For our first night in Waikiki, we thought it’d be fun to have a family dinner together at a restaurant that my husband and I went to last year and really enjoyed. Luckily, the restaurant is just down the street from our hotel, so getting there wouldn’t be a problem. I called the restaurant earlier in the week to get reservations for our party of 6 and was actually able to secure the time I wanted, so that was a bonus. I know that when my husband and I went to this restaurant last year for dinner, our wait for a table, without reservations, was just about 2 hours. With an oceanfront location and live entertainment, it’s not hard to see why this particular restaurant is quite popular with tourists. And, the restaurant and setting are pretty fun to boot. After a day of having to say good bye to the relative calm of the Big Island and hello to the madhouse that is Waikiki, a nice, relaxing setting is just what the doctor ordered.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a separate, fully-stocked bar, Duke’s Waikiki is always a happening place. With a motto of “On the Sand on Waikiki Beach,” what better setting is there for a casual, relaxed meal. Named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, known as Hawaii’s most famous citizen, Duke’s Waikiki aims to continue the legacy of this great man who is even honored with his own bronze statue on Waikiki Beach. As the State of Hawaii’s first official Ambassador of Aloha, the restaurant continues on in that Aloha spirit with good, fresh, local seafood and Hawaiian specialties in a convivial atmosphere. This is a place to kick back, relax, and let your hair out, so to speak.
To drink, I decided to order a banana split mocktail. Made with thick chocolate, fresh bananas and vanilla cream, how could you go wrong? I love bananas and this drink was pretty much like a milk shake, or rather a chocolate banana milk shake with just a bit of vanilla cream to add some richness and sweetness to the drink. After perusing through the drink menu, the only thing that appealed to my husband was an ice cold pint of Guinness.
We all decided to order a couple of pupus (appetizers) for the table. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law wanted the panko crusted calamari served with tropical cocktail sauce. Strips of calamari are breaded and deep fried to a nice, crispy golden brown. The dish looked delicious, though I didn’t try any myself. My husband and I decided that we’d order the crispy coconut crusted black tiger shrimp. Served with a spicy lilikoi sauce these shrimp were huge! They were perfectly butterflied, dredged and deep fried and tasted amazing, especially with the lilikoi sauce which I found to be much more tangy than spicy. The shrimp was definitely way more tasty than I had thought that they would be and was quite glad I had ordered them.
One of the things that Duke’s has changed up from when my husband and I visited last year was their policy on their terrific salad bar. Last year, each entrée that you ordered came with access to the unlimited salad bar which served items like Caesar salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, kale salad, taro buns, dinner rolls, macadamia nut muffins, pasta salad, and much, much more. This year, while you could still access the unlimited salad bar, there was an additional add-on fee to your entrée order. The salad bar, however, was one of the main reasons we brought my husband’s family here as he figured that there were enough choices that everyone would enjoy it. And enjoy it they did. I think I was the only in the group not to order the salad bar in addition to my entrée, though I was able to steal a bite of my husband’s Caesar salad and I maybe snagged a crouton.
For my dinner, I ordered the pulehu style filet of beef tenderloin. I know, I’m in Hawaii, I should be enjoying the fresh seafood. But honestly, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl and I’ll generally choose meat over seafood any day. And this meal was definitely a meat and potatoes meal. Beef tenderloin grilled with Hawaiian sea salt, brown sugar, cracked pepper, ginger and garlic and topped with roasted garlic butter was so good. All these amazing flavors that I love, ginger, garlic, pepper, sugar, how could you go wrong? The tenderloin was actually much larger than I had anticipated, but the meat was tender and silky and cooked to a nice medium rare with a little char on the outside. The potatoes were a good and filling accompaniment. Before I knew it, I had actually cleaned my plate. I’d say that was a good meal.
My husband did choose a fish dish, a sautéed macadamia nut and & herb crusted ono which was lightly dusted in parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. The fish was topped with lemon and capper butter and served with rice pilaf. I’ll admit that though I like my meat, my husband’s ono looked really good so I stuck my fork in there and stole a bite of his fish. The macadamia nut with cheese and herb crusting was perfectly. The breading wasn’t too thick, and the fish was nice and flaky and meaty. There was a great crunch to the way the breading was sautéed and pan-fried onto the fish. So each bite was alternately sweet, flaky, hot and a little crunchy and salty from the cheese, it was perfect. It almost had me wishing that I had ordered the fish instead of the meat, almost. My husband must have liked his meal as well because by the time I finished my meal, he had finished off his plate as well and he said it was excellent.
No way we’re leaving Duke’s without dessert. My husband and I already knew we’d be splitting a slice of Kimo’s original hula pie. In fact, that’s the sole reason, in our opinion, to dine at Duke’s. The hula pie is really that phenomenal. A Hawaiian version of what most people would call a mud pie, the hula pie is a chocolate wafer cookie crust with vanilla macadamia nut ice cream topped by a ton of chocolate sauce and more chopped macadamia nuts and whipped cream. Of course, with a dessert as legendary as the hula pie, the dessert itself is served on its own special hula pie plate! And the taste is phenomenal. Personally, I love pies with chocolate cookie crusts. The vanilla macadamia nut ice cream is simple, but creamy and filled with macadamia nuts. That doesn’t even count the huge handful of chopped macadamia nuts that is sprinkled over the huge helping of chocolate sauce that’s poured all over the top of this gigantic slice of hula pie. This dessert is definitely large enough for 2 people to share, if not 4 people. Bring your appetite, that’s for sure. But it’s well worth every single calorie.
Duke’s Waikiki is a laid-back, hang ten kind of restaurant that has a little bit of something to offer for everyone. With a gorgeous setting right on Waikiki Beach, this is the perfect place to wind down and relax with family. I think my husband and I made the right decision to bring the rest of his family here to enjoy a quiet and enjoyable family dinner. I think everyone was ultimately happy with what they ordered to eat, which is not always the easiest thing with a group of people who all enjoy different things. And of course, my husband and I both got what we wanted, hula pie. I guess you can kind of tell that the two of us certainly enjoyed the slice we shared. There’s nothing left of it!