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Far East Imperial, Pompano Beach, FL (restaurant)

Pages: 1 40 replies

Name:Far East Imperial
City:Pompano Beach


The postcard showing the Kon Tiki Bar at the Imperial Lounge in Harris' Far East Imperial Restaurant was THE image that struck me with "Tiki Awe" when I first opened The Book of Tiki. The full page shot of this bar was amazing with towering rock wall and the floor to ceiling Tikis!

I finally got the card a while back.

The back of the card provides a good description of the restaurant, with the Cuban stone wall, Tahitian Idols and the Imperial Luau happy hour from 4-6 on weekdays.

I also have a couple of postcards that show the outside of the building. The majestic neon sign and lots of eastern style artifacts. There is even a lone tiki on the grounds.

Many of you will remember Basement Kahuna's grand archeological score of finding the tiki columns from the bar from this thread.



Here is another amazing postcard from showing the Imperial Lounge from Mimi's website.


What a fabulous place! I was always grateful for it providing one of the key images of the Book of Tiki. That first bar shot (and its caption) says it all! And now the exterior, it's so Asian Modern.

I wonder if the owner was American, or as is the case sometimes, was an Asian who americanized his name. If "Surfer" is still checking in here, he could answer that question:

On 2008-05-13 13:33, Surfer wrote:
WOW, sadly I hate to report Sam Harris, a good friend of my dads passed away some years ago. This post brings back memories, went to the "Imperial House" many times as a kid. I still live very close by, but alas the building was leveled and dirt is all that's left.

The name "Far East" is intriguing, because it is not outright Chinese, so he absolutely could have been a WWII-generation American (like a Pacific veteran, or foreign envoy) that came up with an Exotica/ Ports of Call concept.


Interesting thing about the name - it appears that the Far East was dropped at some point as the back of my postcard has Harris' Imperial as the name.



Here is the dinner menu from far east imperial and the dinner menu from imperial house. these menus have simmilar prices but layout changed around. imperial house drink menu and inside. sorry not near a scanner.


Wow, awesome juxtaposition of Classic Chinese Menu and Tiki aesthetics.

Looks like my kinda place.

Pass the egg rolls please !

On 2009-06-06 11:57, Dustycajun wrote:
Interesting thing about the name - it appears that the Far East was dropped at some point as the back of my postcard has Harris' Imperial as the name.

Ha! Maybe my hunch is right, especially judging by the "crest" logos on the menu covers: The eagle with the arrows is American, right? Maybe "Imperial" really was the unabashed motto, an attitude that later when the Vietnam war went awry acquired the negative connotation of being "imperialistic".


What a killer place.How does such a cool place like this get leveled is beyond me.
Could you imagine this place are one like it, up and operating today with that
incredible interior.Oh the humanity of it all !!!!
Another xlnt post by da man himself DC .


Based on Basement Kahuna and Geoff picking up two even sets.There are still three
more sets of tikis floating out there .The post card showing a total of five floor
to ceiling tikis.I would give my right &** @ for one of those complete tikis!

So it was the Far East Imperial, The Imperial House, and The Imperial.

Would have to agree with Bigbro on the military influence with the crest logo.

Here's another great early Far East Imperial menu from Mimi's website.

Check the description for the Far East Imperial bowl - sounds like espionage!


On 2009-06-06 18:14, 1961surf wrote:
Based on Basement Kahuna and Geoff picking up two even sets.There are still three
more sets of tikis floating out there .The post card showing a total of five floor
to ceiling tikis.I would give my right &** @ for one of those complete tikis!

actually there are more of those tikis floating around if you consider that they were all half tikis with the inside cored out to fit around the support poles in the bar....odds are good you may find just one half somewhere out there if you can't find a whole one containing both halves....


Thanks for this great post, DC! I've wondered what the rest of this place looked like.

It's interesting to note that the cocktail menu DC posted features the Derby Daiquiri. This is a Mai-Kai drink. Even the graphic of the cocktail glass with the jockey stem is the glass that was designed specifically for the Derby Daiquiri and the Mai-Kai served thousands of them in that glass over the years. I think the menu drawings and the font used is the same as the Mai-Kai menu too. These two places were only about 5 miles apart, so maybe the Thornton brothers had their hands in it in some way? Either that or they were blatantly copied, which was a common practice.

Gator Rob,

Nice catch on the menu graphics comparison to the Mai Kai. Here is the Mai Kai menu with the Derby Daiquiri from Mimis website.


