Duke’s Beach House: Location, Location, Location
By Vanessa Wolf
Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), the five-time Olympian who brought surfing to Australia, Southern California and – ultimately – the entire world, left behind one of the Aloha State’s greatest legacies.
How he came to front the Hawaiian equivalent of Red Lobster is beyond us, but there’s probably a good story there.
At any rate, TGI Aloha Fri… Er… Duke’s Beach House serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week and doubles as the pool bar and resort restaurant at Honua Kai Resort & Spa.
The restaurant enjoys an ocean-side location, although you’re more likely to hear it than see it.
Still, it’s a real estate agents dream: location, location, location.
Like siblings Leilani and Kimo, food choices are tend toward the pedestrian, spiked with an island flair.
We always like to see what’s shaking with an Eggs Benedict ($13.75).
What arrives are two perfectly poached eggs resting upon Canadian bacon and toasted English muffins.
Topped with a slightly grainy Hollandaise, the sauce possessed good lemon flavor and packed a powerful and unexpected cayenne punch.
Prefer fruit or another side besides potatoes or rice?
But what if I…?
I’ll pay ex…
Moses’ tablets had nothing on the Duke’s Beach House menu. That bugger is apparently written in stone, so don’t try to change it.
Humorously, when the plate does arrive, the Roasted Fingerling Potatoes ($3.50 as a side) are allocated in a near garnish portion. Dr. Atkins would approve.
Still, mixed with some onion and bell pepper slices, the potatoes themselves are nicely al dente and well-seasoned.
The Beach Boy Burrito ($13.50) presents a large flour tortilla filled with eggs, sausage, bacon, and cheese.
We don’t know if there was an obese Beach Boy, but this is one serious heaping helping of meat and huevos. Topped with salsa and a couple small chunks of avocado, there are no surprises here, and that’s a good thing.
However, please show some common sense.
Heed your grandmother’s advice and don’t get in the water for at least an hour after eating this thing.
We admit it.
If there is much beyond a bad (flat, burned or soggy for reasons unknown) pancake and a good (light, fluffy, cooked to a deep golden hue) pancake, we don’t know what it is.
Duke’s “tsunami sized” MacNut Banana Pancakes ($11.75) are spendy, but ultimately fall on the side of good pancake and that’s good enough for us.
Similarly, the Maui Grown Fruit Platter ($9.50) is fresh and flavorful, but all that taste bud bounty comes at a premium. Portions are small, but quality is high. The star fruit, lychee and dragonfruit slices are unexpected, delightful inclusions.
With five locations on the islands and in southern California, Duke’s is a mini-chain. But make no mistake, the developers have managed a full-scale franchise feel; something of a Polynesian Chilis.
Similarly, service is hit or miss. While our sunglasses-wearing breakfast server (twice) seemed rushed and even irritated by our questions, our female lunch server could not have been more friendly and helpful. Fast and furious with the honey, baby, sweethearts, she was equal parts engaging and efficient.
With her encouragement, we ordered the Ho Daddy Fish and Chips ($16.50).
Alaska cod is coated in a Kona Brewing Company Lava Man Red Ale batter, resulting in a crisp outer layer and hot, flaky fishy middle.
Although nothing fancy, the added touches of malt vinegar and homemade, caper-rich tartar sauce kicked things up a notch.
Of particular note were the addictive little fries, falling somewhere between traditional French frites and canned potato sticks. We can resist 99.9% of the world’s French fry offerings, but Duke’s are a cut above. We maybe kinda sorta hogged the majority.
Similarly, the Arugula and Farro Salad with Fresh Island Fish ($17.75) is inspired.
Standing out from the otherwise predictable-ish offerings, the ancient grain is a welcome surprise.
Also known as emmer (farro being its Italian moniker), it looks and tastes a bit like a nutty brown rice, but those with gluten sensitivities should note it is a type of wheat, albeit an archaic one.
The chewy grain is plated cold and topped with (allegedly. We have our suspicions) arugula, Surfing Goat Dairy feta, fresh local tomatoes, cucumbers, nicoise olives and grilled yellow zucchini slices. After all that is tossed with an herbaceous balsamic vinaigrette, a generous fillet of ahi serves as the cherry on top.
Light, fresh, filing and unabashedly delicious, we would order this again. And again.
Yes, there is an undeniable tourist trap feel to Duke’s Beach House, but there is an equal measure of mellow vacation vibe magic.
The live music – James Taylor and Van Morrison covers played soft and sweet – push things over the ‘be here now’ edge.
So you’re eating an overpriced tropical fruit plate. That’s life sometimes. And it goes by too fast.
Slow down, get your paws on some of those fries and stay awhile.
Duke’s Beach House is located at 130 Kai Malina Parkway in Lahaina. They are open from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. seven days a week.