Tag Archives: Mai-Kai

October 3 / Community

Ohana: Luau by the Sea debuts at Ft. Lauderdale’s world-famous Mai-Kai



FT. LAUDERDALE, FL 02 October – Ohana: Luau by the Sea dubbed the, “biggest little event in tiki,” debuted this week at the World-Famous Mai-Kai Restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale; Ohana is a three-day charity event held in several locations in and around Fort Lauderdale from October 1st through 3rd, 2015.

In Hawaiian culture, ‘Ohana’ means ‘family’ in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional. Ohana: Luau by the Sea is organized by the Fraternal Order of Moai (FOM), an organization that serves as the premier fraternal organization and social network for all men and women interested in tiki culture and the Polynesian pop era.

Famous for the annual “Ohana: Luau on the Lake” summer event at The Tiki Resort on Lake George in upstate New York, these tiki time travelers have finally set their sights on creating a spin-off event in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on the first weekend of October. Locations include Kreepy Tiki rum bar, World-Famous Mai-Kai Polynesian Restaurant, and the Grand Ohana Luau located at the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Airport & Cruise Port Hotel.

Friday evening was host to a special dinner and Polynesian Islanders Review show (the world’s longest running show of its kind) at the World-Famous Mai-Kai Restaurant with a special happy hour for Ohana from 7 – 9 pm in both the Molokai Lounge and on the Lanai.

(L to R) NYC super couple Nicole and Joe Desmond (proprietors of the secret Rhum Rhum Room) and Mai-Kai owner Dave Levy – pictured with the potent (and inexplicably smooth) Pina Passion (Source: © Tanabi Group)

The Mai-Kai, having last year been added to the National Register of Historic Places, has this year been officially crowned ‘the best tiki bar in the world’ by a recent poll.  The midcentury modern Mai-Kai, built in 1956, is not only a tiki mecca for fans of Polynesian pop, but is the longest-running tiki theme restaurant in America. Tanabi was happy to celebrate this much-anticipated event with Mai-Kai owner Dave Levy and friends.

While the accolades keep piling up, 2016 will see the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the annual Hukilau (another larger-scale and seminal tiki event for fans of the genre) in addition to the Mai-Kai celebrating it’s much-anticipated landmark 60th (yes, 60) Birthday.

Tiki is more a state of mind – an “escapist’s fantasia, if you like, an exotic place where the trapdoor to life is seemingly pulled out from beneath you,” explained one fez-adorned reveler. With widespread events like Ohana, The Hukilau, Tiki Oasis, Texas Tiki Week, and many other regional rum-soaked gatherings (for example, Miami’s annual Rum Renaissance Festival), so too have restaurants and bars been popping up all over the place (a notable example being The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas) in similar fashion.

However, while the tiki ‘revival’ has been in full swing for the last 5 years, at the center of it all is American craft cocktail culture itself, a renewed interest in rum as a spirit, and the banal trappings of everyday life which has sent people desperately searching for a more ‘immediate’ and romantic escapist fix.

June 17 / Community



In case you’ve not heard, the ‘Hukilau’​ is South Florida’s largest annual event for tiki-lovers and fans of midcentury Americana alike. For four days this past weekend, Fort Lauderdale was the top destination for an exodus of fun-loving, tropically-clothed tiki lovers. The Hukilau, billed as “The World’s Most Authentic Tiki Event,” not only brought people from all over the United States, but from far corners of the globe, as the event draws close to 1,200 visitors annually and in 2015 celebrated its 14th anniversary.

Originally, last year’s event was scheduled to be the last, however, the event had grown so popular that founder and owner Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White was contacted by Idle Hands Event Management, LLC’s Michael Zielinski and Richard Oneslager (themselves Hukilau attendees for years) who proposed a partnership deal in order to keep the celebration alive. A much needed shot in the arm, the Hukilau this year was effectively ‘revived’ and promptly proceeded with opening and closing festivities at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel and the recently-appointed National Register of Historic Places, Mai-Kai restaurant located in Oakland Park (the “tiki mecca” for many fans.) Since 1956, the Mai-Kai has captivated people with its warmth and magical aura and remains one of the few grand Polynesian palaces of tiki still in operation today.




This year’s Hukilau was unlike any other in terms of sheer Tiki-ness. It was over the top – a tiki lover’s dream come true. Over the course of the four-day event, the Hukilau featured several symposiums meant to educate, inform, and celebrate the tiki and Polynesian-pop lifestyle. Symposium presenters included Arthur Dong, who discussed the history of Chinese American nightclubs; Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, who explored Disney’s original Polynesian Village Resort, and Jeff Chenault, who’s fantastic discussion centered on Ohio’s oft-remembered Kahiki Supper Club restaurant. Additionally, there was a milieu of tiki-related activities for attendees, including symposiums on drink culture, rum tastings, cocktail parties, tropical performance shows, and a grand tiki marketplace dedicated to selling midcentury Americana trinkets, Hawaiian shirts and dresses, beach-inspired jewelry, and original artwork. To top it all off, the Hukilau Finale coincided last Sunday night with Mai-Kai owner Dave Levy’s milestone 60th Birthday. Tanabi was honored to experience first hand the tiki craze revival and personally joined Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White and her cast of Polynesian-pop enthusiasts to celebrate it all.

With top tiki bars opening up in the United States (Smuggler’s Cove, Three Dots and a Dash, Lost Lake, Latitude 29, to name but a few) and all over the globe (London, Italy, Germany, Paris etc.), tiki’s last seven years have been a renaissance unlike many others, going from an incidental category to one of the largest collective growth trends in the tropical mixology bar scene.

The first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, opened in Los Angeles in 1934; it started a sensation as celebrities and debutantes alike were regularly spotted sipping mai-tais, eating pu pu platters, and enjoying an exotic environment unlike anything they had seen before. By the 1950’s Polynesian pop culture was in full swing. Fueled by the music of artists such as Les Baxter, Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Robert Drasnin and Cal Tjader, the phenomenon was spreading to countries all over the world. This trend would continue well into the early 1970’s. The late 1970’s and early 80’s saw the decline of Polynesian pop and tiki culture and as popularity waned, many tiki restaurants and bars closed or went out of business.

Thankfully though, the glamour of retro travel and midcentury Americana is alive and well. Sure, there are plenty of factors that may have influenced the return from obscurity (not least because of the renewed global interest in rum as a spirit), but in this case we should give proper credit to pop culture, a gentleman by the name of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, and a slew of other tiki practitioners – most notably, Martin Cate, Brian Miller, and the inimitable Paul McGee.


The 14th-annual Hukilau took place from June 10 through 14 at various locations including the Mai-Kai Restaurant (3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale; 954-563-3272; maikai.com) and the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 Hotel (2301 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-6666; hyattregencypiersixty-six.com).

For more information and to sign up for next year’s epic Tiki extravaganza, please visit hukilau.com