The Backyard Bar: Big Daddy’s offers laid back atmosphere

Customers sit at picnic tables or tables made from Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s big wooden electric wire spools. A gray tarp tent covers part of the outdoor entertainment area. Instead of snacking on bread or chips, customers eat salted boiled peanuts.

These details might not attract typical tourists to Big Daddy’s Pupus & Beers, but for island residents, these are signs of home, said co-owner Leroy Ching.

“It’s not the sort of place you’d see in a tourist brochure,” he said.

Big Daddy’s Pupus & Beers, which opened this summer in the King Kamehameha Mall on Kuakini Highway, is a genuine local bar, according to its owners.

They hope to provide “a comfortable and authentic place” for West Hawaii residents to eat, drink and relax.

“The atmosphere is just like being at a baby luau or a graduation party,” Ching said.

Big Daddy’s offers family-style food and island entertainment, featuring local musicians, disc jockeys and free karaoke. Ching said he knows “99 percent” of his customers personally.

Leroy’s brother, Eric, designed and built the venue’s bar and fenced outdoor seating area. The central theme in his design and construction is that Big Daddy’s “is like your backyard,” he said.

The pupu menu includes smoked meat and onions, edamame, kalua pork and onions, and guava glazed chicken wings. Sesame shoyu poke, spicy tuna poke and “spicy tsunami poke,” which is made with tuna and imitation crab, are also popular.

The bar is intended to be affordable for residents, Leroy said. All pupu cost $6 and a domestic beer, served in an 18-ounce schooner, costs $4 or $3 during happy hour. Imported beers are $5 or $4 and well drinks are $3.

Ching and co-owner Dubin Whitaker have worked together with their audio company, Audio AFX, since 1998. Audio AFX provides entertainment at graduation parties, weddings and other events, which gave the business partners experience with what locals enjoy, Ching said. He also worked as the resident disc jockey and entertainment coordinator at Lulu’s for 14 years, and Whitaker worked extensively in the customer service industry.

The business partners long dreamed of opening their own bar and saw a demand for something different in Kona’s entertainment scene.

“Kona didn’t have any place geared toward a local clientele,” said Whitaker, the original “Big Daddy” behind the bar’s name. “We felt like the community was in need of something a little different.”

Big Daddy’s Pupus & Beers is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. During football season, the bar opens at 7 a.m. on Sundays. Visit or call 333-5729.