Updated April 27
Many events have been held at The Mai-Kai during its colorful 64-year history, from star-studded Hollywood parties to multi-day conventions of Tiki culture and cocktail enthusiasts. Now, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and an unprecedented closure for repairs and refurbishment, the historic Polynesian restaurant has been forced to puts its creativity to the test.
Following a string of successful gatherings in its vast parking lot, The Mai-Kai is hosting its first-ever Tiki Marketplace this weekend, welcoming guests to a safe and fun-filled environment chock full of art and collectibles, music and fire-dancing, tasty cane spirits, and a generous spirit of ‘ohana. It’s almost as if The Mai-Kai never closed.
*** Saturday, April 17 – The Mai-Kai Tiki Marketplace at 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. From noon to 5 p.m., featuring artists and vendors, live entertainment, food and drinks, premium rum tasting, charity Tiki Bingo, plus more.
Facebook events: The Mai-Kai Tiki Marketplace | VIP rum tasting
* Latest news: MaiKai.com | Facebook page | Instagram
Jump below: Full list of vendors | Preview rums for tasting
While marketplaces are a staple of Tiki establishments in California, they’re a new concept in stormy South Florida. But mid-April is the perfect time for such an event, a typically mild period before the rainy season and oppressive summer heat kick in. Saturday’s forecast for Fort Lauderdale calls for partly cloudy skies with highs in the upper 80s and a 20 percent chance of rain.
Fans of The Mai-Kai’s famous cocktails have even more reason to rejoice this week. As has been the custom before recent parking lot events, a window of opportunity opened for locals (or ambitious enthusiasts) to pull into the distinctive porte-cochère and take home their own ample supply of four different signature tropical drinks.
Similar to Cruise-In Classic Car Show on March 28, The Mai-Kai is again batching up quarts and gallons of the Barrel O’ Rum (gallon $80, quart $25), Mai Tai (gallon $120, quart $35), Jet Pilot (gallon $131.50, quart $35) and Black Magic (gallon $80, quart $25) for pick-up Friday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also available: 750 milliliter bottles of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Distillers Proof Mai-Kai Blend ($85.60), the special 92-proof rum produced by the craft brand along with the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. Orders must be placed by 1 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, by calling Pia Dahlquist, The Mai-Kai’s director of public relations, at 954-646-8975. You can also email her with any questions.
It’s now been a year since The Mai-Kai launched the ambitious “Gallons to Go” program during the height of the pandemic shutdowns in South Florida. And it remains a vital source of revenue in trying times, as well as a much appreciated treat for loyal customers, some of whom travel long distances to pick up their favorite cocktail.
And what a great deal for the price. If blended or shaken with crushed ice and served in the appropriate glassware, you can enjoy eight Rum Barrels and Black Magics, 12 Mai Tais, and 14 Jet Pilots from each 128-ounce jug. If you want to sample multiple drinks, grab some 32-ounce containers . They stay fresh in your fridge for at least a week and are impeccably mixed by manager Kern Mattei.
The second generation manager told us he’s personally batching the cocktails, closely following the classic recipes. We can confirm this, rating the Black Magic we picked up March 28 as among the best we’ve ever tasted. All four drinks (in single servings and quarts) will also be available for walk-up ordering at Saturday’s event. You can also grab a beer, wine and water. And as a special treat for the kids and teetotalers, virgin Piña Coladas will be available by the drink and quart.
There will also be plenty to nosh on and pair with your drinks. Dahlquist and The Mai-Kai have lined up three food and ice cream trucks:
* M.C.K. Fusion from Mobile Culinary Kitchens serves Colombian and Latin fusion dishes including tacos, quesadillas and more.
* Inspir-Asian features Chinese dishes done street-food style, such as tacos and shrimp fried rice.
* Good Humor Ice Cream is a throwback treat featuring classic bars, cones and cookie sandwiches.
Vendors include exotic art, Tiki-inspired gifts, clothing, glassware and more
Two dozen artists, craftspeople, collectors and small retailers have signed up to be part of The Mai-Kai’s first Tiki Marketplace.
The Mai-Kai Trading Post will also have a vast assortment of branded merchandise and other items for sale, including clothing and glassware. Look for new T-shirts and many goodies released exclusively at the event along with favorites from the restaurant’s gift shop. Help The Mai-Kai directly with your purchase. Leftover items will be available in the online store, but many sell out during the event, so don’t miss out.
Here’s the full list of participating vendors and their specialty items, plus links to official sites when available.
ALOHA ART AND ALLIGATORS – Vintage Hawaiiana, Tiki and fashion accessories.
