we drank: Bartender's iced tea, mai tai ($9.50 total)
Peak crowd while there: So full we couldn't estimate. If Mai Tai Bar had walls, think "wall-to-wall" people
Sample music: "Could You Be Loved," "Mustang Sally," "Guava Jelly," "Silhouettes" performed live that night by Backyard Pa'ina
Dancing?: Yes, but be prepared to make your own space
Tip: Arrive very early for tables. We recommend 7:30 p.m.
Overheard line of the night: She: "You're kind of cute ... how old are you?" He: "22 ... how about you?" She: "37."