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September 16, 2008

More than any other restaurant in Honolulu, Waikiki’s Duke’s is the one I can legitimately claim to be an expert on. I’ve had the opportunity to eat there for breakfast, lunch and dinner, on numerous occasions. It’s not that it’s my favorite, or that it blows everything else out of the water. It’s just that it has a combination of factors going in its favor that has caused it to be our de facto go-to place when we need to entertain with a minimum of stress in Waikiki.

Some of the things we like about it: it’s right on the beach with ocean-view tables, walkable from almost anywhere in Waikiki, kid-friendly, reasonably priced with quality monster buffets, and oozing historical kitsch value.

The downsides – hit-and-miss food and service – are more endemic to Waikiki than to the place itself. Seafood is the specialty of the house, and they do it pretty well. Don’t even think about getting a steak there, however.

While dinner is decent, we prefer the breakfast and lunch buffets. There is enough variety to keep your sense of taste entertained and your belly bloated, but the options are always fresh and provoking (if consistently the same over time). There is a blackbean corn salad that I am particularly enamored of.

While you are eating you can either gaze out to sea or catch an eyeful of the Duke Kahanamoku memorabilia that lines the walls. Duke is the godfather of surfing, and apparently even lobbied the Olympic committee of back in the day (as a medalist in swimming) to make it a medal sport. To which the Olympic committee replied, “Nah, we’re going to go with a hot new trend in sporting called ‘rhythmic gymnastics.’ That’s where the real marketing potential is.”

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