Swanky posted on Tue, Jun 9, 2009 1:02 PM

Actually, BK had more than the ones he ended up with. I can't recall now, but I know at least one more set of 2 of the carved poles was sold before Dave went home with his pair. They ended up at Geoff's place. He may have seen 6 of them, but at least 4 carvings.

FLMeg posted on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 6:40 PM

omg.Just randomly searching about my grandparents and I came across this. Sam Harris was my grandpa. So funny to read about other people talking about the Imperial. I hardly know where to begin. First, the one postcard with a solitary man in the background, that's Sam. Then, the one at the bar, my grandpa is the 4th individual from right. Kind of shadowed. Sam was from Crete, Stamatis Huardikas,(sp) off the boat, and began bussing tables without knowing word one of English. So fascinating knowing someone has or knows whereabouts of Tiki's? I used to swing around them when I was little. I would dearly love to touch one someday. Just knowing they were a part of people that so long ago left and were so precious to me. If I could answer any questions, I would be more than happy to.


there was also a mug for the kids:

[ Edited by: puamana 2009-06-10 20:50 ]



It's amazing how many times people find this site when looking for information on their parent/grandparent/etc who owned or worked in a long lost Polynesian-themed bar or restaurant. And it's great when it happens because you get to see all the things that have been collected here on it and you get to tell us what you know! We'd love to hear any stories you have on the place and on Sam Harris. How did he come to own the Imperial? Is there any connection between the Imperial and the Mai-Kai (reference my earlier post)? Do you have any pictures, newspaper articles, menus, etc from or about the place?

Here are some pictures of one (or really, two halves) of the Imperial tikis. This is from KailuaGeoff's thread of his home bar, the Honolulu Lounge. I've been in his home bar and seen those tikis up close. They are really something special.

Yes, and we thought it was amazing to have someone post here who's dad was friends with the guy. FLMeg, now you have posted here, and see the kind of ephemera we are interested in, you gotta ask around in your family if they have any material. I would love to see more pictures of other parts of the restaurant, it looks like a two story building, in the background of the postcard with only your grandpa ( I never noticed him sitting there before!) there are stairs going up? And someone who has that card, please zoom in on him with your scanner and post it here.

And then questions that maybe your parents know the answer to: Where did your grandpa get his fascination with the Far East from? Was he stationed there in WWII? Or did he just love adventure books? Often when you grow up inside the family of a business owner, you realize you never asked those questions yourself, because the place was always there, and one took it for granted. :)

FLMeg posted on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 8:49 AM

Unfortunately, I have just gone through a move, and memorabilia type stuff is ? But I will find things at some point and certainly will post. Biggie Kanae was the entertainer at the Imperial House. I remember him as being a large man (or maybe I was little) and he played in the bar area, or what is referred to as the "Luau." Tiny Bubbles comes to mind. I don't recall the mugs for sale, truly, I just wanted those dumb umbrellas! Despite what the postcard shows, a stage was in there. As far as I know, no connection between Mai Kai and Imperial House. Of course, being biased, I would say the Imperial came first regarding drink menu. Who knows, maybe they had the same printer/add men. My grandpa had restaurants in Mich etc before moving to Miami Beach in the forties. I believe the Town House was the first restaurant he had in Lauderdale, then there was simultaneously the Sea Horse on Las Olas and the Imperial House in Pompano. Now I don't know the exact date, but the lease on the Imperial was always being renegotiated, and I remember my mom always saying how tough "she" was. She being the Kerby vacuum lady, who owned the strip at that time. This is prob info you don't ness want. As I unpack, I will try to offer anything pertinent. In the mean time,I selfishly read and cherish what you guys post. It is a window into my past. And is heartwarming. I know it is hard to imagine what happens to a grand place like that. And one wishes it could stand just as it was now. Well I do.

