Duke’s Waikīkī’s Classic Hula Pie Dessert Is a Milkshake Now
Fact: It’s impossible to walk around eating a Hula Pie. But how does the Hula Pie Shake compare?
A curious thing happened while I was walking through Waikīkī the other day: Five people who passed me were holding identical milkshakes. The tall plastic cups held what looked like vanilla ice cream swirled with chocolate and topped with whipped cream and crushed macadamia nuts. It looked like the perfect indulgence on a sweltering day. I had never seen it before. As a sweets fiend, I had to investigate.
It turns out the milkshake is a newish version of the iconic Hula Pie at Duke’s Waikīkī. I know the Hula Pie. It’s a towering slice of macadamia nut ice cream crowned with a chocolate fudge shell and crushed mac nuts, all sitting on a chocolate cookie crust ($13). Digging in produces the satisfaction of multiple flavors and textures in one ultra-sweet bite. And given the pie’s sheer size, it’s always fun because you’re sharing a slice. All good memories!
I order my own Hula Pie Shake ($9). I need to see for myself why five strangers within five minutes were indulging in this curiosity. Immediately, the whipped cream with its mac nut garnish catches my eye. The layers of vanilla mac nut ice cream and chocolate drizzle melting into each other create an ombre look that reminds me of a sugary sunset. And it all sits on a crushed Oreo base. I raise my eyebrows to get a better look. I’m already salivating.
I take a sip. The milkshake is thick. It’s what I call jaw-breakingly thick. My cheeks are practically turning inside out trying to suck it up the straw. Pro tip: Opt for a spoon instead of a straw.
I let the milkshake melt for a bit and sip the vanilla macadamia ice cream base. Right off the bat, I taste vanilla but not macadamia. It reminds me of the vanilla shake at Jack in the Box, that you can get for a fraction of this price. As a chocolate lover, I do enjoy the drizzle, which is comparable to the Hershey’s Genuine Chocolate Flavor Syrup you can buy at the supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jack in the Box’s vanilla shake and Hershey’s syrup. The pieces of macadamia nuts and crushed Oreos are my favorite part. They give it a great crunch. Overall, you get oozes of different flavors in your mouth, which to me is a godly experience.
At this point I need to know more. I call Dylan Ching, the mastermind behind the milkshake and vice president of operations at Duke’s parent company, TS Restaurants. “During COVID we were faced with the challenge of thinking, how do we do off-premise sales better?” he tells me. “We basically have one major dessert which is the Hula Pie, but it’s hard to travel with.” The milkshake was a logical choice for those who enjoy the Hula Pie but want something less messy for takeout.
I ask Ching how popular the milkshake is compared to the Hula Pie. “Anything that goes up against the Hula Pie is difficult,” he concedes. Despite this, Ching says he has seen a positive response from those who try the milkshake.
As for me personally, while I think this milkshake is delicious, it does not beat the sensation of digging into the Hula Pie. Though flavorful, it lacks the wow factor that makes the pie so emblematic of Duke’s Waikīkī. That’s just me. When I give the milkshake to my mom, who craves milkshakes daily, she lets out an audible “mmm” at her first sip. Is it good? I ask. She nods in excitement.
Everything considered, the milkshake is a great on-the-go option if you are an avid milkshake lover. It is the ideal, mess-free drink to walk around with on a scorching Hawaiian day. But if you are dining in and craving a dessert, I say ditch the milkshake and stick with the original Hula Pie.
2335 Kalākaua Ave., (808) 922-2268, dukeswaikiki.com, @dukeswaikiki