Modern Caribbean Rum

Beware the ‘Horror of Party Beach’ at The Mai-Kai’s fifth annual Hulaween party on Oct. 25

Updated Nov. 1, 2013
RECAP: See photos from Hulaween 2013

The Mai-Kai’s Hulaween, one of South Florida’s most distinctive and festive Halloween parties, celebrates its fifth anniversary on Friday, Oct. 25, with a retro surf-themed bash dubbed “The Horror of Party Beach.” The event is free and runs from 5 p.m. until the witching hour in the legendary Fort Lauderdale Polynesian restaurant’s Molokai bar.
* Join the Facebook event
* Video: Clips guaranteed to get you in the Hulaween spirit
* Event history: Oct. 25 marks five years of frightening fun at Mai-Kai’s Hulaween party

Hulaween 2013

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Minimalist Tiki

Take 5: Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Tiki cocktail author and historian extraordinaire

Jeff “Beachbum” Berry is extremely passionate about Tiki, tropical drinks and The Mai-Kai. In April, we caught up with the author of such essential Tiki cocktail bibles as Grog Log and Sippin’ Safari in his natural habitat (The Mai-Kai gardens) and posed the following questions.

Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (right) and Hurricane Hayward enjoy their classic Mutiny cocktails in The Mai-Kai gardens
Jeff “Beachbum” Berry (right) and Hurricane Hayward enjoy their classic Mutiny cocktails in The Mai-Kai gardens. (Photo by Susan Hayward, April 2013)

Interview by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

1. If you could transport yourself for one night back in time to any Tiki bar or restaurant, what would it be and when?

That would be Don the Beachcomber’s in 1934: Ground zero, the big bang, the creation of the Tiki bar as we know it – by Donn, right after Prohibition. I would have loved to have seen what that was like.

2. If Food Network or the Travel Channel came to you and said, “Pitch us a show about tropical drinks,” what would you suggest?

I would suggest that they just take their suggestion and shove it. Because none of those channels, none of those hosts, none of that garbage is about what these places are about. What these places are about is “aloha,” it’s about the spirit of true hospitality, of welcoming, of making you feel important, of making you feel good. All of these TV channels traffic in all of this competition bullshit, where restaurants are not places to go to relax and unwind. Where you get stressed out and compete against your fellow chefs or bartenders. I hate all that. That’s the antithesis of the true spirit of hospitality, of genteel camaraderie, of going to a place to exchange confidences and emotions, and happy experiences with people that you either know or you’ve met at these places. It’s not about competition, it’s not about who’s the best, it’s not about some guy with spiked hair telling you about the awesomeness of the food. That’s just artificial garbage. … All these people are self-appointed experts. They don’t know anything about anything.

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Is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in the mix for the re-imagined Downtown Disney?

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment

Rumors were swirling even before the official announcement March 14 about the planned massive renovation of the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment district at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando.

A conceptual model of Disney Springs
A conceptual model of Disney Springs. (From the Disney Parks Blog)

The multi-year expansion, expected to begin in April, will be the largest in Downtown Disney history. When it’s completed in 2016 (and perhaps earlier), the area will become known as Disney Springs, themed after a Florida waterfront town that sprang up in the 19th century. The back story will draw on both Disney and Florida history. Walt Disney’s parents were married in 1888 in Central Florida, an area replete with natural springs.

The online Disney community is abuzz about the plans, which also include major design and structural changes to the 120-acre lakefront site that will allow it to grow from 75 to more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Images that feature logos of potential tenants leaked out on the WDW Magic message board, fueling the excitement about high-end retailers and new themed restaurants. Click here, here and here for more on the leaked images. WDW News Today also published leaked concept art.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

But there’s one possible new venue that holds special interest to tikiphiles and old-school Disney fans alike. While we’re excited about the overall expansion and potential revival of what was the once-thriving Pleasure Island bar and restaurant district, we’re ecstatic about the possibility of Disney opening its second location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

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Mai-Kai history event joins the party as inaugural Mod Weekend kicks into gear

Mod Weekend, the March 15-17 celebration of Fort Lauderdale’s mid-century architecture and style, is shaping up to be a whirlwind of activity with several events selling out and additional activities added to the mix, including Saturday’s “Mai-Kai: History, Mystery and Adventure” seminar.

