Honolulu’s recent surge in new restaurants opening up in hip enclaves like Kaimuki and Kakaako continues Downtown with two new bars, on the same block, offering inventive menus and custom cocktails.
Proof Public House and the Bethel Street Tap Room are both ambitious endeavors as they’re located on Bethel Street (actually, Proof is just off of Bethel on Chaplain Lane), which is already home to Brasserie du Vin, Sol De Cuba, and J.J. Dolan’s Irish Pizza Pub, all of which have enjoyed continued success for years.
At first, it would seem that both Proof and the Tap Room are going into direct competition with these successful restaurants. But the upstarts are hoping to create niches by offering food and drinks not being done anywhere else.
Proof Public House faces a challenge by offering pizza just around the corner from J.J. Dolan’s, whose pizza has won Hale Aina and Ilima Awards and is widely regarded as the best pizza on the island. But Proof serves pizza in the Roma style, with unusual and imaginative offerings like Kim Chee Fried Rice Pizza and the Chicken and Waffles Pizza. Of course, standard pepperoni and Neapolitan are on the menu. Proof also offers vegetarian and vegan options (just as its sister business Downbeat Diner does). Many of Proof’s ingredients are locally sourced. They sell by the slice, too, with daily specialty pies along with plain cheese and pepperoni.
Drink options at Proof include a variety of boutique bourbons, which can be enjoyed while clacking around one of the few pool tables in Downtown. Microbrews include Coronado Islander IPA and Maui Brewing selections.
Proof had its soft opening a month or so ago, but the official grand opening will be on January 30.
The Bethel Street Tap Room is a bar-in-the round, airy but intimate. Its provisions are mainly sandwiches, which go by names like the Cheesy Caprese, the Little Piggy, and the Italian Stallion. Appetizer offerings include a Bacon Cheeseburger Dip and the Seoul Bowl, which consists of kimchee flavored boiled peanuts and kalbi-glazed edamame (soybeans).
The signature cocktail at the Tap Room is the Dirty Pickle Martini, made with the juice of home-made pickles. The small but growing beer selection offers Guinness, Blue Moon, Coors Light, and other fairly predictable brews.
What makes the Tap Room unusual is that it’s also a bakery, specializing in cupcakes (of all things!) and other sweet confections. It is now the storefront for Let Them Eat Cupcakes, begun by the Tap Room’s owners several years ago, with the bakery just around the corner.
The restaurant business is a fickle one, and it remains to be seen whether Proof Public House and Bethel Street Tap Room will find success and longevity. But they are two good, new reasons to make a trip into Downtown.