Duke’s Waikiki is one of those restaurants that goes far beyond the food. It lets you feel a little history as well as experiencing what is behind the name Duke’s. Being hailed as Hawaii’s official “Ambassador of Aloha” is a big billing, but one that was fitting of Duke Kahanamoku. Duke’s Waikiki takes on all that Duke was, you not only get a sense of his historical significance in surfing, but also all that he meant as a human being and that all translates into the one restaurant that you must experience while in Waikiki.
As you approach Duke’s located on the beach at the amazing Outrigger Waikiki, the first sense you get of what a fabulous restaurant is the number of people everywhere. It is a pretty good clue that you might be in for something special when you have to jostle your way through a crowd just to put your name in, which leads me to some words of wisdom, get to Duke’s early whenever you are dining. Although, when you consider the view it is a pretty good place to grab a cocktail and wait for you name to be called.
Duke’s is not a one-time visit type of restaurant, but considering you are on vacation and have a lot of things going on we will give you two times to make sure you visit Duke’s. The breakfast buffet, there is really no better way to start your day off. A little coffee, maybe some POG (passion-orange-guava) to go along with the ocean breeze and a little sunrise glistening off of the ocean as you watch the surfers trying to catch some early waves, you might just never want to leave. This is a breakfast buffet so no worries in terms of getting enough to eat. You can have an omelet to order, a wide variety of fresh fruit, pancakes and French toast that you can douse with tropical strawberry, coconut or maple syrup just to get you started. My favorite item that I have never come across before was “Duke’s Own Pina Colada Bread Pudding.” Normally a bread pudding at a buffet is something I would pass on, but I was glad I gave this one a try as it was prepared properly and was still fresh and you really could taste the pina colada flavor without it being to overpowering, this was a real treat and worth trying. Duke’s also does a lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that features island style fish and kalua pork and cabbage.
The other time to visit Duke’s would be Sunday night and either make a reservation or get their early and hope for the best. People line up early for this 4:45 dinner kickoff and they don’t mind waiting. If you can get a table you are in for a great night, Duke’s clears off what is normally the pool/beach deck for the Outrigger and they turn it into a live entertainment venue with a beer garden feel. This event is standing room only as the locals know this is the place to be on Sunday night and travelers if they don’t know it, soon learn of it and join in the fun. You can’t go wrong eating dinner, taking in the music, people watching as well as stunning view of the ocean as the sun goes down. If you can’t get a table right away, head out to the deck, grab a cocktail and dance, make new friends, just have a great time. Just a warning, if you want a quiet dinner, Sunday night at Duke’s is not for you.
Once you do get that table if you are a connoisseur of prime rib don’t waste anytime ordering it, as it is spectacular and it does not last very long. This is Hawaii and it is hard to turn down some of the freshest and best tasting fish in the world and Duke’s does not disappoint. To make sure you have the freshest fish, the Duke’s menu will vary but whatever is available at the time you get some tasty variations in how it is prepared. You can go with the baked “Duke’s” style in which your fish is baked in garlic, lemon and a sweet basil glaze or try the sautéed mac nut and herb crusted version. If you are looking for the best of both worlds, do as Duke’s suggests and take your steak surfing by adding a ¼ pound roasted Tristan lobster tail. Duke’s serves up an incredibly tender steak to go along with a perfectly prepared lobster tail that in not lacking in meat. Duke’s also adds their salad bar to every entrée so come to dinner with an appetite. Plenty of fresh fruit, a wide variety of salads including a nice and light Caesar salad and a kale salad with walnuts that you aren’t likely to find at any other salad bar.
Hopefully you have a big group so you can finish off your dinner properly by order Kimo’s Original Hula Pie. They say this is what the sailors swam to shore for in Lahaina and after one bit you will know why. A monster piece of a vanilla ice cream pie, topped with hot fudge and macadamia nuts and it also had a cookie crumb base. The only problem for you is trying to get a little of each flavor in every bite. This is the only way to end of the evening.
If you want to take in some history of Hawaii, fantastic food, a view that is right off of a postcard and service that is good as it gets, well Duke’s is the place for you. You will leave not only with a memorable meal, but an experience that is defined by the name Duke’s.