Tourism has been Hawaii’s largest industry for a long time; since the collection of islands achieved statehood in 1959 in fact. As such, it is common for restaurants here to cater to larger groups of families and focus on sitting and serving as many people as possible. The Temple Bar is the exact opposite.
The Temple Bar is a small, intimate bar and restaurant located near downtown Hilo near the intersection of Puelo Street and Waianuenue Avenue. By small, we mean small. This is a one-floor restaurant along with Hilo’s downtown sector and is equipped only to fit a maximum of 34 people — but only if every seat and bar stool in the house is filled. Generally, during the busiest peak hours, only around 25 people will be sitting and enjoying the delicious food and drinks at The Temple Bar. This makes for a cozy, quality environment that feels more expensive than it is due to the more personalized guest experience each patron experiences.
Which, while the name The Temple Bar does focus on the drink aspect, this place does have excellent food. The Temple Bar is open for lunch, dinner, and evening drinks; excelling at all three. They have two food menus available at all times. There is a menu dedicated to their regular cuisine, available every day of the year, and then they also have a unique seasonal menu that boasts entrees and appetizers made from locally available, in-season produce, and meats. Most of their menu is tapas-style, meaning small in physical size but each dish arrives in multiples.
Popular dishes from their regular menu include:
Street Taco Plate
This dish comes served with your choice of tri-tip, carnitas, or smoked chicken as the primary protein and gets served on white corn tortillas with cilantro, onions, and a smoky homemade salsa that’s very tasty. You can also substitute that protein for freshly caught fish or mushroom mole, or add items like pickled jalapenos, avocados, and crispy kalo for a small surcharge.
Fresher than fresh, this entree comes with four freshly shucked Kumamoto oysters drizzled with a delicious truffle ponzu sauce and micro shiso. This menu item comes with a recommended wine pairing of their Lorenza Rose. The Lorenza Rose is a white wine The Temple Bar has on tap. Its name comes from its rose gold color.
Yes, The Temple Bar has several outstanding red and white wines on tap, in addition to their long list of bottled wines, bottled beers, draft beers, and, of course, specialty cocktails. These specialty cocktails both include drinks they’ve completely concocted, such as their Through the Looking Glass gin drink, as well as their upscale takes on classic favorites, such as their Damn Good Old Fashioned. The Damn Good Old Fashioned is a popular, if one of their most expensive drinks, which features Old Forester Whiskey 1920 Prohibition Style mixed with chocolate and orange bitters, Lagavulin 16 Year mist, and simple syrup.
While this menu and the small size of The Temple Bar might have you thinking of a more beachy, speakeasy-sort of feel, that’s not quite the decor. This restaurant and bar have a more industrial modern feel with metal tables and bar stools and several televisions behind the bar often broadcasting sports. So if you’re aiming to go, expect a more neighborly place rather than a speakeasy hip.
-The Temple Bar does not take reservations for any tables smaller than six. This combined with their small dining area capacity makes it so that parties of three to five should avoid coming during the busiest lunch and dinner hours. Or, alternatively, put your name in early for a wait and then go and enjoy walking and window-shopping around Hilo’s active downtown.
-For waits of a half-hour or longer during the day, consider popping into the Pacific Tsunami Museum around the corner to learn more about the history of Hilo and the impacts of tsunamis on it and other areas.