THE NIGHT STUFF
Palomino wins with friendly staff, tasty drinks
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
But that time seemed a tad too state- and federal-worker-early for my work schedule. So with a half-hour to get in our half-priced pupu orders, we arrived around 5:30 p.m., more than eager for sustenance.
If you're as lucky we were and we often are when visiting Palomino you'll find Ari Johnson there to talk a good story and offer up whatever you need. Anything you want from the bar and kitchen? Check. Good places to eat in Chicago? Double check.
"It's happy hour ... get happy!" Ari orders, before chatting us up about Christmas shopping and our Windy City vacation.
The stuffy food critics at Gayot once complained that one of the "not so good things" about Palomino's downtown Honolulu location was "servers who are resolutely cheerful and chatty." Malcontents! Palomino's genuinely friendly and attentive staff has consistently been one the best reasons for spending a few hours at the roomy, wood- and brass-appointed lounge.
That, and a sweet pupu and especially sweet, always intriguing and ever-evolving mixed drink menu, anyway.
Palomino's happy-hour drink specials weren't terribly noteworthy a few beer, wine and mixed drink selections. So naturally, we went straight for the good stuff.
Palomino's staff has always made creativity key when brainstorming the bar's large collection of martinis, mojitos, herb-infused cocktails, cosmopolitans and signature libations. Drinks are a bit pricey but worth their dollar value in content, flavor, presentation and, where appropriate, use of fresh ingredients.
Sold on the promise of freshly torn mint leaves and fresh lime sour "vigorously shaken like hell" with light rum and soda, a friend ordered Palomino's classic mojito ($5.95). Equally sweet-and-sour punchy was my partner in Night Stuff's vanilla apple cosmo ($6.50). She loved its mix of vanilla Stolichnaya vodka, fresh lime sour, cranberry juice, apple pucker and a fresh slice of sweet apple bobbing up top.
From the pupu menu, we devoured a happy hour-priced dungeness crab and artichoke dip ($6.95) as delicious, if not as meaty, as its doppelganger at Palomino sister restaurant Ryan's Grill. At $11.50, the grilled tiger-prawn appetizer could've used a few more prawns. But served with flavorful sauteed sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, virgin olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar over a large toasted crouton, it was simply too tasty not to recommend.
By 8 p.m., the lounge was busy with talkative twenty- to fiftysomethings mostly groups of co-workers or friends out for pau hana drinks. Fashionwise, you'll best fit in keeping the shorts and slippers at home, and going casually dressy. The vibe of the crowd seemed friendly, and comfortably non-meat market.
The bar's busiest nights are generally Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Post- and pre-show Hawai'i Theatre patrons always pack the place.
The lounge's 50-foot marble-topped bar seemed to be the growing center of activity as we exited. A couple of servers were having a spirited discussion with a trio of patrons warming the bar.
Ari waved goodnight and began chatting up another table.
Reach Derek Paiva at email@example.com or 525-8005.
MEET THE BANDS
Wanna meet the guys in Yellowcard and New Found Glory up close and personal? Yellowcard will be dropping by the new Hawaiian Island Creations store at Ward Villages (between Starbucks and Jamba Juice) today from 5 to 6:30 p.m. for an autograph session. New Found Glory will be at HIC's Ala Moana Center store at the same time. Members of both bands will then head off to chill with fans at Bliss (327 Keawe St., next to CompUSA) from 7 to 9 p.m.
MEET THE BARTENDERS
Wave Waikiki's third annual Ultimate Bartending competition launches three weeks of Wednesday preliminary rounds this week at 10 p.m. The contest matches up bartender and server teams currently working clubs, bars and lounges around town for cash, prizes, the people's ovation and fame forever. Rules and other need-to-know stuff at www.wavewaikiki.com.
Mash-up masters Hollertronix return to town Saturday at Indigo Eurasian Cuisine, $10 before 11 p.m.; Psychokinetics end their vacation tonight at 10 p.m., $10. ... Wave Waikiki's Gravity Lounge launches Monday at 11 p.m., $5.