The Weekly Eater


Sunday, April 14, 2002

Caleb Roque enjoys a giant plateful of spaghetti at Ronnie's as dad Hustward looks on. At left, a Clown Sundae waits in the wings to be delivered to a lucky patron.

Ronnie’s bringing families
back to the table

Ho, fool me. Ronnie's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant -- with its faux stained-glass lamps, giant menu, fancy logo and rah-rah service -- looks like part of a mainland chain, with all aspects of operations tweaked to perfection before being cloned and sent out across the nation.

True, there's a hammerjang aspect to the decor in that it doesn't all mesh the way it might at a wood-and-brass-finished Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor or a spiffy honeybee yellow and black-clad California Pizza Kitchen, where there's gobs of money and marketing research behind the design. But then Ronnie's is really just a family-driven start-up ... for now.

Ronnie Hope's brood all found work in the restaurant business, along with their Ewa Beach neighborhood bud Byron Chee, who's responsible for Ronnie's menu. After working some of the glitziest rooms in the industry, from the Hyatt and Halekulani to Ko Olina, Ed Hope and his siblings (sister Jamie Uchima's responsible for desserts and keeping the boys in line) realized they missed the fun of old-fashioned family restaurants -- the special-occasion parties, the raucous "Birthday Song" serenades and the smile-inducing punchbowls filled with ice cream.

At Ronnie's, a clanging bell greets each dish's emergence from the kitchen and that is patrons' signal to let out a "Woooo!" or bark, or howl, or whatever sound it is that you're good at making. Food equals fun in Ronnie's 'rithmetic book.

A Clown Sundae waits in the wings to be delivered to a lucky patron.

Extensive offerings begin with breakfasts bearing names of various friends and relatives. There's Donna's sweetbread French toast ($5.50), Kai's loco moco ($6.50), Rachel's pancakes ($3.25) and Russell's "Build Your Own 3-Egg Omelet" ($3.95). At the "Create Your Own" waffle bar, you're let loose to pile on all the ice cream toppings you want. That's right -- whipped cream, caramel, butterscotch, hot fudge, nuts -- it's quite a dangerous set-up.

Available all day are sandwiches including Ohta-San's French Dip ($7.75), hand-packed one-third-pound burgers ($6.50 to $8.95) and the ultimate, the $24.95 USS Da Kine hoagie that feeds six or more, with layers of turkey, ham, corned beef, pastrami, three kinds of cheese and veggies.

The menu is full of heavy-duty, guilt-inducing food to placate the parents who must escort their children to their to-dos. Try to work out a couple of days before showing up. And read the whole menu before attempting a decision. Fool that I was, I sat down and ordered a Coke before opening the menu. Because of this I had to go without a Mokie's Malt ($3.25 regular, $3.95 super, $4.50 colossal) because I had no spare opu room. Old-timers will be amused to find Green River and Sarsaparilla on the drink menu, the result of a nationwide search for the right fountain supplier.

I didn't care much for the clam strips ($4.95) on the pupu menu, which I should have known would add up to more crunchy batter than clam. Garlic chicken wings ($4.95) had far more substance as your basic fried chicken wing drizzled with a layer of mellow garlic sauce.

A dinner of Dennis' Dinosaur Bones ($12.95), prime-rib bones in a molasses honey barbecue sauce, was better than might be expected of ice cream parlor fare, easily falling from the bones and definitely not as treacly as the recipe suggests. Shrimp scampi ($11.95) on spaghetti will also win a lot of fans, as would any dish drenched in butter, garlic and Parmesan. In spite of the restaurant's size, there's a homemade quality to the food, rather than an institutional one.

Eventually you do get to dessert, which can be as simple as Mom's classic one-scoop hot fudge sundae ($3.25), to the Big Banana built for birthday boys and girls, with 10 scoops EACH of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice creams and 10 bananas covered in strawberry, pineapple and chocolate toppings with whipped cream, cherries and nuts, at $39.95.

In between there are such treats as Mom's Apple Pie ($5.75), vanilla ice cream topped by pound cake, cinnamon apple pie filling and caramel; and Hope's Sundae ($5.75), with its slices of chocolate pound cake, mint chocolate chip ice cream and hot fudge.

Countering the diet bomb guise, ice cream may have at least one psychological benefit, as a guaranteed stress buster. As Ed says, "People need to let go and have some fun."

Ronnie's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant

Westridge Center, 98-150 Kaonohi St C-115, Aiea / 485-0995

Food / ice cream StarStarStar / StarStarStarStar

Service StarStarStar1/2

Ambience StarStar1/2

Value StarStarStar1/2

Hours: Breakfast 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. daily (to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)

Cost: Less than $10 per person for lunch; dinner for two without ice cream about $25; ice cream about $6 per person

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Do It Electric!

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Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

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