The Mai-Kai turns 60 with special history presentations, celebration

RECAP: Browse photos on the 60th anniversary celebration on Facebook
Related: New giant carved Tiki added to outdoor garden in time for 60th anniversary

Updated preview:
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 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)

Original story:

The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956 in Fort Lauderdale. (Mai-Kai photo)
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]

The Mai-Kai's Mai-Kai 60th Anniversary Symposia Series

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)
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.

Lost cocktails menu for The Mai-Kai's 60th anniversary

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)
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)
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)

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)
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.”

The raffle will include a special Mai-Kai item produced by Tiki Kiliki Productions: A limited-edition decanter designed as tribute to the original produced in 1961, sculpted and produced by Eekum Bookum. Also to be given away are two bottles of Appleton Estate Reserve Blend from Jamaica signed by Joy Spence, the world’s first female master blender. Appleton is a crucial rum at The Mai-Kai, featured in dozens of cocktails.

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)
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)
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)
A vintage Mai-Kai photo of cocktails in The Molokai bar. (Mai-Kai photo)

That means you can get a world-class Zombie or 151 Swizzle or Special Planters Punch, all still made to the same standards held by Licudine, who learned his craft working for Tiki cocktail pioneer Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber).
* Reviews and recipes: The Atomic Grog’s Mai-Kai cocktail guide

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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.

Kirsten says he’s been obsessed with the cannibal carvings since his earliest findings, first writing about them in the Book of Tiki. Since then, he has “amassed a visual cornucopia of cannibal art” that he’s excited to “finally be able to share with the eager Tiki student.”
* Related: The Mai-Kai’s eighth annual Hulaween party is cursed by cannibals
* Past coverage: 10 reasons why you need Sven Kirsten’s Tiki Pop

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)
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.”

60th anniversary media coverage
* Mai-Kai celebrates 60 years with ‘lost cocktails,’ new show (SouthFlorida.com)
* Mai-Kai celebrates 60 years with secret cocktails and all-new Polynesian show (New Times)

Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant
* Official website | Facebook page
* Buy the book now on Amazon
* More coverage online: Liquor.com | Retro Renovation | SouthFlorida.com
New Times | Venice Magazine | Edible South Florida | Knoxville Mercury

The Mai-Kai online store
You can order signature mugs and other merchandise online via the Trading Post’s new e-commerce app.
* Click here to order

The Mai-Kai is at 3599 N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, on the west side between Commercial and Oakland Park boulevards. Call (954) 563-3272 for more information or to make dinner reservations. Valet and paid self-parking.
* Official site | Trading Post | Twitter
* Facebook: Official page | Friends of The Mai-Kai group
* Instagram: Restaurant | The Molokai bar | Trading Post
* Google Maps: Explore The Mai-Kai in 3-D
* Recent coverage online: Tales of the Cocktail | TravelLatte | Adventures in Tiki
Tiki With Ray: Spotlight review | Field report

More on The Atomic Grog
* The Okole Maluna Society: The Mai-Kai Cocktail Guide
* A hauntingly good time at historic Mai-Kai’s 8th annual Hulaween party
* ‘King Kai’ leads procession of new Tikis into The Mai-Kai
* Historic Mai-Kai celebrated, new cocktail menu unveiled at anniversary party
* Heeeeeeere’s the rich history and lost stories of The Mai-Kai
* Tour of The Mai-Kai’s mysterious bars and kitchen (with photos)
* Interview with General Manager Kern Mattei
* More Mai-Kai history | All Mai-Kai posts

Update: The Hukilau tickets go on sale, co-founder Tiki Kiliki steps down

Updated June 2017
The Hukilau updates: Updated schedule, drawing and silent auction announced
Preview Sunday’s finale: The Atomic Grog to explore 60 years of Tiki cocktail history
Exclusive: Tower Takeover to feature rum ambassador Ian Burrell, international flair
See below: Tiki Kiliki leaves The Hukilau in December

November 2016
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 Hukilau 2017 official artwork by Tiki Tony

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)
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.

