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It's been 7 years since we strolled the sands of Waikiki but we will be returning there this coming weekend. Last summer we visited Maui and were blown away at how terrible the Mai Tai's were. We've always had great Mai Tai's at the Sandbar at the Sheraton Waikiki (which is actually where we had our first MaiTais) and are hoping that they haven't switched to the more passion fruit based style of Maui. Don't get me wrong, as a frequent visitor to Trader Vics in Emeryville, I fully understand that a Waikiki Mai Tai may be considered blasphemy but for the "Island Style" variety, Waikiki has provided me with some of the best I've had. So the question is, has anyone had Mai Tais in or near Waikiki lately and is it still possible to find a decent one there?

J

I've had my share of Mai Tai's in Waikiki. Obviously they're all Hawaiian style with pineapple juice. By far the best was at the House Without a Key Lounge at the Halekulani Hotel. They also made me Zombie which wasn't on the drink menu. That was good too.

FYI, drinks at La Mariana are OK but a little disappointing given their old-school Tiki rep.

I remember talking to Charlie a couple of years ago at Tiki-Ti. He's a regular there who works the door. He told me he did a Mai Tai hunt in Honolulu and I think he said his favorite was at Duke's. The last time I was at Duke's, I was drinking Jack and Coke so I can't vouch for Mai Tai.

Hmmm... I think there might be more than 1 Duke's in Waikiki. I was thinking of this place

http://www.dukeswaikiki.com/

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-10-11 10:18 ]

The House without a Key. I enjoyed them there.

House without a Key and the water-front bar at the Royal Hawaiian.
The tastiest "Hawaiian-style" Mai Tai by far. Just don't be expecting Trader Vic's!

[ Edited by: Molokai Mike 2009-10-11 13:49 ]

Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. Good island mai tais, outside right on the beach, and free live music.

M

Aloha!

Here's my 2 cents:

All the mai tais around here are definitely Hawaiian style, can't think of anyone that really has a classic mai tai.

  • Not sure which place the Sandbar was in the Waikiki Sheraton, but it may not be there any more. That Sheraton now has Rumfire, which opened maybe a year or so ago. I was there once, and hated it. They do have an amazing selection of rum, the largest in Waikiki, if not Hawaii, but the drinks were really bad and super expensive. I had a mai tai there, which was something like $12 for happy hour, and it sucked. Ordered some Zaya on the rocks next, and they poured a strict 1 oz. for $18.

  • I like the Duke's mai tai. Not overly sweet like most and fairly strong.

  • Check out the Royal Hawaiian - they just did a renovation recently and re-did the bar. I think the drinks are now better.

  • I just had my first House Without a Key mai tai recently, and I did not care for it. It was actually too sweet and not that great of an overall taste.

  • I love La Mariana, and also really like their mai tai. It has a different taste from most and are pretty strong. For me, I can drink these all day.

  • The best in Waikiki, IMHO, is the Chart House near the Ilikai. Ask for the Guy Tai, not the Mai Tai. It is made by Guy the bartender, comes in a pint glass and is quite tasty and even comes with mint (which is rarely seen in Waikiki).

Other honorable mention for drinks:

  • Soul de Cuba in Chinatown is awesome. Super small place - maybe 8 tables and a bar that seats 4. Great Cuban food and a small list of mixed drinks that are made very well. Also a nice little selection of higher end rum.

  • 39 Hotel in Chinatown. This is a nightclub, so many nights are packed with the younger crowd listening to DJ's. I was there at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and they were just setting up, so we were the only ones there. They have a great roof top patio in the back and their drinks were pretty good. Some unusual concoctions which were more high end than any place around, and they were cheap. Half price for happy hour, so those labor intensive drinks were only $4! They were doing Tiki Tuesdays for a while, featuring 4 special Tiki drinks and Hawaiian music, but not sure if that is till going on.

All in all I completely agree - it is very hard to find a good mai tai in Hawaii. Most range from poor to horrible! It's also hard to find a decent selection of rum. I would say 90% of bars here don't go beyond Hana Bay, Bacardi, or Captain.

I was just on Maui recently, and most mai tais were bad, except for Mama's Fish House, which were pretty good.

Thanks for all the tips everyone. Looks like we'll definately be hitting the House without a Key. The Royal Hawaiian is always on our list anyway so it sounds like that will be a good stop as well. Mo-Eye, the Sandbar was the little bar right next to the pool at the Sheraton with the round roof. It was a really casual pool-side bar that made a great Island style Mai Tai. Sad to hear it's no longer around as the place had a lot of sentimental value to us and we always kicked off every trip to Oahu there. Alas, I guess time marches on! Thanks again everyone! This forum is the BEST!

