1 Cent Beers At Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley
In high school, I used to spend a lot of time in the Waikiki area. Even in college, I got a job working in Waikiki!
But after working in Japan and being away for so many years, I’ve had to get reacquainted with Waikiki. So many new projects and developments went up in the last 5+ years! So many new shops and restaurants, and so little time…
With all the choices, it can be overwhelming sometimes. As a local, I just want somewhere cheap and convenient where I can have a few drinks with some friends in a casual setting. And that’s where Waikiki Yokocho comes in.
What’s a Yokocho?
Of the two words in Waikiki Yokocho, you’re probably only familiar with Waikiki. Yokocho is not a Hawaiian word, so don’t feel bad if you’ve learned some Hawaiian words and didn’t recognize it.
If you’ve done some traveling around Japan, you may be familiar with it. It’s actually a Japanese word (横丁) describing an alleyway off the main street that’s full of different local eateries and bars.
Some famous Japanese yokocho you may have heard of include Kabuki-cho and Piss Alley (actually named Omoide Yokocho) in Shinjuku, and Drunkard’s Alley (Nonbei Yokocho) in Shibuya.
There are a lot more than that all over Japan, and Waikiki Yokocho includes a map of all the biggest and most famous yokocho across Japan.
What to Expect
If you’ve been to any of the yokocho above in Japan, you probably have some idea of what to expect from a yokocho. But Waikiki Yokocho is totally different.
Firstly, the yokocho in Japan weren’t built to be famous yokocho. They’re usually located near a large station and organically form.
The shops are tiny—usually seating only two or three inside—because real estate is expensive there.
The food and drink is quick to prepare—no fancy elaborate menus—because you want to serve as many people and get them in and out as fast as possible.
The atmosphere is crazier because you have drunk salarymen getting off of work and looking to unwind with some drinks.
Waikiki Yokocho, on the other hand, was built specifically to aesthetically mimic the yokocho of Japan but it lacks any authenticity. I’d call it a Japanese food court more than anything else.
It’s located underground, beneath the Waikiki Shopping Plaza. You can access it from the street outside via an elevator, or a staircase if you’re already inside the Waikiki Shopping Plaza.
The area is very large and there are a good number of restaurants to choose from. Most have menus outside and bold storefronts that announce what shop it is. It’s also tenuously organized by type of food.
Where’s The Cheap Beer?
You’re probably wondering where you can get the 1 cent beers from. Within Waikiki Yokocho is a stand called Nomu. They operate as a one-price restaurant. Normally, everything on the menu is $3.
But, in order to rack up customers, they hand out flyers outside of the street entrance. Bring a flyer in and you’ll get $1 beer. Perhaps business was slow that day, though, and they had crossed the dollar sign out and replaced it with a cent sign.
I was a bit skeptical when I saw that at first. There had to be some kind of catch, right? Apart from the not-so-fine print on the bottom, there were no restrictions. Nothing saying that you had to buy anything other than a penny beer.
I know this because the two fellows in front of me redeemed their flyers and left with only their beers. I, on the other hand, felt guilty and decided to get food as well. At $3, why not!
In case you were skeptical, here’s the receipt. A Kona Longboard beer was only a penny! Also, if you didn’t notice, their $3 items ring up at $2.86 so it factors in tax and gratuities.
(If you’re wondering what that $4 beer charge is: they were running a Kirin and yakitori special for $5. That’s how it rang up.)
Review of Nomu
I think it was early enough in the evening (before 8PM) where things were still pretty relaxed. There was plenty of seating (especially at the bar area) and I didn’t feel rushed at any time.
I actually really enjoyed sitting at the bar area as opposed to a regular seat because I got to see how the food was prepared. The layout of the restaurant is totally open so there’s nothing going on behind the scenes that you can’t watch.
I can’t say too much for the drinks because I didn’t try very many. Apart from beer, they do have a few cocktails that you can choose from.
Like usual, I had a classic gin and tonic. It was nothing special; they literally just mixed gin and tonic water together with no garnishing. But I could taste the alcohol so I felt like I was getting my money’s worth in terms of alcohol.
What’s nice about Nomu’s drink menu is that they use almost only Japanese products. So, if you want to try some Japanese liquor you’re in luck.
Of course, you’re not going to find any fancy and expensive liquors here. After all, it is only $3. But it’s a good introduction to the drinks.
While I didn’t originally come to Nomu with the thought of food in mind, I saw the menu and was already tempted. They are primarily a yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) restaurant so their yakitori choices are pretty extensive.
What’s nice is that you can also choose the type of meat you prefer. I like my chicken dry (don’t judge me please) so I always go with breast meat. I would’ve liked to try all of the flavors, but my stomach only allowed me to taste the spicy dynamite and garlic soy sauce flavors.
Both were extremely delicious, but the spicy dynamite was the winner, hands down. The sauce was a spicy mayo and sweet tare sauce and it was topped with pepper strips.
Despite everything, it wasn’t too spicy though! And especially not when paired with a beer.
The garlic soy sauce option was mostly garlic and not enough soy sauce. I normally wouldn’t complain, since I’m a garlic fiend, but it needed a little extra dimension.
If you’re not a yakitori fan, don’t worry. They have other typical Japanese pub food as well as some surprising additions to the menu.
If you’re looking to order a lot, or if you just want to see the menu in its entirety, there are also these sheets of paper. You can write your order on here and bring it up to the register instead.
Though it was a Japanese restaurant, there were a few Korean dishes on the menu. I spotted kimchi, kimchi soup, and namul. I decided to also order the kimchi soup and hiyayakko.
The hiyayakko is the farthest left dish. It’s a basic dish of tofu and toppings, but they did a good job and didn’t skimp out on the toppings. There was plenty of bonito fish flakes, grated ginger, and soy sauce to make each bite full of flavor.
The farthest right dish is my kimchi soup. The kimchi soup was also really good. I would put it on par with any kimchi soup that I’ve eaten at a standard Korean restaurant.
In the foreground, you can see the garlic soy sauce yakitori. Like I mentioned, it was more garlic flakes than soy sauce so I had to use some of the extra spicy dynamite sauce mixture to elevate it.
I recommend a trip to Waikiki Yokocho if you’re staying in Waikiki. There’s a good selection of foods and desserts to try and because it’s not a formal restaurant, you can hop from place to place to try as much of the cuisine as you can!
There are quite a few famous restaurants from Japan inside, including the ramen restaurant Bario.
I can’t guarantee that they’re handing out one cent beer flyers (or even one dollar flyers) when you go to visit but it’s worth trying anyway. From what I noticed they started handing them out upstairs after the sun went down.
If you do go to visit, let me know what you thought about it! And if you thought it was worth the price.
2250 Kalakaua Ave, Honolulu, HI 96815
Open 11 AM - midnight