Here are the details on the announcement:

Continue reading “Update: The Hukilau tickets go on sale, co-founder Tiki Kiliki steps down”

Photos: A hauntingly good time at historic Mai-Kai’s 8th annual Hulaween party

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
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.

During Hulaween, the fun is timeless as Slip Mahoney and his band ripped through three sets of roots rock and rockabilly hits from the past half-century. Always in the spirit of the event, Slip and his band joined the costumed hordes. Only at The Mai-Kai during Hulaween will you find Elvis performing on guitar and vocals with a Stormtrooper from Star Wars on bass and a SWAT team member on drums (Mahoney, Kristi Lÿnx and Jason Furman, respectively).

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
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.

Spotted in the crowd were many classic costumes, from Beetlejuice to E.T. as well as wacky originals. Zombie doctors mingled with cannibals, while Baron Boris von Frankenstein beamed himself back from the 1967 Mad Monster Party and Hannibal Lecter sipped potent Tiki cocktails. Yours truly conjured up the ghost of Don the Beachcomber, the Tiki bar pionner considered to be The Mai-Kai’s evolutionary forefather. [More photos on Facebook]

Continue reading “Photos: A hauntingly good time at historic Mai-Kai’s 8th annual Hulaween party”

The Hukilau 2016, Day 1 photo recap: Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai, The Wreck Bar mermaid show

Highlights and photos from the 15th annual The Hukilau Polynesian Pop weekender in Fort Lauderdale. The opening day included the Smuggler’s Cove book signing and kick-off party at The Mai-Kai, plus the first of three exclusive swimshows from Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid and her pod of aquaticats at The Wreck Bar.
Day 2: Savage Jungle Swimshow, Tiki Tower Takeover, Kickoff Party and Tiki Treasures Bazaar, Shag’s SkyLounge, After Party at Kreepy Tiki

The Hukilau 2016 artwork by Shag

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2016
Click for photos and more below:
* 7:30-9:30 p.m. – Smuggler’s Cove book signing (The Mai-Kai gift shop)
* 8 p.m.-midnight – Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai (live music by Gold Dust Lounge)
* 10:30 p.m. – Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid’s Glamour Girl Swimshow (The Wreck Bar at the B Ocean Resort)
Bonus cocktail recipe: Spicy Hula Girl from The Mai-Kai

Smuggler’s Cove book signing in The Mai-Kai gift shop

A trio of newly installed tikis greets guests in The Mai-Kai's porte-cochère
A trio of newly installed tikis greets guests in The Mai-Kai’s porte-cochère, to the north side of the drive-up entrance. The tikis were carved by Florida’s Will Anders, Tom Fowner and Jeff Chouinard and installed May 28-29. (Photo by Kevin Upthegrove)
* More photos, full coverage of the installation

The Hukilau organizer Christie
The Hukilau organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and spirits coordinator Dean Hurst visit the newly installed carving, King Kai, in The Mai-Kai’s outdoor gardens. (Photos by Go11Events.com)

The rains swept through South Florida, threatening a wet weekend but the skies suddenly cleared for the opening night festivities at The Mai-Kai. The hundreds of villagers, many coming straight from the airport, were swept up in the majesty of the Polynesian palace. Many made a pilgrimage to the garden to see King Kai, the new Tiki carved by South Florida artist Will Anders. Others made sure to check out the new Tiki trio in the porte-cochère.

Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate kick off their book tour at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate kick off their book tour at The Mai-Kai. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

The first order of business was to meet Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate, the power duo behind the new book Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. The owners of the acclaimed San Francisco rum bar Smuggler’s Cove were signing copies of the book in The Mai-Kai gift shop, where they also had limited-edition mugs (a “Ports O’ Call” glaze on The Kuhiko) for sale that are exclusive for the book tour. And it’s indeed a tour. After two book signings at The Hukilau, the pair headed straight to Miami for a Sunday night event, then on to other events across the country.

Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate sign copies of their new book in The Mai-Kai gift shop. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward and Susan Hayward / The Atomic Grog)
Martin Cate and Rebecca Cate sign copies of their new book in The Mai-Kai gift shop. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward and Susan Hayward / The Atomic Grog)

Martin and Rebecca were thrilled to be at The Mai-Kai for the book’s release (it officially hit shelves and mailboxes the day before), and to meet their many friends and fans. As soon as you walked in The Mai-Kai Trading Post, you were greeted by a full display of the epic new book, which has the Tiki and cocktail scenes abuzz with its comprehensive look at the modern Polynesian Pop revival. I was one of the first in line to get my copy signed (and pick up a mug), and the authors made a special effort to personalize their signings and pose for photos. Their assistant, Peggy Williams, was also on hand to give out copies of the book’s accompanying trading cards, a novel way to promote the book and stir interest. Fans can collect the full set of 20 and discuss the recipes that appear on each on a special Facebook page.

Continue reading “The Hukilau 2016, Day 1 photo recap: Pre-Party at The Mai-Kai, The Wreck Bar mermaid show”

The Hukilau updates: High Tide party, rum sponsor rundown, merchandise preview and photos!

Updated June 30
On sale now: The Hukilau 2016 merchandise by Shag, inspired by The Mai-Kai NEW
Photos: First exclusive day-by-day recap
15-year tributes: Tiki Kiliki’s memories | Video: The first 14 years
Official sites: TheHukilau.com | Facebook: Page and Group | Twitter | Instagram | App

Previous updates:
The East Coast’s longest-running and largest Tiki-themed weekender continues to add special events, merchandise and rum sponsors with less than a month remaining before throngs of retro-loving Tikiphiles descend on Fort Lauderdale. The latest major addition is the The Hukilau’s High Tide, presented by Rhum Barbancourt and taking place during the Friday night festivities at the host Pier 66 hotel.

The Hukilau’s High Tide, sponsored by Rhum Barbancourt

An overlay to the live performances in the waterfront Panorama Ballroom, High Tide is a special event celebrating the high water mark of the weekend and featuring Rhum Barbancourt cocktails by swashbuckling New York City bartender Brian Miller, plus Polynesian small bites from award-winning Atlanta-based celebrity chef Jim Stacy.
Exclusive recipe below: Brian Miller’s Haitian Frolic featuring Rhum Barbancourt
See more below:
* 15 rum sponsors serve up tastings, cocktails
* New merchandise goes on sale (photos)

High Tide takes place from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. during the live performances by an eclectic lineup of bands (Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides, Tikiyaki Orchestra, The Intoxicators) and burlesque/retro entertainers (Angie Pontani, Kitten Deville, Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid, Lila Starlet).

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy tickets, passes | Book hotel | Schedule
* Previous Atomic Grog coverage: Tiki Road Trip announced, Pier 66 and Mai-Kai sold out

Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City will be mixing special Rhum Barbancourt cocktails during The Hukilau's High Tide on Friday, June 10.
Brian Miller of Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City will be mixing special Rhum Barbancourt cocktails during The Hukilau’s High Tide on Friday, June 10.

Existing Friday night passholders can buy wristbands for $35 giving them access to the special Barbancourt cocktails during High Tide (up to eight per person). Cocktails are also available for $10 each. Non-passholders can buy a Friday day pass that also includes the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party (noon-4 p.m.) and Tiki Treasures Bazaar (10 a.m.-8 p.m.) for $129. A Friday night pass is $99 (or $69 without drink bracelet). Stacy’s Polynesian tidbits will be sold à la carte. Hotel bars will also be selling cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.

Miller, an accomplished Big Apple bartender and brand ambassador, is host of the city’s most celebrated Tiki cocktail event, Tiki Mondays With Miller. He’ll be bringing many of his motley crew with him to The Hukilau to help him with the Rhum Barbancourt pop-up bar, including Ryan “Corporal Captain” Liloia, Jelani “Swabble” Johnson, and Garret “Dr. Funk” Richard. They’ll be pouring four different Tiki cocktails featuring Rhum Barbancourt, a venerable spirit from Haiti that will have a high profile at this year’s event. Miller issued a missive from his pirate’s lair promising “an assortment of temptresses, rogues and scoundrels.” His captain’s orders: “Tortuga ain’t got nuthin on Tiki Mondays With Miller at The Hukilau.”

