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R

Okay, folks... need help with last minute Thanksgiving plans up in Michigan. I know, I know... Chin Tiki...

But is anything still alive and kickin? I've read a couple of painful experiences of TikiFish. Any GOOD places to go?

T

Try 'Waves' in St. Clair Shores oiutside Detroit. It's new school but not TOO bad until the disco dancing Starts! There's also a chinese restaurant in St Clair Shores orr thereabouts that still has drinks in Mugs, and the bartender used to work at the Mauna Loa - let me see if I can track down that info and post it here in a sec...

You should check out the OTHER Chin's in Livonia, even though it's not spectacular, it's worth a peep.

Irish Hills, Michigan is a fantastic run-down 60's tourist town but it shuts down for the winter. Tiki mini golf, mystery spot, prehistoric park, giant Paul Bunyan, all that good stuff...

T

Some more info sent to me by kind strangers who share the midwest love of tiki. I keep stashed in my hotmail for just such an occasion as this....

From Jim Rees:

"Also, next time you are in Ann Arbor, you might want to stop in at Champion
House, at Washington & Fourth Ave. No tikis but they do serve tiki drinks
in proper tiki mugs, and they even have a flaming volcano bowl."

From Logan Summer's, about Chin's:

"for the only real tiki place in the area (and possibly the state), i'd say chin's was pretty decent...with a few caveats...the service sucked--how about hiring some waitresses with a little motivation (i asked what was in the fog cutter drink and our waitress said--and i quote--i don't know, with no further explaination! also the food was mediocre, but you warned about that...but the decor was genuine. how can this place still exist in livonia of all places???

BTW, we did discover a drink that came in a tiki mug, though it was a nondescript coconut mug (not suprisingy, the drink was called "the coconut"), it is now in my ever-growing mug collection"


Hmmm, I'm not sure where the info on the Chinese place went - probably on my laptop.
I'll check today at work if I remember!

R

Bless you dear. I'll see if I can sneak a visit in to at least one of those spots!

T

OK - here is the email - by way of BigBro, by way of Otto, by way of someone named Amy (hope I'm not stepping on anyones toes by reproducing this email here (in part) but whoever / wherever AMy is, she seems so filled with the love of tiki I'm sure she wouldn't mind.

Sad that I didn't get more juicy stories about Detroit's tiki days of old, I
then stopped into my favorite local Chinese restaurant, the Golden Dragon on
Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe, one of the few joints around here that still
serves exotic drinks in vintage tiki glasses. Dejected, I ordered a
carryout and sat at the bar, nursing a Mai-Tai and talking with the owner,
Mr. Wing Tom, a wonderfully friendly guy who knows what I order before I can
say "Yes, I'd like..." I told him that I'd been to Chin's and didn't find
out much tiki history, like I'd hoped. To my surprise, he pulled up a chair
and said: "Well what would you like to know??" Turns out, his family owned
various Chinese restaurants downtown back in the day, and he himself worked
at the Detroit Trader Vic's!! It was in the Detroit Hilton on Washington
Street in Grand Circus Park. He told me that Trader Vic's had locations all
over the world, (Tokyo was one location he remembered) and even were
contracted to provide in-flight food for airlines! I sipped and
feverishly took notes, hanging on Wing's every word. He seemed amazed that
anyone still cared! They make a mean Mai Tai there, and soon I was floating
in a cloud of nostalgia, reveling in my city's Polynesian heyday. He told me
they had a giant oven in the center of the restaurant surrounded by
Plexiglass, where one could watch their dinner being prepared. It wasn't as
fun for the cooks, as it was hellishly hot in there. The interior decor had
plenty of tikis, bamboo, and real and faux tropical greenery. Wing started
out as a bartender, but didn't make enough money. They didn't have a bar
proper where he could interact with the customers because the bar was also
behind Plexi-it was like a service bar where he would give drinks to the
waitstaff to serve. He soon became a waiter, and liked it much better.
Mostly, their clientele was made up of businessmen and sports figures. He
recalls serving Billy Martin in the 70's. Their signature drink was the
Scorpion, as they flew in gardenias from Hawaii to be floated on top of each
drink! Trader Vic's also had little "V.I.P" rooms, where upper-echelon types
would sit in high-backed wicker chairs, a-la Mortcia Addams. They also had a
dress code, and kept suit jackets in-house for unfortunates who failed to pay
proper tribute to the tiki gods!! I asked about competition, and Wing said
that though the Polynesian places in town were all quite large and
competitive, the owners all knew each other and were friendly. Because of
the riots, there were strong racial tensions during his days at Trader's, and
because most owners of the tiki establishments were Chinese, they watched
each other's backs.

T

And here's a little info on some Michigan Tiki of days gone by... we drove by this place but there's really not much left to see....

Mai Kai Livonia (Detroit)
George Burns Theater
33330 Plymouth Rd
Livonia MI

Opened 1963
Closed 1993
Capacity: 1400 seats Architectural Style: Polynesian
Some other names this theater has been known as: Mai Kai, Omni Star
The Mai Kai opened on April 10, 1963, with the Disney film Son of Flubber. Stars Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk attended the opening of the $1.5 million Polynesian-style theater built by Nicholas George. When it closed in 1987, the Mai Kai was one of the last large single-screen neighborhood theaters in the area.
The theater reopened in 1988 as a live event theater and was renamed the Omni Star. The theater closed just two months later, and in 1990, the manager plead guilty to selling $70,000 worth of tickets to a concert that never took place.
The theater was sold to Stuart Gorelick, who remodeled it at a cost of $1 million and renamed it the George Burns Theatre. The theater reopened in 1992, with Burns himself in attendance, but closed again the next year. The marquee now advertises new Ford automobiles for the dealership using the lot.

R

Thank you SO much, Fish! I'm printing out maps to Chin's as we speak. It's right on the path between Detroit Metro and our destination. I'll take lots of pics!

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