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Chicago Tiki

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The Missus and myself will be in Chicago a couple weekends over the summer and we're wondering what tiki haunts are still around in the Windy City. Is Hala Kahiki still around? Is the Chicago Trader Vic's still Polynesian or did it fall victim to some redecorating? Other good spots?


Just got back from Chicago last week, posted a bit about TV on another threads here at Tiki Central.

I do believe Hala Kahiki is still operating, but it was a bit of a haul for me to get there from downtown. I made up for it by visiting TV's several times. Seems mgmt there is making an effort to round up some more business.

The decor is a lot more "nautical" than other Tiki palaces, but it's TV. I always thought TV's should be more explorer/nautical/tiki motif. It's still a great place, a classic IMO.

Wed night: $4 Zombies! Thur: $4 Mai-Tai night. Mon/Tues also have specials on one cocktail, and Fri has an appetizer buffet. Do get here for some of the drinks at least. The Barkeeps at TV's are first-rate.

As always, for questions on American Tiki bars, the authoritative guide that lists all (if that is possible) Tiki outposts in all cities is the Tiki Bar Review Pages to be found on James Teitelbaum's website http://www.tydirium.net
Though not updated in a while (James is working on the book version) it should always be consulted first when traveling to other towns.
As for Chicago: When in Chicago, NEVER pass up going to the Hala Kahiki, and if it is the only thing you do in that town. It is the King Tut's tomb of Witco, and after the demise of the Kahiki it firmly sits on place two after the Mai Kai in my list of remaining Tiki Temples worth seeing.
Trader Vic's has gotten rid of it's last beachcomber lamps now, which gives a very empty feeling. The carved beams are the best thing left.
Chef Shangri La also has some fine late Witco artefacts, and better Mai Tais than the Hala Kahiki.


Although no longer "open for business" in the way summer tourists may enjoy, the Kona Kai at the Chicago O'Hare Marriott still exists and can be viewed on the sly by the determined visitor. The bar area was converted into a sushi joint a few years back, and the rest of it is still available to rent for wedding receptions and what not. Most weekends, you can wander in and crash a party, and on the weekdays when the sushi place is open, they'll pretty much let you roam around the rest of the place and check it out. It's certainly not as lively as the Hala Kahiki, but if you're looking to explore a full-on exotic environment, forgotten and empty but not yet fully gone, with waterfalls and tikis intact, it's worth a stop.


Amen! Hala Kahiki is IT! It will take about 20-30 minutes to drive there from downtown, but it is worth it. Get driving directions (to and from) off the Net before you go.

It is the ultimate I have seen. Awesome music, tikis galore, decor to die for. And the big bonus: next door they have a Hawaiianna store where you can buy everything from 4 foot tikis to hundreds of vintage shirts to mugs, key fobs. Everything. And the wait staff at the bar pick their clothes from the stock.

I agree with the review though. the bartender was pour. My drink was empty for a long time. I had to call the guy over. He was on the phone and just not interested. I was the only person at the bar for a long while . It was not that he was busy. The waitress was very nice. She is a blond and showed me around and encouraged pictures etc.

So take money to shop and have a damn good time. They are closed on Mondays I think. Call and be sure. they were closed the first night I tried which sucked. There was also 1.5 feet of snow so I could not get out to the gardens and see the other tikis.


[ Edited by: DaneTiki 2009-08-30 19:37 ]


I just realized, when I went to the Chicago Trader Vic's, I must have missed most of the restaurant! I sat in a little bar area with booths. I never knew there was more to the place, but judging from some posts, I guess there is!

I feel a little silly now.


Hala Kahiki is located) is easily reachable for $3 or so on the Metra (Chicago's commuter rail system).
Frankly, while I like going to Trader Vic's, the atmosphere is too uptight. I went there with my girlfriend for dinner last winter, and accidently got seated in the main dining room, which is completely stuffy & un-Tiki.