Try Chuck's Steakhouse in The Outrigger above Duke's. I think you wil be impressed.

I love the view of the Pacific Ocean, through the Coconut trees, which are illuminated by Tiki torches, as one enjoys the breeze of the trade winds at Tiki's Grill.
http://www.tikisgrill.com

J

On 2009-10-10 18:26, JOHN-O wrote:

I remember talking to Charlie a couple of years ago at Tiki-Ti. He's a regular there who works the door. He told me he did a Mai Tai hunt in Honolulu and I think he said his favorite was at Duke's.

I stand corrected. Charlie says the best Mai Tai is at the Turtle Bay Hilton.

That however is located on the North Shore, not Waikiki.

He also warned that the drinks at the Royal Hawaiian have really gone down hill. I would agree based on my visit from several years ago. 15 years ago those drinks were almost Tiki-Ti strength. Hopefully the drinks have come back but please share your feedback when you return.

[ Edited by: JOHN-O 2009-10-18 09:14 ]

AF

The House Without a Key @ the Halekulani Hotel was both highly recommended and outstanding!

Chart House was a great tip, thanks Mo-Eye. Never stumbled on this place before, Guy Tais were tasty and it has an old school vibe that has all but disappeared in Waikiki. Funny a United flight attendant also recommended Guy Tais to us when we bought the crappy TV Mai Tais on the plane.

Rumfire was a surprise hit for us, we were getting happy hour Mai Tais for $5, and they were perfectly passable. Great spot for sunset, too, which happens during happy hour this time of year.

Royal Hawaiian was a big disappointment. The Mai Tai Bar has been an anchor for us on previous trips. We always liked their Mai Tais. The new "Scratch Mai Tai" is purportedly the original recipe and allegedly made with fresh squeezed juice. We found them too sweet and syrupy tasting. They have the Royal Mai Tai now which is supposed to be better, but $15 IIRC. We were too cheap to try it. Plus the rehab ruined the vibe of the place. The Mai Tai bar is architecturally the same, just new furniture and bar top that looks like kitchen counter (and tidier behind the bar) but the old standby Surf Room is now some trying-to-be-swank high end contemporary restaurant. And the worst part is now they play a really odd mix of music. Lotsa classic rock. Not that I don't like classic rock, just felt really out place (much like the ill-fated Rock-A-Tiki in Chicago.) Bad idea. To top it off there was this knucklehead haole bartender who thought he was the s**t, but was pretty inept. We came back another night, saw him and left. Came back another time and there was an Asian or Hawaiian bartender (too drunk to remember) who was fine. Still bad music though. We tried some non-Mai Tai drinks and they were good.

Duke's Mai Tais are okay, but other than the location, the place and the staff always bum me out.

There is one place where you can get a Trader Vic style Mai Tai... but... I just can't say it!

TT

I was on Oahu a couple of months ago when I realized I was having some of the best Mai Tais ever while hanging at the Halekani at The House Without a Key. The waterfront setting with the old banyan tree casting warm tropical moonlight shadows over the hapa haole band didn't hurt either. But in the last few days I was wondering what made that mai tai so memorable and in my opinion no ka oi. So with an easy google search I found the recipe and plan on replicating it as soon as possible. So just thought I would share in case you can't make it over to the islands anytime soon. Okole Maluna!

http://archives.starbulletin.com/2002/08/28/features/request.html

Halekulani Mai Tai

3/4 ounce (1-1/2 tablespoons) Bacardi Gold rum
3/4 ounce (1-1/2 tablespoons) Bacardi Select rum
1-1/4 ounce (2-1/2 tablespoons) lemon juice
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) Lemon Heart 151 rum

Mai tai mix:
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) orgeat syrup
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) orange curacao
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) rock candy syrup (simple syrup)
Combine mai tai mix ingredients and pour over crushed ice. Add Bacardi rums and lemon juice. Gently pour Lemon Heart rum on top so it floats.
Garnish with lime wedge, lime wheel, sugar-cane stick, mint leaf and a vanda orchid. Serves 1.

Wow!!, a Hawaiian Mai Tai without Pineapple Juice or Grenadine,
a rare find indeed.

Jeff(btd)

Thanks for the recipe for the Halekulani Mai Tai. I loved these in Hawaii, and now I can try one at home.
Cheers

RB

Just got back from a week-plus of mostly nasty weather on Oahu :(

Didn't get out as much as hoped, but did have Mai Tais at 3 locations. Tiki's Grill & Bar in Waikiki made a 1944 Mai Tai that was (suprisingly) very good. La Mariana's was fine, but the setting more than made up for it. And Germaine's Luau was OK, though I wasn't expecting an outstanding MT there anyway. If you do Germaine's, go to the gift shop first and buy a tiki mug, and then the bar will pour your 3 "free" drinks into that instead of a much smaller plastic cup.

