Hawaii Bar isn't exactly the flower-strewn, multicoloured drink haven I imagined. The tiki theme is apparent only through the potted plants above the bar, the ocean-blue walls, and a lone bottle of Hawaiian Style Pale Ale behind the bar. (Not for sale, unfortunately.)
The rest of the bar is small but cozy, and undoubtedly dive-like. A television set in the corner makes game-watching possible; a radio rounds out the rest of the entertainment.
Having recently replaced its old sign, Hawaii Bar is far less inconspicuous than it used to be. The current owner, Gus, is often perched at the end of the bar, nursing a tall-boy and partaking in the sambuca-induced shenanigans of his regulars.
He inherited the thirty-plus years-old joint from his father about a year and a half ago, and pretty much grew up in the place.
Apart from the sign, there seems to be little he wants to change. Judging from the regulars' familiarity with the staff, it's easy to see how consistency is such a virtue here. Few things are more genuinely old-school than near-empty bottles of ouzo and Metaxa behind the bar.
When I stopped in early for a drink last Thursday night the bar didn't have too many customers, but it eventually filled up and became fairly lively by 11.
Surveying the crowd, I'd have to say that it was a bit of a mishmash: there were some guys from around the neighbourhood; a few restless exiles from Parkdale; curious student-types looking for a budget-appropriate buzz (jello-shots are $2) and a group of mustachioed misfits talked politics and comics in the corner.
That didn't exempt them from the fun, though: as Guns and Roses' "Sweet Child o'Mine" came on the radio, everyone, including them, cheered.
Tuesday nights seem to be the best time of the week to come by. There's a live tiki band, and the cook serves up pulled pork and guacamole. There's also stand up comedy on Fridays and other live bands throughout the week. Keeping it local seems to be a mantra.
If you like nonsensical, liquor-fueled conversation with heavily accented gentlemen, by all means--come alone. The relative quiet of the place also makes it a decent spot for a small group. As neighbourhood joints go, one can do a lot worse than Hawaii Bar.