FLMeg posted on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 9:59 AM

The building was two stories. The back wall of the pic with the staircase is actually a complete mirror, and it is a reflection of the staircase which was at the entrance. Upstairs was used for parties, (three huge dining halls)weddings and the like. There was an upstairs kitchen also, an office or two and a stinky restaurant elevator. I have e-mailed my sis and brother and hopefully they can contribute.(My bro is four yrs older and prob knows more) Sam served in WWI. Unfortunately, both of my parents have passed away. Thinking about the fact that, Sam was Greek, and had a Chinese/American restaurant with a Polynesian theme,and he was an excellent business man, somehow, pragmatically I think that was the bottom line. My uncle did serve in WWII in the Philippines and perhaps that was an influence. Gosh I don't know specifically though. What do you guys usually find? It is way cool to read about peeps eating there as kids and to (who knew?)visit you'all's site. Someone wrote about the buffet. Lordy, I worked there when I was 17-18 as a buffet girl. And someone wrote about snowbird's and Canadians. Yup. And the "season" or "sison" as Sam would say was ultimately their bread and butter. And there was always talk about what the previous night's "count" would be. The only time I ever saw my Nana (Ann) cry, was at her husband's funeral and one Christmas when a cook quit. But I tell my kids, in my life, I have never ever had such good food. Sam always went to big cities to get his cooks and prided himself in the authenticity of the meal being served. Thank you'all for preserving this genre. And give that great big tiki-man a squeeze from me.


FLMeg et.al.

I noticed the photos were by Rey Scott. I believe he was the same photographer from my old neighborhood in Ft. Laud. and had sons whom I grew up with in the 60's. One or more of the sons are in Atlanta now and met with Scott about 8 years ago. I'll try to reach him and see if he or his brothers have any photos.


By your handle I assume you are in Florida. What part?

Was just cruising through Duke's incredible Tiki room photos and saw this guy from the Imperial - thought I should add it here as well.


Hmm! And seeing how Duke arranged him with that other smaller Ku and the wall sculptures from that company he wrote a Tiki Magazine article about (whose name escapes me at the moment) points to a certain similarity in style: Could THEY have been the makers? I am sure that that is what he's suggesting with his arrangement.
The postcard caption "...features bar idols imported from Tahiti.." could very well be about the three carvings BEHIND the bar on the back bar.

Now that would be a question that FLMeg could ask her family --but I bet nobody but Sam would remember who made those iconic carvings.

I thought FLMeg might enjoy the fact that her Grandpa and his place are pictured in a book:

...albeit without any of the information that is just now, 9 years after its publication, coming to light. The book, "The Book of Tiki", is now out of print, unfortunately, and kinda expensive, you can get a good used one for around 65.- bucks:


I bet Meg's family would get a kick out of seeing the photo in a book. We are looking forward to hearing more about this fabulous place.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2009-07-03 04:32 ]

Those were two of my best finds ever. I miss them. But between Duke and Geoff they are definitely in good hands. Now to find those two that escaped to California.. (somewhere in America..)


I found a number of ads for this place.

June 1962 :down:

April 1963 :down:

June 1963 :down:

January 1964 :down:

As well as a photo of some ladies enjoying a mystery drink :down:

So with these ads, it looks like the name changed from Harris' to Far East somewhere between mid 1962 and early 1963.


Sam Harris II is the son of the past owners George(former Pres of the FL Rest. Assoc.) and ginny Harris of the Imperial House restaurant-Pompano Beach FL, which opened @ 1958, by his grandfather whose name was also Sam harris I who passed away in the late 1960's. Sam Harris II lived and worked 24/7 for 25 yrs w/his brother, mom/dad in this magnificent Chinese/Greek restaurant with tiki poles bars in the lounge, rib smoke ovens in the basement and VIP room/2 banquet rooms on the upper level- spiral decorated stairs overlooking the the lobby, The fabulous Polynesian and Grill rooms also were on the main floor. Spending the night during a hurricane at the Imperial restaurant near Pompano beach, FL was a great experience, everything came to life like a movie. The land where the great Imperial House once stood was a landmark for all especially at Christmas time & will always be haunted since it was lost, destroyed and leveled by #**#. Its a gigantic loss to the City of Pompano Beach, FL. Sam Harris II is alive today after 2 heart failures, living with his wife Terri and 2 children.

Ginny Harris sadly passed away today July 2, 2009 and she will greatly be missed by all who worked with her and the Harris family. Meg ? email us back. Lets meet up w/families for a reunion in FL someday.
You know the early years, we know the later years till the big end.

Wouldn't it be SPECIAL if former employees, friends, and family could post their memories on this site, so as we'll say "Ginny is with the Tiki Gods above - RIP". T & S.

[ Edited by: Monkey10 2009-07-03 16:37 ]

Time to bump this great thread with a matchbook, this one sporting the Imperial House name.

The building rendering looks different than the postcards.



