Families sure to love return of Shakey's


POSTED: Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chalk up another nostalgic score for Restaurants Hawaii LLC, which recently brought back an updated version of the Ranch House and is now bringing Shakey's Pizza Parlor back to the islands after a 30-year absence. The first of three planned restaurants opened Feb. 24 at Waipahu Town Center, around the corner from Longs, where Blockbuster used to be.

I'm old enough to remember Shakey's, which provided some of my first restaurant memories. I appreciated any place that got my parents out of the house to eat. A born critic and terror from age 1, I just couldn't bear eating at home that much, and my earliest memory was of dinner as a battle fought between my father and me.

He would try to feed me spoonfuls of minced steak and rice, and when he did manage to get some in my mouth, I would refuse to chew or swallow the mushy mess. He'd end up red and yelling, and I'd end up red and crying. Maybe if I had eaten between the ages of 1 and 5, I would have grown taller, but to this date I still can't stand the spongy texture of steak and white rice together.

On the other hand, Shakey's was about fun and play. I barely remember the pizza, but I do remember the congenial atmosphere, how everyone seemed relaxed and in a good mood when they were there (parents, don't think your toddlers are unaware of these things).

Eighty percent of the fun came from the sight of the pizza makers kneading the dough and shaping it and putting on a show by tossing and spinning the flattened crusts through the air. I was entranced to the point of not eating. I could have watched them for hours.

OF COURSE, times have changed, and there's a slight nod to the old-fashioned, brick-walled pizza joint near the entrance. Otherwise, the cavernous 5,600-square-foot room resembles an upgraded, contemporary food court, with an ample mix of open tables and booths.

With so many families under roof, it could be crazier if not for the walled-off space between diners and kids with energy to expend. What passed for entertainment then wouldn't fly now, so in place of the ragtime band, that separate space is a game arcade with something for every age, including basketball hoops, a SpongeBob SquarePants game and place to show your skills at “;Guitar Hero.”;






        Waipahu Town Center, 94-060 Farringtton Highway

        » 677-1919


Food ;*;*;1/2
        Service ;*;*;*
        Ambience ;*;*;*
        Value ;*;*;*
        Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays, and to 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays Cost: About $25 for a family of four (two young children)


The pizza makers are all business behind the scenes. There's no interaction with guests, no public spinning. In fact, in these days of standards, uniform crusts and toppings, there's not much room for variation. For a certain kind of diner, that's reassuring. You're guaranteed to get the same pizza, Mojos (batter-fried potatoes) and fried chicken every time.

The food memory started coming back when I caught sight of the Shakey's Special pizza ($10.49 small/$17.99 medium/$22.99 large) topped with the works: salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, seasoned beef, mushrooms and black olives.

Only, my memories are not of actually eating it all, but carefully removing and placing onto a napkin each piece of olive and meat, save for the pepperoni. I never liked olives until I tasted kalamatas, and didn't care for the licorice flavor of the anise seed in sausages. Now I can eat it all, though I still like things my way, and if not for work would probably build my own pizza at $7.99 for about an 9-inch small (one topping, thin crust), $14.99 for a 12-inch medium or $19.99 for 15-inch large. Add $1 for a breadier pan crust, and additional toppings are $1.40, $1.70 and $1.90, respectively. A small pizza will feed one hungry person, two small eaters or one parent with a young child. I like the crisp, crackery thin crust, but others might find the pan more filling.

Those who love chili peppers can simply go straight for the Firehouse pizza with its combination of hot sliced sausage and spicy Italian sausage, plus pepperoni, onions, tomatoes and basil.

Kids might appreciate the introduction to the creamy flavor of Alfredo sauce on the Rustic Chicken pizza, with tender diced chicken breast and mushrooms. The only possible aversion at that age would be the sprinkling of fresh cilantro, something I hated as a kid as well but learned to love via salsa. The Alfredo isn't particularly heavy so the effect is comparable to any white cheese pizza. If you typically eat red pizzas, take a chance and you could find this one to be a new favorite.

WHAT'S NEW to me is the fried chicken. I passed by tables full of the golden chicken and potatoes, all the while thinking how dry they looked. To my surprise, the chicken was tender and flavorful throughout. Two pieces of chicken and Mojos are $5.99 for a leg and thigh, or $6.99 for breast and wing. Or get it all with one of Shakey's family meals. The smallest ($22.99) is for a medium one-topping pizza with four pieces of chicken and Mojos. And $37.99 will get you a large one-topping pizza with eight pieces of chicken and Mojos. You can sub one of the specialty pizzas, paying more accordingly.

Even better than the plain Mojos are the Mojos Supreme ($12.49), served nachos style with toppings of melted cheddar and mozzarella, bacon, green onions, olives, salsa and sour cream.

Balance the fried items with a trip to the salad bar ($5.99). It's not fancy, but covers all the basics, with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, bacon bits, steamed broccoli, shredded carrots and croutons.

I didn't worry about money when I was a kid, but looking back, I'm glad that the affordability of pizza allowed us to get out of the house for a meal once in a while and that notion of an affordable place for families to eat is just as important in today's economy. Sure, families can still order delivery pizza or buy a frozen one in the supermarket, but strong bonding memories are not built on the same old, same old. As for remembering Shakey's 30 years from now? You can bet today's kids will.


Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).