ALTERED STATE TATTOO – Prints, art, tattoo flash, T-shirts, stickers created by lowbrow artist Pooch. | Artist profile
ART BY ROBERT KORHONEN – Quick sketch portraits.
BIG MIKE’S TIKI GODS – Hawaiian shirts, Tiki gods, masks, original art, art prints, collectibles, ’50s memorabilia.
DEAD SERIOUS CASH CUSTOMS – Leis, hair flowers, headbands, necklaces, Tiki and rockabilly purses.
DECO DERMOT – Tiki mugs, postcards, hula girl figures, bric-a-brac, Hawaiian shirts.
GOLD COAST PUPPIES AND GROOMING – Pet clothing, toys, bowls, treats, food, pet hygiene, leashes, collars.
GREEN VALLEY ORCHIDS – Flowers.
KONO SURF ART – Original art prints, pillows, nautical jewelry.
LIP SMACKING GOOD HONEY – Honey, infused honey bee pollen, hive products, elderberry.
LIVIN A DREAM – Authentic Hawaiian clothing, Hawaiiana trinkets, vinyl records.
LUCAS FRANCIS STUDIO – Vintage Tiki mugs, original Tiki ceramics by Kristina Lucas Francis.
NAUTICAL WHEELER – Tiki items and surfboards.
RIPPEDYED – Custom tie-dyed shirts.
SANDBAR SAUCE – Craft cocktail mixer kits.
SEW – Sewn purses, cloth masks, pet clothing, placemats, kitchen towels, kimonos, scarves.
SEW CUTE AND QUIRKY – Handmade wallets, purses, bags, totes and organizers.
SUSTAINING STACEY – Reusable beeswax wraps, snail-shell jewelry.
THE GREEN TIKI / MONKEY SKULL – Paintings and prints, carvings, ceramic mugs.
THE HUKILAU – Tiki event glassware, mugs, T-shirts and other collectibles.
THE MODERN HISTORIC – Records, vintage clothing, vintage housewares
TIKI TOWER – Prints, original art, pins, books, mugs by Robert Jimenez.
TOM FOWNER DEVIANT ART – Hand-carved Tikis, pendants and more. | Artist profile
VATICAN TATTOO – Paintings, Tiki carvings, sculptures, tattoo-related art by Jeff Kozan.
A special taste of Rum Renaissance
Over the past decade, The Mai-Kai has always been closely associated with one of the world’s longest running and influential events dedicated to cane spirits: the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival. Organizers Robert and Robin Burr have been big supporters of the restaurant for many years, treating their rum fest guests to pre-parties at The Mai-Kai and also organizing one-off events in Fort Lauderdale.
With the 2021 festival pushed back to November, they’re taking the opportunity to bring some of their finest rums to the Tiki Marketplace for everyone to enjoy. This special “VIP tasting” booth will be set up similar to the one offered at the rum festival. Robert Burr, a noted collector and reviewer whose expertise can be found on Rob’s Rum Guide and Rum Minute, is offering up samples from his collection starting at $5.
The $5 tickets will get you a taste of rums valued up to $100, which covers most of the offerings. However, there will also be some limited-edition rums that require more tickets. A $200 bottle will require two tickets, and so on. Burr revealed that the most expensive rum to be offered will probably be Arôme 28 from Panama, valued at $600 (six tickets). All proceeds will go to the Burrs’ charity partner, the George Merrick Foundation of Coral Gables.
Burr said that some of the new releases he plans to bring include Selva Rey Owner’s Reserve from Panama, Carta Vieja 1668 limited edition from Panama, and Rhum Saint James XO from Martinique.
He also shared a partial list of the many rums that will be available for tasting: Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez 10 and Bacardi Reserva Limitada (Puerto Rico); Barbancourt 15 (Haiti); Barcelo Imperial and the new Añejo Black (Dominican Republic); Bristol / Rockley Still ’86 (Barbados); Bristol Providence Estate 1990 (Trinidad); Bristol / Port Mourant 1980 (Guyana); Bristol / Port Mourant 1999 (Guyana); Cartavio XO (Peru); Clement Cuvee Homere (Martinique); Compagnie de Indes / Fiji Vintage 2004; Compagnie de Indes / Port Mourant Guyana 2005; Doctor Bird Traditional Pot Still (Jamaica); Don Pancho Origenes 30 (Panama); Dos Maderas Luxus (Spain); Flor de Caña 25 (Nicaragua); Foursquare Premise (Barbados); Hampden Estate 60% Overproof (Jamaica); La Mauny Rhum View Agricole (Martinique); Lemon Hart 151 / vintage (Guyana); McDowell’s Number 1 Celebration (India); Nine Leaves Almost Spring and Nine Leaves Angel’s Half (Japan); and Rhum JM Cuvée 1845 (Martinique).
