Despite what you may have read in a local business journal, South Florida’s Polynesian palace is not going anywhere. Owner Dave Levy assures us not to worry and that everything will be fine. There has been no change in the daily operations of this classic establishment that promises to entertain, fascinate and satisfy us for years to come. In a tribute to its widespread appeal, Levy was recently interviewed for a feature story in The New York Times.
As a reminder of what makes this Fort Lauderdale landmark special, here are 10 reasons (in no particular order) why we love The Mai-Kai:
A view from Federal Highway of The Mai-Kai in 1969 and today. (Photos from Tim “Swanky” Glazner / Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant)
1. The architecture and design. This was a big one that helped it gain historic status but may go unappreciated by many. It was state-of-the art Tiki in 1956 and remains so today. Designed by noted South Florida architect Charles McKirahan, it was “a futuristic Polynesian A-frame 40 feet tall with wings on either side for dining rooms and inside and outside transitioning together via waterways and an open room,” wrote Tim “Swanky” Glazner in the book Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, released in September. Following several expansions over the years, the size and scope of the restaurant today is jaw-dropping, seating more than 600 in the bar and eight dining areas both indoors and outdoors amid lush gardens and waterfalls.
This story will be updated with the latest news and updates on The Hukilau as additional info is released.
Since the announcement of the all-new Tiki Tower Takeover lineup last month, the East Coast’s largest and longest-running Tiki weekender has been teasing us with lots of new announcements on its Facebook page, including symposium tickets, pop-up bars, and three more headlining bands. The Tiki cocktail summit in the revolving rooftop lounge at Pier 66 is also now sold out. Following a wrap-up of all the recent news.
Bars popping up from coast to coast to join The Hukilau
In addition to the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover’s all-star lineup of world-class bars (France’s Dirty Dick, Italy’s Nu Lounge Bar, Chicago’s Three Dots and a Dash, New York City’s Slowly Shirley), plans call for high-profile Tiki establishments from across the country to mix up cocktails at several special events during The Hukilau. The Tiki Tower Takeover is sold out, but there will be plenty of opportunities to sample drinks from a wide array of mixologists throughout the long weekend.
In separate announcements March 1 and March 3, these bars from the eastern and western U.S. were confirmed:
Flask & Cannon from Jacksonville Beach, Fla. – While it may not look like a classic Tiki bar, this 2-year-old craft cocktail oasis certainly can pull off the drinks with the best of them. From a vast spirits selection, to a wide assortment of mugs, to such classics as a flaming Scorpion Bowl, the bartenders at Flask & Cannon put all the pieces together into a perfect modern Tiki cocktail experience. They recently competed in The Art of Tiki, a cocktail throwdown featuring bars from around the country at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Hidden Harbor from Pittsburgh – Part of a new breed of neo-Tiki bars, this modern cocktail haven takes the genre in a new direction for the next generation. Everything Hidden Harbor does pushes the envelope just the right amount, from the molecular mixology of “Weird Science Wednesday,” to the brighter decor. That’s not to say Hidden Harbor isn’t deeply rooted in classic Tiki. The bar staff has a soft spot for authentic Mai-Kai classics on their “Tiki Time Machine” menu, and a 7-foot carving by Crazy Al Evans graces the small space. It’s such a fully realized concept, it’s hard to believe it’s been open only since January 2016.
The S.O.S. Tiki Bar from from Decatur, Ga. – Opening quietly under the radar in November 2015, this small space that supports the attached Victory restaurant has focused on expertly crafted cocktails, to much acclaim. Off the beaten path yet not far from Atlanta, S.O.S. offers a laid-back tropical and Tiki atmosphere (featuring indoor and outdoor seating) to enjoy a wide variety of classic Tiki drinks, plus an array of small bites. Another of the new breed of bars that are taking classic Tiki and adding just the right amount of modern cocktail craftsmanship.
Pagan Idol from San Francisco – Bursting onto the scene in February 2016, this classically themed Tiki haven seems to have nailed every detail: From the drinks, to the decor, to the music, to the staff. Appealing to both hardcore Tikiphiles and San Franciscio’s legendary cocktail culture, Pagan Idol is poised to join an elite group of must-see bars across the country. It already cracked the Top 10 in the annual list of the top Tiki bars in the world on Critiki.com.
* Related: Pagan Idol location was once a Tiki Bob’s (Critiki News)
The Sip ‘n Dip Tiki Lounge from Great Falls, Mont. – The old-timer in the group, this institution at the foot of the Rocky Mountains is one of a select few bars in the world with its own mermaid show. Windows in the bar have provided a scenic view of the aquatic performances in the pool at the attached O’Haire Motor Inn since 1962. A renowned tourist attraction (the tiny Sip ‘n Dip has been featured in GQ Magazine), it also has a loyal local crowd that never gets tired of the Tiki-meets-Disney fantasy atmosphere.
Undertow from Phoenix – A true “underground” Tiki bar, this desert oasis is tucked into a small subterranean space beneath Sip Coffee & Beer Garage. But don’t let the secret location fool you. Undertow has already made a splash on the Tiki scene after opening in August, hosting events featuring cocktail luminaries such as Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove and Georgi Radev of Mahiki in London. The elaborate nautical interior decor (created by Tiki Diablo) comes with its own detailed back-story. The drink menu is just as meticulously curated, featuring classic and modern recipes plus custom mugs. Undertow is wasting no time joining the Tiki party at events across the country. Last month, bartender Libby Longlott traveled to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to compete in The Art of Tiki.
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.” Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram February recap:Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week, more
The Hukilau, the East Coast’s largest and longest-running Tiki weekender, has confirmed an all-new lineup for one of its signature events during the 16th annual festivities in Fort Lauderdale in June. When the acclaimed Tiki Tower Takeover returns to the revolving rooftop ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 for a third straight year, it will feature four new Tiki bar teams and a special master of ceremonies, globetrotting “rum ambassador” Ian Burrell.
