Fifth Ruby Tuesday now open in Kihei

By Simplicio Paragas

Walking into Ruby Tuesday for the first time, a Maui resident was audibly heard telling his son, “Don’t worry, we’ll be coming here a lot.” Delayed by almost a year, the locally-owned franchise appropriately opened on a Tuesday in January, much to the delight of Valley Isle denizens who now have a chance to experience what Oahu residents have been able to since the first Ruby Tuesday opened in Mililani in 2004. 

“In Kihei, people only have a choice between resort-style dining and the smaller mom-and-pop restaurants,” says guest service manager Matt Demarest, who has helped open 29 Ruby Tuesday locations nationwide, including the four on Oahu. “Now they can enjoy upscale casual dining.”

Although Ruby Tuesday is a Tennessee-based franchise, co-owners Rick Nakashima and  Ted Davenport take a local hands-on approach in running their restaurants, fostering a strong bond among and between employees, and listening to what kama‘aina want on the menu.

“We have a 20 percent local menu variance in our contract,” asserts Nakashima, who has been friends with Davenport ever since the two played flag football as kids in 1971. “They’re dishes that Ted and I talked about in terms of what we would order when we would go out.”

Co-owner Rick Nakashima looks on as a kahu blows a conch shell to signal the opening of this Kihei location.To give the menu that added island flair, a “Local Flavors” category was introduced in 2009. Glimmering with a sweet-and-spicy-type coat, the plump chicken wings ($9.99) offer only a hint of teriyaki sauce, just enough to tame the chili flavor. Wings are meant to be eaten with your fingers, so don’t be shy and dig in. Another pupu offers slices of rib-eye steak ($15.99), served with a side of teriyaki sauce. While this type of appetizer is often relegated to sports bars, it’s a welcomed menu item at Ruby Tuesday, where sports fans can sidle up to the bar and catch a ball game, or hockey or basketball playoff match. If you want the ultimate local-kine grindz, try the Prime loco moco ($12.99), plated with the traditional mound of white rice topped with a hefty ground beef patty and two sunny-side-up eggs, all smothered in gravy.

Since opening on Maui, 75 percent of the restaurant’s patrons have been locals, many of them unfamiliar with the Ruby Tuesday brand, which is anchored by its all-you-can-eat garden bar ($13.79 a la carte or $6.59 with any entrée), featuring spring mix, fresh garden greens, crisp vegetables, premium cheeses and toppings, croutons and an assortment of dressings.

“We had 3,000 people come in the first week and I’d say 89 percent of them ordered the garden bar,” Demarest says. “But our #1 seller is still our ribs.”
While the Maui menu mirrors the ones found on Oahu, the décor does not. This newest location is in line with the modern Ruby Tuesday image, which, since 2010, has been swapping out its sports-memorabilia wall hangings with oil paintings and its stained Tiffany lamps with more contemporary lights.

Even the color scheme offers more earth tones, featuring a complementing palette of ochres, greens, mustards and reds. “We have a lounge area with highboy tables, which we don’t have in any of our other restaurants,” Nakashima says. “This has been our largest opening since we opened the Moanalua location. We’re happy to be here.”

And Maui residents are happy to have them, judging by the swell of crowds, some of whom walked out imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, “We’ll be back.”  •IO

Locations: 95-1249 Meheula Parkway, Mililani Town Center (623-4949); Moanalua Shopping Center, by the Navy Exchange (422-8585); Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hookipa Terrace (943-2525); Windward Mall (235-5800); and Pi’ilani Village Shopping Center, 303 Pi‘ikea Ave, near Safeway, Kihei, Maui (808.633.4571).

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