Stay: Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club
I found a low-key place to call home off the main strip. Literally located next to a gay bar, The Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club (412 Lewers Street, Tel: 855-945-4082. www.surfjack.com) is part hotel and part 60’s beach party, reflecting a trend that’s taken off around the globe where hotels become active social spaces. It has a chic, beach vibe with handmade wallpaper by Andrew Mau. There is also a living fern installation by Paiko Hawaii, painted works by hand-lettering artist Matthew Tapia, and awesome wood-carved lights by local artist Mark Chai in the restaurant located on the side of the pool.
In my vintage-inspired one-bedroom “bungalow” with reed ceilings, handcrafted furniture, eclectic artwork, private lanais, and custom-tile bathrooms, I immediately open both my sliding doors to welcome in the fresh air. After changing into my decidedly not-in-New-York-winter anymore summer clothes, I join the party downstairs and grab a bite to eat at the much-hyped in-house restaurant by Ed Kenney.
Eat: Pig and the Lady
Chain restaurants dominate Waikiki, but you can find more local and authentic foods in downtown. I happily stop at the Pig and the Lady (83 N. King Street, Tel: 808-585-8255. www.thepigandthelady.com) a well-publicized restaurant, where reservations are encouraged.
Even at lunchtime this trendy spot seems to fill up for Chef de Cuisine Brandon Lee’s inspired Vietnamese fusion. Cutesy pigs line the restaurant’s front window and diners walk past a counter-service bar and shelves of gorgeous Southeast Asian baked goods that are made daily in the back (you can watch them at work through a window).
Under crab-cage lampshades at a communal table, I cool off with a Thai iced tea and gleefully look over a menu that’s just my style. It’s a great start when I dive into the twice-fried chicken wings that are sweet and spicy and super-crispy. “What’s the sauce,” I ask my fellow diners. “The menu says money $auce,” they respond. It’s a secret recipe that will leave you feeling a bit like a pig and not so lady like as you rub it off your mouth. For the main, I have Hawaiian prawns, crab fat, tofu, banana blossom, rice vermicelli, and fresh herbs that immediately triggers memories to traveling in Southeast Asia. Before leaving, make sure you pop into the bathroom, it’s an homage to Big Trouble in Little China.
Shop: Hound & Quail
Stepping into Hound & Quail (920 Maunakea Street, www.houndandquail.com) is kind of like stepping into the minds of the owners, Travis Flazer and Mark Pei, who met on a haunted tour of Honolulu. A fabulous mix of vintage goods and oddities gives the store a museum feel, but everything is very accessible. Animal busts, old books, photographs, and furniture collected from throughout Hawaii and around the world (Pei works as a pilot and his travels constantly bring him to unique and stimulating places).