V

Ms. VanTiki and I sneak away to the Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian whenever we can. They have an off-menu Trader Vic's Mai tai which I love dearly, and it ranges from yummy to FANTASTIC depending on who is working the bar. Ms. VanTiki loves their Mai-Tai degeneres with ginger. We love to park at the Zoo, stroll through Waikiki, and explore the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian. They have some fantastic paintings on display (including the original oils used to make those iconic Matson menus), and sometimes have neat historical exhibits.

Henrik "VanTiki"

T

La Mariana Sailing club was an amazing tiki bar! I was there 2 years ago. 50 Sand Island Road, Honolulu, HI














While drinking our way around Hawaii last summer we tried our best to find the best drinks. I do not recall having anything bad.

[ Edited by: Hakalugi - rearranged images - 2012-06-07 20:54 ]

Sorry for the super wide post. I guess I did something wrong. I thought the photos would wrap.

BB

You could edit and stack the image links but either way it's a great post. :)

1

So who had the best Mai Tai's ?

Thanks very much for the edit.

We actually enjoyed La Mariana Mai Tai the best with those at the Don The Beachcomber in Kona coming in a close second. We set out on a mission to hit all the drinking establishments and I think visited the majority of them. The bar at the Royal Hawaiian was good also.

We enjoyed these at the Mai Kai also.

We are just about to head back to Waikiki for our fifth visit. Boy have l pondered the Waikiki Mai Tai quest over the years and l have to agree with most of what has been previously written here. Maybe l could add my summary.
First of all l have this theory that there is an extra ingredient in a Mai Tai that can make it good or bad and that is location. The most average Mai Tai can taste better than it is in a great bar or for that matter watching the sun go down on Waikiki Beach. Everyone is right, it's not easy to find a great Mai Tai in Waikiki but you will have some of your most memorable Mai Tai drinking experiences there. I hate busy vacation destinations but l love Waikiki...go figure.
So here goes my top ten.

  1. The Chart House Guy Tai... good value, taste, location, great bar staff and old world charm. l believe it's the only independently run Chart House and it is owned by legendary surfer Joey Cabell.
  2. House Without a Key. Not cheap but great taste and location. If you are into the romance of days past, have a Mai Tai under the Banyan tree listening to the Hawaiian band as the sun goes down.
  3. La Mariana. Technically not Waikiki but all great Mai Tai crawls start there in the afternoon. Ok drinks but boy oh boy, for everyone who's into Poly Pop this is a spiritual home.
    4.The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. Since they had the make-over a couple of years back they have added several Mai Tai's to the menu (Why? l really don't know). Pricey, but great career bar staff and the history of the place are hard to beat.
  4. Dukes, noisy and busy with a mid-priced solid tourist Mai Tai. It's a party in that joint all the time.
  5. Wailana Coffee House Cocktail Bar. I don't think this has been mentioned here before. This is a great find if you are short of cash. It is on the side of the entrance to the Wailana Coffee House and opens at midday. It's a local hang out. The Mai Tai is sweet but ok. Best part is they are $3.50 all day and most of the ingredients have Tader Vic on the label. Also great bamboo interior.
  6. Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. This place changes all the time (no pun intended)but their Mai Tai was created by a Barman who worked at Don's in Las Vegas. Can be inconsistent but make the effort to go up there, fantastic view from the bar.
  7. Jimmy Buffett's At The Beachcomber. Yes l know this is a controversial choice considering Jimmy's the enemy BUT they have a Mai Tai called something like "Vic's Original". It's not cheep but if you hit the place at happy hour it's affordable. Enough said.
  8. Princess Kaiulani. The bar by the pool has an almost typical bar by the pool Mai Tai. It tastes a little different to others along the strip and the barman told me thet it is based on a Don's Mai Tai. Tastes like it's got grapefruit in it to me, But What do l know.
  9. Its a toss up between the Moana Surfrider and Tiki's. The Surfriders Mai Tai should be better because of it's history ( it's older than the Royal Hawaiian) but you can sit around the bar and pretend you are watching Wembley Edwards doing "Hawaii Calls". Tiki's is not my favorite place. The Bar staff always seem to have something better to do than serve you. Prices are Ok and most of the time they have mugs.
    There you go, l hope it wasn't too rambling.
    Also you should check out The Hideaway Bar (great dive bar) Nashville Waikiki (coz it's such a feakin' stupid idea) and the Mai Tai Bar above Ala Moana Centre (decent Mai Tai when you need a break from shopping and they have cool t shirts)

[ Edited by: Bora Boris - Removed some "Edited by"s - 2012-07-23 15:19 ]

I agree with Rum Balls. Tiki's has the best Mai Tais in Waikiki. 1944 Mai Tai is real strong and tasty! I had 6, but not in one sitting. 2 max for me so that I am not wasted in 2 hours. Very good. My wife really enjoyed their Polynesian Prince. Made with rum, strawberries and champagne.

