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Tropical Hut, Chicago, IL (restaurant)

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Name:Tropical Hut
Street:1320-24 1/2 E. 57th St.

I don't have allot to go on for this one so here is what I know. Originally located at the above address but later moved to a larger location at 97th and Stony Island. The new location was much larger and the old location was demolished to make room for a new school. I have read that the Tropical Hut was the model for the Hawaiian House in Phillip Roth's Book Good-By Columbus. The location of the old Tropical Hut is now home of Leona's Restaurant. The address is 9156 S. Stony Island. I'm hoping some folks can add to the story. I am not even sure if the decor included any Tiki. I have had the matchbook for the Tropical Hut for years and am just now getting to it. I'll post a pic of the matchbook in a few. Thanks

[ Edited by: uncle trav 2009-05-09 17:46 ]

cirals house of tiki was on 51st in the hyde park neighborhood (yes, where obama lives).....so i'm thinking the tropical hut was located in the same area........as 57th is just south of there...

also, the mueseum of science and industry is right down there too..maybe on the same street which might account for the prefix MUseum on the cover...they used to list phone numbers like that ....

the museums address is 5700 lakeshore drive...the first block west of the museum is stony island..it runs north and south so they didn't move very far when they moved to the second location...

57th street is only a few blocks long from lake shore drive and west before it curves south into a street and the street name changes.........

[ Edited by: Tipsy McStagger 2009-05-09 20:39 ]

..and oddly enough, today out at the flea market i found (among others) that very same tropical hut book of matches you posted above......weird.

Here are some photos of the Tropical Hut in Chicago, but I doubt the same one as the matchbook. This Tropical Hut was located at one of the Jane Addams Housing Projects and was a safe place for teens to hang out and dance until curfew (at 10pm). They played music and served light refreshments.

:down:Here's a photo from 1944:

"the Tropical Hut at the Jane Addams Project in Chicago, November 12, 1944. In the background is Catherine O'Connor the barmaid. The rest (left to right) are Nick Marello, Rita Vasto, Dominic Petruzzelli, Tina Palumbo, Rita Schumacher, and Fred Bartuch."

:down: by 1948, the cardboard(?) orchids are gone, but it still looks to be a Swingin' Spot for teens:

I bet it was patterned (at least in name) on the real Tropical Hut Restaurant depicted on the matchbook. You can catch glimpses of the bamboo letters on the bar and they nearly match the font on the matchbook.


The address of the original Tropical Hut (or T-Hut) was: 1320-24 1/2 E. 57th St. Then it moved to 9156 S Stony Island Ave. Leona's Restaurant is now in this spot.

My family ate there every Sunday for years. We adored it. The ribs were displayed turning on a spit in the window.

There were 2 fantastic BBQ sauces, one mild, one stronger. (Does anyone have the recipes??????) I've read on the web that clove was one of the ingredients. They were served in a gravy boat, I think.

They also had a great Shrimp Cocktail and a great Pecan Pie, and a good creamy coleslaw. Also, there were booths, giving privacy. I can't remember if it was all booths or just part of the seating.

I heard it was closed at this location because the University of Chicago wanted to do something with the land, but then it sat empty for a long time. Basically, it was "urban renewed" away, even though the proprietors owned it.

One source says it was originally owned by 2 brothers, Peter and Stanley Pomiersky. Another shows Peter's last name shortened - so he was better known as Peter Pomier. Later, it was sold to Oradean Hawkins-Laster.

Here is a very complete article: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1985/06/28/page/127/article/restaurants#text

Other articles on the T-Hut on the web:

1 If you key in "tropical hut chicago tribune" you'll find an article from 1990, and others.
2 http://home.comcast.net/~bowen_1968/restaurants.html

Here is a postcard showing the interior of the Tropical Hut.

And a matchbook with a nice rendering from ebay.

They even served Mai Tais in the Surfside Cocktail Lounge.


Oooh, bad lighting for those photos, the (kinda naive) mural is totally washed out. The place might have looked good in mood lighting. Can you make out the design on the placemats if you zoom in? The napkins could be in a generic pattern…

As you probably noticed, that A-frame was taken from the classic "suggestive pomegranate" Trader Vic's bottle label:

…but what is really funny is that they added a Kahiki-style entrance door!:

Oh the mysteries of the Tiki transmission tradition!

P.S.: Could you zoom in on those 3 wall line drawings of (presumably) natives, also?

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2016-02-03 06:24 ]


Always with trained eye, I did not notice the Kahiki door on the Trader Vic's PNG A-Frame. That is crazy!

Here is a better pic of the mural, it was the classic smoldering volcano with net fisherman at the shore scene. There was also a surfing mural behind the bar. Lots of cool hanging lights.

A close up the other portion of the card, little hard to tell what the wall hangings and place-mats were.

Finally, a photo with a glimpse of the exterior.



Great to see the interior shots. I may have to make an expedition to the Chicago archives this summer and do some serious digging. Thanks for the posts.

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