Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Hula Grill WaikikiRestaurant Insider
December 20, 2020
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Hula Grill Waikiki general manager DREW CROCKER
Hula Grill Waikiki is the sister restaurant of Duke’s Waikiki, located upstairs at the beautiful Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. This location has been around going on 17 years, and general manager Drew Crocker shares the similarities Hula Grill has with Duke’s Waikiki — both are owned by TS Restaurants — as well as what makes it unique.
Hula Grill incorporates handcrafted local products in a more intimate dining experience. You see a lot of different hula-themed figurines and artwork — even the social distancing signs reflect the dance. The hula culture is embraced in this restaurant, and recognizes all the legends with its annual E Ola Mau Ka Hula awards.
When Drew was in college at UH, he remembers being at Waioli Tea Room with his mom who was visiting, and Robert and Roland Cazimero were sitting at a table nearby.
“My mom was star struck,” Drew shares.
What brings this story full circle is that working for Hula Grill Waikiki allowed his mom to see Robert be awarded the E Ola Mau Ka Hula award in 2019.
This week, Drew shares what’s good to eat at the restaurant as the holidays approach.
AL: Does the restaurant have a specific motto or mission?
DC: 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. We take items from the islands, put them on the plate with creative, limited influence, and let those items speak for themselves (heading up the effort is executive chef Paul Rivera). We have something for everyone — kids, vegans or that picky eater. Now more than ever we can offer a seamless experience for everyone.
We have upgraded our bar selections, continuing to progress forward with our local product offerings, really understanding that if we can purchase more locally, we are supporting our local economy here in Hawaii.
AL: Hula Grill is offering an Early Eats concept. Tell me more about this offering.
DC: We have made adjustments to our meal times. Typically, we would have started dinner service at 4:30 p.m., but we pushed it back to 5. So, for our Early Eats customers, we have an open restaurant from 3 to 4 p.m., and our guests are invited to dine along the open railing and take in the beautiful ocean view in our open-air dining room. Guests are able to stay seated until 5, and then move to the bar area to make way for the dinner customers. Early Eats continues at the bar area until 6. It’s similar to happy hour. It’s an opportunity for guests to have a late lunch or early pau hana.
AL: What’s on the Early Eats menu?
DC: We are featuring two new items that are only available on our Early Eats menu. Our fresh Smoke Ahi Dip with housemade taro chips; and Chorizo Dog, a full-length chorizo sausage prepared hot dog-style served with a relish made all made with local avocado, sweet Kahuku corn, onions and bell peppers with a spicy mustard.
We also offer on our Early Eats menu some of our classics such as our Poke Tacos, Honey Mac Nut Shrimp, Crab Mac Nut Wontons, Korean Fried Chicken, Kabocha Hummus, Hula Grill Sashimi, Baja Fish Tacos, Fish & Chips, Panko Crusted Calamari Steak and Hula Caesar — find the full menu and descriptions online at hulagrillwaikiki.com/menus/early-eats.
In addition, we have two specialty cocktails. The first is a spiked fresh, organic lemonade slushie (featuring local lemons from the Big Island) with your choice of Gordon’s vodka, Bacardi silver rum or el Jimador Blanco Tequila. We also have our Strawberry Mint Martini made with fresh strawberries, honey, mint and fresh lemon.
We also do $1.50 off all of our draft beers that we have on tap, and $2 off our wines by the glass. Our wine list is really extensive, such as Lokelani sparkling rosé and Justin cabernet to name a few.
AL: What are your specials?
DC: We have our nightly Fish Duo special. This is two fish options — 7 ounces of fish combined. Typically, Monday-Thursday is the same option, and Friday-Saturday we have another fish special.
AL: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the restaurant?
DC: Kamaaina get 10 percent off when dining at our restaurant. Brunch will be our next step — a la carte on Friday and Saturday.
We also recently installed a new system that allows the music from Duke’s to be enjoyed by our guests, and we have an open-air dining option.
It’s so great to see our staff and regulars — some of us haven’t seen each other since March of this year.