The History of Blue Ginger Café

On Labor Day weekend 1990, Joe and Georgia Abilay came from Maui to visit Lanai. It was a Sunday afternoon and they walked around Dole Park surprised to find that every business was closed. Joe saw a vending machine and went up to purchase a soda. The machine was completely empty. A light went on.

He thought, there’s something wrong here. He told Georgia,

“If I ever get a restaurant here, I’ll open seven days a week, breakfast through dinner.”

Joe and Georgia purchased Dahang’s Pastry Shop from Dottie Tan in 1991.

Dahangs had been around for a decade, opened at five a.m. to serve hungry pineapple workers before their shift started at six, and closed before noon after doing an early lunch rush.

The Blue Ginger Café opened its doors on August 19, 1991, principally established by Chef Joe Abilay, along with his wife, Georgia, who acted as a silent partner – and if you know Georgia, that is hard to believe. Because of her involvement as Director of Human Resources for Rock Resorts, Lanai Company wouldn’t allow her to work in the restaurant. Joe, originally from Lahaina, had retired from Ka’anapali Beach Hotel as Executive Sous Chef.

By Thanksgiving 1991, the Blue Ginger opened its doors for dinner and Joe had kept his promise: to establish a diner that was open every day on Lanai, breakfast, lunch and dinner, to pick up a bite to eat.

When Joe first opened for lunch and dinner service, he was threatened by an inspector from Honolulu, who worked for Lanai Company, and told that if he stayed open for dinner, he would have to close the restaurant. That’s Lanai Company logic if you’re not familiar with it. He ignored the Inspector, chose to stay open, and a new era began on Lanai.

Today the Blue Ginger can celebrate that it is the only restaurant on Lanai to be open every day for the last eighteen years. The Blue Ginger helped make eating out more affordable on Lanai, for local people, and provided a place open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, including holidays. The Blue Ginger has a broad menu and specializes in authentic local cuisine, which is becoming very hard to find today in the islands with the introduction of so many chains and mainland restaurants. And many people offer our baked goods as their omiyage ( a gift from the place that you travel to) when they go off island – a tasty treat from Lanai.