Our Waikīkī: The Stories Behind Four Longtime Waikīkī Holdouts
Find out how these local spots survive the test of time.
Photo: Courtesy of Henry’s Place
One modest ice cream maker turned his humble fruit stand into a word-of-mouth find for foodies from around the world. Owner Henry Takahashi has managed to stay in business in Waikīkī for more than 30 years—despite moving the shop three times before settling in its current location on Beach Walk—with his grab-and-go snacks, sandwiches and fresh fruit bowls. But it’s the house-made ice creams and sorbets, made with fresh ingredients and packed in white Styrofoam containers in a freezer at the front of the store, that have made Henry’s Place a hidden gem for locals and travelers alike. The flavors change daily and range from a subtle ginger sorbet to a creamy Kona coffee to a mango sorbet that tastes just like eating cold, ripe mangoes. (The “RV” written on most of the cups are the initials of Takahashi’s daughter, who works there.) Just don’t keep the freezer doors open too long or you might be scolded. And that’s part of the experience, too.
234 Beach Walk
Photo: Courtesy of Chuck’s Cellar
Step inside Chuck’s Cellar, with its early 20th-century photos of Hawai‘i hung on the walls, polished wood bar and big brown leather booths, and it’s like stepping into the past. This cozy Waikīkī spot has been serving up prime rib, fresh seafood and its famous all-you-can-eat salad bar since before statehood. Founder Charles “Chuck” Rolles, a graduate of Cornell University’s prestigious hospitality management school, loved premium meat and seafood but wasn’t comfortable in stuffy, overly fancy dining environments. He wanted to create a restaurant without complex silverware arrangements or intimidating waiters in tuxedos, where things were kept simple. “The look of Chuck’s hasn’t changed since the ’70s and it’s not like anything else in Waikīkī,” says bartender Judah Jäger.
What began as one restaurant turned into a string of locations across the East Coast. As Chuck’s style caught on, Rolles helped popularize the steakhouse and salad bar concept on the Mainland. The original menu back in the 1950s offered lobster for $2.95. Today, the prices are a little higher—dishes range from $25 to $40—but they all still come with a big baked potato or rice, and that high-as-you-can-stack salad bar.
150 Ka‘iulani Ave., (808) 923-4488, chuckshawaii.com
St. Augustine by-the-Sea
The high-tech security system installed in St. Augustine by-the-Sea Catholic Church may be a sign of how much the neighborhood has changed since it opened in 1854 on prime real estate across the street from Kūhiō Beach. But the church has remained true to its humble roots, back when it was just a modest structure built on the beach with coconut fronds and pieces of timber that had washed ashore. Under the direction of the Rev. Lane Akiona of Moloka‘i, the church is committed to its social ministry, operating a year-round soup kitchen that serves hot meals to anyone in need and collecting food and toiletries for the homeless living on the Leeward Coast. It also celebrates Mass daily.
130 ‘Ōhua Ave., (808) 923-7024, staugustinebythesea.com
Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand
“Hula’s is a gathering place for people of all walks of life to enjoy a view of Diamond Head and the water,” says longtime Waikīkī business owner Jack Law. Since 1974, Hula’s has been a local landmark—first located in a small renovated house under a big banyan tree at the corner of Kūhiō Avenue and Kālaimoku Street, then in its current home since 1998 above the Waikīkī Grand Hotel. One of the oldest gay-friendly bars in the state now overlooks Queen’s Surf Beach and the Honolulu Zoo. And visitors enjoy cocktails that include $6 mai tais and bloody marys (pitchers for just $12), pūpū bites of sliders, nachos and quesadillas, plus live music or DJs every night of the week.
How does a bar stay hip after 42 years? Law used to travel to New York City each year to bring back the latest trends he saw. That and a commitment to live entertainment: “There was a time you could walk down the street and every single bar had live entertainment,” Law remembers. “Waikīkī was always a place for R&R but it had a small-town feel. You’d walk down the street and recognize nearly every other person you saw.”
134 Kapahulu Ave., Second Floor, (808) 923-0669, hulas.com