Oh yeah and Duke's is DOOKIE! Some stupid hippie with a guitar kept playing sublime songs. We had to storm out of there. I have to hear sublime 10+ times a day here in SoCal. When I am on vacation I should not have to deal with that crap!!!

Just returned from Waikiki. I also enjoyed Tiki's Bar and Grills "1944 Vic's Mai Tai". No pineapple juice but I think there was a little bit of passion fruit. Anyway, it was good and I had several. My wife really enjoyed the Lycheetini and Fruit Loop martini that tasted like the cereal.

We went to the Royal Hawaiian bar and asked for the original Vic's mai tai. I was expecting the worst but she made it. It was great and after two, I can't remember much after that.

[ Edited by: Trailerpark Tiki 2012-07-24 08:55 ]

[ Edited by: Trailerpark Tiki 2012-07-24 18:53 ]

[i]On 2009-12-07 12:34, Tonga Trader wrote:
Rumfire was a surprise hit for us, we were getting happy hour Mai Tais for $5, and they were perfectly passable. Great spot for sunset, too, which happens during happy hour this time of year.

Rumfire has an incredible tropical contemporary design which embraces the shore:

Had a blast...

Free one, or two, or three from Hawaiian Airlines

next stop...

Hale Koa Hotel Bar

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar (this is the Royal Mai Tai)

Duke's (skip this one)

Tiki Town at the International Market Place ($3.95)
Made lots of friends here...

Jimmy Buffett's The Beachcomber Surf Museum

Hard Rock Cafe (skip this one)

unless you help it out a bit...
:)

Cheese Burger in Paradise

Back to the Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar (for the Scratch Mai Tai) awesome...

The Edge of Waikiki Sheraton

PLEASE USE CAUTION WHEN WALKING TO ALL THE BARS...

Got a great Tiki Tour from Phillip Roberts
that ended at the Royal Hawaiian...

Can't beat the price at Tiki Town, back for a couple more...

Da Big Kahuna

Lava Rock Lounge in the International Market Place

Tiki's Bar and Grill

Wailana Coffee House Cocktail Lounge (Great Price)

Back to Cheese Burger in Paradise

Tapa Bar at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (skip this one)

OK, OFF TO THE NORTH SHORE...

No Mai Tai here, but ya have to stop n eat here...
every day

Back to the drinks...

Turtle Bay Pool Bar

and another one

OLA at Turtle Bay Resort

and another

Haleiwa Joes

they also sell a supersized one...

Crap
I just realized that I forgot to get pictures at

  1. Breakers
  2. Cholos
    and
  3. Jameson's

Don't forget to stop by and see Uncle Bryan for STAND UP rentals or a lesson or two...

ONE MORE TIME ON THE WAY TO THE AIRPORT...

LAS STOP IN THE AIRPORT

WE MISS IT ALREADY...


Worst sound ever, slurp of an empty tiki mug through my straw!!!

[ Edited by: hang10tiki 2012-10-22 12:03 ]

Super wonderful photos. We haven't been there in 7 years and need to go. Wendy

RB

Thank you for documenting your exhaustive research!

:)

J

On 2012-06-08 19:12, Careless Navigator wrote:
We are just about to head back to Waikiki for our fifth visit. Boy have l pondered the Waikiki Mai Tai quest over the years and l have to agree with most of what has been previously written here. Maybe l could add my summary.
First of all l have this theory that there is an extra ingredient in a Mai Tai that can make it good or bad and that is location. The most average Mai Tai can taste better than it is in a great bar or for that matter watching the sun go down on Waikiki Beach. Everyone is right, it's not easy to find a great Mai Tai in Waikiki but you will have some of your most memorable Mai Tai drinking experiences there. I hate busy vacation destinations but l love Waikiki...go figure.
So here goes my top ten.

