On Beretania Street, across from Longs Drugs and next to Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, is a lot that forever seems to be home to a different restaurant. I’ve come to think of this space as “that one restaurant, from that one time.”

But in Holoholo Bar & Grill, I’ve found hope for this little lot.

Though it’s hardly literally little. Outside is a shared parking lot that fits at least 20 cars, and inside is a bar and dining area that looks to accommodate at least twice that many.

As I write this, I’ve just returned from a tasting of its new happy hour menu. It was my first time there, and at the risk of being completely cliché, I can’t wait to go back.

None of these items is an entirely new concept. And yet, each seamlessly combines the familiar with the lesser known.

The Tempura Ahi Roll, for instance, is something I almost dismissed if it hadn’t been for two thin slices of ginger as a garnish. With that added bite of spice, it instantly was transformed from ordinary to something I plan to order when I return.

It was almost the same thing with the Fried Ahi Belly.

“Eh,” I thought to myself, but ordered it anyway after it came highly recommended. I’m glad I did. Lightly floured and then deep-fried, the ahi maintained a supple texture without being dry at all. Served with a spicy shoyu sesame sauce, it was just the right amount of heat to make it feel complete.

And then there was Noe’z Nachoz. Deceptively simple, it only featured three toppings: Ground S’maka Burger, Kim Chee Dip and melted cheese. Looking at the menu later, I realized it also should have come with lomi tomatoes. It would have been a nice addition, but what I did try was more than OK. The Ground S’maka Burger meat was almost like biting into a May’s burger — ergo, delicious. And the Kim Chee Dip, which basically tasted like creamy kimchi, was a nice substitute for sour cream. Plus, as you know well by now, I am a fan of just about anything with kimchi.

Oh, and about that Kim Chee Dip? You also can order it separately and have it served with chips.

Happy hour food specials are available Monday-Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. with drinks deals from 3 to 6 p.m.


About a year ago, Jill Owens opened Holoholo Bar & Grill. She describes it as family-style eating for bigger parties inspired by her own family’s plights to find restaurants that cater to large groups.

Drawing from past experiences of working at places like Indigo, she was driven to create dishes without having to outsource.

“What I loved about Indigo was that everything was made in-house,” she says. “When I opened, that was one of the things I really wanted to do.”

From another part of her life, the food at Holoholo also is largely influenced by Owens’ travels as a former hula dancer.

“I always bring back something that I like,” says Owens.