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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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B
Bete posted on Mon, Jan 2, 2006 4:56 PM

Name:Hala Kahiki
Type:bar
Street:2834 River Road
City:River Grove
State:IL
Zip:60171
country:USA
Phone:708-456-3222
Status:operational

Description:
This is a WAY COOL tiki bar in a suburb of Chicago that has outdoor seating in the summer, for all the info you'll need on it, go to their website at: http://www.hala-kahiki.com

[ Edited by: Bete 2006-01-02 17:06 ]

I

There is a nice review of the Hala Kahiki in the Chicago Tribune
http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/search/mmx-7967_lgcy,1,7128200.story

INSIDE: Hala Kahiki
A taste of Polynesian nightlife
By Brett Ratner

Sights: One immediately equates a Hawaiian-themed nightclub with cheesy decor and sweaty drunks hogging the karaoke stage. Such is not the case with Hala Kahiki. The Hawaiian and Polynesian-inspired interior is certainly elaborate. But it is also tasteful, authentic and refined. A good portion of the tables overlook a lush garden (which in warmer months provides outdoor seating). Other tables, meanwhile, offer dimly lit, restaurant-style seclusion. This journalist could rattle off a laundry list of interior acoutrements like pineapple table lights, a fountain, glowing blowfish and bamboo galore. But all you need to know is Hala Kahiki fosters a tranquil, relaxing environment that happens to have a tropical flavor.

Sounds: In keeping with the laid-back visuals, most of what you hear is quiet. If you sit back and listen, your ears are bathed in the soothing ebb and flow of soft conversation. The jukebox occasionally joins in too. On most nights, you'll hear quiet renditions of Frank Sinatra's "The Lady is a Tramp" and the perfunctory Don Ho classic, "Tiny Bubbles."

Smells: While seating a couple who requested the smoking section, the crusty-voiced, mu mu-clad waitress replied: "We're all smoking!" Regardless of the all-encompassing smoking section, Hala Kahiki proves to be smoke- and fragrance-free.

People: The crowd on this particular Friday night was not limited to any age group or social group. Most on hand were couples or pairs of couples spending a quiet evening together. Others were larger groups of women enjoying a "ladies' night out." But to any man tempted to disrupt ladies night out with a pickup line, owner Stanley Sacharski warns: "Don't even think about it." Sacharski says he enjoys a large female clientele because he provides an atmosphere where they don't get hit on. Cutoffs, T-shirts and hats of any sort are big no-nos.

Prime time: Despite Sacharski's caveat regarding spawning rituals, he says a fair number of singles show up on Fridays. On Saturday, the couples come out in full force. On Sundays, Hala Kahiki is frequented by people from a wide range of ethnic origins. The bar is billed as an after-dinner destination. It starts filling up around 8:30 p.m. Regardless of the night, get there a little early in hopes of procuring a seat overlooking the garden.

At the bar: Hala Kahiki boasts an impressive six-page drink menu. The most popular drink is the "Zombie," which mixes four types of rum with red passion, sweet and sour and papaya. Hala Kahiki also offers a dizzying selection of daiquiris as well as chocolate- and coffee-flavored drinks. Couples can sample one of many "drinks for two." Designated drivers, meanwhile, need not be relegated to Diet Coke, since the menu lists a full page of non-alcoholic drinks. The prices are reasonable as well, ranging from $3.75 to $5.50; drinks for two cost about $8.50. Beer and wine are available, but at a price comparable to the mixed drinks.

At the grill: With the exception of complimentary pretzels or pineapple slices in your Hurricane, Hala Kahiki serves no food.

Essentials, etc: This place has been in River Grove for 35 years, and two generations. One would venture to guess the wait staff has been there almost as long. And while pleasant, the waitress who served me moves at her own pace, likes to sit you where she wants you to sit, and likes things done her way. Don't come in expecting to grab a quick drink before hitting the movie theater. Hala Kahiki is for sitting back and savoring. If you want the full experience, scoot over to the adjacent Hawaiian clothing and gifts shop. In addition to costume jewelry, hammocks and tiki lights, you can return to your bar stool clad in an authentic -- as in made in Hawaii -- Hawaiian shirt. Gift shop hours are 1:30-10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 1:30 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday; closed Monday and Tuesday.

This is hands-down my favorite tiki bar! I'm planning to make a road trip to it next month.

S
Swanky posted on Thu, Jul 5, 2007 1:19 PM

One immediately equates a Hawaiian-themed nightclub with cheesy decor and sweaty drunks hogging the karaoke stage.

Yep, that's exactly what comes to mind...

Can someone please tell me where this notion comes from and if it is what Chicagoland folks think?