  1. The Chart House Guy Tai... good value, taste, location, great bar staff and old world charm. l believe it's the only independently run Chart House and it is owned by legendary surfer Joey Cabell.
  2. House Without a Key. Not cheap but great taste and location. If you are into the romance of days past, have a Mai Tai under the Banyan tree listening to the Hawaiian band as the sun goes down.
  3. La Mariana. Technically not Waikiki but all great Mai Tai crawls start there in the afternoon. Ok drinks but boy oh boy, for everyone who's into Poly Pop this is a spiritual home.
    4.The Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Hawaiian. Since they had the make-over a couple of years back they have added several Mai Tai's to the menu (Why? l really don't know). Pricey, but great career bar staff and the history of the place are hard to beat.
  4. Dukes, noisy and busy with a mid-priced solid tourist Mai Tai. It's a party in that joint all the time.
  5. Wailana Coffee House Cocktail Bar. I don't think this has been mentioned here before. This is a great find if you are short of cash. It is on the side of the entrance to the Wailana Coffee House and opens at midday. It's a local hang out. The Mai Tai is sweet but ok. Best part is they are $3.50 all day and most of the ingredients have Tader Vic on the label. Also great bamboo interior.
  6. Top of Waikiki revolving restaurant. This place changes all the time (no pun intended)but their Mai Tai was created by a Barman who worked at Don's in Las Vegas. Can be inconsistent but make the effort to go up there, fantastic view from the bar.
  7. Jimmy Buffett's At The Beachcomber. Yes l know this is a controversial choice considering Jimmy's the enemy BUT they have a Mai Tai called something like "Vic's Original". It's not cheep but if you hit the place at happy hour it's affordable. Enough said.
  8. Princess Kaiulani. The bar by the pool has an almost typical bar by the pool Mai Tai. It tastes a little different to others along the strip and the barman told me thet it is based on a Don's Mai Tai. Tastes like it's got grapefruit in it to me, But What do l know.
  9. Its a toss up between the Moana Surfrider and Tiki's. The Surfriders Mai Tai should be better because of it's history ( it's older than the Royal Hawaiian) but you can sit around the bar and pretend you are watching Wembley Edwards doing "Hawaii Calls". Tiki's is not my favorite place. The Bar staff always seem to have something better to do than serve you. Prices are Ok and most of the time they have mugs.
    There you go, l hope it wasn't too rambling.
    Also you should check out The Hideaway Bar (great dive bar) Nashville Waikiki (coz it's such a feakin' stupid idea) and the Mai Tai Bar above Ala Moana Centre (decent Mai Tai when you need a break from shopping and they have cool t shirts)

Look no further than this post when it comes to Mai Tais in Waikiki. This is the most accurate and comprehensive listing I've seen.

Careless Navigator, you nailed it. Good job !!

Yes, on my second Mai Tai adventure in Waikiki, I agree that House Without a Key has the best Mai Tai in town!

House Without a Key Mai Tai
We got there at 9:10 pm and they close at 9:30. They were very accommodating and let us sit and chill as long as we wanted. We didn't want them to have to stay late so we just drank the one and left. They offered to make us another, which was very nice of them. The setting was also very nice. As we were walking out of the restaurant we noticed a dress code sign. I don't think we fit it, but they treated us kindly regardless.


Tiki's Grill & Bar
Tiki's still has some good Mai Tai's and I have to give them props as well. It was closing time and I asked for 2 Mai Tais. I said we could just bring them to our room since we were staying at the hotel. He had already started to clean up everything so I said don't worry about it. He told us to stop and he made them for us anyway. It was very nice of him to do and we appreciated it.


La Mariana Mai Tai
I love this place. The drinks are decent but the atmosphere is amazing! Also I like the food a lot! The Reuben sandwich is super. I get one every time I am there. It was a bit busier than the last time we were there, I guess due to the Hawaii 5-0 episode that featured their restaurant.

Sad to say we did not have a good time at Rum Fire. I guess I have to agree with Mo-Eye that you should avoid this place. This was our third visit to this place. Our first time was fun and I tried a bunch of their drinks. They are very expensive and small, but we had fun with the scenery and everything. I did have like 5 or 6 drinks in a couple hours and walked out without a buzz. Last year we tried to go back at 9:30 one night and they said that they were closing and wouldn't serve us. This year at 9:30 we decided to check their website to see how late they were open before we walked the 5 blocks. They were open until 12 midnight. Cool, so we headed over there and got there at 10 pm. The waitress, as we sat down, said that it was last call. I said, "your website said that you are open til midnight?" She said, "this will make the weekend come sooner." And she walked away. This WAS my weekend... I really didn't care too much about her weekend at that point. We got our drinks, my Dragon Fire Cooler tasted like soap and had 3 sips of liquid for $8.50. My wife got the Hawaiian Love Affair that tasted only like 99 bananas and was the same size as mine for $10.50. We watched as the servers were rude to their customers and ignored others. Did I mention that the place was FULL? As we were leaving we heard the hostess say, "I was just surrounded by Chinese people, I should have called security!" I guess their motto is to be rude and charge lots of money for small (not good) drinks. No need for customer service or regular hours, they just need new tourists to rip off every day.

