Rediscovering the joys of the Shore Bird

Jo McGarry
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Friday - February 23, 2007
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Susan Ventrucci serves an ahi dinner and fruit plate
Susan Ventrucci serves an ahi
dinner and fruit plate

I’m truly sorry that Jo McGarry wasn’t feeling well last week. Really. But then again, when Jo is on vacation, ill or giving birth (although I believe she’s sworn that off), I get to fill in for what is perhaps the best newspaper gig in Honolulu.

And I was especially pleased when Jo said that next up on her schedule was the Shore Bird. Located beachside at the Outrigger Reef Hotel, the Shore Bird was once one of my favorite Waikiki hangouts, back in the before-kids days - and not just because I was an occasional judge of the infamous Sunday afternoon Shore Bird Bikini Contest. (Perhaps, on second thought, that was the best gig.)

These days the bikini contest, for better or worse,is a thing of the past and the entertainment is much more family oriented. In fact, when I stopped in for lunch last Saturday afternoon, the very talented Brannon Kealoha was just wrapping up a fun set on guitar and ukulele, and a keiki hula show was just beginning, performed by Ewalani Kailewa’s halau from the Leeward side - cute and talented boys and girls, sharing Hawaiian culture and values.

“There’s always something going on at the Shore Bird,” says general manager Del Uehara.

In fact, there’s live music playing daily from 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., and on weekends from noon to 2:30 p.m. On Fridays, there’s a kupuna hula show during lunch. Music is mostly contemporary Hawaiian, with classic rock mixed in after 9 p.m.

The next time somebody tells you live music in Waikiki is dead, point ‘em in the direction of the Shore Bird.

Uehara is also proud to say that the Shore Bird is the new home of the radio KINE Aloha Friday luncheon show hosted by Billy V, which debuted last week.

And situated as it is along a strand of white sand beach dotted with sunbathers and swimmers, with other folks strolling past, there’s always something going on around the Shore Bird too. Whether aural or visual, there’s no lack of amusements here.

The Shore Bird underwent a renovation a few years ago, so today’s Shore Bird is not the one I remembered. It’s a bright, airy and open space, decorated in a tasteful plantation style, with rattan ceiling fans leisurely whirling overhead, all turned in perfect synch by an old-fashioned leather belt that moves across the ceiling. Down the beach and across the bay, Diamond Head rises grandly, and comfortingly. And with people walking in off the beach, this is Waikiki casual at its best.

Plus here’s the great news for kamaaina, especially those for whom the easiest excuse to avoid Waikiki is the horrendous parking: The Shore Bird offers free valet parking!

During the course of the day, the Shore Bird is actually several restaurants, starting with a breakfast buffet ($11.95) from 7 to 11 a.m. It offers a large selection of fresh fruits, cereals, eggs, sweet bread French toast, and a variety of meats, including bacon and various sausages, steamed mahimahi and a carving station with honey-glazed ham and turkey breast, plus rice,fried rice and hash browns.“It’s the best value on the beach,” says Uehara, a hands-on GM who doesn’t mind wiping down tables. (When a photograph of him to accompany this story was suggested, he deferred, preferring to give recognition to his servers.)

The Healthy Lunch Buffet ($11.95) is served from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., offering a large selection of fresh fruits, a variety of salads that on this day included pesto pasta, seafood, tortellini spinach, three-bean and greens, plus kim chee and namasu. There’s also cheeses and crackers, pasta with a tomato sauce, chili and rice, and local-style beef stew, plus fresh-baked breads.

The lunch menu is filled with local favorites such as teri burger, teri chicken breast sandwich, kalua pig sandwich on a taro bun and mahimahi sandwich,each $9.95 and served in a big basket with a mound of French fries.

(If you, like me, love Heinz 57 on your fries, you’ll be pleased to see that it’s a condiment here.)

The Hukilau Fish Fry: scallops, calamari, mahimahi and shrimp
The Hukilau Fish Fry: scallops, calamari, mahimahi
and shrimp

I opted for the Hukilau Fish Fry ($14.95, most expensive on the menu), a combo of scallops, calamari rings,mahimahi filets and butterfly shrimp, lightly fried to a perfect golden color. Each morsel was pleasingly tender and tasty,and even the coconut dusting on the shrimp remained chewy.

Dinner is served from 4:30 to 10 p.m., and you get your meat just the way you want it because, as the menu says, “you’re the chef!”- cooking at an open grill. Options include teri chicken breast ($15.95), teri beef kabob ($16.95), pulehu pork ribs ($17.95), paniolo ribeye steak (12 oz., $21.95) and filet mignon (8 oz., $22.95).

Other options include lobster tail ($28.95), steak and lobster ($35.95), mahimahi and ahi (both ($19.95). All dinners include an expansive salad bar ($12.95 alone).

And all day long, the oval-shaped bar stays busy with a changing cast of characters.

Located just across the street from the remarkable Beachwalk project - driving down the new Lewers Street for the first time, you may also wonder “Uh, where am I?”- the Shore Bird is sure to benefit from the added attention and foot traffic.

“Everything is supposed to be open by April, and I can hardly wait,“says Uehara.“People will just naturally migrate to the beach, and that’s where we are, right where we’ve been for 28 years.”

Next door to the Shore Bird and sharing the same beachfront, by the way, is the elegant Ocean House, where the most expensive dinner entrée is just $29. Uehara calls it “casual fine dining.”

But that’s a story for Jo to tell another time.

Shore Bird Outrigger Reef Hotel 2169 Kalia Road 922-2887 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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