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Name:Bahooka
Type:restaurant
Street:4501 N Rosemad Blvd.
City:Rosemead
State:CA
Zip:91770
country:USA
Phone:(626) 285-1241
Status:Defunct

Description:
Bahooka, a combination restaurant/bar, is abundantly decorated in tiki/nautical themes, and has the distinction of being the coolest thing in Rosemead, easily.

For nearly thirty years I wondered if the place was as neat-looking on the inside as on the outside. When I finally went in the place, I was amazed to find that 90% of the walls are lined with lit fishtanks; and there is one very large fish named "Rufus" that is there to greet you when you go in.

This place is far enough away from Los Angeles that the "hip crowd" does not tend to congregate there, so Bahooka comes off as a "hidden treasure" tucked away in the rather unspectacular town of Rosemead. This is a major part of Bahooka's charm.

Moody lighting has a tendency to obscure many of the tiki figures within, but good photos (and a history of the place) can be found at the official site:

http://www.geocities.com/bahookarestaurant/

Oh yes: They serve drinks that will absolutely lay you out flat, too.

[ Edited by: procinema29 on 2003-08-06 17:07 ]

[ Edited by: Bora Boris 2013-03-10 15:35 ]

Bahooka's is mesmerizing for the tiki fan. An A-frame roof rises from behind a grove of palm trees and is illuminted by a 50s style sign.

Just inside the door there is a tiki which happily has remained put, despite various efforts to take it home as a souvenir. (The hostess shared various stories about foiled larcenous efforts).

Bahooka is much more of a resturant than a bar and closes accordingly.

I respectfully disagree with James Teittelbaum, I think Bahooka has a very low TIPSY rating, even if my table did have a tiki presiding.

Bahooka resembles the Warehouse in Marina Del Rey, as they both have a similar nautical theme with just a passing reference to tiki. It is not like Trader Vics, a tiki resturant which incorporates a nautical theme.

The prices are most reasonable, unlike Trader Vics.

The place is dark (I think the only lighting is from the fishtanks), so if you can't wait to get home to get busy, this is the place.

However, do arrive before dark, as the there are several other noteworthy tiki architectural places on Rosemead, such as the Kaplua Apartments.

I finally made it out to the Bahooka on Monday for lunch. I can't believe I've ignored the hype over this place for so long. The fish tanks and the continuous bubbling sound through out the restaurant were unlike anything I've ever experienced in a restaurant before. It's like eating in a sunken ship.

The drinks that I had (planter's punch and shrunken head) were very good with good presentation. Even the soft drinks are served in bamboo shaped clear glasses. The house specialty, the ribs, for 6 bucks were delicious.

Even though some people don't consider the Bahooka a straight ahead tiki bar/ restaurant, I, personally think that it falls right in line with what is considered a tiki establishment. The ambiance was amazing and there were plenty of tikis there. I have always heard that there aren't many tikis at the Bahooka but I saw at least seven. Maybe they got some new ones recently? Anyway, here are some of pics that I shot.

The majestic BAHOOKA

The first tiki that you see walking into the restaurant.

Crazy carrot eating 'parana-like' paca.

The bar. Note the plexiglass fish tank bar top. It doesn't get much cooler than that.

A dining area in the Bahooka. Check out the hanging float lights and the carved tiki poles on the back wall. This dining area is kinda atypical of the Bahooka. Most of the restaurant is a maze of booths and different room. The lighting is super low and kinda reddish too.

Bad picture but another tiki. My girlfriend pointed out the jail cell gate behind the tiki. I don't know how they decided to put that in there but it definitely adds to the eclecticism. Eating in there is probably like eating in the stockade of a ship.

I noticed this Witco in one of the booth areas. Looks like it used to be a stool and is missing the cushion that goes on top.

What a cool place. Good food, great drinks. I endorse it fully.


Spike

[ Edited by: Luckydesigns on 2003-10-15 00:25 ]

LuckyDesigns:

Extraordinary photographs!

I revise my low TIPSY score. Tikis abound! The gods would be amused.

I don't remember even half of the tikis when I went to Bahooka's (even before I dived into the drink menu) as I asked for a tour of the tikis from the waitress.

Good analogy to dinning in a shipwreck under water based on the fish tanks, the gurgling sound of the fish tanks, the low, filtered lighting and the ubiquitous nautical decor.

Also, particularly noteworthy is your description of the bartop.

Thanks for the kind words, Chris. It looked like most of the tikis were new. Maybe since the 'Tiki Road Trip' came out, they got wise to the appeal of tiki.