We didn't make it to the Chart House, but we will have to next time. Had a couple at the Royal Hawaiian, but I didn't take a picture. I liked them, but they were not my favorite.

We went to Arnolds quite a few times too. This place reminds us of home. It is not a tiki bar, but it is totally decked out in tiki decorations. It is just a dive bar though, which we like. They do have Mai Tai's, but they are nothing special. But it is one of our favorite places to hang out in Waikiki.

[ Edited by: lunavideogames 2013-02-25 19:02 ]

This thread, along with Chuck and Don's Waikiki Mai Tai reviews at http://www.foundationbar.com/Mai-Tai_reviews.html were helpful to me during my visit to Waikiki last week. I wanted to throw my experience in as well for a quick Mai Tai in Waikiki primer - sorry, no pictures - just the straight goods. I am ranking from best to worst:

1 (BEST) - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - $12 - its pretty tough to beat this view of Diamond Head in the late afternoon and walking through the RH is the perfect appetizer to an excellent Mai Tai. In this case, you get what you pay for.

2 - Moose McGillycuddy's - $4.00 at Happy Hour - I was pretty surprised by this but the Moose delivered the goods. I hit this joint every time I am in Waikiki; there is so much cool stuff to gaze at on the walls. We visited this place on a Tuesday and it happened to be Taco Night; they were excellent and we received a 2 for 1 breakfast coupon with our check. Beauty.

3 - Chuck's Cellar - $4.75 at Happy Hour - like so many have said, this place feels like an old Rat Pack hang-out; somewhere you would expect to see Jack Lord at the salad bar grabbing some warm bread from the oven (nice touch). Cool live music starts at 6 every night. I also tried their Blue Hawaii, it was not great, but I should not have had high expectations for that drink.

4 - Nashville's - $2.50 at Happy Hour - speaking of expectations, I had zero when I walked down into this basement country bar on Kuhio in the middle of the day. The young girl behind the bar was making her first Mai Tai (it must have been her first shift) under the close supervision of her manager, who kept encouraging her to pour more dark rum as the float (I was not going to object). This bar is the farthest thing from tiki but I have to admit I enjoyed this drink - it was certainly the best for value I had during my trip.

5 - Alaska Airlines flight into HNL - free inflight service- I admit I loved this touch after a 7 hour flight. I am ranking only the taste (it was the Trader Vic's Mai Tai), not the gesture as it was well received by all who indulged. As far as ready-to-go mixes go, I think this is as good as it gets; if only I had an airline bottle of dark rum to float on the top I would have been set free. Nice work, AA (Alaska Airlines, not Alcoholics Anonymous).

6 - Princess Kauilani - $10 at poolside - I was not staying here but grabbed one to escape the heat during some shopping. I have to admit I totally disagree with Don and Chuck on this one; while they favoured the lemonade taste of this drink, I found it offensive. It tasted nothing like a Mai Tai - it more closely resembled a Lynchburg Lemonade out of the can. No fun. At all. I admit this could have been the worst on this list, any maybe it should be, given its price.

7 - (WORST) Jimmy Buffett's at Beachcomber - $5 at Happy Hour - I admit I liked the set up of this place, and maybe I was just frustrated at the slow service since I snuck away for a solitary 20 minutes from my family in the hopes of a quick one. But while the first taste was OK, by the time it hit the back of my tongue, my body was sending a signal to my brain begging me to stop abusing it with this chemical-tasting solution. I'm not trying to be a hater of the pre-mix (certainly Nashville's used a pre-mix, and even the barmaid at Chuck's Cellar admitted that they pre-mix some of the ingredients, including the orgeat) but this tasted a bit like standard kitchen cleaner. Maybe a bit worse.

From what I recall, all of the above were served with pineapple/cherry and an umbrella, except of course for Nashville's and AA. I received no mint or flower with any drink.

While I did make it to House Without a Key at Halekulani, I went with a seasonal tropical Mojito (it was very good). I also went with the Tropical Itch at Duke's (mainly because it was served with a backscratcher, it did not disappoint.) Sadly, I did not make it to La Mariana.

Of course it's a total burn that International Market Place is no longer there; at least Duke's Lane still rocks. I loved Waikiki; I had given up on it the last time I was there about 12 years ago and was pleasantly surprised this go-around. I feel like there is still a market for those who enjoy old-school Hawaiiana; just about every dinner we ate was top notch, with great Happy Hour specials.