Miller and an all-star lineup of world-class bartenders (Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Martin Cate, Paul McGee, St. John Frizell) will also be mixing with Rhum Barbancourt at the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover on Thursday night. You can sample the distinctive rhums and see them mixed in cocktails Thursday through Saturday outside the Tiki Treasures Bazaar in the brand’s special tasting booth.

Jim Stacy's TV credits include host of 'Offbeat Eats' on the Cooking Channel and 'Deep Fried Masters' on Discovery Channel's Destination America.
Jim Stacy’s TV credits include host of ‘Offbeat Eats’ on the Cooking Channel and ‘Deep Fried Masters’ on Discovery Channel’s Destination America.

As a special treat, Friday’s High Tide event will also include The Hukilau debut of larger-than-life chef Jim Stacy, best known for his appearances on Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Stacy is a renaissance man whose talents include butcher, bartender, chef, touring rock ‘n’ roller and tattoo artist. He cut his teeth in the Atlanta bar and restaurant scene at the Star Community Bar and Starlight Drive-In Theatre, then became a local and national TV food authority. He recently sold the Atlanta-area Pallookaville Fine Foods in preparation for a new concept sure to please fans of traditional Polynesian-themed food and cocktails.

Stacy will soon be opening MoaKai, a full-blown Polynesian/island restaurant spotlighting “classic resort dishes made with Southern soul food ingredients.” Expect the themed Atlanta eatery to include such creative, taste-tempting dishes as lau-lau with collards instead of taro leaves, and poi made with sweet potato. “We’ll be doing a traditional Hawaiian barrel smoked chicken as our specialty with additional emphasis on vegetarian and vegan menu items,” Stacy said in a recent interview. At the High Tide party, Stacy will be cooking up “Polynesian delights featuring Rhum Barbancourt expressions with a soul food twist,” according to the event announcement.

Of course, Stacy’s restaurant will include a Tiki bar, The Barnacled Mermaid. Guests can sample Stacy’s fresh take on tropical mixology on Friday afternoon during the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party along with other top bars from across the country: Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (Cleveland), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), Aku Aku (Orlando), and The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley (New York City). Stacy is a longtime supporter of The Hukilau who attended last year’s event (see photos). But this will be his first year as a participant. He also featured The Mai-Kai on an episode of Offbeat Eats in January 2015.

Some events sold out, but plenty remain on full weekend schedule

The Hukilau 2016

Interest is high in The Hukilau for its 15th anniversary gathering, which will also celebrate the upcoming 60th birthday of The Mai-Kai. The historic Pier 66, another 60-year-old landmark, is sold out of rooms. But event co-founder and organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White quickly lined up an overflow host hotel, the nearby Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel. See our previous report for all the details and book a room now.

Several smaller and in-demand events have sold out, so it’s recommended you buy you tickets and passes now. Events that are already filled to capacity:

Continue reading “The Hukilau updates: High Tide party, rum sponsor rundown, merchandise preview and photos!”

Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

The Week in Tiki Late March was punctuated by upheaval in the Tiki bar world, including a fire at Lost Lake in Chicago and the confirmed closing of Trader Vic’s in Portland. We also have updates on the upcoming Pacific Seas in Los Angeles and False Idol in San Diego, among others. Event previews include The Atomic Grog’s fifth anniversary party, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. We investigate the rumored return of Lemon Hart, the upcoming Midwest Rum Festival, plus more rum news. Quick sips include Thor joining the Tiki Farm team, a new bar at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, a new Tiki-flavored pulp novella, and the aborted end of a re-creation of the voyage of the Kon-Tiki. Regular features spotlight legendary carver Milan Guanko; longtime Tiki entertainer King Kukulele; the historic Tiki bar La Mariana Sailing Club in Honolulu; and the video series Rum Minute. The rum the week, Sailor Jerry, is featured in the Wicked Wahine cocktail.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

TIKI BAR NEWS: Lost Lake hit by fire, Trader Vic’s Portland closing confirmed; changes coming to South Florida’s Kreepy Tiki, Psycho Suzi’s owner honored

The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.
The staff at Lost Lake in Chicago recovered from a recent fire with the aid of the local hospitality community.

