You Gonna Eat All That?

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Dinner and Reminiscing

Dinner the other night brought back memories of a restaurant that will always be a favorite of ours even though it's been gone for several years. The restaurant was Honolulu, a quirky, immediately welcoming place. For years we drove by it but weren't sure what it was. For one thing, there were no windows, just a brick exterior with a sign over the door that simply said, "Honolulu." We thought it might be a strip club since it had no windows or mention at all on the sign of it being a restaurant.

Then we read something in the paper about this cool tiki bar in our neighborhood called Honolulu .....omg! Who knew? Well, apparently a lot of people except us. But that didn't last long.

One evening shortly after reading the article, we went to check it out. Once inside it was dark, soothingly dark with strains of Don Ho music playing in the background. A tiki bar (with thatched roof) was just inside the front with owner David Chan at the helm. A former bartender at Trader Vic's, David knew a thing or two about cocktails.......very potent, very tasty cocktails. His wife, Anna, would always smile as she greeted you then found a comfy booth or table for you to sit and soak in the tiki atmosphere.

The drinks were unbelievable. One drink, the Flaming Volcano (not us in the picture) for 2 or more arrives at the table in a large bowl-like vessel with a volcano rising up from its center. Surrounding the volcano was a moat of alcoholic delight...rum, rum, and more rum with some fruit juice thrown in. The finishing touch was the 151 proof rum sitting in the top of the volcano that was lit when brought to the table. Oh, you were also given these straws that were about 2 feet long so you could sip from the moat without having to get too close to the flames. Other drinks we enjoyed (many, many times) were the Suffering Bastard (Jim's favorite), the Peach Punch (my favorite), the Scorpion, the Fog Cutter, and the Puka Punch.

The food was old-school Americanized Chinese and it was good. Eggrolls, crab rangoon, hot & sour soup and the Pu-Pu Platter (with flames) were favorite starters. Main dishes like Peking duck (amazingly good Peking duck), Shrimp with lobster sauce, and a myriad of others often graced our table. There was even a dish that was served table side that was set ablaze just before serving as well as a flaming dessert (you see a pattern here, don't you.)

But after 26 years, the restaurant closed. Upcoming construction for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge claimed the restaurant and several other businesses a few years ago. For months after the announcement of their closing date, crowds of people came to pay homage to this wonderful place. In the last few days, it wasn't unusual to stand in line for 2 hours to get in. And we were among the mourners. Our last trip was two days before they closed. We had a wonderful meal, a drink too many and soaked in the tiki-ness one last time. In all the visits, there was only one bad thing I could the summer months, after a few tiki drinks one would have quite a buzz which wasn't so bad since it was nice and dark and cozy inside. But if you walked outside before 9 pm, it was still light out! How wrong is it to be that buzzed and it still be light out?! It's wrong, so wrong. But it never stopped us from going back for more. They now have a website where you can see pictures of the inside.
So back to our dinner the other night. We made a chicken, rice cake and green bean stirfry finished with a stirfry sauce from none other than Honolulu! You see, when they closed, they decided to market some of their signature items such as Mai Tai mix, salad dressing and stir fry sauce. They even sell tiki glassware and gift baskets so if you need a tiki-fix, check them out. There are also some great pictures of the restaurant before it closed.

But again, I digress. Back to dinner, I thinly sliced the chicken, sauted it with garlic until it was done through, then turned off the heat while I waited for the green beans and rice cakes to cook (I cooked the fresh green beans with the rice cakes in boiling water for about 10 minutes). Once they were done, I drained them and added them to the chicken along with some fresh sliced green onion. Toss with some stir fry sauce, hot pepper flakes, sesame seeds and serve. It was a delicious way to remember a favorite place.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always figured it was a front.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Glenna said...

That is so cool. I love places like that. It's not necessarily about everything being perfectly authentic, it's about how it makes you feel to be there. That place had "it".

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you liked Honolulu, you should go to Vera's White Sands Restaurant in Lusby, MD. It's a ways from where you are, but it's totally worth it. Place looks like the inside of an Elvis movie. And don't miss Vera, she's a real hoot.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Jill said...

Wow, that brought back some memories. We miss Honolulu, too! My kids especially loved going there -- it was like entering another world for them, with the glowing-eyed mask on the wall, the shells, blowfish, tiki statues, thatched roof, everything! They reminisce about it like a couple of old people, and they're still in elementary school!

9:49 PM  

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