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Foodie Fare
Foodie Fare

Raving About Barbecue Ribs, More

By Christina O Connor Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
March 23, 2014

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Tony Roma’s is best known for its barbecue items — especially its ribs, and more so, its Original Baby Back Ribs. With so much attention focused on these items, it could be easy to overlook the other dishes on the menu, which would be a mistake. Tony Roma’s also is stocked full of steaks, seafood and pasta dishes.

For a yummy place to start, try the Kickin’ Shrimp ($9.99), which features shrimp bathed in a creamy, spicy sauce.

For more shrimp, one popular entree is the Shrimp Scampi Pasta ($18.99), presenting succu-lent shrimp sauteed in butter with a homemade sun-dried tomato sauce. It’s all served over linguine.

But with all this hype about Tony Roma’s ribs, you’d be missing out not to give the Original Baby Back Ribs ($28.99) a try. According to regional chef JP Choy, they’re by far the Waikiki location’s most popular dish.

Choy explains what makes the ribs so good: The restaurant selects the most tender pieces of meat. Plus, the way they’re prepared hasn’t strayed from when the first Tony Roma’s opened in the 1970s, so you can count on consistency. The ribs also come with a choice of sauces: a sweet and tangy original, a sweeter Carolina honey, and a spicy, red hot sauce.

And if you can’t decide what to get, you can create a combo out of almost any entree on the menu with ribs. Take, for instance, the St. Louis Ribs and Filet Medallion Combo ($27.99), which features a rack of ribs and two filet medallions. The Filet Medallions are topped with a homemade Cabernet demi-glace.

“These (St. Louis Ribs) are meatier and more marbled than the Baby Back Ribs,” explains Choy.

The combo comes with a choice of sides — including a loaded baked potato and roasted garlic green beans, as pictured here.

Tony Roma’s is currently in the process of changing its menu, which is scheduled to be unveiled in May.

While they’ll be adding some new dishes, long-time patrons can still enjoy their favorites, as they will be keeping the core items and customer favorites around.

On the Side

Tony Roma’s has been wowing customers with American barbecue since the first location opened in Florida in the 1970s. Back then, there were only a few barbecue items on the menu. But these days, the restaurant has greatly expanded its expertise to include a wide range of entrees.

Regional chef JP Choy has seen a lot of those changes. Choy started cooking at home when he was just 10 years old —and has been at Tony Roma’s Waikiki since it opened in 1980. He grew up in Vietnam, and Tony Roma’s was his first job when he arrived in the Islands.

“I love cooking,” he says.

That passion is evident in the food at Tony Roma’s. And while a lot of recipes are the same at Tony Roma’s locations nationwide, each individual restaurant also can suggest new items, or create its own to run as specials. Under Choy’s lead, the local restaurants occasionally run items that are influenced by local tastes.

For example, Tony Roma’s Waikiki recently featured a dish that utilized Teriyaki sauce.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com

Tony Roma’s

WAIKIKI
1972 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
942-2121
Daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

AIEA
98-150 Kaonohi St., Aiea
487-9911
Sunday–Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.