I liked Koco’s Pub, but I think I went during the wrong time of year. Awash in beachy kitsch, this Hamilton mainstay seems like a careworn cliché in mid-July. In winter it probably feels like a tropical resort, with its palm-leaf murals and friendly service. I’m happy to go back and give it a go at some later, chillier date. With all its nods towards points south, Koco’s is a quintessential neighborhood spot.
Koco’s is a meandering, lemon yellow building with a be-parroted sign, looking not entirely unlike a cruise ship run aground on the side of Harford Road. The main entrance is on the side, on Overland Avneue, and when I ducked in on a sunny day, my eyes to a minute to adjust to Koco’s dim lighting. When my pupils sorted themselves out, I saw a clutch of families having dinner, complete with kids playing on the floor. I saw regulars lining the long bar at the far end of the restaurant. I saw the aforementioned beachy kitsch. Ugh.
I’m leery of all things beach-themed (restaurants, parties, weddings, etc), which are often an attempted cheap short cut to fun. Beach = AWESOME, right? There’s a picture of surfboard on this menu and the club sandwich is called a Jammin’ Jamacian, so I must be HAVING A BLAST!!! But really, only the beach truly feels like the beach. Whenever I’m standing in someone’s scrubby back yard next to a tiki torch drinking a melting mai tai, it’s like watching a bad drag queen with five o’clock shadow. C’mon, who are you kidding here?
Anyhoodle, beach-themed places work to do to win me over. Koco’s does the work, with bar food at extremely reasonable prices and happy hour drink specials. (Said happy hour only runs from 3-6, though, so nip out of work early to catch them. There aren’t any food specials, but when fries are $4 a basket that’s not really an issue.) My friend Ellie and I got a few domestic draft beers for $2, served in chilled pint glasses. For our second round, we got new glasses, straight from the freezer – very nice touch. The bartenders were the best I’ve encountered in a long time, attentive but not pushy. Ellie and I opted not to order food – not even Koco’s famous crabcake, which looked like a delectable softball of crabby, flaky goodness – and the staff was no less interested in making sure we were happy.
The bartender even gave us (and everyone else at the bar) an oft-refilled basket of snack mix. I fall for free-salty-snacks-trick every single time a bar places a thirst-inducing treat in front of me, like the rube at the street fair who’s sure he can beat the carnie’s shell game. But really, any place with free snackes is A-OK in my book and the incredible service evoked a four-star Carribbean hotel far more than Parrothead-y décor did. I didn’t feel whisked away to a tropical island, but I did feel right at home.
Note: Koco’s is closed on Sunday and Monday.