Hi! Great website! While I am not into tikis per se, I was a very happy customer of Harris Imperial House in the day. The old ads here really bring back the memories. I ate there quite often (driving down from Boca on A1A with the top down in those days). I remember being so full that I would have to sit for 30 minutes just to get up and leave sometimes. I was younger then, of course, and could really eat a lot!

My memories are of sometimes eating upstairs on the weekends when it was very crowded downstairs. The food was so good. To this day, they had the best ribs I have ever eaten, and who on this Earth serves, or even knows what ambrosia is any more? No matter how much I ate at the buffet, I would always have a bite or more of the ambrosia at the end of the meal.

Of course the rest of the dishes were also quite good, and I was very sad when it closed. Other than the Sea Watch down the street, I can't think of a place I would rather go to eat than Harris'.

Thanks much for the real stories behind the restaurant and its history. If it were possible, I would open an identical place today, but I would guess that the food costs would be astronomical and thus it would be too expensive for the general public.

Thank-you, Mr. Harris, and of course to your late wife, chefs, staff, and other patrons for all you did to provide wonderful memories (and food!) to so many of us who have lived here over the years!



Found another great photo of the interior bar area on Flickr (posted by Chimay Bleue). This one really shows how the second floor balcony area integrated with the bar.

The photo must have come from an architectural mag as it included the following stats:

Architects: Gamble, Pownall, & Gilroy
Interior Design: Sam Horowitz of Idea Associates
Structural Engineering: D.E. Britt Associates
Contractor: Porcher Construction
Photography: James Forney of Lisanti Photography


Great find, DC! I love the juxtaposition of the modern ceiling design with the iconic Tikis, the high contrast floor and the sweeping, almost piano key-like bar. And good to see how the second floor balcony fit in with the space. What a beautiful photograph. My God, what a place! Time machine, let's go!


That floor is great! I want to do that. So much mortar is fantastic.

I too love this image from The Book of Tiki. I always wondered about the threesome sitting near the closest tiki and what they could be talking about. There is only one couple looking directly at the camera. I thought it might be the photographer with a long remote hooked to a gigantic Graphlex view camera. What a great place this must have been!

The Imperial house had the BEST spareribs and Meatballs, back in 2006 George Harris was working in an Olive GArden in Ormond beach Florida on A1a as we saw him there, he said that he gave the business to his son, and his son lost it to a gambling debt and closed it down, i have been trying to get the recipe for the sauce used to make the ribs and meatballs as it was incredible, i think if 1 opened back up it would be a goldmine



I did not know that was the reason it closed down. How sad! It was my favorite place for many, many years here. And, you are correct. The ribs were better than any Asian-style ones I have ever had or will ever have, I believe. The rest of the dishes were also excellent, and tell me when the last time you had the opportunity to eat ambrosia was, much less actually had any!

I have fond memories of sitting at the table for 30 minutes because we could not stand after so many trips to the food line! We used to put the top down on the car and drive down from Boca on A1A and just enjoy the entire evening, being stuffed and all. Of course, we were in our 20's in those days (early '70's) and two hours later we would be on the dance floor somewhere having even more fun.

I would love to open the same place again, but as everyone knows, you can't go backward, so we all must live with our very fond memories of a truly special place.



I picked up one of the matchbooks so I got a better scan,

The back of the matchbook lists the different rooms in the restaurant.

Not sure about the "Kirby Grill"?


Biggie Kanae is my grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away before I was born so I never got the opportunity to get to know him. Slowly, I have been able to find out a little more about him through sites such as this. It's amazing the legacy he left behind! Within the next few weeks, I hope to purchase or find a record player and finally hear my grandfather's voice for the first time. From what I hear from my dad, he was pretty amazing!


My parents always talked about going to Harris Imperial House on the weekends and hearing Biggie Kanae sing. He gave them an autographed album which I think my Mom still has somewhere! I'm sure listening to his album as a child must have started my interest in Hawaiian music. Did anyone else in the family go into music?

Picked up another postcard variation from the Far East Imperial. This one shows the bustling dinning room with the red-shirted oriental waiters.

That front table looks like the same men from the bar postcard.

Back of the card.


Found an article from 1959 documenting the construction and opening of Harris' Imperial House.

And another ad for the Sunday Luau Buffet.


Another nice little ad from the Far East Imperial with the question we have all asked about new "Tiki" bars:

Tiki or No Tiki?

This one definitely had Tiki.


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