A near tragedy struck acclaimed Tiki bar Lost Lake in Chicago on March 27, when what was originally thought to be a small electrical fire in the kitchen ended up causing extensive smoke damage that kept the year-old establishment closed for weeks. “The Chicago Fire Department put out a fire that was moments away from taking our beloved Tiki bar all the way down – not to mention two apartments upstairs,” Shelby Allison, who runs the bar with Paul McGee, posted on Facebook. “There are lots of very scientific cleaning methods happening at Lost Lake this week, but it could have been so much worse.” According to reports on a A GoFundMe page, the kitchen of the adjoining Thank You restaurant and the front entrance “were completely incinerated” while the bar suffered smoke damage that sadly forced the disposal of the bar’s vast rum collection. Lost Lake, which was recently nominated for a prestigious James Beard Award, received an outpouring of support from the entire Chicago hospitality community in the wake of the fire, from bartenders and bar owners to chefs, distributors, and brands. Bars as far away as Los Angeles also held Lost Lake support events. Allison reported that every member of Lost Lake’s support staff received temporary positions, and many bars hosted special pop-ups to keep the tip-based employees afloat. Special T-shirts were printed, with all profits going to Lost Lake bartenders. The GoFundMe page campaign received 309 donations and raised $20,000 for Lost Lake employee aid.
* More coverage online: Critiki | Time Out Chicago | DNAinfo
* Lost Lake: Official website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Don’t miss: McGee and Allison will return to The Hukilau in June, participating for the second year in a row in the sold-out Tiki Tower Takeover at the Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale. [2015 coverage]

Trader Vic's Portland

A fire earlier in March had more devastating effects the Portland Trader Vic’s franchise, as reported in the previous edition of the Week in Tiki. The March 2 fire at the medical office above the 8,000-square-foot restaurant burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, causing damage that would have closed the restaurant for at least eight weeks for repairs, according to reports. Instead, the owner decided that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, he would close permanently. Weeks went by without an official statement from the franchise owner, but on March 21, J. Clayton Hering posted this on Facebook: “It is with a heavy heart that I inform you of the decision to close Trader Vic’s in Portland after four and a half years. This is effective immediately. We can be proud that we provided an excellent entertainment venue to our customers, families, and private parties. Our menu for appetizers, food and drink as well as our atmosphere were a unique addition to the Portland restaurant scene. Our customers enjoyed Trader Vic’s return to Portland because of the fun environment we created which was unique to the city and well received. We thank you for your support over the last four and a half years.” There was no word on what became of the extensive Tiki-themed decor, though in past Trader Vic’s closings most of the major art pieces were returned to the Trader Vic’s corporation. A dozen black walnut dining room tables later turned up on Craigslist. Of the 20 remaining Trader Vic’s locations, only two are in the United States while 18 are overseas. The Atlanta franchise is still going strong after 40 years, while the corporate-owned flagship location has been in Emeryville, Calif., for 44 years. The original Trader Vic’s was opened by Victor Bergeron in Oakland in 1937.
* Why Trader Vic’s closed its Portland location (The Oregonian)

Continue reading “Week in Tiki (March 16-31, 2016): Lost Lake fire and more Tiki bar news, event previews, Lemon Hart rum returning?”

UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival

Updated May 9
A full recap of the eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival is coming soon. In the meantime, here are the winners of the annual RumXP Awards announced on Friday, April 15. Also check out our photo gallery on Facebook.
See below: The Mai-Kai pre-party and Santeria Rum cocktail recipe | Full preview
UPDATE: Koloa, Plantation and Don Q dominate awards at eighth annual Miami festival

2016 RumXP Award Winners and Consumer Rum Jury Awards

For the third year in a row, Plantation won a festival-best eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
For the third year in a row, Plantation won eight RumXP awards. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

White Rum
Best In Class:
Bayou Silver
Gold: Blue Chair Bay, Pito Rico Elite, Don Q Cristal, Ron Cartavio Silver

Premium White Rum
Best In Class:
Puerto Angel
Gold: Caliche, Fwyago, Plantation 3 Star, Skotlander Rum VI, Koloa White

Gold Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Gold
Gold: Wicked Dolphin, Puerto Angel Amber, Don Q Gold, Koloa Gold

Spiced Rum
Best In Class:
Siesta Key Spiced
Gold: Siesta Key Distillers Solara, Bayou Spiced, Siesta Key Limited Edition Spiced, Koloa Spiced

Flavored Rum
Best In Class:
Koloa Coffee
Gold: Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, Don Q Pasion, Blue Chair Bay Banana, Koloa Coconut

Continue reading “UPDATE: RumXP Awards announced at eighth annual Miami Rum Renaissance Festival”

Week in Tiki (March 1-15, 2016): Trader Vic’s Portland closes, The Hukilau and more event updates

The Week in Tiki Some sad news out of Portland with the unexpected closing of Trader Vic’s. Meanwhile in South Florida, The Hukilau announces an exciting new symposium. Other event updates include the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Fest in the Pacific Northwest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, and Tiki Kon. Quick sips include a Tiki home design show, a new FOM chapter in Atlanta, a space-Tiki lounge in L.A., and a Tiki speakeasy in NYC. Regular features spotlight lowbrow art legend Von Franco; sizzling San Diego surf band Jason Lee and the R.I.P. Tides; and the Luau, a historic restaurant from Miami Beach’s heyday. Learn about rum at the website of the week, RumJourney.com, before sampling the rum and cocktail of the week: Don Q Cristal and Val’s Daiquiri from New York City’s End of the Century.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

BREAKING NEWS: Fire closes Trader Vic’s in Portland

A March 2 fire at the medical office above the Trader Vic’s location in Portland forced what was originally thought to be a temporary closing of one of the few remaining North American outposts of the venerable Polynesian restaurant chain. But news later leaked out that due to mounting debt and high operating costs, the franchise owner was forced to close permanently, Wilmanette Week reported.

Trader Vic's in Portland announcement

The fire burned through most of the ceiling in the bar and dining room, but a Facebook post on the restaurant’s official page that same day indicated that repairs would be made. After several weeks, however, a manager posted on his personal Facebook account that Trader Vic’s Portland “is now permanently closed” less than 5 years after it opened. In a follow-up, he said that the re-opening would have taken eight weeks and the owner decided to close after struggling to “keep above water” due to the high rent and overhead of the 8,000-square-foot restaurant.

The return of Trader Vic’s to Portland was heralded in August 2011 as the beloved brand joined a burgeoning local Tiki scene that had grown around the annual Tiki Kon and worldwide revival. Portland previously had a longstanding Trader Vic’s in the Bensen Hotel from 1959 to 1996.

The new location in the Pearl District was warmly received by locals and Tikiphiles alike. It was filled with authentic decor, including Tikis, tribal masks, glass floats and outrigger canoes. The food and drinks were also highly regarded, but apparently the costs were too high to stay competitive in one of the country’s top food and beverage cities. The closing leaves only two Trader Vic’s restaurants in the United States: the company-owned flagship location in Emeryville, Calif., and a long-rinning franchise in Atlanta. There are 18 overseas locations in 11 countries.
* Trader Vic’s corporate site

More on Trader Vic’s Portland
* Critiki: News story | Profile, ratings photos
* Tiki Central: Reviews, discussion, photos
* Tiki With Ray: A fire shut Trader Vic’s but that isn’t why it’s closed for good

