The menu at Honolulu Harry’s, a Hawaiian bar and restaurant in College Park, includes “a note from the owners,” a rather lengthy, stream-of-consciousy address with a basic theme that we should spend more time taking care of ourselves. It concludes by telling the reader, “You’re good enough.”
If only the restaurant aimed so high.
But maybe that’s the main issue. Maybe Honolulu Harry’s wants to be more of a bar than a restaurant.
It does make a mean mai tai, a de rigueur drink for any Pacific Islands lounge.
The best of the food I sampled was the Maui Meatballs appetizer from the “small bites” section of the menu. (There are 13 small bites as opposed to six entrees.) The meatballs were nicely formed and dense, coated with a sweet glaze and served on a bed of pineapple salsa. The four balls were good-sized for a $10 appetizer.
But the Holy Guacamole, which was wholly disappointing, appeared to have been made some time in advance and lacked color. Flavor, too. A good squeeze of lime and a dash of salt might have helped.
The Island Tacos that my dinner companion ordered had an unfortunate fishy taste. The pieces of blackened grouper were served in soft flour tortillas with some raw cabbage and more of that pineapple salsa. The three tacos ($22) were accompanied by a pasta salad that one supposes was meant to be a take on Hawaii’s ubiquitous macaroni salad. And it was fine.
My Ahi Bowl ($28) had cubes of yellowfin tuna that had been seared but was tepid and listless. It was dotted with dollops of avocado cream and had scallions, cubed cucumbers and jalapeños. The bowl was fashioned out of rice flour that I assume was meant to be edible. But the bowl was chewy rather than crispy, as though it had absorbed too much moisture.
The storefront space occupies two rooms on the first floor of the Wellesley Condominium building. On one side is the bar with seating at the counter plus a few hightop tables. The other side is a dining room with tiki tchotchkes in framed shadowboxes backlit in blue. Multiple bamboo light fixtures hang over the several tables and chairs. In between the two areas, for some reason, there is a hot pink neon sign that reads, “I liked it so it’s mine.” There is also outdoor seating on the front walkway.
The evening I visited, the place was occupied by a large group of people wearing name tags milling about. There seemed to be only two people working in the front of the house, tending bar and tending tables, so our wait to place an order was overly long. I appreciated that the server who finally greeted us apologized for the delay, though we did wonder why the other person just seemed to be casually chatting with people at the bar.
Those people had made the right choice. Honolulu Harry’s is a better place for a frilly cocktail than a meal.
Honolulu Harry’s is at 2305 Edgewater Drive, Orlando (map). It is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 407-493-1973. Note that the only thing on the website is an ordering form for takeout or delivery. Mai tais not included.