Uggh, I knew I shoulda looked into getting there that way. I was in Chicago and thought it was too, and not having a car figured no way I take the El that far. Dang it, I'll just have to return.

TV's is still a great room, especially the bar. I sat in the smoking section for dinner, which is weak on tiki. Mix in the history of TV and the great bartenders it's worth a visit. Especiially, hic!, on $4 Zombie night. That is wednesday for all interested.

There ain't much left "tiki-wise" anymore. So I say, visit TV and take what you can get. The televisions should go, as should the music, but that same affliction can be fond at Taboo Cove in Vegas.

Gotta go and plan my next trip to Chi now..let's see two Cubs games!


The Trader Vic's in Atlanta plays Hawaiian music, but it plays it at suck a low volume, you may not realize it's playing at all. I think Brian Eno designed their sound system during his Ambient phase.

Yes the Hala Kahiki is a hip joint I've been a couple of times just dont take a cab there because you will never get one to come pick you up. we had to walk about 1/2 a mile to the bus stop in a blizzard. also the first time I went was on a sat. night and the place was packed. there was a line to the main door luckly we got there just before. and the other times i've been when they first opened and there was not many people there, you could actually hear the music, walk around and see everything ( witco out the yang! ) and the drinks were prepared better which is good. But if you are hungry, better hit the burger king down the street otherwise you'll be havin' pretzels for dinner.

On 2002-05-29 14:34, DaneTiki wrote:
I just went down to Chi-town a couple of weeks ago and finally got to visit Hala Kahiki.
I went to Chicago on August 17th.Wasn't the Hala Kahiki great? It totally satisfied my need for a Tiki fix.Unfortunately my girlfriend had to work so she couldn't come with me. It was especially unfortunate for her as she was the one who acccompanied me to Hawaii a couple years ago. She says "It would just make me long for the sunshine of Hawaii.".
Anyway, I wanted to ask you-when you were coming down I-90 from the north did you see that kiddie-park on the right side of the freeway? It was called Volcano World or something like that. It had a few little Tiki huts sitting next to the volcano.


Addendum: You wrote that you took the metro to Hala kahiki so I assume you didn't drive to Chi-town. Anyway, the Volcano World thing looked kind of cool. I thought about stopping as I was just about to Chicago anyway. The sign for it had a Tiki face painted on it. I was wondering to myself if they might have a bar inside. I seriously doubt it though.

[ Edited by: SlovakTiki on 2002-09-04 08:05 ]

Does anyone here know if the Hala Kahiki still sells the old OMC Tall Fu Manchu's? I read somewhere that these were still being given away as the freebie with a certain drink. This particular patron said he was able to take home 2 - count 'em 2, of these mugs home after purchasing said drink.

I called there to see if I could purchase one but didn't want to dish out the cash for a the Orchids of Hawaii Fu Manchu knock-offs that are so prevalently used as the "take-home" these days. The person on the phone couldn't tell me because she wasn't sure what the difference was.

Anybody close to the Hala Kahiki to confirm this? These tall Fu Manchu's are different from the Orchids Fu Manchu's. They have a richer yellow color with smaller pupils and a more sinister facial smirk.


I'm sorry that I'm not totally sure which kind, but there are definitely Fu's for sale in the Hala's gift shop. They do look like the one in your sig. gif., Pop. I'm sorry I can't be more specific. There were no stickers on the bottom, and they were $7.95

Oh, okay. Well, the one in my signature is an OOH. They are probably selling the knock-off since OOH is out of business now. I'll have to post a picture of the Fu I'm talking about. I have one at home but it's marked Dr. Wong's in raised letters on the back instead. I believe the Hala Kahiki's Fu was marked with raised Chinese characters/letters on the back.


[ Edited by: DaneTiki 2009-08-30 19:31 ]


Trying to wrap up a few of these loose ends:

-- a Labor Day trip to HK would suggest those are not the Fu's you're looking for...