The Tiki Tower Takeover is a unique three-hour happy hour with panoramic views of Fort Lauderdale featuring some of the world’s top Tiki bartenders. During its first two years, it included such Tiki cocktail royalty as Beachbum Berry, Martin Cate and Paul McGee. These high-profile Tiki bar proprietors helped launch the special event in 2015 and returned last year for an encore. For 2017, there’s a whole new lineup, announced Sunday in an email to ticket-holders by The Hukilau’s Richard Oneslager.
“The new line-up is a great mix of contemporary American Tiki bars, and two world class standouts from Europe,” Oneslager wrote. “In addition, we have one of the world’s leading rum experts emceeing the event for us.”
Ian Burrell, founder of the UK RumFest, on stage at The Mai-Kai during the “Rumposium” at The Hukilau 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Oneslager and partner Mike Zielinski of Idle Hands Events Management took over ownership of The Hukilau in 2015. Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White stepped down after 15 years as co-creator, co-founder, producer and organizer in December. Oneslager and his team have faced a challenge in White’s absence, but the latest news signals that the event is still on track, with more details set to be announced soon.
The charismatic Burrell, who is based in London and hosts the annual UK RumFest, is billed as the international ambassador of rum. He’ll lend his expertise to several events at The Hukilau, including tastings and symposiums. As host of the Tiki Tower Takeover, expect him to raise the energy level and add his unique brand of humor and enthusiasm. Burrell’s one and only previous appearance at The Hukilau was 2011, when he helped judge a cocktail contest and participated in a special “Rumposium” event with Berry, Cate and other luminaries. He’s truly the spirit’s global ambassador, spreading the gospel at events around the world. In 2013, he made appearances on all seven continents.
* More on Ian Burrell: Take 5 interview
* At The Hukilau 2011: Rum Rat Pack | Rum Barrel Challenge
* At Miami Rum Festival 2014: Tiki seminar and cocktail recipe
Scotty Schuder is a cocktail renaissance man: An American who was born in England, lived in Germany and opened a Tiki bar in Paris in 2013.
During the June 8 event, signature cocktails will be served up by four of the world’s top bar teams, two from Europe and two from the United States. Here’s the official lineup of pop-up bars announced Sunday:
Daniele Dalla Pola was part of an Italian team that won the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.
Daniele Dalla Pola of Nu Lounge Bar in Bologna, Italy.Also rated by many to be among the best bars in the world, Nu Lounge is a neo-Tiki bar known for its chill, retro vibe and world-class craft cocktails. Dalla Pola, the general manager and an award-winning mixologist, oversees a bar program known for its wide selection of spirits, bitters and homemade syrups.
* Related: Interview by A Mountain of Crushed Ice
Bartenders to be announced from Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago. This modern neo-Tiki bar made a splash a year after opening by winning the award for Best New American Cocktail Bar of 2014 at Tales of the Cocktail. Originally conceived by Paul McGee before he opened Lost Lake, this popular downtown lair is a mash-up of modern Tiki with craft cocktail aesthetics. The current beverage director is Kevin Beary, who finished third in the Don the Beachcomber Mai Tai Festival’s cocktail competition in August with bartender Cory Starr.
* Related: Bar of the week | Cocktail of the week
Garret Richard at the 2016 Tiki Tower Takeover. The New York City bartender has participated in both previous events as first mate of Capt. Brian Miller and his Tiki Mondays With Miller crew. (Photo by The Atomic Grog)
Garret Richard of Slowly Shirley in New York City. This young gun is a veteran of The Hukilau, leading his Big Apple bar’s pop-up at last year’s Tiki Road Trip Pool Party and serving on the Tiki Mondays With Miller crew during the first two Tiki Tower Takeovers. The Greenwich Village underground bar shares space with another craft cocktail hot spot, The Happiest Hour, giving Richard a launching pad for his modern take on classic Tiki. He has also competed in The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at both the New York City and South Beach wine & food festivals.
* Related: Bar of the week
In addition to the elite bartenders taking part in the Tiki Tower Takeover, there are plans to increase the number of pop-up bars from around the country participating in other special events to eight. Look for upcoming announcements on special guest bars and bartenders.
Highlights and photos from the 15th annual Polynesian Pop weekender in Fort Lauderdale. The memorable second day included two special events in the 17th floor Pier Top Ballroom: The Tiki Tower Takeover featuring five top bar teams from around the country; and Shag’s SkyLounge featuring the artist Josh Agle hosting a one-of-a-kind cocktail party. As rum sponsors began pouring samples in the Atrium, the Tiki Treasures Bazaar opened in the with a kickoff party in the Crystal Ballroom. Day 1: Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai, The Wreck Bar mermaid show
Humuhumu takes the stage at The Mai-Kai for a sold-out symposium for industry professionals. Her talk, which she presents to much acclaim at events large and small, is designed to introduce bartenders to the wider scope of Tiki, with an emphasis on Polynesian Pop culture. (Photo by James McDonald) More tips:Click here to see Humuhumu’s story (“Keep The Hukilau going at home) that ran in the event program.
Back at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, guests begin gearing up for the first full day of The Hukilau. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
The Hukilau’s takeover of the Pier 66 began in earnest as hordes of aloha-shirt-wearing villagers arrived and began checking in at the registration desk. Many were excited to receive a goodie bag stuffed with freebies from The Hukilau and its sponsors. “Amazing swag bags! Thank you,” wrote Glenn & Carol from SoCal on the official app.
Villagers are greeted by a special sign and display in the lobby of Pier 66. Many of the Tikis are from the personal collection of artist Will Anders. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White – The Hukilau’s co-creator, co-founder, producer, and organizer – greeted guests on the app: “Kick back and relax. You have a busy night ahead of you. You haven’t seen nothin’ yet!” Meanwhile, some guests posted their progress as they made the trip south. “Hukilau or bust,” Mr Kane wrote in the app. “Leaving Orlando now for Tiki nirvana.” On Facebook, AnnaMarie Khan of Jupiter wrote: “Just spotted a coconut on the shoulder of I-95 – we must be close!”