On another unrelated note - Oahu has a cool TB channel caled MeTV which serves up only vintage programming. Every day at noon it broadcasts Jack Lord era H-50, which was the perfect lunch entertainment prior to hitting the bars and beach (OK, the bars).

[ Edited by: robbie_silver 2014-04-05 21:25 ]

Robbie -

We LOVE MeTv!

F

House Without a Key at the Halekulani still got it. Had four mai tai's there this past weekend/week and they were among the best tasting of the various ones sampled in Waikiki. Pricey? Yes. Would I have four more? Yes!

At $14 each with no happy hour special, it was easily the most expensive drink I bought the entire 5 days I was there (except for one in a hollowed out pineapple somewhere else), but excellence doesn't usually come cheap.

Nicely balanced, nicely garnished (sorry you can't see the sugar cane swizzle it comes with), attentive service, and a heck of a good view for sunset. Get there early before the crowds and enjoy a couple!


Cheers!

July 2016
All in the name of research
:)

Thank you for your diligent documentation. It looks like Royal Hawaiian switched up their offerings since we were there last year. We loved it when we first went 12 or so years ago. Haven't been that happy with the rehab and the last couple menus.

TT

The new foam-topped Mai-Tais Rock...

Started making the foam myself
It's awesome....

F

hang10, love it. One of my favorite kinds of "research"! What was your assessment of them, or at least the top few (and the bottom?)

Cheers,
:drink:
Ryan

The two new foam topped versions from the Royal Hawaiian were my favorite

House without a use to be great
But my last 2 trips to Oahu
No so good

Ilikai Guava Tai
Good for a change of pace

Charthouse Guy Tai good

Sarentos good

La Mariana ok (but who cares) it's my favorite Tiki bar :)

Da rest 1/5

[ Edited by: hang10tiki 2016-08-29 20:31 ]

Sadly, the end is near for the Wailana Coffee house & bar.

https://www.khon2.com/news/local-news/costly-renovations-to-force-the-closure-of-historic-waikiki-restaurant/1398402077

HONOLULU (KHON2) - After 48 years, Wailana Coffee House will close its doors on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018.

Co-owner Kenton Tom tells KHON2 that the decision wasn't easy.

"After 48 years, the family has decided to close the restaurant because it faces very extensive renovations to be made to be competitive," Tom said.

He says the new renovations would cost about $1 million.

He explains that the family still owns the land, and "has decided to look at other options for the property."

The 24-hour Waikiki diner employs about 100 people.

"It's a very sad, sad moment." Tom said. "We've had employees that have worked 30-plus years for us and they've helped make the restaurant so successful."

As for their reaction?

"Complete silence—that was their reaction. Very sad, we're sad for them too but they're working through it," Tom added.

Addy Rechirei has been working at Wailana for 12 years.

"(I was) shocked, sad—I'm still shocked," she said.

"Twelve years, they're my family," she said as she began to tear up.

A Wailana regular was sad to hear the news.

"I saw it on Instagram that it was closing, I was really hoping it was fake news but it was real, and it's really sad. It's such a shame that it's closing," Tommy Garibaldi said.

The popular restaurant has been a favorite for tourists too.

"I had a phone call from California and a customer called and said he couldn't believe it and asked if we could stay open longer for him since he's coming back at end of the year," Tom said.

The history of Wailana Coffee House dates back to the late 1940s.

Kenton explains that his father first opened a concession stand at Honolulu Zoo in 1947.

He then bought the land where Wailana Coffee House sits today.

"He (my dad) bought this area about 1951, everyone thought he was crazy," Tom said laughing.

"There was no Hilton Hawaiian Village, no Ala Moana Boulevard, just a coral road. But he bought the land and he built the drive-in, Kapiolani Drive-Inn, he had car hop service—it was very popular at that time. Then in the late 60s, he got together with Bruce Stark and they developed Wailana Condominium and this restaurant."

Kenton Tom says when his father passed away 15 years ago, he and his siblings—Malcom and Joanna, became the owners.

The diner also featured a bar and karaoke at night. Regulars say they loved coming in for all-you-can-eat pancakes at 2 a.m.

Rechirei and Tom say they will miss all their regulars, "they're a part of our family, a part of us," they said.

Once the news broke of the closure, Tom said he didn't know how much of an impact the diner had on people over the last five decades.

"We've had lots of phone calls allday, I was very, very surprised. I didn't think people would notice that much."

The co-owner says they will be offering a kamaaina discount during its last week.



http://www.staradvertiser.com/2018/08/26/business/iconic-wailana-coffee-house-to-close-next-month/

Wailana Coffee House, the iconic 24-hour family diner in Waikiki, will close at the end of next month.