More Tiki Marketplace highlights
* Live Tiki Bingo to benefit the Polynesian Islander Revue and featuring some great prizes. Games will be held throughout the day, and cards cost $10. The Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai has been busy during the pandemic raising money for Tiki bars in need with online Tiki Bingo events. The concept has its origins at The Mai-Kai, where live events were held for more than five years. The FOM is a fraternal and charitable organization as well as a social network for men and women interested in Tiki culture and the Polynesian pop era.
* Live entertainment by some of The Mai-Kai’s musicians, performing from 3 to 5 p.m.
* Samoan fire knife dance performances throughout the day by a member of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.
NOTE: The vendors and activities will be located adjacent to the iconic A-frame building. Since the marketplace will take up a majority of the parking lot, the main entrance to The Mai-Kai will be blocked for walk-ins only. There will be limited parking available on the northern end of the 2.69-acre property. Look for signs to enter the parking lot from Northeast 20th Avenue behind the restaurant. If traveling north on U.S.1, make a left at the light at Northeast 33rd Court and then right on 20th Avenue. If traveling south on U.S. 1, turn right at the light at Northeast 38th Street and then left on 20th Avenue. If the lot is full, cars will be directed to additional parking at nearby businesses.
Also, The Mai-Kai has announced that guests are expected to follow all state and local coronavirus guidelines. Unless seated with your party, you should wear a mask and/or practice social distancing at all times. “Attendees not adhering to the policy will be kindly asked to leave,” the official event announcement states. “And, as always, please drink responsibly.”
NEW: The next car show, originally scheduled for May 2, has been postponed.
Latest news on the repairs and renovations
While The Mai-Kai’s indoor bar and dining rooms have remained closed since a late October storm wreaked havoc on the back-of-house section of the structure, outdoor events and take-out cocktail offerings have continued unabated. The owners are said to be committed to reopening the restaurant when the time is right, new business relationships are explored, and repairs can be made correctly and cost-effectively.
In response to a question on The Mai-Kai’s Facebook page Sunday asking when the restaurant would reopen, the official response cited the “renovations of the kitchen” but did not give an estimated date. “Unfortunately, we don’t know when everything will be complete. In the meantime, we will continue to sell drinks to go and hold events in our parking lot.”
Second-hand accounts have been encouraging. The owner/organizer of The Hukilau, Richard Oneslager, posted on the event’s Facebook group in late February that incredible efforts are being made by the owners to preserve The Mai-Kai as we know it.
“I had the opportunity to meet with the Mai-Kai crew on-site last week – and it was absolutely inspiring,” Oneslager wrote. “There is no quit, no walking away. Full steam ahead with another 60 years in sight. Rest assured there is a committed crew working their grass skirts off to keep The Mai-Kai legacy alive.”
Online support continues to build on sites including the Save The Mai-Kai group on Facebook, while the petition on Change.org is closing in on 11,000 signatures.
We’re hopeful and confident that good news is on the horizon. In the meantime, join us in enjoying all the opportunities to support The Mai-Kai at future parking lot events and through take-out cocktails.
Official announcements: Sign up for The Mai-Kai e-mail list to get news and announcements on future events, plus cocktails to go.
Thousands of fans unite to show support for The Mai-Kai during closing
Previous coverage: More than 10,000 have signed a petition and thousands are flooding social media channels as the historic restaurant plans events, take-home cocktails while potential partners/owners are sought.
Past Atomic Grog coverage
Cocktails and car show, Tiki marketplace announced
Despite its closure for renovations, The Mai-Kai is keeping busy with take-out cocktails, a parking lot car show, and its first Tiki marketplace.
The Mai-Kai celebrates 64th anniversary as extent of flooding damage, closing detailed
* Fundraisers, online sales aid The Mai-Kai during closure
* The Mai-Kai celebrates Hulaween 2020 with drive-in movie party
* The Mai-Kai re-releases signature rum, glassware, spirits menu
* Virtual events honor The Hukilau, help those in need
* Cocktail quarts join gallons as The Mai-Kai expands takeout menu
Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
Hurricane Hayward reviews and rates the historic restaurant’s current and past tropical drinks, plus reveals a treasure trove of ancestor and exclusive tribute recipes.
More on The Atomic Grog
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars by visiting their online stores, contributing to fundraisers
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The Tiki Times calendar features live online meet-ups, interviews and happy hours, plus benefits helping those in need.