Jose Villasana and N! Satterfield work the registration booth, distributing tickets and event programs in the Atrium outside the Crystal Ballroom in the main tower building at Pier 66. (Photos by Go11Events.com)
The Hukilau’s special swag included a coffee mug, swizzle sticks, matches, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a do-not-disturb door hanger, most featuring Shag-designed artwork. Among the many other items in the themed bag were a Hukilau mug, a Rhum Barbancourt jigger, a Mai-Kai sticker, and an extensive full-color program.
The modern lobby of Pier 66 takes on a Polynesian Pop feel as villagers pick up their special passes and tickets for the day’s events. (Left photo by Barb Lawrence, right photo by Jose Villasana)
Guests also used the The Hukilau’s official app to ask questions about the schedule as well as seeking, selling and trading event tickets, hooking up with friends, and sharing details about the hotel. There was also a good deal of activity surrounding the new Smuggler’s Cove trading cards, with many villagers quickly getting into the spirit of quickly collecting the full set. Others shared the aloha spirit in other ways: “Some time tomorrow I have a half gallon of barrel aged Zombies I need to share,” Keith Hudgins wrote. “Who’s with me?”
Early arrivals get in the spirit of The Hukilau. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
TIKI NEWS: Book and mug releases
Shag the Store announced the release of Shag’s newest signed book, Shag: The Collected Works. It’s available signed by Shag directly from the Palm Springs and Hollywood stores. It’s also coming soon to the online store. The 192-page hardcover book features the “Balcony on Sunset” print on the front cover and the “Three Coats” print on the back cover.
BAR NEWS: Farewell Tiki Mondays With Miller, Longitude, Kreepy Tiki and Trader Vic’s; Aloha The Reef and Tiki Underground
Lost Lake in Chicago continues to rake in the honors, the most recent being named a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program by the James Beard Foundation. “It’s really a thrill to see Lost Lake listed alongside the incredible bars that inspire us daily,” said a message on the acclaimed Tiki bar’s Facebook page. Among the many other nominees are Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, Bar Agricole in San Francisco, Canon in Seattle, Clyde Common in Portland, The Dead Rabbit in New York City, and The Varnish in Los Angeles. The 2017 James Beard Awards Gala will be held in Chicago on May 1. Lost Lake’s Paul McGee, Shelby Allison and Erin Hayes at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
* More photos, full coverage of the special cocktail event
Following his Tiki Mondays With Miller finale on Feb. 13 at Pouring Ribbons in New York City, Capt. Brian Miller posted the following missive on Facebook: “The crew and I left it all on the stage and we hope each and every one of you had a great time. We said we wouldn’t go quietly and we didn’t. There was so much rum and so much love. I was humbled by all of it. Thanks to all of you that came on Monday and everyone else that has come to Tiki Mondays over the past 5+ years. It was my pleasure and my honor to serve all of you.” Look for a new venture in New York City in the near future from Miller and company.
There was sad news out of Oakland, Calif, where owner Suzanne Long announced a March 5 closing of her beloved Longitude. Open since August 2014, this was the respected rum and cocktail expert’s first bar of her own, and it was well-received across the Tiki and rum communities. In her Facebook announcement, Long wrote: “Thank you to all of you who have walked through our doors in the last three years. It has been an amazing, glorious adventure and we couldn’t have done it without all of your love and support. Mahalo to you and Aloha, with so much love! And from me, don’t worry. You haven’t seen the last of me yet.” We’re holding you to that, Suzanne!
While many will say it was a shell of its former self, Trader Vic’s ended a 62-year association with the Beverly Hilton with the Feb. 2 closing of the poolside lounge that was the last remnant of the legendary Tiki restaurant at the venerable hotel, Los Angeles Magazine reported. “The original Beverly Hilton Trader Vic’s was a sprawling Polynesian pop masterpiece that opened with the Welton Becket-designed hotel in 1955 and was a celebrity hot spot for decades,” the article says. Added Eater Los Angeles: “Operating on land owned for decades by Merv Griffin and playing host to everyone from Hugh Hefner to the Rat Pack, Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills had become a beloved staple for that side of town – but now it’s all been scrubbed away.” When the restaurant closed in 2007, the pool bar became the only place in Los Angeles to get an authentic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai and pu-pu platters. A more modern Trader Vic’s restaurant operated at L.A. Live from 2009 to 2014. Now the only U.S. locations are in Emeryville, Calif., and Atlanta. There are more than a dozen overseas locations.
Ayme Harrison (left) and daughter Demi Anne Natoli representing Kreepy Tiki Lounge in 2016 at The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Harrison is shuttering the old Kreepy Tiki and helping launch a new South Florida craft cocktail bar. You can find Natoli at Lost Lake in Chicago. (Atomic Grog photo)
An era ended in Fort Lauderdale, where the proprietors of Kreepy Tiki Lounge announced that the live music venue and craft cocktail bar would be closing its doors on April 1. “We invite you all to celebrate the times we had, friendships we’ve made, and enjoy the last remaining days with us,” said a Facebook announcement. The adjoining Kreepy Tiki Tattoos will remain open during construction in the weeks to come, so look for news on future upgrades to the space near Fort Lauderdale International Airport. South Florida Distillers, makers of the award-winning Fwaygo rums, is a recent new addition to the building. A longtime rockabilly and punk-rock hangout under various names, the bar received a major upgrade (and full liquor license) wen Ayme Harrison took over bar operations in late 2014. It was subsequently named one of the best 22 Tiki bars in the country by Condé Nast Traveler, and Harrison’s mixology skills were recognized in 2016 at such high-profile events as The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and The Hukilau. Harrison is one of several high-profile partners in a new craft cocktail bar in nearby Delray Beach called Death or Glory, set to open April 1, according to Miami New Times. The article also says that the old Kreepy Tiki Lounge “may continue to operate in another capacity” under Kreepy Tiki Tattoos owner Jackson Valiente.