-- travel to HK is best accomplished via a private sedan/driver deal or getting a friendly native with a car (like me) to haul you out there (that's a hell of a walk from the Blue Line, even sober on the best day of summer...)
-- Volcano Beach Mini Golf just north of Rockford on I-90 is probably a stop for only the most dedicated explorer. The logo is nice, though, and the "pink water" volcano is a cute effort...

-- not sure which polynesian resort in the Dells Dane is talking about, but if ever there was a town that could probably benefit from and support some real tiki flavor instead of the smattering of stuff that's there now, it's the Dells...drop it in on the river next to Robot World and it would really class up the place...


[ Edited by: DaneTiki 2009-08-30 19:31 ]


(ancient and now innacurate post deleted)

[ Edited by: tikibars 2005-11-30 14:29 ]


Far be it from me to contradict JT, but the Hala was selling plenty of mugs in the gift shop when I was there last month. I even bought one. It's just that none of the mugs are branded or marked Hala Kahiki or unique in any way. They have Fu's, bamboos, skulls, buddas, volcano bowls, and a few others. All about 7 or 8 bucks. Our scorpion was served in a volcano bowl, but all the others were in plain glass.



On 2002-09-23 16:49, martiki6 wrote:
Far be it from me to contradict JT, but the Hala was selling plenty of mugs in the gift shop when I was there last month. I even bought one. It's just that none of the mugs are branded or marked Hala Kahiki or unique in any way. They have Fu's, bamboos, skulls, buddas, volcano bowls, and a few others. All about 7 or 8 bucks. Our scorpion was served in a volcano bowl, but all the others were in plain glass.

Right. I wasn't clear on that. They do sell mugs in the gift shop, and in the quantity and variety you describe (but none are marked "Hala Kahiki" as you noticed). What I meant was that they don't serve very many of their 95 drinks in Tiki mugs (I think one or two come in bamboo shoot mugs, and possibly a Fu Manchu, and of course the Scorppion bowls are sued). But, given that they have mugs for sale in the gift shop, they COULD serve drinks in the mugs, and charge a bit extra to keep the mug, just as you would expect, but they don't do that. I guess too many people stole the Orchids mugs they used to use, so they stopped using Tiki Mugs altogether. But since they sell 'em in the gift shop, why not use 'em in the bar, and just charge extra for the drink...? They just don't. It is a mystery.

I'm headed to Chicago this evening and hope to get to Vics on Monday night and Hala Kahiki on Tuesday night. (I'll be doing taxi's.) Right now, I'm torn between rushing to my hotel (the McCormick Hyatt) for the Gleason movie tonight, or nosing around the O'Hare Marriott when I arrive to try and sneak a peek at the old Kona Kai. If anyone wants to meet up on Monday or Tuesday, send and e-mail with a phone number. I'll probably be able to get to Vic's and Hala Kahiki around 7:30 - 8 pm both nights.

