As The Mai-Kai works behind the scenes on a potential reopening, locals continue to enjoy a taste of the historic Polynesian restaurant with regular to-go cocktail offerings as well as occasional Tiki marketplaces in the parking lot.
An announcement on the future of the 64-year-old Tiki temple in Fort Lauderdale is expected to come during The Hukilau weekend in September, if not sooner. In social media posts, The Mai-Kai makes it clear that they do not currently have a reopening date, but “hope to announce one soon.” The owners urge fans to sign up for the newsletter at MaiKai.com to receive official word on future plans.
Guests arrive at The Mai-Kai Tiki Marketplace on July 18, 2021.
In the meantime, here’s a look back at the most recent Tiki Marketplace in July, which proved to be just as successful as the first one in May. All photos are from The Mai-Kai and The Atomic Grog.
Vendors fill the parking lot at The Mai-Kai at the second Tiki Marketplace.
At The Mai-Kai’s booth, manager Kern Mattei shows off some of the restaurant’s many items available for sale while guests enjoy the restaurant’s authentic cocktails.
Many were just happy to be on the grounds of The Mai-Kai with like-minded fans. Tropical drinks were available to take home or imbibe under the shade of the porte-cochère. The Mai-Kai Trading Post booth was a highlight, offering new glassware and apparel along with a vast collection of collectibles and branded merchandise.
The Mai-Kai’s entrance-exit area was turned into an oasis for tropical treats. Or just a cool place to relax.
Performers and musicians from The Mai-Kai’s long-running dinner show were part of the festivities.
Members of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue were on hand to entertain attendees, providing a much-needed taste of what makes the restaurant distinctive and historic. Until closing in October after flooding and kitchen damage caused by a vicious storm, it was considered to be the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.
Robert Korhonen shows off original artwork he created in tribute to the July 18 marketplace host.
Once again, the event was expertly organized by Pia Dahlquist, The Mai-Kai’s director of public relations, who flawlessly took care of all the logistics so everything went off without a hitch. And although the usual South Florida summer heat made itself known, skies were clear and there was a constant flow of guests all day.
Quarts of The Mai-Kai’s most popular cocktails were available at the July 18 marketplace.
It was great to see members of the Thornton family and their small staff working behind the scenes and taking care of guests at the front entrance, where an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were available. The restaurant was founded in 1956 by brothers Robert and Jack Thornton, two young transplants from Chicago. Bob Thornton’s widow, Mireille Thornton, still serves as owner and choreographer of the Polynesian show while her children and other family fill other roles in the operation.
The vendor marketplace opened at 11 a.m. (running until 4 p.m.), and we arrived early to get our first pick from the art booths. I was happy to snag a mask carved from palm wood by local artist Tom Fowner, a longtime contributor to The Mai-Kai perhaps best known for creating one of the three carvings in the porte-cochère that guests see when they arrive.
The Luau Lads (left) and Sandbar Sauce booths featured a tasty collection of cocktail mixers and accessories. The Atomic Grog’s booty included a selection of these goods along with Mai-Kai glassware and art by South Florida’s Nik Satterfield and Tom Fowner.
It was also a priority to pick up some craft cocktail syrups from two highly recommended purveyors: Jacksonville’s Luau Lads and Miami’s Sandbar Sauce. It was nice to finally meet Jose Salcido and taste his fresh syrups. We hope to see Michael Bloom back in Fort Lauderdale for The Hukilau in September along with his fellow Lad, Kurt Rogers.
Many old friends were spotted in the crowd. We met up with another old favorite from The Hukilau and The Mai-Kai, surf guitarist Skinny Jimmy Stingray. We look forward to the day when his band can again perform in The Molokai bar.
Kristen Lindholm and Nick Dewey brought a wide selection of goods from The Modern Historic in West Palm Beach.
Among the other locals we were happy to see again were Kristen and Nick from The Modern Historic, who had a large booth filled with vintage items. Tattoo artist Jeff Kozan showed off his versatility with his new carvings and sculptures.
Jeff Kozan of Vatican Tattoo creates an assortment of artwork, including large tiki carvings.
The Gumbo Limbo Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai was also on hand again, hosting several rounds of charity Tiki Bingo. The fraternal organization dedicated to Tiki and Polynesian pop also provided a welcome misting station to beat the heat.
Lazaro Ninou brought his tiki carvings from Orlando to the July 18 marketplace.
Several booths were new to The Mai-Kai marketplace, including “Nice Work by Laz” featuring the prolific wood carving of Lazaro Ninou. Lone Palm Studio included carved tikis and other colorful art.
Billy Schwartz mans the Lone Palm Studio booth at The Mai-Kai Tiki Marketplace.
The works of artist Kealoha Pa have been exhibited at venues throughout Hawaii.
Another new artist fit perfectly into the mix. Kealoha Pa exhibited colorful tropical art on wood batik in his Aloha Arts booth. Born on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, this veteran artist has perfected the craft of creating art on wood, using fabric dyes for color.
Raquel Williams, a seamstress known as “Sew,” makes purses and bags, cloth masks, pet clothing and many other items.
Just as crucial as the carvers and fine artists, there were multiple marketplace booths featuring vendors and craftspeople in various disciplines. Other marketplace vendors offered clothing and jewelry, honey and hive products, plus surfboards.
The Black Magic is one of The Mai-Kai’s signature drinks and a staple of the restaurant’s takeout cocktail program.
We returned home with a takeout quart of the Black Magic, tired but happy after a full day of hanging out with friends, shopping for vintage art and other goodies, enjoying local food trucks, plus authentic Mai-Kai cocktails and entertainment.
Here’s a video recap featuring interviews with many of the marketplace participants …
We hope to see you at The Hukilau, the longtime Tiki weekender held in Fort Lauderdale that returns next month. Following is our event preview. Be aware that some logistics remain fluid, so stay tuned for updates.
The Hukilau announces return in 2021 with new oceanfront hotel, event at The Mai-Kai
Tiki weekender stages four-day takeover of beach front hotel plus a special event at historic Polynesian restaurant.
The Mai-Kai official sites and social media
* MaiKai.com | MaiKaiTradingPost.com
Twitter | Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post
Past Atomic Grog coverage
PREVIEW: The Mai-Kai hosts second Tiki Marketplace
Event features more than 20 booths, cocktails and food, plus live music and Polynesian dancers.
The Mai-Kai hosts first Tiki Marketplace featuring vendors, entertainers, cocktails, rum tasting and more
The historic restaurant may be closed for repairs, but a new event took advantage of the large parking lot for a safe and fun-filled day featuring the generous spirit of ‘ohana.
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.
* Fund raisers, online sales aid The Mai-Kai during closure
* The Mai-Kai celebrates Hula ween 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: The Tiki Times: Exclusive 2021 events guide
The Tiki Times calendar features live online meet-ups, interviews and happy hours, plus benefits helping those in need.
UPDATES: Support Tiki bars: Visit their online stores, buy the latest merchandise
Get updates on openings, plus news on mugs and merchandise, plus more resources.