1147 Bethel St. Chinatown
Phone number (808) 537-4992

Pizza and beer. It’s a simple combo, and one that’s widely accepted as one of the best food-and-drink pairings known to mankind. Sure, there’s some science behind the flavor harmony these two create — beer’s malty, yeasty and hoppy qualities not only balance the acidity of pizza’s tomato sauce, but also cut through its rich cheese and pair well with its dough.

But the real appeal of this golden combination comes from that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from walking into your neighborhood parlor, catching up with the friendly staffers and tasting the instant comfort of some good ol’ pizza and beer.

J.J. Dolan’s on Bethel Street caters to that exact form of contentment, serving up handcrafted pies and beers on tap that are “cheaper than therapy, and way more delicious,” as it boasts on its website.

The homey pub is made up of equal parts J.J. Niebuhr and Danny Dolan, two of Honolulu’s restaurant-industry veterans who combined their respective strengths in the field to create pizza-and-beer magic. Prior to opening the parlor in 2008, Niebuhr had been making pies every Friday night at Murphy’s Bar and Grill, while Dolan had served as general manager of O’Tooles Irish Pub across the street.

“I knew I could run a bar, and he could really make the best pizza, so if we could put it together, maybe people would enjoy it, and that’s how it happened,” recalls Dolan. “It’s a simple formula, and we’re simple guys, so I think it’s true to us.”

Simple as the concept may be, executing it properly is no easy task. When it comes to pizza, Niebuhr ensures his handcrafted slices are comprised of high-quality ingredients that surpass your run-of-the-mill pies. You’ll taste the difference in the basics, such as Classic Pepperoni, which features whole milk mozzarella “straight from New York,” and a rich tomato sauce prepared with Californian Escalon tomatoes.

Locally sourced ingredients, such as the Hawaiian Flour Mills flour in the dough, are used whenever possible.

As for the type of pizza we’re talking about, that’s key to the J.J. Dolan’s experience.

“Basically it’s pizza I grew up with in New Jersey: New York-style thin-crust pizza,” says the boisterous Niebuhr, whose Jersey accent still is going strong, even after living in the Islands for 25 years.

Niebuhr’s accent hints at the overall authenticity of his pies, as does the “Lexus of pizza ovens,” a Marsal & Sons double deck from Lindenhurst, N.Y. And with a no-fuss menu consisting of mostly pizzas — both classic and gourmet — a few pupus and a few salads, the kitchen crew can focus their efforts on honing their craft. “This is our passion, this is what we do. We’re not trying to do anything else. Pizza, beer, nice clean place,” shares Niebuhr.

Dolan matches this sentiment behind the full bar, where he keeps a refined selection of brewskis on tap, ranging from Smithwicks and Stella Artois to island-based Kona Longboard.

“We sell a lot of beer, period. But Guinness is our No. 1 seller,” he says, “and then we have five or six rotating (beers on tap), things that are out there that I think are interesting or that my customers would enjoy.”

And at the end of the day, it’s nice to know that the pure joy J.J. Dolan’s pizza and beer brings to its patrons is filtered right back to those who continue to passionately provide them.

“For me, meeting people who say, ‘Hey, you have great pizza, it was delicious, had a good time, your place is awesome’ — that’s what drives me to keep doing it. And I know it’s cheesy,” Niebuhr pauses, bursting out into laughter, “but really, it’s in the customers.”