Get Out With Roxy On The Mic: The Progressive Dinner Date

Image courtesy of Halekulani Hotel.

erinEvery month, Roxy on the Mic is pitching in at Lei with a column about the best tips and tricks to having fun in Hawai‘i. With an enchanting personality and a voice that gets the crowd going, emcee Roxy on the Mic has become a familiar face in Honolulu’s nightlife scene. Peeling back the persona, Erin Bunda, a bible college graduate and youth therapist by day, is vividly human—disarmingly candid, funny, down to earth, and brilliant in her ability to connect with people. Loud, soft, profane, wise, one thing’s for sure: Bunda and her alter ego both love to be out and about. You can count on Roxy to share the buzz in the city she calls home.


When I lived in Los Angeles, my neighborhood was near The Grove at Fairfax Avenue and 3rd Street. I’d often walk to this trendy mall to enjoy the various eats it had to offer: high-end restaurants with white tablecloths, posh martini lounges, quaint indoor-outdoor cafes cozied up to the resident fountain, and a farmers market featuring a ridiculously amazing number of food vendors in one area. I began to crave dishes from various spots, and quickly learned that I didn’t have to eat at just one place, saving the next restaurant for another night. I could hit three places in one go if I wanted to! An appetizer here, the main dish there, and dessert by the fountain. I started out doing this alone, but soon realized that others enjoyed adventuring along with me. And Voilà! I give to you the “progressive dinner date.”

What exactly is a progressive dinner date? Basically, take all the amazing parts of a normal dinner date, break them up into sections, and enjoy each at a different location. Think drinks, an appetizer, dinner, dessert, and finally coffee, tea, or more drinks. Pick an area where there are four or five restaurants within walking distance of each other—the more populated, the better. Themes are fun, but can be limiting. Yelp and Open Table are your friends. Make sure to start no later than 7 p.m., or you’ll find yourself tired after the second stop.

For a special progressive dinner date to truly woo the one you love, my favorites are Nobu Waikiki, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Teppan & Sushi Kaiwa, and Roy’s Waikiki.

BarStop #1: The lounge at Nobu Waikiki

The omakase menu at Nobu is always an adventure. However, for a progressive dinner date, head to the lounge for drinks, and be sure to try the hamachi jalapeno carpaccio. Bar manager Kenny Lum and his awarding-winning team of mixologists will craft you a cocktail that will awaken your senses and stir-up great conversation between you and your date. Venue note: Return to Nobu Waikiki’s lounge on any given night, and the staff will probably remember your drink, how many kids you have, if you love your job, and how many flip-flops you’ve misplaced during your entire stay in Hawai‘i.

Image courtesy of Nobu.

Stop #2: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse

My favorite steak has got to be at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, simply for the fact that it arrives still sizzling. However, you are not here for steak tonight. Ruth’s Chris has a great selection of appetizers that wow upon delivery as well, like the flambéed oysters Rockefeller. Add wine, and life is perfect. Please do not ruin this moment with numerous attempts to take the best photo for Instagram—the flame isn’t consistent, and if you try to use your flash repeatedly, it will just annoy other guests. Go for one picture and no flash. If you got the shot, great—if you didn’t, just let it go, enjoy the moment, and pay attention to your date.

Stop #3: Teppan & Sushi Kaiwa

Teppan & Sushi Kaiwa is located on the same floor as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. You can either head straight here or stop in at a few of the Beach Walk shops along the way. Pick up a small gift for your cousin Rose, snag a keepsake to remember the evening by, and relax with a 15-minute couple’s massage at the Shiatsu & Massage Center. Then, head over to Kaiwa for your entrée round.

Here, modern Japanese cuisine meets Hawai‘i’s edible essence. Make sure to call ahead to reserve an intimate table for two in the zashiki, a sitting room with modern Japanese tatami, or floor-style, seating. I suggest ordering any two items on the menu. This experience is best enjoyed with cold sake.

Stop #4: Roy’s Waikiki and/or Lewers Lounge at Halekulani Hotel

If you and your date are still standing and have room for one last course, head to Roy’s Waikiki for a unique Hawai‘i dessert experience, like their signature melting hot chocolate soufflé or pineapple upside down cake. (Both desserts take 30 minutes to prepare, so you may even want to call ahead.) If you’re celebrating a special occasion, make sure to inform the staff (discreetly, of course!), as they will be sure to add a special touch when presenting your dessert.

Image courtesy of Halekulani Hotel.

If your tummy just won’t go for a fourth course, or you have already been to a Roy’s outside of the islands, it is my honor to direct you to The Lewers Lounge at Halekulani Hotel. The frozen mai tai found here will actually change your life. The venue is an upscale jazz lounge that features live music, a polished ambiance, and the most delicious craft cocktail creations. The experience is luxurious and a perfect way to end the night.

My best friend used a progressive dinner date to ask his wife to marry him. Another friend used the same tactic to celebrate her 15-year commitment to her wife (14 years of partnership and one year of marriage). Take my advice: Whatever your relationship status or lack thereof, the progressive dinner date will be a definite hit.

Love You All Plenty,