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Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Duke’s Waikiki and Hula Grill Waikiki

Restaurant Insider

March 15, 2020

Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO

Enjoying a bountiful feast in Waikiki are (from left) Keli‘i Gouveia, Anne Lee and Drew Crocker.

ANNE LEE speaks with Duke’s Waikiki general manager KELI‘I GOUVEIA and Hula Grill Waikiki general manager DREW CROCKER

Waikiki is always something special, and recently I got to sit down with Keli‘i Gouveia and Drew Crocker, general managers of Duke’s Waikiki and Hula Grill Waikiki, respectively, to see what’s new at two of the city’s most popular dining establishments. Duke’s Waikiki has remained a staple in the area since its inception in 1992, as has Hula Grill Waikiki, which opened its doors in 2004.

Both establishments — part of TS Restaurants — are ideal places to create timeless memories and lifelong friendships, but each has its own special something it brings to the table. At Hula Grill, farm-to-table culinary experiences are a big focus, as are upholding cultural traditions, like hula, of course. Duke’s, meanwhile, pays homage to local watermen, and honors the ocean and its place in Hawaii’s culture.

Together, Gouveia and Crocker have nearly five decades of experience at their respective eateries, and look forward to sharing what’s new and exciting for hungry diners looking to enjoy good food in the state’s most iconic area.

Baja Fish Tacos ($20). All from Hula Grill Waikiki

AL: What type of cuisine does the restaurant specialize in?

KG: Duke’s has traditional American comfort food, but we always will be fresh with every product we offer. We have an amazing crowd in the evenings, but our breakfast buffets are $18! It’s unheard of. It has eggs Benedict, omelet stations, fresh fruit, fresh housemade granola, and don’t forget all the breakfast proteins from sausage to bacon. It’s available daily from 7 to 11 a.m. The last seating is at 10:30 a.m. Then, we translate into lunch, when we have a la carte items you can order off the menu, and also a daily lunch buffet that includes fresh fish, poke bowls, a yakisoba station, basically a little bit of everything for $19.50. It’s not your typical buffet — everything is handcrafted. We even make our own croutons.

DC: A lot of our menu is determined inhouse. Our executive chef Matt Young and his team create the dishes that emphasize local resources — and we get to be the guinea pigs. We also have our executive chef for TS Restaurants Scott McGill. He keeps all the restaurants consistent, so we stay on brand. The only two Hula Grill locations are in Waikiki and Kaanapali on Maui. Every night, we do two nightnightly specials: a meat special and a duo of fresh fish options.

Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich ($16). All from Hula Grill Waikiki

AL: What is the restaurant’s most popular dish?

KG: Our buffets. We created a platter of different offerings from the buffet that we are featuring. Our omelet station is the most popular at the breakfast buffet because it is made to order. If you want an egg white omelet with Brie cheese (if we have it) and sausage, we will make it happen. If we can do something for someone, and we have the product, we will do it.

DC: Tropical Pancakes ($16) for breakfast that are served with seasonal Hawaiian-grown fruit, toasted coconut, Kula strawberry coulis and whipped mascarpone ($16). Also, our Loco Moco ($20) that incorporates three different meats: a kukui sausage that is made here locally, housemade kalua pork and housemade beef short rib — all served with our Fried Rice Fo’ Days, (see sidebar at right) housemade brown gravy, sautéed onions, shiitake mushrooms and a couple of eggs prepared your way. Although it sounds heavy, it’s a clean dish. Get it every day from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Tropical Pancakes ($16). All from Hula Grill Waikiki

AL: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?

DC: We have an amazing happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. every day. We will be rolling out a new pau hana menu in April, so be on the lookout for that. Expect a lot of great new menu items, drink specials and new concoctions, as well as some higher-tier wines by the glass. We also have validated parking at Hula Grill.

KG: We have live music every day: 4-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday up in the bar area, and 4-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday on the lower patio. For the schedule, you can call the restaurant to see who is playing. We take reservations for parties of any size. You can reserve online or by calling us directly. We recommend booking in advance.

Kahuna Burrito ($15.50). All from Hula Grill Waikiki

AL: What are some fun facts people wouldn’t know about the restaurant?

DC: Dessert-wise, our Hula Pie ($11) is a classic dessert that’s available at every TS Restaurant. In addition, each TS Restaurant will have its own version. For instance, Duke’s will have the S’mores Hula Pie, and Hula Grill Waikiki will be offering the Samoa Hula Pie. We also have a collaboration with Girl Scouts that will retail for $12, and part of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit.

KG: Duke’s has the first retail location for TS Restaurants We have every type of Duke’s items from board shorts to hats to earrings. This is the first retail store concept for TS Restaurants. Check it out from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Fried Rice Fo’ Days

Loco Moco $20

Serves 6

Ingredients

• 1 cup calrose rice
• 1 cup jasmine rice
• 1 pound bacon, chopped
• 1 pound Portuguese sausage, diced
• 1/2 cup Aloha shoyu
• 1/2 cup Yamasa shoyu
• 4 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1/4 cup oyster sauce
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 ounce ginger, peeled and chopped
• 1/4 cup frozen peas
• 1 carrot, peeled and diced small

Method

• The day before, cook rice in a rice cooker. After the rice is cooked, transfer it to baking sheet to cool. Place in refrigerator uncovered overnight to dry. You can also save leftover rice for a couple days until you have enough.
• Place rice in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix both soy sauces, sesame oil and oyster sauce. Drizzle that mixture over the rice and toss to combine. Allow the rice to marinate for at least 30 minutes — the longer the better.
• In a large nonstick pan or well-seasoned wok, place the bacon and cook until brown and rendered. Discard the extra fat.
• In the same pan, add Portuguese sausage, carrots, garlic and ginger, and sauté until golden brown.
• Add rice and peas to the pan and toss. Continue to cook until the rice is hot and as crispy as you and your family would like.

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