Modern Caribbean Rum

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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Minimalist Tiki

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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The Mai-Kai hosts ‘Classic Dining’ author Dec. 13 with special event, extended happy hour

Classic dining establishments that date back to the middle of the 20th century and are still thriving today are a rare find. South Florida is lucky to have one of the most grand and well-preserved in our midst: The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, est. 1956. A new book, which features the Polynesian palace on its cover, takes an in-depth look at these survivors of another era with vintage and new photos, inside information and authoritative stories.

Classic Dining: Discovering America's Finest Mid-Century Restaurants

Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants by author and historian Peter Moruzzi is a lavishly illustrated hardcover book published on Nov. 1 by Gibbs Smith. It features many photos and additional stories from Sven A. Kirsten, author of The Book of Tiki and Tiki Modern.

Mouruzzi will be at The Mai-Kai on Thursday, Dec. 13, for a special event featuring an illustrated talk about his new book. The event, presented by Tropic magazine, will be held in The Mai-Kai’s elaborately themed Tahiti dining room from 7 to 9 p.m. and will include an extended happy hour with half-priced drinks and appetizers.
* Click here or on the book cover for the Facebook event

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30 great ways to celebrate 30 years of Epcot magic

“The most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project – in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing in Disney World — will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT.” – Walt Disney, Oct. 27, 1966

Hurricane Hayward discovers a familiar symbol at Innoventions in Epcot.
Hurricane Hayward discovers a familiar symbol at Innoventions in Epcot. (Atomic Grog photo, May 2011)

The second-oldest of Disney World’s four theme parks opened to the public on Oct. 1, 1982. The massive project, originally called EPCOT Center, took three years and $1.2 billion to build. And while it didn’t fulfill Walt Disney’s grand vision of a utopian city, Epcot was something nobody had ever seen before, and it remains one of the world’s most distinctive tourist destinations. Its mixture of attractions and shows with culture and dining – all with a heavy emphasis on education — is unique and most likely something Walt would be proud of.

With more than 10 million visitors a year, Epcot is the third most popular theme park in the United States, trailing only Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in California. In honor of Epcot’s 30th anniversary, here are 30 of The Atomic Grog’s favorite ways to enjoy this eclectic combination of futuristic playground and food and beverage smorgasbord.

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Sweetwater Bar & Grill: A shining beacon of light in South Florida’s food and drink wasteland

Update: Sweetwater introduces new cocktails, voluminous spirits menu

Unbeknownst to most of South Florida, a craft cocktail revolution has swept the country over the past decade, elevating mixology to heights not seen since the heady days following the repeal of Prohibition. With rare exceptions, our tourism-driven marketplace has no room for this kind of creativity.

From left: The freshly made Bacon Old Fashion, Skinny Dip and Airdrop cocktails. To the right is a 22-ounce Yeti Imperial Stout. Sweetwater offers something for all tastes.
From left: The freshly made Bacon Old Fashion, Skinny Dip and Airdrop cocktails. To the right is a 22-ounce Yeti Imperial Stout. Sweetwater offers something for all tastes.

But since opening in April 2011, Sweetwater Bar & Grill has with little fanfare become the area’s preeminent hidden gem for inventive adult beverages, plus gastropub-style food that’s just as decadent and delicious. The cocktails are indeed outstanding, but Sweetwater’s true triumph may be this perfectly timed head-on collision of the craft food and drink movements.

In 2012, being under-the-radar doesn’t necessarily mean a dingy back-alley location in the wrong part of town. Sweetwater is located in plain sight on South Federal Highway in Boynton Beach, but it might as well be a secret unmarked speakeasy. While foodies flocked to Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue and West Palm Beach’s Clematis Street, locals in south-central Palm Beach County probably thought they had Sweetwater to themselves.

But despite no advertising and little traditional media attention, word has slowly but surely circulated about the unique dining and imbibing experience awaiting at Sweetwater. We joined the chorus, raving after our initial visits in June and July. But teasing you with just a taste is quite unfair. To truly enjoy this establishment, you have to go for the gusto and sample items from across the menu, as we had the pleasure of doing on multiple occasions this summer.

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