It was not all about closings this month. Some exciting news in Palm Springs heralded the opening of The Reef at the Caliente Tropics resort. Home of the annual Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs events, the vintage resort with the iconic A-frame entrance and distinctive mid-century Polynesian Pop architecture had once been home to a bar called The Reef. When Rory Snyder, creator of the aforementioned Tiki weekenders, saw an opportunity to take over the bar space, he jumped at it. He enlisted the talents of artists Buzzy Meeker (design, build-out), Doug Horne (logos, menus and mug design) and John Mulder of Eekum Bookum (mug creation). “I want the mood and menu of The Reef make all who walk in here feel at home,” Snyder said in an announcement on Facebook. “Everyone from the long-time Palm Springs residents, to vacationing tourists, to our enthusiastic Tiki ohana. Because The Reef is located at a hotel, some people might wander in from the pool in their flip-flops and some might arrive dressed up for a night out. Regardless, I want people to come in knowing that, just because this is a tropically-themed bar, they can get still their favorite standard well drinks or enjoy one of our craft Tiki cocktails, along with some good food while having a memorable time. You will be entertained.” Previews were held in February, with a grand opening scheduled for March 4.
It’s clear that the best Tiki bars are a passion project of their owners, and the new Tiki Underground in the Akron, Ohio, area is no exception. Cleveland native Sean Coffey was a Tiki fanatic for 20 years before realizing his dream and opening a tropical paradise for all to enjoy. “Sean has loved Tiki culture for so many years and he’s basically had a Tiki bar, at home,” his wife and co-owner Jessie Coffey said in an article on Cleveland.com. “Now we get to have the public come over.” Funded in part by fans and supporters, the bar is a DIY effort in the truest sense of the word. Coffey took over a 4,500-square-foot space that was formerly home to a sports bar in Hudson, Ohio, bringing South Seas style and the spirit of aloha to an enthusiastic opening day crowd on Feb. 24. A grand opening and the roll-out of more entertainment and menu options were planned for March.
In Fort Lauderdale, news broke about a new restaurant opening in the beachside B Ocean Resort, perhaps best known for the classic “porthole lounge” The Wreck Bar and long-running swim shows by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restauranteur Ralph Pagano, who has had success with his Naked Taco and Naked Lunch concepts in Miami. Less successful was the short-lived Naked Tiki on South Beach, but hopefully Pagano’s appreciation of Tiki shines through in his new 150-seat restaurant, which also includes The Florida Bar. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Naked Crab is a “stripped-down but also dressed-up crab and seafood and steak house where I cook impeccably sourced fish,” Pagano told New Times. In related Wreck Bar news, Marina and her pod of aquaticats launched a new, burlesque-themed swim show for ages 21 and older on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 p.m. These are in addition to the regular family-friendly “fishtail glam” mermaid shows at 6:30.
The kitschy dive bar Hula Hula, which has been operating since 2007 and proudly advertising “karaoke 365 days a year,” announced that it has been forced to move from its Seattle Center location. According to a post on the bar’s Facebook page, Hula Hula will shut down March 18 but reopen in a new location in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in April.
RUM NEWS: Bacardi crowns North American Cocktail Competition champion
Darnell Holguin after his presentation at the 1306 Bar on South Beach. (Photos by The Atomic Grog)
Darnell Holguin of New York City won the Bacardi Legacy North American Cocktail Competition Finals in Miami Beach on Feb. 13 with his It Was All a Dream cocktail. Other U.S. finalists included Cody Henson of Miami, Will Isaza of Boston, Alex Chien of Chicago, Cameron George of Seattle, and Vincent Toscano of San Francisco. Holguin will represent the United States at the Global Final in Berlin in May. Around 250 people attended the private industry-only event at the 1306 Bar. Our correspondent tasted almost all of the 19 drinks and reported to us (without knowing the winner) that he thought Holguin’s was far and away the best. He called it “a very Tiki-tastic concoction that utilized condensed milk and allspice dram. … The minute I sipped it, I knew it was the winning drink.”
* See video of the competition
Feb. 11 – Aloha Fest in Venlo, The Netherlands. An evening of European surf music and culture including Surfer Joe, The Terrorsaurs, Kilaueas, Aloha Sluts and more. Plus DJs, unplugged shows, market with Tiki art and music for sale.
Feb. 11 – Southern Surf Stomp at Kavarna in Decatur, Ga. All-ages concert featuring Liz Brasher, and The Fugitives.
Feb. 13 – Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City. The final voyage of Brian Miller and his scurvy crew, with special guests Gaz Regan and the Hula Belly Sisters. At Pouring Ribbons in the East Village.
Feb. 16 – Mahiki Invasion at UnderTow in Phoenix featuring an hour of Tiki education with Georgi Radev of Mahiki in London. Includes cocktails, a Tiki mug, sponsor Reàl Cocktail Ingredients giveaways, and a recipe guide created by Radev.
A new icon will great guests at today’s 60th anniversary celebration at the historic Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale. Looming 12 feet tall in the outdoor Tiki garden is Hiroa Nui, a new carving by a local artist who has spearheaded a resurgence of traditional artwork at the acclaimed Polynesian restaurant.
Hiroa Nui was installed in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor Tiki garden on Dec. 26. (Photo by Will Anders)
The Tiki, carved out of Florida oak, is 7 feet tall with a 2-foot base and stands on a 3-foot pedestal that once contained other notable Tikis over the years. It’s in the perfect spot for a photo op in front of the restaurant’s distinctive sign as guests wander through the lush tropical garden. “I wanted to set it up so you can get that magic picture with The Mai-Kai sign,” Anders said. Past coverage:‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai (June 2016)
Mireille Thornton poses with the original Tiki that inspired Anders’ carving in a photo from the 1963 Mai-Kai calendar, just a year after she became choreographer of the Polynesian Islander Revue.
Hiroa Nui was installed on Monday, Dec. 26, after just 30 days of work by the diminutive but immensely talented carver. The work was done mainly with a chainsaw and angle grinder, Anders said, with some detail work done by chisel. The hard wood was “pretty formidable to chisel,” he said.
