Have you been dreaming of a relaxing trip to the Hawaiian shores, sipping a fruity cocktail while the kids are entertained? We can’t take you on a trip to Waikiki Beach, we can give you a taste of tropical paradise at San Diego’s newest restaurant. Duke’s La Jolla is now open and offers all the features of a Hawaiian vacation, without having to board an airplane. And the best part about Duke’s (aside from the amazing cuisine, of course) is how kid-friendly it is. We’ve got your insider’s guide to this awesome La Jolla restaurant.
Photo: Duke’s La Jolla
What to Know About Duke’s
The restaurant’s namesake, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1890. He grew up in carefree Waikiki with the ocean as his playground, doing what he loved – mostly swimming, surfing, canoeing and bodysurfing. At the age of 21 he won his first Olympic gold medal, then went on to represent the United States in the Olympics for 20 years, winning not only medals but the hearts of people all over the world. He is remembered as a swimmer not just for remarkable speed, but for his grace in the water, his good humor, and his sportsmanship.
What’s Great About Duke’s
The La Jolla restaurant resembles Duke’s surfing lifestyle and displays surf boards, tiki torches and tropical decor. In fact, as you approach the restaurant on Prospect Street, you’ll see the Duke Kahanamoku statue in front of the historic fig tree on the ocean side of the street. Parents will love the relaxing atmosphere of the restaurant’s back patio that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. And kids will have fun trying to spot the seals ans sea lions hanging out on La Jolla Cove.
Duke’s menu is especially delicious with items ranging from fresh fish to fillet. We suggest you order the poke taco appetizer that’s filled with raw ahi, shoyu, maui onions, avocado and wasabi crème fraiche. Trust us, it’s delicious! If you’re in a cocktail mood, you can’t go wrong with the mai tai. And you don’t want to leave without a slice of their original hula pie. This dessert is a chocolate cookie crust, macadamia nut ice cream, hot fudge, toasted macadamia nuts and whipped cream. Need we say more?
Duke’s for Kids
What we love about Duke’s is how the restaurant is super kid-friendly and they make it easy to dine with little ones. After arriving at your table, a server will bring the keikis (kids) a two-sided coloring menu with crayons that come in their own wooden tiki holder. The menu itself has tons to keep small diners occupied with a maze, tic tac toe, and a customize your own surf board drawing.
But what’s really cool is the Duke’s Keiki Bingo game. Kids are charged with finding several items inside the restaurant, including black shoes, pineapple, surfboards and more. Once all the items are found and a blackout occurs, kids can bring the bingo board to the host counter to get their special prize. How’s that for keeping the kiddos entertained?
Little dudes and dudettes will love the cuisine with dishes like panko friend chicken, keiki filet steak, fresh fish and chips. All dishes are served on a cute fish-shaped plate and are super affordable with some entrees starting at $7. If the little ones want a sip of mom’s mai tai, order them a guava and passion fruit juice and the nice staff at Duke’s will even serve it with a tropical flower.
Tips for a Happy Dining Experience
Parking can sometimes be tricky in La Jolla. When you’re dining at Duke’s, you can use the public valet parking or garage parking for a fee. You can also drive around for free street parking.
If you’re heading to Duke’s for dinner, we suggest a reservation, especially if you want to score an outside table.
Turn lunch or dinner into a day at the shores and visit the Murals of La Jolla while you’re there. You can also check out the seals and sea lions, or take a trip into Sunny Jim Cave. Walk a few blocks away from Duke’s and visit Warwick’s, the country’s oldest independent bookstore. It’s kid’s section can’t be beat!
Duke’s La Jolla
1216 Prospect St.
La Jolla, CA 92037
Have you eaten at Duke’s yet? What did you think of the experience?
— Leah R. Singer (photos too, unless otherwise noted)