There aren’t a lot of dining choices in Lanai City. The best of the lot is probably the Lanai City Grille in the Hotel Lanai which, until 1990, was the only hotel on the island. James D. Dole himself built the inn in 1923, mainly as a place to house Dole executives from the mainland. The rustic furnishings—worn hardwood floors, old ceiling fans, chintz curtains—give it a certain historical charm, if you like that sort of thing.
The hotel restaurant used to be called Henry Clay’s Rottisserie and was run by a guy from New Orleans named Henry Clay Richardson. I ate there a couple of times and the food was good, but it always felt a bit odd to me to be dining on cajun shrimp, eggplant creole, and pecan pie on the Pineapple Island.
In some ways it seems like nothing ever changes on Lanai and in other ways, it seems they change all the time. Mostly, I guess, the change comes from those who visit the island and then decide to move here and see if they can make a go of it. Henry Clay Richardson was one of those people. He took over the Hotel Lanai in 1996, ran it for a decade, then—for whatever reason—sold it off to new owners.
So it goes.
Anyway, another place I like quite a bit is Pele’s Other Garden Deli and Bistro, next to the Pine Isle Market. It’s basically a deli in what used to be the Lanai Visitor Information Center. Its owners, Mark and Barbara Zigmond, moved here from Jersey over a decade ago. When I asked Mark why they moved here, he said, “Just wanted to drop out of the rat race.”
Well, okay, but owning a deli in Lanai City isn’t exactly kickin’ back and taking it easy. They serve lunch from 11 to 3, close for an hour or so in the afternoon, and then transform the little pseudo-New York deli into a casual Jersey Italian restaurant for dinner. Mark cooks, Barbara acts as hostess and waitress when she’s not behind the cash register.
Macduff and I have had lunch there a couple of times and we really enjoyed their good-sized pastrami and swiss (if you order it as the #5, you get a free pickle). We also enjoyed joking around with Barbara who is, as they say, a full-figured gal. The first day we ate there, she was wearing a white t-shirt with the words HOT MELONS sort of wrapping around her….well, melons.
“You must get some comments about that t-shirt,” Macduff said.
“Oh, yeah,” Barbara said, laughing. “It’s a good conversation starter.”
If you happen to stop in there some time and she’s not wearing the shirt, ask her where the hot melons are. Maybe she’ll show you.