Anders was inspired to create the traditional Tahitian carving by an old Tiki that once stood in a similar position in the garden. Photos are rare, but it was most famously pictured in the 1963 Mai-Kai calendar along with Mireille Thornton after she became choreographer of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. She married owner Bob Thornton in 1974 and took over after his death in 1989.
A native of Tahiti, Mireille is kept the South Seas tradition alive for the past three decades while at the helm of the restaurant along with her son, managing owner Dave Levy. Anders, along with other Florida artists such as Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard, have recently contributed massive new carvings in the traditional styles of Polynesia.
Check back for the full story on the installation of Hiroa Nui.
UPDATE: In a special 10-minute ceremony during a Dec. 13 public hearing, the Broward County Commission declared Dec. 28th to be “Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show Day” in the county. Owners, management and performers attended the signing of the proclamation at the commission chambers in Fort Lauderdale.
The owners and staff of The Mai-Kai were honored by the Broward County Commission on Dec. 13. (Photo provided by The Mai-Kai)
The proclamation reads: “Be it proclaimed by the board of county commissioners of Broward County, Florida: That the Board hereby designates Wednesday December 28, 2016 as “MAI-KAI RESTAURANT AND POLYNESIAN SHOW DAY” in Broward County, offers its gratitude for 60 years of historical hospitality.”
The proclamation was presented by Commissioner Chip LaMarca, who was then given a lei by owner Mireille Thornton. Mireille’s son, managing owner Dave Levy, was also on hand, along with director of sales and marketing Pia Dahlquist. Two Mai-Kai performers, guitarist Kainalu and dancer Hokulani, then serenaded Mayor Barbara Sharief and the commission in what may have been the county’s first traditional Polynesian performance during a public hearing.
* See a photo of the proclamation
* Watch the video of the public hearing (fast forward to the 4:00:00 mark)
The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale. (Mai-Kai photo)
It’s a testament to a restaurant’s historic status and popularity when not one, but two book authors are scheduled speak at an anniversary event produced by a longtime supporter. When The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale turns 60 on Dec. 28, the annual Customer Celebration Party will be enhanced to include two special presentations in the acclaimed Polynesian palace’s main showroom, home of the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.
SPECIAL EVENT: The Mai-Kai’s 60th Anniversary Symposia Series & Customer Celebration Party – Wednesday, Dec. 28. Featuring presentations by authors Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner brought to you by Tiki Kiliki Productions. Plus enjoy dinner shows, live music, and food and drink specials all night. Doors open at 1:30, symposia begin at 2, happy hour at 3:30, signings at 4, live music at 6, dinner shows at 7 and 9:30. Symposia tickets are sold out. For dinner reservations, call (954) 563-3272. [Facebook event]
UPDATE: As of Dec. 24, the Symposia Series is sold out. There is a waiting list in the event of a cancellation. Email Pia Dahlquist at The Mai-Kai. If you miss out, you can still attend the book signing afterward in The Molokai. Early happy hour starts at 3:30.
Named to the National Register of Historic Places two years ago, The Mai-Kai is the last remaining example of the classic mid-20th century Polynesian supper club. Indeed, the restaurant’s many fans consider it the Tiki mecca. Since the venerable Critiki website began compiling its user ratings into an annual list two years ago, The Mai-Kai has been honored as the No. 1 Tiki bar in the world two years straight. The Mai-Kai was also just voted the best Tiki bar by readers of SouthFlorida.com. [See video]
One of those fans, Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White, is producing a special Symposia Series for the 60th anniversary that features two authors who have written extensively about The Mai-Kai and Polynesian pop culture: Sven Kirsten and Tim “Swanky” Glazner. It’s that kind of reverence that makes The Mai-Kai a special place for many.
History symposia kick off party in legendary showroom
A recent view of The Mai-Kai from Federal Highway. (Photo by Sven Kirsten)
“The origin story of The Mai-Kai – its architecture, decor, and its influence on Polynesian pop on the American East Coast and beyond – makes it one of the greatest Tiki temples of all time,” wrote noted pop culture historian and author Kirsten in the forward to Glazner’s book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, released in September by Schiffer.
“Before the era of theme parks, this place showed the way,” Glazner wrote in his debut work. “It weaves its magic, if you let it. It is a place out of time: ancient, mysterious, lush, and relaxing.” The California-based Kirsten and Tennessee-based Glazner will make the pilgrimage to The Mai-Kai on Dec. 28 to host symposia on the restaurant’s unique and fascinating history.
The party starts early: Doors open at 1:30 p.m. for the presentations, which will include slideshows of vintage photos and artwork, plus a raffle for special giveaways. Your ticket also gets you early entry into The Mai-Kai for an unencumbered look at all the dining rooms and Tiki garden; plus appetizers and tropical drinks, including three special “lost cocktails” from the early days of the restaurant.
NEW: Lost cocktails announced
On Dec. 28 only, a special menu will feature three drinks that appeared on the original 1956 menu but were retired over the years. Guests can enjoy the spicy and deadly Last Rites, the sweet and sour Impatient Virgin and the rich and rummy Demerara Float.
Like many of the cocktails at The Mai-Kai, they can be traced back to topical drink pioneer Don the Beachcomber, who developed the faux Polynesian style in the 1930s in Hollywood, Calif. The Chicago location of the Beachcomber chain was a huge influence on The Mai-Kai, and many of its key employees came to Florida to work when the restaurant opened. The cocktail menu was spearheaded by bartender Mariano Licudine, a 17-year veteran who got his start at the flagship Hollywood location. He retired from The Mai-Kai in 1979, but his influence is still felt today.
The Mai-Kai’s opening day ad. (Provided by Sven Kirsten)
At 2 p.m., Kirsten will present for the first time his research into the origins and history of The Mai-Kai’s iconic Tahitian cannibal carvings, which have served as the restaurant’s logo in one form or another since opening day. Founding owners Bob and Jack Thornton “showed themselves as standard-bearers of the coming Tiki generation by adopting these figures as The Mai-Kai’s trademark,” Kirsten wrote Tiki Pop (Taschen), his 2014 magnum opus.