An on-duty manager confirmed the news but declined to cite a reason pending an official statement from the restaurant’s owners.

Wailana Coffee House, which employs about 100 people, is owned and operated by founder Francis Tom’s three children Kenton Tom, Malcolm Tom and Joanna Leong.

The restaurant started as a concession at the Honolulu Zoo in 1947. In 1949, Francis Tom and wife Mary re-established it as Kapiolani Drive Inn at the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Ena Road. Known simply as KDI, the 24-hour restaurant had a dining counter, carhop service and enough parking for 100 cars. Its large sign featuring a hula dancer and an ukulele player was one of the most recognizable sights in Waikiki.

When business began flagging, Francis Tom rebranded the business again as a family diner, based on his observation of similar businesses popular on the mainland. Wailana Coffee House, and the adjoining 24-story Wailana at Waikiki condominium complex, opened in 1969.

In the decades since, the restaurant has proven an enduring favorite of locals and visitors alike for its out-of-time charm and low-frills mix of standard diner fare and local favorites like oxtail soup, kalbi and beef stew. Its eggs Benedict has been much celebrated, as has its humble meatloaf.

Often the clientele was determined by the time of day, with tourist families arriving early for breakfast, local regulars coming for dinner and staying for an evening of karaoke in the bar, and bleary-eyed club hoppers (and the occasional time-zone refugee) staggering in for a quick bite in the pre-dawn hours.

In its heyday, the coffee house served as a late-night stop for Don Ho and other big-name Waikiki entertainers.

And just as the old Kapiolani Drive Inn served as a location in an episode of the original “Hawaii Five-0,” Wailana Coffee House has appeared twice in the CBS reboot: first in the 2012 “Hawaii Five-0” episode “I Helu Pu” and again in 2016 for the episode “Malama ka Poe,” in which lead character Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) rhapsodizes about “the best pancakes on the island, hands down.”

Crap
Was always fun to stop in for a quick drink when the bar would open
Not to mention the am macadamia nut pancakes
:(

[ Edited by: hang10tiki 2018-09-02 20:00 ]

Recently visited Waikiki and the Big Island. I had 27 Mai Tais and there's collated in this hashtag on Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/umthawaii/

Monkeypod
Myna Bird
La Mariana
Skull & Crown Trading Company
Mai Tai Bar Ala Moana
Lava Tube
Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar
Halekulani House without a Key
Wiki Waki Woo
Cuckoo Coconuts
Kuleana Rum Shack
Don the Beachcomber
Lava Lava Beach Club
and more...

Summary post: https://www.instagram.com/p/B1abxOJgRd_/
Hawaiian Mai Tai Recap

Stats:
Oahu: 16, Big Island: 11
19 different venues
1944 Style: 11, Island Style: 14, Premixed: 2

Top 5

  1. Skull & Crown (with Appleton 12)
  2. Halekulani
  3. Don the Beachcomber’s 1944
  4. Kuleana Rum Shack (with Appleton 12)
  5. Skull & Crown (house blend)

Best Island Style Mai Tai: La Mariana
Best Bar: Skull & Crown
Best Restaurant: La Mariana
Best Beach Bar: Lava Lava
Best Hotel Bar: Royal Hawaiian
Best Value: Arnold’s $7 Mai Tai
Most Unique: Wiki Waki Woo Tropical Bar
Best Vintage Location: La Mariana
Best New Location: Skull & Crown (9.6 on Crikti’s scale!)

B

When did you go to LLBC? Up until about a year ago the seating was more outdoors and closer to the shore and it was a real party atmosphere, but it seems the State made them remove a lot of the beach-side seating out under the trees last year. It isn't quite the same anymore. It really makes me sad because LLBC was such a fantastic Place To Be. We'd go there and spend hours eating dinner, hanging out, and sleeping off the rum in the beach chairs past midnight. We took all of our visitors to LLBC, and went there for special occasions. Now it's been almost a year since we bothered to go.

The "Bamboocha" drink they make is terrible, but at least you can taste the (cheap) rum unlike a lot of restaurant "mai tai" atrocities that are more sticky-sweet fruit punch than cocktail. (they used to call it a "mai tai", but I think the description changed to emphasize the "bamboocha" thing) I don't see it among your photos though, so I guess maybe you had the weaker thing they call a mai tai?

We visited Lava Lava Beach Club the hour before closing, and were seated outside on the lower patio. Seemed like a great atmosphere.

I had the Huggo's Mai Tai (wasn't impressed by the cocktail), but my wife said it was the best Lava Flow she's ever had.
https://www.instagram.com/p/B1VpBEMA8tb/

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