EVENT PREVIEWS: The Hukilau, Miami Rum Festival, Tiki Fest, Ohana: Luau at the Lake, Tiki Kon

The Hukilau announces new symposium, sponsors

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

Some of the biggest names in the modern Tiki revival will gather at The Hukilau for a groundbreaking symposium as part of the 15th annual festivities June 8-12 in Fort Lauderdale. “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” will bring together author and bar owner Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (Latitude 29, New Orleans), event promoter Otto von Stroheim (Tiki Oasis), historian Humuhumu (Critiki), author and bar owner Martin Cate (Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco), artist Crazy Al Evans, acclaimed artist Shag, and event promoter Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White of The Hukilau for a rousing two-part panel discussion hosted by Hurricane Hayward of The Atomic Grog. Author Sven Kirsten (Tiki Pop, The Book of Tiki) will also participate via Skype. Tickets are on sale now for $15 for passholders, $30 for non-passholders. The symposium will take place on Saturday, June 11, at 1 p.m. in the Panorama Ballroom at the host Pier 66 hotel.
* FULL COVERAGE: PREVIEW OF THE HISTORY SYMPOSIUM, MORE

Continue reading “Week in Tiki (March 1-15, 2016): Trader Vic’s Portland closes, The Hukilau and more event updates”

The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps

The Week in Tiki We have lots of news from February on upcoming spring and summer events: Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Tiki Caliente, Tiki Kon, and Hot Rod Hula Hop. Tiki bars continue to open across the country – from Washington, D.C., (Archipelago) to San Francisco (Pagan Idol) – with more in the works. Event recaps include The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Naked Tiki’s grand opening in South Beach, and another Modernism Week party with Shag. Quick sips include a James Beard nomination for Chicago’s Lost Lake, the death of Trader Vic’s son, a new study on Easter Islanders, and a new Tiki cartoon. Regular features spotlight South Florida artist Tom Fowner; exotica legend Arthur Lyman; Houston Tiki bar Lei Low; and the Surf Guitar 101 website. The Rum of the Week, Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7, is featured in a storied cocktail, the Hotel Nacional Special.
* Keep up with The Week in Tiki: Facebook page | RSS feed | See past weeks | Archive
* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events

EVENT PREVIEWS: Rare rums at Miami fest, Tiki Caliente and Tiki Kon news, Hot Rod Hula Hop announced

Miami Rum Festival adds VIP tasting bar, announces cruise

If sampling more than a hundred of the world’s best rums on a festive 50,000-square-foot convention floor isn’t enough, the organizers of the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival have something special just for you at this year’s event. One of the world’s largest gatherings of rum consumers, experts, and industry professionals will offer a luxury VIP Tasting Bar featuring a special selection of rare, vintage and limited edition rums you can’t find anywhere else at the festival.

Miami Rum Renaissance Festival VIP Tasting Bar

Miami Rum Festival and International Trade Expo host Robert A. Burr is opening up his extensive private collecion to special guests partaking in the tasting bar during the April 15-17 event at the DoubleTree Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center. “We want to share with rum fest participants some of the most interesting and exquisite rums that we’ve collected from our travels around the world,” Burr announced. The Burr family home’s Rum Wreck Dive Bar, which is featured in the new Rum Minute online video series, is stocked with more than 2,000 different rums. Burr and his son, Rob V. Burr, will share hosting duties in the VIP Tasting Bar, passing along their knowledge and passion for the select spirits.

“In the course of publishing Rob’s Rum Guide and reporting for the National Rum Examiner, we are privileged to visit most of the great rum distilleries in the world,” Robert V. Burr said. “Along the way, we’re collecting some very special bottles that represent the incredible range of high quality rums from Barbados and Jamaica to Guatemala and Panama; from Nicaragua and Haiti to Martinique and Guadeloupe; from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to Venezuela and Guyana – and beyond.” Rum is a family affair for the Burrs, with Robin V. Burr joining her husband and son as hosts of the festival and organizer of many of the associated events.

