Duke Kahanamoku was a Hawaiian swimmer, volleyball player, and business man but arguably his biggest accomplishment is his surfing legacy. The Huntington Beach legend – also a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming – is sort of the patron saint of surfing and he’s fully embraced in Surf City, USA AKA Huntington Beach. In my recent trip to the O.C., I stopped off at Duke’s Huntington Beach, a restaurant that honors the late surf master and surf life in general. You can read all about Duke and Surf City in the waiting area – the walls are filled with wavy memories. And, the eats were tremendous. The crab and macadamia nut wonton appetizer was a killer way to start off lunch. The main dishes we savored were the seven-spice Ahi (awesome with its papaya hot mustard sauce) and the roasted firecracker ono (chili and cumin aioli was the shiznit). The amazing food was complimented by the decor. Windows open the restaurant to beautiful views of the beach (you can watch surfers while you eat!), and the entire vibe is so Cali chill. The food is also reflective of the area with a lot of items on the menu incorporating macadamia nuts. As for the wait staff, they fit the atmosphere – waitresses wear Dendrobium orchids in their hair. It’s no wonder Duke’s has locations in Hawaii as well. It’s a really good place with a wonderful identity and dynamic.
After eating at Duke’s, we learned more about the man and the influence of the “surfing Gods.” The International Surf Museum is located within steps of the restaurant, and along the way you can spot a “walk of fame” with all the notable board legends’ names emblazoned on each star. Inside the museum, which is volunteer run, is a who’s who of inspirational wave masters. Obviously there are sections devoted to Kahanamoku, but there’s also an impressive array of classic surfboards, a music wing that pays homage to trendsetter Dick Dale and others (he lends some autographed items as well), and – naturally – a section devoted to the first Endless Summer movie – including Bruce Brown’s original camera. Bad ass. It’s such a treat to just stroll into the museum after watching surfers take to the water just blocks away and learning of the almighty Duke at the restaurant that pays homage to him.