An illustrious Laguna Beach landmark circa 1940s, the Royal Hawaiian
will celebrate an incredible 55 year anniversary come Christmas.
This enchanting creation of Hawaii natives, Francis and Dionisia
Cabang, is something of a festive phenomenon having survived far beyond
those once trendy Polynesian restaurants of the 40s and 50s, Trader Vic’s
and Don the Beachcomber.
With its thatched roof facade and sensuous network of island-inspired
dining areas, the restaurant is under the direction of Cabang’s
personable son, J.R. and charming daughter Marilyn, who expanded the menu
a few years ago. Now those five-course dinners of the early days, have
given way to a varied bill of fare offering more than two dozen
three-course repasts, some tasty appetizers, a few children’s specials
and several early bird bargains.
The place is very much a haven for three generations of Lagunan’s who
continue to enjoy the reasonable prices along with the comfortable island
ambience. Many are longtime school chums who gather for birthdays,
graduations and anniversaries. It often seems like old home week when
locals wander inside to sample one of super-mixologist Eddie’s potent
tropicocktails, or enjoy dinner at one of the romantically lighted tables
nestled among myriad tanks of exotic tropical fish.
Complete dinners these days are served with the famous French onion
soup, “no ka oi” tossed salad with “ono ono” dressing, warm brown bread,
baked potato and a fresh pineapple slice.
Especially popular are the ala moana spare ribs, Chinese fried jumbo
shrimp and combinations of the two. A choice of 30 entrees, most less
than $16, range in price from $6.95 for a center cut ham steak to an
enormous combination platter of crablegs, lobster tail and rib eye or New
York steak, usually enough to satisfy two appetites.
Early diners are rewarded with such full-course specials as teriyaki
chicken breast, Icelandic cod fish & chips, top sirloin, broiled
swordfish and salmon steak, at $6.95 to $8.95.
For the small fry there are barbecue ribs, ground round steak, broiled
lamb chops and more for a reasonable $4.50 to $5.95.
Desserts are all a mere $1.25, including the Pele Goddess of Fire ice
cream scoop, crowned with a flaming sugar cube, the same sweet treat
included with the price of dinner in those early days of yore.
THE ROYAL HAWAIIAN
Where: 331 North Coast Highway
Hours: Open for dinner 5 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday 5 to
10:30 p.m.; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday; early bird dinners 5 to 7 p.m.; 4 to 6
p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.