The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956
The Mai-Kai under construction in 1956. (Photo courtesy of The Mai-Kai)

While not officially part of Mod Weekend, the presentation by Mai-Kai historian Tim “Swanky” Glazner will fit right in with the theme of recognizing the historical significance of this Polynesian treasure, which was built in 1956. The restaurant’s Molokai lounge will open at 2 p.m. for a special happy hour, followed by the narrated, multimedia slideshow at 3 p.m. in the grand showroom. Seats are limited, so call (954) 563-3272, ext. 1, to make a reservation. Admission is free.
* The Mai-Kai’s Facebook event

The event will also be a reunion for Mai-Kai “veterans,” with many former employees who worked there as far back as the 1950s expected to be on hand. On Sunday, Mod Weekend returns to The Mai-Kai on its double-decker bus tour. The first tour was sold out, so a second has been added, according to the official website. The tour will include another presentation by Glazner as well as a walking tour of The Mai-Kai’s extensive dining rooms, gardens, and Polynesian artifacts. The weekend’s festivities wrap up Sunday night with a closing party at The Mai-Kai at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 for the bus tour and $25 for the closing party. Go to ModWeekend.com for the latest information on tickets and availability.

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A Taste Of … Dada in Delray Beach

This is the first in a series of profiles of some of The Atomic Grog’s favorite spots in South Florida to enjoy events, music, art, cocktails and culture. Our first stop is an eclectic restaurant that for more than a decade has seamlessly merged all of the aforementioned elements in a cool historic setting along with some great food from an award-winning chef.

Dada in Delray Beach

March 2014 update: Dada embraces rum with new cocktail menu

It’s difficult to find a truly unique restaurant experience in this age of cookie-cutter chain eateries and independents that feel the need to follow every trend. But tucked into a vintage 1920s house just off Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach is Dada, a one-of-a-kind experience that’s a true feast for all the senses.

Built in 1924, with the second story added 1939, the Tarrimore house was restored around 1990 with plans for it to become a bed and breakfast. But when that fell through, it became a cozy restaurant (the acclaimed Damiano’s) in 1992. The Damiano family sold the restaurant in 1999 and Dada opened in 2000.

Dada is perhaps the most distinctive and successful restaurant to spring from the partnership of owners Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich. Their South Florida ventures include Kapow! Noodle Bar in Boca Raton, Howley’s diner in West Palm Beach, and the Dubliner Irish pub in Boca Raton. A new Dubliner is set to open in Fort Lauderdale in March. Mayo also has a hand in Tryst in Delray Beach, Longboards and Hullabaloo in West Palm Beach, plus nightspots such as Respectable Street in West Palm Beach and The Vagabond in Miami. There are 14 ventures in total that you can find on his Sub-Culture website.

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Hullabaloo jazzes up Clematis Street with inventive craft cocktails

Tonight is the grand opening of Hullabaloo, the new gastropub and craft cocktail bar in downtown West Palm Beach, but the party started early with a sneak preview for invited guests last night that definitely put the staff to the test.

Previous story: Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm Beach with gastropub food, craft beverages

The bar and kitchen staff serve the growing crowd during Hullabaloo's special preview party on Thursday, Jan. 24
The bar and kitchen staff serve the growing crowd during Hullabaloo’s special preview party on Thursday, Jan. 24. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

The small 1,700-square-foot space in the 500 block of Clematis Street that was formerly home to The Lounge was packed to the gills for most of the night as the many friends and associates of owners Rodney Mayo and Jon Elu enjoyed free drinks and small bites. One guest described it as “The Lounge meets Kapow,” which is as accurate a description as any. The owners have taken the somewhat generic Lounge format and jazzed it up with a creative food and drink menu, just as Mayo and his partners did at the cozy spot in Boca Raton that houses Kapow! Noodle Bar.

Guests at Hullabaloo were greeted last night by classic jazz and ragtime music performed on keyboards by a solo musician just outside the front door. The music was also piped into the bar, complementing the vintage vibe. Within hours, the party had spread to the half-dozen tables on the sidewalk.

