Still Off the Charts

May 6, 2014 | By James Cave

After 46 years, the venerable Chart House is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Waikiki never stops. The storied strip has undergone so many renovations; anyone who left in the ‘60s and returned today might not even recognize it. Yet, there remain touches of the old days tucked around the corner, if you know where to look.

Take the Chart House, for example. At the Ala Wai Harbor, it is perhaps the only restaurant in Waikiki to have kept the same owner—the fiercest big wave surfer of the ’60s, Joey Cabell—and location since it opened in 1968.

“I grew up in Waikiki Beach and started surfing at 7 years old,” Cabell says. “So I was there early.” After moving to Aspen and building a Chart House steakhouse franchise in 1961 there and in California, Cabell says, “I decided I wanted to come back and put a Chart House in Honolulu before all the spots were taken up.”

While most of the surrounding businesses have changed many times over, Chart House is still in the same walls and ambiance as it was when it opened. It’s dark, with many wide booths, more than 50 pupu (appetizers), quality steaks and seafood from Chicago, New Zealand and Hawai‘i and live music every night. There’s a dining room on one end and a long bar and ample lounge on the other. Guy Maynard, the head bartender, is as much a fixture there as the sunsets and sailboats outside.

In February, Maynard celebrated his 36th year at Chart House. “I started as a bus boy and worked my way up,” says Maynard while making his famous Guy Tai ($8.50)—a version of the Mai Tai he created that’s become a tourist checkpoint on its own.

It’s a modification of the original ’68 recipe, which Maynard says was “way too tart,” now with better ingredients. They make all their juices in house, except for the pineapple, which is canned, and mix them with the lighter, smoother and drier Meyer’s and Bacardi Gold rums. Served on crushed ice, a rarity here, it goes down before you can think about ordering another one, which you’ll want to do a few times over. It’s one of the best Mai Tais around.

General manager Scott Okamoto says that tourists mainly head to the dining room for a dinner and sunset; the locals cruise to the bar where there’s live music every night. On the dining room side, the menu is broad, ranging from fresh Chilean sea bass from the Honolulu Fish Auction ($39.75) or Alaskan red king crab legs ($79.50) to shiitake stuffed, shichimi-seared chicken breast with citrus soy cream ($26.95) or three variations of the New York strip: Australian Tajima Wagyu ($57), Hawaii Ranchers ($46) and New York strip loin top choice ($37). Diners can create a combination of an entree plus grilled or baked shrimp ($11-$22), king crab ($37), a lobster tail ($42-$82) or stuffed ‘ahi ($33). There are also daily and monthly specials.

Chart House recently rolled out its oyster bar, and Okamoto says it’s a hit. Fresh oysters are a growing trend in Honolulu, and this set up opened a few months ago featuring shucked-to-order Goose Point Washington and Kumamoto oysters, as well as clams, in 6-, 12and 24-piece groups ($17-$69).

The lounge menu is extensive, and happy hour prices are low enough that you can taste a lot of food without bouncing a check. Happy hour is every day from when the doors open until 7 p.m., and then 10 p.m. until close.

No matter who you are, where you’re from or going, Chart House on the edge of Waikiki is a great trip back in time.

Chart House Waikiki
1765 Ala Moana Blvd. [D:2 Waikiki Map]
(808) 941-6669

Photos: Melissa Chang