In “The Tahitian Cannibal Carvings: The Logo Tikis of the Mai-Kai,” Kirsten will reveal how this specific Tiki design dates back to the early days of Polynesian pop, then marked the beginning of the Tiki period. This “cannibal trio” became the logo Tikis of important Polynesian restaurants across America, reproduced in a multitude of forms and materials. This will be a rare opportunity to see the influential Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki (2000) and Tiki Modern (2007), in South Florida. He last did a presentation at The Mai-Kai during The Hukilau in 2012.
A 3 p.m., it’s Glazner’s turn to take the stage in the showroom, home of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue and part of the original A-frame structure built in 1956. Glazner, a longtime Mai-Kai fan and Tiki enthusiast, has been collecting memorabilia and stories from longtime and current employees for more than a decade. The resulting labor of love, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, is a lavish 176-page hardcover book featuring 440 color and black-and-white images, many revealed for the first time.
Pualani Mossman Avon entertains Hawaiian surfing pioneer Duke Kahanamoku at The Mai-Kai in 1961. (Photo from Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant)
UPDATE: He’ll treat guests with a new symposium, “The Mai-Kai: Then and Now,” a look at how the restaurant has changed since it opened in 1956. Just announced: Glazner will be joined by a special guest, former Florida state Representative Randy Avon Jr., who will share first-hand stories of growing up at The Mai-Kai. Avon’s mother, Pualani Mossman Avon, ran the The Mai-Kai’s gift shop in the 1960s after performing in her family’s pioneering cultural Lalani Village in Hawaii. The song Lovely Hula Hands was written about her. Family members included singers George Kainapau and Alfred Apaka. Randy was also Southeast manager for Rums of Puerto Rico, which had a close relationship with The Mai-Kai and the signature Derby Daiquiri cocktail.
Glazner has been doing unique presentations at events across the country, including The Hukilau in June, Tiki Oasis in August, and a book release party at The Mai-Kai in September. His talks have covered topics such as how Don the Beachcomber influenced the Thornton brothers; the mastery of mixologist Mariano Licudine; the stories behind the iconic Mystery Drink, including its appearance with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show; and the glamorous women who worked as Mystery Girls and Molokai Girls. His rare footage of Carson receiving the drink and meeting a Mystery Girl on national television is priceless.
An early photo of The Mai-Kai’s facade shows the three cannibal Tikis atop the restaurant sign. (Photo from Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant)
All of the above – including Pualani Mossman Avon – are the focus of chapters in the book, which Glazner will be signing after the presentation at 4 p.m. in The Mai-Kai Trading Post, as the gift shop is known. Kirsten will also sign copies of his books, or any items that attendees may want to have autographed.
Tiki Kiliki says she’s producing these special symposia as her gift to The Mai-Kai. The co-creator, co-founder, producer and organizer of The Hukilau has been one of the restaurant’s biggest supporters over the past 15 years. “I’m so excited about the 60th anniversary of my favorite place on earth,” Tiki Kiliki said. “This will be the first anniversary I’ve attended in person and although every visit is dear to me, I think this one will be a bit more special with all the Tikiphiles coming from all over the country.”
60th anniversary specials: Extended happy hour, dinner show deal
The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens feature waterfalls, Tikis, torches and lush tropical foliage. (Photo by Kevin Upthegrove, June 2016)
At 3:30, The Molokai bar will open 90 minutes earlier than normal for an extended happy hour, which runs until 7. If you miss out on tickets, or can’t attend the early symposia, you can still come to the book-signing and early happy hour starting at 3:30 and running until 7 in The Molokai bar. The lost cocktails will be included in the happy hour, along with The Mai-Kai’s extensive cocktail and appetizer menus.
Like all Wednesdays, you can also enjoy two cocktails at 50 percent off all night: The Barrel O’ Rum and Planters Punch. Another regular feature in the bar, guitarist-vocalist Rose Marie will perform island and other classic music all night beginning at 6. Due to space limitations, however, there will be no regular Wednesday sushi buffet.
There will also be a $60 dinner-and-show special in honor of the anniversary. A special prix fixe menu will be available that includes the Polynesian Islander Revue (a $15 value), plus select appetizers and entrées. You can also see the show and order anything off the extensive menu ala carte. The dinner shows often sell out, so be sure to reserve you seat now by calling (954) 563-3272. Shows are scheduled for 7 and 9:30 p.m., with seating typically an hour beforehand.
The Molokai bar at The Mai-Kai in October 2016. Much of the decor has remained the same since a 1971 refurbishment that included set pieces from the 1962 film ‘Mutiny on the Bounty.’ (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Before dinner, there’s no better place to grab a cocktail than The Molokai, praised by such well-regarded Tiki bar owners and authors Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29 in New Orleans) and Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco ). Both have written books that praise The Mai-Kai as the “mothership” of the current Tiki bar revival.
Aside from the tiny Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles, “The Mai-Kai is the last place on Earth where you can still sample a Don the Beachcomber drink more or less as it was prepared 70 years ago,” Berry wrote in Sippin’ Safari (2007). An updated 10th anniversary edition of the influential book, which includes an entire chapter on Mariano Licudine and The Mai-Kai, will be released in 2017.
In the epilogue of this year’s most celebrated Tiki cocktail book, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki, Cate wrote: “The Mai-Kai will take you back to dining as event, experience, and escape. Today, you can still stand at the entrance, or during the show, and look at the faces of first-time visitors as their eyes widen, mouths agape at the spectacle.”
“It will come as no surprise that The Mai-Kai’s Molokai bar, with its heavy emphasis on the nautical while remaining true to Tiki tradition, was an inspiration cornerstone for me,” Cate wrote. Even without the expansive restaurant and grounds that surround it, The Molokai is one of the most distinctive Tiki bars in the world. On Dec. 28, like every day, happy hour will run until 7, featuring 50 percent off nearly all of the 50 signature tropical cocktails that have as much history as the restaurant, perhaps more.