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Hullabaloo to raise a ruckus in downtown West Palm Beach with gastropub food, craft beverages

Update/review: Hullabaloo brings inventive craft cocktails to Clematis Street

It’s tough to come up with a unique and exciting concept in today’s bar and restaurant scene, where new establishments continually push the creativity envelope, and patrons have seen just about everything. But leave it to South Florida nightlife kingpin Rodney Mayo to move the bar even higher.

Hullabaloo

Imagine walking into a small, dark space that evokes a New York City loft. It’s simple, clean and dark, illuminated only by candles and low lighting. Huge red-and-black leather booths span one wall, with reproductions of 1940s-era Eames chairs scattered about. Dead rock stars such as Freddy Mercury and Jim Morrison stare eerily from framed black-and-white photos. The sound of ’30s and ’40s jazz fills the air, while the smell of Italian-influenced gastropub food crafted in a wood-burning oven wafts throughout the room. Patrons sip craft beer, wine, coffee and unique cocktails. Welcome to Hullabaloo.

Like its name implies, Hullabaloo is poised to cause a commotion. Mayo and his managing partners will introduce Hullabaloo – located at 517 Clematis St. in downtown West Palm Beach – with a grand opening party next Friday (Jan. 25) from 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. There will be a private, invitation-only party on Thursday, Jan. 24. “We’re going to have a ragtime band play at the opening,” Mayo says. He also promises complimentary beverages and food tastings.

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Tap into The Mai-Kai anywhere with the new smartphone app

The Mai-Kai is a 56-year-old slice of vintage Polynesian Pop that evokes the simpler times of the mid-20th century. But this doesn’t mean the classic Fort Lauderdale restaurant is in any danger of being left behind by its trendy competition.

The Mai-Kai

Proof of this can be found in a newly released, free smartphone app that lets you make your dinner reservations with the tap of a few buttons, browse the menus, check for special events, post comments, upload photos, and lots more. You can also use the app to sign up for newsletters, participate in a loyalty program, buy gift cards, and click on links to Facebook and YouTube videos.

Just search for “Mai-Kai” in your phone’s app store to download. I grabbed the app for my iPhone via iTunes (see screenshot below) and gave it a test run at the 56th anniversary party by posting a comment and uploading a photo. And if you’ve had a few too many Barrels O’ Rum, the app has a simple and handy tip calculator.

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The Mai-Kai celebrates its 56th birthday, rings in 2013 with special events

On Dec. 28, 1956, the venerable Mai-Kai restaurant opened its doors on a desolate stretch of Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. In the ensuing half-century, the rest of the world has changed radically but you can still be guaranteed a totally immersive South Seas experience in this one-of-a-kind slice of Polynesian paradise.

Ty (left) and Andrew with fellow Mai-Kai Islander Hokulani
Ty (left) and Andrew with fellow Mai-Kai Islander Hokulani at a recent catered event. The duo will be performing at the 56th anniversary party on Dec. 28. (Photo courtesy of The Mai-Kai)

This mid-century marvel will celebrate its 56th anniversary next Friday (Dec. 28) with its annual Customer Celebration Party in The Molokai bar starting at 5 p.m. Live music will be provided all night by Ty and Andrew, The Mai-Kai’s house band, playing a mix of island and holiday music on ukuleles, bongos and guitar.

There will also be an extended happy hour all night in The Molokai. After 7 p.m., just tell your waitress that you’re there for the celebration party in order to receive half-priced drinks and appetizers. This includes most of The Mai-Kai’s legendary tropical cocktails, many of which date back to the early days of Tiki mixology in the 1930s. Taste history in a glass all night while you munch on decadent small bites such as Shanghai Chicken and Crab Rangoon. Click here to see the menu.
* Click here for the Facebook event

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Sweetwater introduces new cocktails, voluminous spirits menu

Sweetwater Bar & Grill in Boynton Beach, one of South Florida’s premiere spots for craft cocktails, has raised the bar again with the debut of some long-awaited new concoctions plus a monster spirits menu that runs a whopping 70 pages.

I stopped by last night to sip a few cocktails and take a gander at the tome-like menu. Presented in a three-ring binder on narrow pages with appropriately retro typography, the menu is incredibly detailed, more like an encyclopedia of spirits than a throw-away guide. Mixologist Sean Iglehart has out-done himself with this carte du jour of every bottle in the house.

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