Garden Island BBQ & Chinese Restaurant

A favorite Lihue restaurant has new owners who want to keep the same quality menu and service but add their own personal touch from 25 years experience in the business.

Peter Wu and his spouse Lily Wang took over the Garden Island BBQ & Chinese Restaurant in early January. Mr. Yang Jian and Mrs. Hong Jian, who started the restaurant 21 years ago, are retiring.

The original owners are cousins of Wang and are staying on to make sure the transition goes smoothly. The new owners said by keeping the eight chefs and a dozen or more part-time servers, they shouldn’t skip a beat.

“Customers have been coming here for a long time and have certain expectations,” Wu said. “So far, so good.”

Another reason to maintain the status quo is because it is working and the restaurant is one of the most popular on the island. Instead of making sudden changes, the couple is posting specials to gauge interest in new items.

For starters, they’ve posted Singapore noodle with roast pork, duck or seafood for $11.95; salt and pepper pork chops for $9.95; fried tofu with ginger and onion sauce for $9.95; and string beans with seafood, roast duck or pork roast for $9.95.

“This is a popular restaurant with customers that come from all around the island,” Wu said. “We talk to the customers and listen to what they say.”

Garden Island BBQ is the place to find quality, quantity and cost without five-star prices. The “Best of Kauai” plaques that line the wall are validated with a dining room that stays full all day long with guests and to-go orders.

With a menu featuring more than 100 items and customers packed in dining rooms, meals are served fresh and hot. A four-page menu offers appetizers, soup and sandwich specials and even burgers.

The local touch includes teri beef and mahi mahi, saimin and most meals still come with macaroni or rice.

One friend noted GI BBQ chicken wings were delightfully meaty and tender. They are prepared when ordered, as opposed to deep fried earlier in the day and left to sit on paper towels until reheated.

The house chop suey chow mein is a marvel of seafood, pork, chicken and vegetables with either soft or fried noodle for just $8.50. The rice and noodle dishes come with meat, seafood or vegetarian.

“The duck and the pork items are very popular,” Wu said.

Anyone can enjoy being a vegetarian when there are a dozen options including bok choy garlic, Chinese peas, tofu and straw mushrooms, or choi sum with bitter melon and black bean sauce, and all for just $7.95 each.

House favorites include the sizzling platters for $10.95. The chicken and duck menu is also great with unehei with nam ha or chili bean sauce.

The restaurant is popular for its expansive menu and service, Wang said. It is also a favorite of families for the dinner deals and the large to-go pan-sized portions at a great price.

The 11 soup items are meals all by themselves and rang $6.95 to $9.95. They include won ton, chicken, long rice egg drop, rainbow tofu, for won ton mein or fun, scallop, abalone, or seafood chowder.

“If someone wants just a little something or a big meal, we have it all here,” he added.

As for the interior, the long and narrow dining room has its challenges with walkways. They plan to soon bring in new tables and chairs to help with the layout and will eventually look at redecorating the eatery.

Wu and his brother also own the L & L Hawaiian Barbecue in Waimea.

Garden Island BBQ & Chinese Restaurant is at 4252 Rice Street in Lihue. Call (808) 245-8868.

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