Fort Lauderdale's fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year's Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
Fort Lauderdale’s fledgling Fwaygo Rum made a splash at last year’s Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, winning the Best in Class award for premium white rum. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The tasting bar will be open all three days of the festival from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., the same hours as general admission. Two $5 sample tickets for use in the tasting bar come with a $125 three-day VIP pass to the festival. Additional tickets may be purchased at the event. A one-day pass is $75 but doesn’t include the complimentary tasting bar tickets. All Grand Tasting rum and cocktail samples are complimentary. Members of the spirits and beverage trade will receive steeply discounted tickets and will also have access to a special section of the festival featuring exclusive rums for industry and press representatives only. Advance tickets are available online now and will not be sold at the door.

All guests will have access to the full Grand Tasting floor, which includes dozens of booths from both established and up-and-coming rum brands: Cartavio, Diplomatico, Don Q, Fwaygo, Koloa, Mezan, Plantation, Pusser’s, Santeria, Siesta Key, Wicked Dolphin, Yolo, and many more. The festival also hosts the annual International Rum Expert Panel (RumXP) Tasting Competition and awards. [See past winners]
* More info: VIP Tasting Bar | Grand Tastings | Sample rums

Continue reading “The Week in Tiki (Feb. 16-29, 2016): Rum and Tiki event roundup, new Tiki bars in D.C., S.F., photos and event recaps”

The Hukilau updates: Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

In honor of The Hukilau’s 15th year and the 60th anniversary of The Mai-Kai, event co-founder/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White has assembled some of the top names in the Tiki revival for special events and symposiums that promise to educate as well as entertain. On March 3, she announced a first-of-its-kind Tiki event, a groundbreaking gathering of some of the biggest names in the modern revival.

Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture

Tickets are on sale now for “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture”, a freewheeling panel discussion on Saturday, June 11, moderated by yours truly and featuring Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Otto von Stroheim, Humuhumu, Martin Cate, Crazy Al Evans, Shag, and Tiki Kiliki herself. The godfather of the Tiki revival, Sven Kirsten, will participate via Skype. “We would not be celebrating today if it weren’t for these people,” Tiki Kiliki said of her colleagues on the panel.

It’s just $15 for this very special event, which will follow von Stroheim’s “2001: A Tiki Odyssey” symposium at 1 p.m. in the Panorama Ballroom at the Pier 66 hotel. Previously announced symposiums include author and bar owner Berry, Shag, Humuhumu, Tiki historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner, tattoo artist Paul Roe, plus South Florida artists Tom Fowner and Will Anders.

The Hukilau: June 8-12, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
* Buy tickets, passes | Book hotel | Schedule | Locations
* Recent Atomic Grog coverage: Entertainment, music and symposiums announced

Sven Kirsten's latest book is a hardcover opus that traces the history of 20th century Polynesian Pop
Sven Kirsten’s latest book is a hardcover opus that traces the history of 20th century Polynesian Pop. © Sven Kirsten/Taschen

The “Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture” panel discussion will be divided into two parts: First, Kirsten, Berry and von Stroheim will discuss the early days and evolution of the revival. Then, they’ll be joined by Humuhumu, Cate, Evans, Shag, and Tiki Kiliki to talk about how the revival inspired them to push the boundaries even farther. “I don’t want people to forget how we got here,” Tiki Kiliki said.

You’ll hear the stories of how Tiki became a passion for a select few Californians, and how they revived this lost culture for the rest of the world to enjoy. Learn how they did their research and how they found each other, kicking off a new renaissance that continues to this day. The rest of the panel will talk about their discovery of Tiki, and how they approach their own unique experiences.

I’ll be quizzing the panelists about their place in the Tiki pantheon, and the audience will also have an opportunity to ask questions. A special cocktail is also included in the price of admission. It’s recommend you attend von Stroheim’s symposium beforehand to get the full backstory on how it all started.

Continue reading “The Hukilau updates: Raiders of the Lost Tiki Culture symposium, new sponsors, Pier 66 hotel news”