[ Edited by: Swanky 2007-07-05 13:20 ]

T

With the exeption of the condescending first sentence, this isn't an innacurate review. I like how the reporter actually understands the vibe they're going for at HK, mentioning the tranquil atmosphere, appropriate music, and pointing out that it isn't a meet-market.

The last thing we need is more promotion of Tiki as just another frat party.

On 2007-07-05 13:19, Swanky wrote:

One immediately equates a Hawaiian-themed nightclub with cheesy decor and sweaty drunks hogging the karaoke stage.

unfortunately, this stereotype has been perpetuated by most t.v. shows and movies post late 70's to mid 90's......the only other time a drunken frat party brawl took place in a tiki bar on film was elvis presley's "girl happy" with a fight breaking out in the tiki bar/strip club...but i can forgive this one cause, hey!!, it's the 60's, and it's elvis!!......

I

If you thought that first line was off-key, take a look at another truly bizarre mention of the Hala Kahiki from the Tribune website.

The following is Item #3 from a list titled '10 Things You Have to Do Before Summer Loses Its Sizzle.


  1. Pick up some Polynesian potables. It's been a tough couple of years for tiki bars. The legendary Trader Vic's is gone. The short-lived Rock-a-tiki is too. These days, if you want a fruity blender drink served in a faux-thatched roof hut you'll need to head to west suburban Hala Kahiki, a 40-plus-year-old tiki bar that's as serious about its blender drinks as it is about muumuu uniforms.

Fruity blender drinks? Arrrgh!

It certainly is a valiant attempt to clear the Tiki bar name of crimes associated with the concept in the common perception, and I support anything that brings the Hala Kahiki more business....but how much LESS can you "get" the essence of what Polynesian pop is really about than this part of the article:

"The Hawaiian and Polynesian-inspired interior is certainly elaborate. But it is also TASTEFUL, AUTHENTIC and REFINED...!!!?"

NOOO! I like to think of my Witco as joyfully TASTE-OFFENDING, IN-AUTHENTIC, BRUTALIST PRIMITIVISM....that's why I am proud of it! :)

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2007-07-06 08:12 ]

S
Swanky posted on Fri, Jul 6, 2007 6:31 AM

Yeah, if you throw out the first sentence, it's good. It is also ironic as Big Bro points out. That is perfect. A true tiki bar should be:

Over done.
Done right.

That's what the writer got when they were there. Hala Kahiki is very well over done. It's all consuming as it should be. But not Party City tacky.

Hala Kahiki conquers another one!

And the blender drinks thing is just lack of knowledge. Where is Donn Beach to enlightne the masses!? Why is The Bum not on Martha's show?

T

On 2007-07-05 19:03, ikitnrev wrote:
Fruity blender drinks? Arrrgh!

But again, this IS what you get at HK.
We all know that as wonderful and amazing as HK is, the drinks there have NOTHING to do - except for in name - with the things you get at Tiki Ti, Mai Kai, or a Trader Vic's.

On 2007-07-06 10:11, tikibars wrote:

On 2007-07-05 19:03, ikitnrev wrote:
Fruity blender drinks? Arrrgh!

But again, this IS what you get at HK.
We all know that as wonderful and amazing as HK is, the drinks there have NOTHING to do - except for in name - with the things you get at Tiki Ti, Mai Kai, or a Trader Vic's.

Agreed. HK's founders supposedly never went to Hawaii or set foot in Trader Vics, so they definitely had an original spin on things. You have to put your time in to find the drinks you like. If you want to stay away from the really sweet and fruity, I'd recommend their Scorpion or Fogcutter. Scratch Me Lani (spelling varies) is kind of interesting, too.

TT

T

Scrath Me Lani is one of their better drinks, indeed.

But -
I've actually been thinking of HK as a dessert destination lately. Rather than getting bent about their Mai Tai being something other than what most of us are looking for in a Mai Tai, I've started to ac-cent-u-ate the positive a bit more.

There are some ice cream drinks and coffee/tea drinks on the menu that are pretty good... I'm a fan of Wiki Wiki - hot tea with apple liqueur and cinnamon.

Let us hope that Chef Shangri-La pulls through the dark time they're currently in, so that we can continue getting good drinks and food there, and then going to HK for dessert.

I think the Hala Kahiki is a fine mix of low-class and low-brow!!!!! But that's why I love it!!!!!!!
They make a strong drink and as much Witco as you can fit into one Bar. Were else can you find some
classic tiki next to Witco,Big Lot Tiki Stuff,Plastic tiki's and Christmas decorations!!!!!!




as ive said before, its my favorite place in the world....i remember the first time i went there 14 years ago 23 years old,not knowing anything about it, and had never been in a tiki bar before....i owe all my tiki obsession to the hala kahiki....cant wait to be there again, and hopefully soon! (its been too long)

K

This is one of my top places to see that I haven't seen yet. I really need to make the trip and see it while it's still in all it's glory. It looks like Witco heaven!