Call me easily amused, or get strident and indignent and call me a tiki whore..., but I had a great time at Trader Vic's in Chicago tonight! Yes, I'm kinda of rum influenced right now -- but let me issue this warning -- Do not be put off by the the sour expericiences of others when searching out tiki temples. I was not expecting much at Chicago Vic's after Swen wrote about their denuding the place of vintage light fixtures, and JT wrote about the uptight crowd he encounterd there -- but everything about my visit tonight was primo braddah's and sista's. I got out of the cab and there to greet me on the sidewalk of the Palmer House Hilton was a five foot moai channeling all kinds of tiki aloha and mana into my already primed brain. I went downstairs and a perfectly delightful wahine greeted me with a warm smile and asked if I was there for drinks or dinner. Of course I said, "both and pictures" and she looked at me knowingly and ushered me to a booth by the bar. The Trader's hut was inhabited, but not crowded so I scaned the vintage menu, ordered a Somaon Fog Cutter and then started ambling around looking at the tikis, the prints of Captain Cook, the giant clam shells, the prints of Gaugain paintings, the Luau room, and the mugs and the incredible carving on the ceiling beams, the outriggers and the tikis and (did I mention the shelf full of the mugs), and the framed Trader Quotes and the trader advertising, and the stuff for sale like mugs, ash trays, shirts, caps and drink mixs. Oh yeah, and the Trader Vic's dishes that were set on all of the tables with Trader Vics coasters and napkins. (Geez, we got short-changed in Atlanta Guys -- where the hell was all this stuff Hukilau guys????)
Anyway, I consumed my very potent fog cutter and ordered a Menehuni Juice (Monday night special) and then devoured a Maui pork chop that was cooked in the Chinese ovens and was freakin, mouthwatering delicious -- and then called my lovely serving girl back for a flaming coffee grog -- which I blew out too soon and caused a 151 oil slick on, so that I defeated my caffine injection strategy and got really smashed. Meanwhile, the manager kept bringing stuff over to my table in brown paper sacks that I wanted -- drink mixs, an ash tray, a long-sleeved tee -- and I was throwing napkins and coasters in the sack -- geez, what was this going to cost anyway? Regardless, the price was worth every penny, except the fu$#in film, which was $9 in the hotel gift shop. But, who cares because I asked the sweet thing at the desk if I could possibly buy one of their delightful drink menus, and she said, "no, but I wiil give you one." And, when I tried to give her ten bucks for it anyway, she absolutely refused like she wanted me to take her home instead. So there! Chicago Vics can be nirvana if you have the right mana, bring a pleasant demeanor and exude charm that comes standard with a Visa gold card!
And, I haven't even hit the Hala Kahiki yet. Okay, It's time to pass out now. I have to work a gadam trade show in the morning. dam.

[ Edited by: kailuageoff on 2002-10-14 23:31 ]


Chicago TV's is a blast, an outright Tiki gem in my opinion. Went in May...unable to get to Hala Kahiki, but made my presecene and Amex card known at TV's every night I was in town. I was there for $4 Zombie night and then the following night for $4 Mai-Tais, and a couple of other nights too, but those are a haze. Anything is a haze after $4 Zombies.

Glad you enjoyed yourself. I bet you have an equally great time at Hala Kahiki.

Jealous in SF, but the Giants are Series bound!


Glad you had a great time! It does go to show that individual's experiences can vary. All one needs is a crappy bartender, waitress/waiter or a combination and it is easy to say "Hey this place sucks!"and then you tell your friends and Tiki Central folks about your awful experience.
If the place has good bones and,ESPECIALLY,
if the Tiki establishment has been around awhile,I say by a means take a chance and check it out on your own. It may be the best place YOU(the generic you) have ever been to. A perfect establishment never has an off night in terms of the customers experience, but a great establishment can have a crappy night every now and then and maybe you will be there when the place is top-notch.
Of course if 50 or more different people keep saying things like "the music at Taboo Cove Sucks", there is a good chance that more often than not it does-but, then again, some Tiki-Centralite was there not too long ago and I think he said they were actually playing some good music.
Live a little-take a chance if it won't put you out too much. Time for me too shut up-I hope I made some sense.

Everything previously said about Hala Kahiki is correct. AAA+++ and on a level approaching the Mai -Kai, and a bit better than the Alibi. Also, I think I told some people awhile ago that I would not be interested in going to Chicago for a tiki weekend, but after my experiences this week I have to correct myself and admit that Chicago would be a wonderful place for a tiki weekend. (BigBro: Roy the bartender told me all about your 12 hour photo shoot and wanted know when the book would be available.)


I especially liked Kailuageoff's drunken reviews!

I think Trader Vic's in general has improved greatly in quality of drinks, food, and even in service over the last year or 2. I have noticed it in Emeryville, and on my visit to Bev. Hills I had no problems with the service and the drinks and food were the best I ever had at Vic's (beating Emeryville hands down). Weirdunc told me that he has never had a young, inexperienced bartender at the Bev. Hills location, which may explain why their drinks are so consistently good.

I don't know how they did it but I applaud them!

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