Cheeseburger [and more] in Paradise

January 15, 2015 | By Ali Resich

Jimmy Buffett’s Revamped Menu Washes Ashore

For five years now, capturing the magic of island living conveyed through tropical cocktails, paradisiacal bites and al fresco entertainment has been possible for diners through the wave-riding, lava-flowing dining adventures found at Jimmy Buffett’s Restaurant & Bar. The former Margaritaville chain branch originally came to life thanks to its namesake country rocker’s wild imagination and true love for Hawai‘i, so when Handcrafted Restaurants acquired the venue last year, many wondered if this exotic culinary oasis would drift out to sea for good.

Luckily for diners, the spacious eatery remains anchored at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort, tucked away in the second floor lobby as a revamped treasure trove of American-inspired foods and beverages bejeweled with island flair. Sales manager Tiffany Lee explains that the restaurant maintains the exhilarating tropical dining experience diehard Buffett fans, AKA “parrotheads,” have adored for years, while also housing a rejuvenated menu overflowing with flavor and quality.

All of these riches, she adds, are just waiting to be rediscovered. “It’s a 30,000-square-foot hunk of land in Waikiki, right in the heart of Kalakaua. It’s this literally hidden gem that people think has closed, but it hasn’t; we are so open and we’re extremely fun, and we want to provide an amazing experience to (our guests).”

Under the direction of Handcrafted Restaurants, Jimmy Buffett’s now emphasizes local ingredients—100 percent local produce—and homemade techniques to present farm-to-table cuisine in a “lei’d back” setting, without the fuss or high prices. “That trend has been around for a while, but it’s starting to work its way down into more casual dining experiences. Just being in Hawai‘i, the idea that our vegetables are coming from Mexico or South America when they’re grown so well in our backyard, it just doesn’t make sense and to have an opportunity to support local farmers and get a much, much better product on the table is something that we’re excited about,” describes Bill Terry, CEO of Handcrafted Restaurants.

House favorites such as Fish N Chips and Caesar Salad are still on the menu, but now feature unbelievably fresh elements, from day-boat mahi mahi and hand-cut potatoes to Waipoli Farm organic lettuce and Caesar dressing made from scratch. The menu highlights good ol’ burgers and fries as well, yet takes them to new levels with the use of local beef here and truffle oil, house-made ketchup and mustard aioli there.

Jimmy Buffett’s gives visitors a unique taste of Hawai‘i through local-style Dry Mein loaded with island-grown veggies, or ever-popular panko-crusted Coconut Shrimp complete with spry mango-chili dipping sauce. A brand new made-to-order breakfast menu with musts such as Jimmy Buffett’s Benedict with homemade hollandaise and Pineapple Beignets also reels in rave reviews.

To supplement these bright, locally sourced feasts, three separate bars located throughout Jimmy Buffett’s encompass sips for every palate. Diners go bottoms up on Corona, Landshark and recently added microbrews, not to mention a slew of Mai Tais, Margaritas and other drinks in between.

“It’s an opportunity to come in, maybe in a tank top and shorts, and sit down and have a cocktail that’s made with fresh juices, or a burger that’s made with local beef. So I think you get to be in a fun atmosphere and the food quality is higher than what you’d normally get in those types of atmospheres,” says Terry. The perfect time to dive into the menu is during an unbeatable happy hour (2 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to closing daily), in which pupus are half off (excluding fresh poke), beers are $2.50 off and specialty cocktails are just $8, among other specials.

The expansive restaurant filled with fabled tiki bar-style decor transports patrons to a beachside sanctuary showcasing wave-shaped booths, palm-tree spotted dining areas and dramatic lava-red lighting the whole family is crazy about. A massive main dining room, shaded outdoor lanai and poolside bar bring numerous ways to soak up paradise over a casual meal, night cap or even a large-scale group event. Giant television screens flanking the walls, as well as individual screens in each booth, are ideal for viewing sporting events and concerts.

In celebration of the coastal music influences Jimmy Buffett’s is firmly rooted in, turning up the live entertainment continues to be central to the eatery’s mission, and can be enjoyed before and after sunset during three sets a day. The spotlight shines on local performers who rock out island-style on the restaurant’s indoor and outdoor stages. “We’d love it if people could think of us as a great place to listen to live music while they enjoy their Margaritas and their hand-crafted food,” says Terry.

As more and more Waikiki-goers uncover the eatery’s sparkling diamond of a menu, the future is looking sun-kissed and glistening for Jimmy Buffett’s Restaurant & Bar.

Jimmy Buffett’s Restaurant & Bar
Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort
2300 Kalakaua Ave.
[C:8 Waikiki Map]
(808) 791-1200