But I have to ask, what exactly do you call this?

N

Hala Bullhiki should be able to identify that for us. I spied one in a pic in his home tiki bar thread.

lol....thanks....yeah, thats a super rare ultra hard to find.......plastic piece of crap.....lol!....cant believe someone went to the hala kahiki, and photographed THAT....of all the things to photograph, THAT got snapped.....ours was given by a friend, you know"hey i picked this up for you since you like tiki"...as you try to act nice about it and respond...."thank you"....er, i guess?......lol

S

I thought I had said this here, but, must have been another thread.

Hala Kahiki is very near my number 1 location. Hard to make it over the Mai Kai, but, I personally put it way up there. When I was there, I walked through a foot of snow. Entering the place in that condition really stressed the oasis quality and you only get that experience up north. Not in Florida or California. That is the true tiki bar experience. That's why I put it up near number 1. It and the Mai Kai defined the aesthetic and feel for me. That is what I am seeking with my own home bar.

I'm actually going to hit Hala Kahiki this weekend. Friday night to be exact. Been years for me. I want to say the 2005 Exotica, but I hope it hasn't been that long. Also, we're thinking of hitting Tiki Terrace on Saturday. Can anyone tell me what to expect over there?

Java

(P.S. If anyone is going to Hala Kahiki on Friday, come find me and I'll set you up with a free copy of Bachelor Pad Magazine!)

On 2008-06-26 06:35, Kenike wrote:
This is one of my top places to see that I haven't seen yet. I really need to make the trip and see it while it's still in all it's glory. It looks like Witco heaven!

But I have to ask, what exactly do you call this?

I have to say,when I took this photo it did not look like this.......all you could see was a glowing tiki mask in a dark room.....so I didn't notice the clown like face til after the flash.....but it does give an honest look into the bar.......Yes there is alot of Witco but there is also alot of cheap tacky plastic crap from Biglots.............but todays biglots is tomarrows Witco......sorry bigbro

Wildsville Man

K

On 2008-06-26 12:08, Wildsville man wrote:

Yes there is alot of Witco but there is also alot of cheap tacky plastic crap from Biglots.....

You mentioned that at the beginning of your pic post..but even some of the Big Lots crap (and I own a few select pieces) can be used in a fairly appropriate way. But here you have a super-cheap, inappropriately painted, flimsy plastic clown mask mounted in what appears to be a pretty nice bamboo frame with a tapa background. Just doesn't seem right.

Not much difference then this large plastic Tiki that glows from the inside.

I'm not complaining about the BigLot stuff,because I own some myself...But I came here to check out the historic tiki bar,not the discount rack!!!!!!

and there wasnt enough other stuff in the hala kahiki for you to see or take pics of that WASNT from the "discount rack"???

looking at this link it seems that I am the only one to take pictures!!!!!!!! DIG?

.....okay..just to clear up this nonsense....may i draw your attention to page 185 of book of tiki......there is an orange lite-up mask.....though it wasn't this one that used to hang in that spot where the cheapy tiki hangs, but another one, very similiar, from the same company that made the one in svens book.....years ago, sonny gave the original old one to me cause it was severely damaged..i had hopes of repairing it and making a new mold of it to cast plaster masks out of...it proved to be more challenging than i anticipated as it was really fragile.....needless to say it got tossed out, beyond saving.......there was nothing to hang in it's place so they just grabbed a plastic mask from the gift shop to cover the bulb that was just hanging there out of the wall......it's been like that since....

if anyone wants to make a new wooden mask to hang over it i'm sure they would appreciate it..and by the tone this thread is taking, so would alot of other folks here as well....LOL

K

On 2008-06-26 17:21, Tipsy McStagger wrote:
if anyone wants to make a new wooden mask to hang over it i'm sure they would appreciate it..and by the tone this thread is taking, so would alot of other folks here as well....LOL

My apologies for destroying this thread...:)

I was merely wondering why something so obviously cheap would be hanging in a place that was obviously meant for something else much nicer...as if it was placed there to lessen its crappiness.

Thanks for explaining.

..no worries...it was a good question....one i probably would have asked had i not known the answer already...

N

On 2007-07-05 13:19, Swanky wrote:

One immediately equates a Hawaiian-themed nightclub with cheesy decor and sweaty drunks hogging the karaoke stage.

Yep, that's exactly what comes to mind...

