LONGEVITY IN RESTAURANTS is hard to accomplish in any market, but especially in the bustle and ever-changing landscape of Waikiki. It seems like every day one new trendy restaurant opens, and another closes its doors. Few eateries accomplish establishment status, and, until earlier this year, Shore Bird Beachfront Bar was one of them.
Originally founded in 1979 by friends, Shore Bird at the Outrigger Reef Hotel drew locals and visitors, including a fair amount of celebrities. The beachfront location, casual atmosphere and world famous grill made for an iconic and playful dining experience. Where else could guests claim a spot on a giant communal grill and perfect their own meals with Diamond Head in the distance?
After 38 years on the beach though, the owner was ready to retire, and the Outrigger Reef Hotel was ready to take charge of in-house dining. Shore Bird closed its doors on Sept. 30, 2017, and on Nov. 1 the new Reef Bar and Market Grill opened under the hotel’s ownership.
“It’s a sad day and an exciting one at the same time,” said general manager Kelly Hoen about the turnover.
There are plenty of innovative ideas and improvements to the new restaurant, but, thankfully, not everything will change. “We are going to embrace the grill,” said John Shelton, the Reef’s executive chef. Diners will still take on the task of grilling premium cuts of meat on the same grill pioneered by the Shore Bird.
Chef Shelton came to Hawaii from San Diego where he worked with several high-end hotel restaurants, specifically to help reimagine the space and redesign the menu. One of the enhancements he’s engineered is the addition of a full-time butcher who will also act as the spice blender for a new spice market.
For every order, the butcher will hand select prime cuts of meat that diners can pick up on their way to the grill. Those prime cuts are paired with a specially made rub from the spice market. Rubs are designed to complement each cut of meat.
“It’s not just a steak, it’s a whole experience,” said Shelton of the revised concept.
Additionally, the Reef has partnered with Kunoa Cattle Company to provide locally sourced beef and other meat products. While not all of the meat or food products can come from Hawaii, Shelton is making an effort to include Hawaiian foods, including spices and salts.
“We’re going to work on creating an amazing environment,” said Shelton. His vision for the restaurant moving forward is an appealing picture: “Ocean, grill, steaks and your chosen beverage.” Who could ask for more?