Duke’s Canoe House Is The Quintessential Hawaiian Restaurant
Have you ever heard of the legendary, much-loved Duke Kahanamoku? He was an Olympic swimming champion who, in 1912 in Stockholm, brought home the gold and silver medals to Hawaii. He was a full-blooded native Hawaiian, who is known as the father of surfing. He basically invented it in Waikiki. In fact, the American Masters program on PBS just this May showcased an acclaimed program on Duke, entitled “Waterman – Duke: The Ambassador Of Aloha.” His story is compelling – and fascinating.
So, in my humble opinion, if you’re only going to dine at one restaurant in Waikiki, make it Duke’s Canoe Club in the Outrigger Hotel. It has an excellent cool vibe, all featuring Duke himself — and the food and drinks are great. The place is completely surf-tastic. All of the décor features actual surfboards, and a wealth of vintage surfing photos, and even more photos of Duke himself in action. In fact, in just the Diamond Head Room featuring Duke memorabilia, you’ll see photos of him with the Queen Mother, JFK, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Chaplin, to name a few. Even the digital menus are posted on adorable little wooden surfboards. This is the place, right here in Waikiki, where all of the surfing action began. This restaurant, bearing Duke’s name, is just steps from the sand and ocean, complete with lit tiki torches at night, and live music.
Just the salad bar here is noteworthy. For $25pp, you can indulge in a wealth of salads including farro-and-herb, kale, Caesar, bamboo shoots – and many, many more. Dressings include orange-vinaigrette, white-balsamic vinaigrette, and ranch. The bountiful selection features ancient grains, pastas, fresh fruits, and warm breads. I just love the carrot muffins. If you simply want to add a salad bar to the price of your entrée, just factor in $7.
In terms of entrees, the baked Duke’s fish is notable: I ordered the ono white fish (“ono” also happens to be the Hawaiian word for “delicious”) which features a garlic, lemon and sweet-basil glaze, plus rice. Vegetarians will love the wild-mushroom ravioli with roasted sweet potatoes. (The only thing I didn’t like was my order of crispy coconut shrimp – it was fried and I couldn’t taste any coconut whatsoever.) Numerous other entrees include filet mignon; Huli Huli chicken in a ginger and shoyu marinade, and roasted Tristan Lobster. There is also a kid’s menu featuring fish-and-chips and teriyaki chicken. For dessert – you must try the big-as-your-head, famous Hula Pie – a giant slab of macadamia-nut ice cream, laced with hot fudge, in a chocolate cookie crust, with toasted macadamia nuts, and whipped cream. It’s as colossal as its calories – but it is certainly worth a few bites.
If you imbibe, there’s a wide selection of beer on tap, red and white wines, and other goodies such as a strawberry-guava juice, or a Lava Flow (basically a pina-colada with strawberries), or a pog (pineapple-orange-guava) slushie. Or simply try the ’44 Vintage Mai Tai made with koloa rums (single-batch rums crafted on the neighbor island of Kauai).
If, after all that, you haven’t had your fill of all-things-Duke – you’re in luck. There is a Duke’s store adjacent to the restaurant, where you can purchase adorable polo shirts, T-shirts, and other merchandise.
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