Can someone please tell me where this notion comes from and if it is what Chicagoland folks think?
And just a few posts later we see a cheap, modern, mass-market "tiki" hanging in one of the great vintage tiki bars. One might see just how the "Chicagoland folks" get those thoughts of cheesy decor, eh? :wink:

Missus BH and I went on a whirlwind tour of Chicagoland Tiki bars this week, and paid a visit to Hala Kahiki. Despite the best attempts of some loud, rude jerks out on the patio to ruin the tranquility of our evening, we both loved it. The decor, music, and overall vibe was phenomenal.

The drinks, however, were a major letdown. I had a Scorpion and a Navy Grog, and left without even the tiniest buzz. If they hired a real bartender like Martiki to run the place, it'd be an unstoppable juggernaut.

On 2008-07-31 15:48, MrBaliHai wrote:
Missus BH and I went on a whirlwind tour of Chicagoland Tiki bars this week, and paid a visit to Hala Kahiki. Despite the best attempts of some loud, rude jerks out on the patio to ruin the tranquility of our evening, we both loved it. The decor, music, and overall vibe was phenomenal.

The drinks, however, were a major letdown. I had a Scorpion and a Navy Grog, and left without even the tiniest buzz. If they hired a real bartender like Martiki to run the place, it'd be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Did you make it to Chef Shangri-La? Way better drinks than HK!

H

So glad you got to go to Hala Kahiki, mrbalihai -- it's one of my all-time favorites, despite the incredibly lame drinks. I think James told me the woman who runs the joint likes her drinks on the frosting end of the spectrum, and it's influenced the menu. I think that perhaps it's also a popular place for date night with the young set, and I can understanding wanting to keep the drinks on the wimpy side if that's the case. The next time I go, I'm bringing spiking supplies with me.

M

On 2008-08-01 12:12, BambooLodge wrote:

Did you make it to Chef Shangri-La? Way better drinks than HK!

Yes, we ate dinner there the night before we went to Hala Kahiki, but since I had to drive us to see Blue Man Group later in the evening, I only had a Dr. Fong. I definitely preferred it to the drinks at HK.

M

On 2008-08-01 16:20, Humuhumu wrote:
So glad you got to go to Hala Kahiki, mrbalihai -- it's one of my all-time favorites, despite the incredibly lame drinks. I think James told me the woman who runs the joint likes her drinks on the frosting end of the spectrum, and it's influenced the menu. I think that perhaps it's also a popular place for date night with the young set, and I can understanding wanting to keep the drinks on the wimpy side if that's the case. The next time I go, I'm bringing spiking supplies with me.

Yeah, they definitely cater to the dating crowd, Humu. Practically everyone there was a couple. It's too bad they can't come up with a couple of kickass drinks for those of us who aren't into diabetic comas, because everything else about the place rates a solid 10 on my scale.

Maybe you could stash a hypo filled with "Scorpion Juice" in your bamboo purse the next time you go?

A close call - or not?

Here are pics taken a block or so away from Hala Kahiki during last weekend's miserable flooding.

Given that HK is built on a mound of earth a few feet about street level, and that the street slopes uphill a little bit, they're safe from having been submerged.

But I wonder about their roof....?

Anyone been there in the past ten days?

On 2008-09-25 12:09, tikibars wrote:

Anyone been there in the past ten days?

We were there Monday nite. They said they were fine, the water didn't get across the road right there, but some neighboring houses got some water in basements. They did apparently close for a day or two, though, since no one could get there.

TT

oddly enough, the flood of 1987 was less severe than this one and hala kahiki was buried in it....that's how their light up sign and post got destroyed (yes- they actually had a real sign out in the front lawn)

...they also used to have a big tiki with a real flame coming off it's head fed by a gas line but someone came in the night, wrapped a chain around it and ripped it out of the ground and stole it, leaving the gas line severed and spewing gas all over the neigborhood...this was years ago...before the 87' flood.

Damn! Photos, Dave, photos!?

On 2008-09-26 11:18, bigbrotiki wrote:
Damn! Photos, Dave, photos!?

..you're right....i never asked the family if they had any photos of hala kahiki from back in the day....i bet they have a bunch of great ones..especially of the time they first opened...they were very proud of it. I'll get out there and see what i can find....maybe i can borrow a couple of them to scan so you can all see what it looked like...

On 2008-09-26 11:18, bigbrotiki wrote:
Damn! Photos, Dave, photos!?

.....i didn't forget you sven!!

...i was out at hala kahiki last night and inquired about photos...cookie said that rose had a bunch of photos of the place as i suspected...however they are still in the process of sorting things out from her passing and have yet to locate them...when she finds them she'll let me know....she said they did have photos of the old sign and the big tiki out front with the live gas flame on it's head......I do know that they are planning on making a framed photo collage of what the place looked like over the years and hang it on the wall in the foyer for all to see....so it seems they were already motivated to find the photos before i even brought it up....

stay tuned......

Mahalo. Make sure they don't cut up and paste the original photos for their collage! :)