Historic cocktails, eclectic food to match the stunning decor
“While The Mai-Kai’s food menu has adapted to changing culinary tastes, its drink menu, including the quality ingredients, has not changed since 1956,” says the official page on the National Register of Historic Places Program website. “As a result, the restaurant is renowned for its expert tropical drinks. … The Mai-Kai has a permanent place in a holy trio of old-school holdouts dedicated to the careful construction of their libations.”
A vintage Mai-Kai photo of cocktails in The Molokai bar. (Mai-Kai photo)
The robust food offerings are also half-price during the happy hour, which is annually rated among the best in South Florida. The appetizer menu of traditional pu-pus (egg rolls, crab rangoon, soups, salads and sushi) pair perfectly with the signature cocktails. And new chef Mark Rivera has added a creative menu of signature tapas (charred octopus; fish tacos; duck, wagyu beef and pork belly sliders) that takes finger food to the next level.
While it doesn’t date back to 1956, The Molokai fits perfectly into the The Mai-Kai’s richly detailed environment and has its own fascinating back-story. With water cascading down the windows to simulate a rainstorm and elaborate nautical decor, it’s designed to make you feel like you’re in an 1800s Pacific seaport. This is not by accident. The current Molokai was designed during a 1971 remodeling using much of the actual props from the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlin Brando.
The items were acquired at auction when the MGM prop department closed in 1970. This includes not only the large set pieces on the walls and ceilings, but also other details such as model ships. MGM’s longtime prop master was even hired to personally make sure the rigging and other elements were installed as authentically as possible. Much of the bar’s decor remains exactly the same to this day.
Family, loyalty are cornerstones of The Mai-Kai culture
The Polynesian Islander Revue performs in June 2016 during The Hukilau, the annual Tiki event centered around The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
After happy hour, don’t miss The Mai-Kai’s signature Polynesian Islander Revue. Established in 1961, it’s still designed and choreographed by owner Mireille Thornton, widow of founding owner Bob Thornton and a former dancer in the original show. Mireille takes annual trips to the Pacific islands to research and come up with costume and theming ideas for new shows each year.
On Dec. 28, you’ll be able to see one of the first performances of the 2017 show. An all new show will be rehearsed the week before and make its official debut that night, said Mireille’s son, Dave Levy, who has guided The Mai-Kai as managing owner since his stepfather’s death in 1989. It remains a true family affair, with Mireille’s daughter Kulani Gelardi serving as the third partner and CFO.
Founding co-owner Bob Thornton shows off the 25th anniversary silver Rum Barrel in 1981. (Mai-Kai photo)
Key managers, such as director of sales and marketing Pia Dahlquist and general manager Kern Mattei, have been with The Mai-Kai for decades. Mattei followed in the footsteps of his father, Kern Mattei Sr., working out of the same office. One employee has been around almost as long as The Mai-Kai itself. Angel Vega was supposed to slow down after he was honored for 50 years of service at the 2013 anniversary party, but you can still often find him behind the maître d’ stand.
On any given night, the more than 100 employees work their magic amid the controlled chaos, giving guests a sense of what true hospitality means. What other Tiki bar supplies you with hot towels to clean your hands in the most civilized manner? In another tradition from Don the Beachcomber and the early Tiki temples, both The Molokai and main bar that serves the dining rooms are behind closed doors. Bartenders work in secrecy, keeping their recipes close to the vest but also providing a total escape for guests who are immersed in the Polynesian paradise. Drinks are served by sarong-clad maidens in The Molokai, well-dressed servers in the dining rooms.
Take a tour of the lavish grounds, distinctive decor
Chef Mark Rivera and some of his current creations. (Mai-Kai photo)
Seats for the show include the main area in front of the stage, known as the Garden, along with four other distinct dining rooms named for South Seas islands (New Guinea, Tonga, Hawaii and Moorea). There are eight total dining areas, including the secluded Tahiti and Samoa rooms, plus the outdoor Lanai and tables scattered throughout the Tiki garden. The Mai-Kai seats 500 for dinner, half of those in the showroom, plus another 150 in The Molokai. To say it’s expansive is an understatement.
* Related: Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen
If you’re there early or late, take the time to stroll through all the rooms and paths that wind through the waterfalls and lush foliage of the garden. The entire lighting system was recently upgraded to add LED bulbs, which provide more consistent and reliable performance. Nothing about the look was modernized, however. Look up in the main dining room to the giant A-frame and marvel at the floats and other vintage lighting. It’s one of many seamless modernizations The Mai-Kai has made over the years to stay vital and remain one of the area’s most popular destination dining experiences.
Chef Rivera has revitalized the dinner menu, modernizing the plating and adding new twists to the classics. But many traditions remain, including the Chinese ovens that you can spot on the walking path toward the back dining rooms and Lanai. Few other restaurants in the United States use these ancient high-temperate ovens to cook steak, ribs, duck and other meats.
A photo of the Tahiti Room shortly after it was added in a 1971 expansion. The outrigger canoe that Bob and Mireille Thornton used on their honeymoon in Tahiti was later moved to the Moorea dining room. (Photo from Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant)
There is eye candy in every room: The outrigger canoe hanging from the rafters in Moorea that Bob Thornton used to serenade Mireille on their honeymoon in her native Tahiti; the black velvet portrait of Mireille in the Tahiti room; the shrunken skulls and other vintage artifacts on display in the Samoa room; the mysterious velvet painting high on the wall in Tonga that dates back to 1956. Just like Disney World, there are intricately themed details every where you look, even the gift shop and ladies’ rest room, which both have an ornate Asian theme. (The gift shop was formerly a dining room named Bangkok.)
You can go behind the stage and see the indoor Tiki garden (featuring works of noted artists from yesterday and today). Most of the Tikis throughout the property were recast by Fort Lauderdale artist Will Anders from their original molds, though several massive vintage pieces by mid-century artist Barney West still proudly stand out front on the edge of Federal Highway on opposite ends of the property. Another tip: Don’t forget to take a walk along the sidewalk from north to south, where furniture stores have encroached on the surrounding area that was desolate when The Mai-Kai was built in 1956.
