A cut above the restCover Story Features
March 28, 2021
Story By: Ginger Keller | Photos by: DUKE’S WAIKIKI
There’s no question why Duke’s Waikiki remains eminent as one of the most popular dining destinations on Oahu. According to general manager Keli‘i Gouveia, it’s truer than ever, with the average wait time being a colossal three hours without reservations.
“A lot of (the popularity) has to do with sense of place,” shares Gouveia. “We are smack-dab in the middle of Waikiki; this is Duke (Kahanamoku)’s playground. Being the iconic figure he was, you just get that welcoming, warm feeling from coming in this restaurant. We’re very synonymous with who he was and it’s very important for us to do that, because if you’re representing somebody like that, you can’t do it wrong.”
Since transitioning to Tier 3, the restaurant, located in Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort, stays open a tad later, while still continuing to keep social distancing precautions in place.
“Being able to go to midnight just opens up to a whole new opportunity of people who are getting off of work from other restaurants, industries and hotels, and it also gives people time to relax and enjoy themselves instead of rushing out of here by 10 o’clock,” says Gouveia. “We were waiting for that. We needed that.
“We’re safe. We have sanitizer stations all over the restaurant; we have mobile hand-washing stations on our patios — we’re taking every precaution to maintain safety.”
Offering everything from curbside and beachside pickup to delivery (within walking distance or via Grubhub), Duke’s Waikiki also launched The Sandbar last week. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the beach-oriented food service has premade local favorites up for grabs, such as Spam musubi ($3), a variety of poke bowls ($12-$18) featuring the freshest of fish, a Portuguese sausage “hot dog” ($5) and a lobster BLT ($19).
Other new items at the Waikiki locale include King Crab Legs that can be added to any entrée for $29.
“We have a different kind of crab leg called the merus cut,” says Gouveia. “It’s basically the fattest part of the leg. When you buy crab here, you’re only getting the meatiest portion. That’s new for us, we’ve never really ventured into that kind of seafood before. It’s a really popular dish — people love it.”
Gouveia also offers a hot tip for shellfish lovers. Though not on the menu, coconut shrimp can also be added to any entrée of your liking.
Tacos, meanwhile, have taken the spotlight, and feature Cajun-flavored grilled fish with a mixture of red and green cabbage, housemade tomatillo sauce and pico de gallo in a flour tortilla.
“We do Taco Tuesdays here,” Gouveia says. “I just had it for lunch myself and, you know, a fresh fish taco is hard to beat.”
That may be arguable. Nothing can quite match the craze for Duke’s prime rib, which sells out with a snap of the fingers. Each Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., find a Prime Rib Supper Buffet ($55 adults; $24 kids) that features an exclusive lineup of poke, shrimp cocktails, ceviche and, of course, the best cuts of prime rib.
Come to think of it, though, Kimo’s Original Hula Pie ($12), which now can be made as a milkshake, might even top the prime rib’s stardom. All of the famed dessert’s best qualities are now presented in a liquefied form. Featuring vanilla macadamia nut soft serve, Oreo crumbles and a layer of fudge, the drink is topped with whipped cream and even more nuts that can be enjoyed through a wide straw.
On the spirits side of things, the Vintage Mai Tai recently debuted to much fanfare, and solely incorporates local alcohol.
“It’s imperative that local businesses invest money back into the economy by buying local,” notes Gouveia.
“I can’t say that enough.”
With live music, delicious food and an unmatched view, Duke’s Waikiki is a sure spot for a good time.
Reservations are highly recommended and can be made on opentable.com or by calling 922-2268.
Duke’s Waikiki is offering an Easter takeout special April 3-4. Honey Baked Ham, King Crab and Prime Rib can be found on the menu. Learn more about it in the Easter guide on page 17.