And be sure to stop at the porte-cochère to see three new Tikis carved in 2016 by contemporary Florida artists: Anders, Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard. Anders also contributed a 10-foot-tall Tiki dubbed King Kai to the outdoor garden, making the recent infusion of large stylized carvings the biggest since the 1960s. More evidence of today’s enthusiasts working hard to keep the traditions of The Mai-Kai alive for another 60 years.
* Related: ‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai
Authors dig deep into the The Mai-Kai’s history, mystery
Author and historian Sven Kirsten is fascinated with the three cannibals. (Photo provided by Sven Kirsten)
It will be fascinating to learn more about the three cannibal icons, which have been depicted over the years in artwork on everything from menus, to coasters to advertising to the streetside sign. The three cannibal Tikis from The Mai-Kai’s original outdoor sign were brought out of storage and displayed at The Hukilau in 2008. They’re a direct link to Don the Beachcomber, which featured the Cannibal Room bar and trio of Tikis in the Chicago location in the 1940s and ’50s. This restaurant was a major inspiration for the Thornton brothers, who were Chicago natives.
Glazner’s symposium should be just as enlightening and entertaining. Beyond everything in his book, he has a wealth of information to share though his contacts with current and past employees, many of whom should be in attendance. It’s always great to see past performers, such as Toti Terorotua, who was part of the original revue and only recently retired. He performed in The Molokai during the book release party in September.
Tim “Swanky” Glazner gives a walking tour in The Mai-Kai’s showroom during his book-release event in September 2016. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Glazner’s vast research also gives us insight into the first 15 years of The Mai-Kai, before a 1971 renovation that expanded the dining areas, added The Molokai in its current form and defined what the restaurant looks like today. “In the 1950s, Bob and Jack Thornton went on a buying trip all over the islands, and they bought literally tons of Oceanic art to decorate The Mai-Kai,” Glazner said during a walking tour at the September book release event. Up until the 1970s, a great deal of that artwork was in the restaurant. But after the renovations in 1971, they had to change their insurance policy, Glazner said.
When the insurance adjusters came into The Mai-Kai, Glazner said, they couldn’t believe the million dollars worth of Oceanic art, some of it in the open-air garden getting rained on. The cost of insurance went so high, most of the authentic decor was removed in 1974 and donated to Stanford University, the alma mater of the Thornton brothers. Some of it is also housed at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. It was last shown as a full exhibit there in 2010.
The Mai-Kai remains a priceless experience, a commodity whose value is beyond the comprehension of insurance adjusters. Glazner sums it up succinctly in his book: The Mai-Kai is “a place that opened over 60 years ago, built on an idea that started more than 80 years ago from a dream that is eternal … paradise.”
The Halloween announcement from The Hukilau was certainly not a trick, but rather a treat for fans of the vintage Tiki event returning to Fort Lauderdale in June 2017: Weekend passes plus tickets to two special parties went on sale early.
The top-level South Seas Pass comes with everything you would ever want, including admission to two exclusive parties: A late-night Rat Pack lounge, plus the return of the Tiki Tower Takeover featuring some of the world’s top Tiki bartenders. In addition, all weekend passes include free admission and complimentary cocktails at an Island Pool Party featuring pop-up bars from around the country. Official website:Get your passes now at TheHukilau.com
The 16th annual edition of the most authentic Tiki event in the world is scheduled for June 7-11 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. Last year, top-level passes went on sale in late October and sold out in a matter of weeks, so it’s encouraged that you act now. Similar special event passes also sold out within a few months.
A view of the famous Pier 66 tower during the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party during The Hukilau 2016. (Atomic Grog photo)
Rooms at the iconic Pier 66, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year along with The Mai-Kai, have already been released at a special rate for guests of The Hukilau, or “villagers” as they’re affectionately known. Rates range from $129 for a standard “double” room in one of the two-story buildings that overlook the marina, to $226 for a suite in the 17-story tower. Other options include $149 for a double room in floors 3 through 8 of the tower, and $164 for floors 9 through 15.
The tower rooms are always the first to sell out, so don’t hold off. To get the special rate, be sure to go to TheHukilau.com and click on the “Book Your Room Now” link.
Approaching its 60th anniversary, Fort Lauderdale’s hallowed Mai-Kai got into the Halloween spirit with its eighth annual Hulaween party on Friday, Oct. 28. More than 100 costumed revelers packed The Molokai lounge for an evening of deadly tropical drinks and live music from Slip and the Spinouts. The highlight was the creepy and creative costume contest, a South Florida tradition. See below:Exclusive Atomic Grog photo gallery
Elvis (Slip) and the Spinouts rocked and rolled through three sets during Hulaween 2016.
The event’s theme, “Curse of the Cannibals,” honored The Mai-Kai’s rich history as one of the world’s top Tiki bars and Polynesian restaurants (Critiki website users rank it No. 1 in the world). The iconic “three cannibals” logo has been a mainstay since the Dec. 28, 1956, opening.
After eight years, Hulaween has become known for its laid-back party atmosphere amid the vintage nautical decor in The Molokai. This year, the weekly New Times newspaper ranked it as the No. 2 Halloween party in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Only the massive MoonFest ranked higher.
The Molokai Maidens got into the spirit of Hulaween.
But Hulaween is still an intimate affair. Many guests arrived early, with special jungle exotica tunes (mahalo to Spyrate Radio) adding to the atmosphere of the fully-decorated bar. The Molokai girls were also in costume, though still wearing their signature sarongs (another Mai-Kai tradition that goes back to the mid-century era). Happy hour ran from 5 to 7, with most of the bar’s signature cocktails, from the Zombie to the Shrunken Skull, available at half-price. Just as popular were the bar’s classic Polynesian pupus, plus the new selection of sushi and signature tapas.
After happy hour, Slip and the Spinouts kicked out the jams, making their sixth Hulaween appearance. Partiers danced to the beat as the band covered everything from country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll to surf to blues. The band, which has been a fixture on the local scene for decades, is also known for its original tunes (Seven Nights to Rock, 13 Miles) that harken back to a vintage era.