I've been to 30-some-odd tiki places this year (so far!), and Bahooka is one of my very favorites -- perhaps behind only the Mai Kai. There's nothing obviously special about it, but I really like it. I think it's the place that best brings me back to what it was like to walk into a fancy restaurant when I was a little kid (of course, when I was a little kid, Sea Galley was the Ultimate Nice Restaurant to me). I have a feeling I'll be going there pretty frequently once I'm settled in Pasadena.

Spike, I spotted that Witco when I was there, too, tucked into a corner up above a booth. That's one really cool thing about Bahooka -- you can't take in all the details all in one visit.


The best tiki bar is the one that's within stumbling distance of your bed
The Humuhumu Room

[ Edited by: Humuhumu on 2003-10-15 23:22 ]

Bahookas is a great vintage tiki restaurant. The food is so-so, but the drinks will get you tanked quick! YUMMY!!!

D

I had my first visit to the Bahooka last June. I loved it, the atmosphere was dark and moody. It doesn't look very big from the outside. When I got inside I was surprised to see how many booths they had in there, its a pretty big building but somehow maintains a very small, intimate feeling inside. Has anyone taken a drive up the road and visited the Tiki apartments up the street? Tiki's abound!

H

In preparation for attending the Von Franco event at Bahooka, I could use some drink assistance. Every time I'm at Bahooka I order the Jet Set Monkey Business, because, well, jeez, it's a Jet Set Monkey Business!! But it's awful.

Which drinks at Bahooka are the good(ish) ones?

L
laney posted on Wed, Jun 30, 2004 6:34 PM

Humu, as you will see if you sit with us on the 10th. We always get bowls.
They'll make anything in a bowl for two. I've been going with my friend Keith for almost 10 years. He dosen't do coconut or tequila (although I did talk him into a cadillac margarita sub amaretto float in a bowl once-it's good) We do the "close your eyes and point" and get that in a bowl. They're ususally fruity but the Zombie is pretty strong! We'll get like 3-4 bowls and just see what we like. I always end up forgetting what we ordered anyway.

H

I was there aweek ago with a friend, we ordered a few Mai tais, at the bar. The bartender made them extremely good and strong. He was a great conversationalist. It was great.

this place is amazing, ...glad me and the wahine made the stop there on our little cali tiki tour vacation last year....the portions on the food are unreal, and the drinks made well.....went with the hand grenade with pin pulled as suggested by sir james in tiki road trip, and was hung over the next day....definately potient.......wish i could be there for the von franco show.......

On 2003-10-15 23:12, Luckydesigns wrote:
Thanks for the kind words, Chris. It looked like most of the tikis were new. Maybe since the 'Tiki Road Trip' came out, they got wise to the appeal of tiki.

I'm a little embarassed to state that it took me all this time to get back there, but well worth the wait! Tikis are everywhere, including the magnificent 10 foot tiki in front.

The cuisine was also delicious! The teriyaki chicken and rib special was incredible. At $17.99, not a bad price either. Comes with house salad or soup and a side.

However, the tiki mug situation is appalling. There are no tiki mugs, as the waitress defiantly repeated to me.

The tiki volcano bowl is a brown salad bowel with the candle in the middle.

Please remember, anyone dining at Bahooka's:

PRINT OUT THE $5.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE FROM THEIR WEBSITE!

I must say I LOOOOVED Bahooka! Everyone was so nice, we took our 103 grandma and the staff let us in a hour early!!! The place is entirely decked out in Tiki. 125 fishtanks, turtles, a jail. You cannot imagine how coolthis place is. We had the Honey Bowl to share. Got totally plastered! Food was OK, prices for lunch amazingly cheap. Cannot wait to go back for a drink at the fish-tank bar! Yes, we bought the T-shirt.

When you order a drink ask for a GRENADE with the PIN PULLED. You Won't be sorry! Woo Hoo!! :)

I'm so stoked that everyone seems to go bugnuts over Bahooka. It is such a for real place.

One Grenade with the pin pulled will definitely get your party started right!!! That and 3 Bazooka Bowls (Straws Up!) and things get a little crazy!!! I recommend the ribs off the rack..not the samplers!

On 2005-06-09 10:18, mysmartloan wrote:
One Grenade with the pin pulled will definitely get your party started right!!! That and 3 Bazooka Bowls (Straws Up!) and things get a little crazy!!! I recommend the ribs off the rack..not the samplers!

Mymartloan You're SO TIKI!!! Woo Hoo :wink:

M

Bahookas is just what you need after a long day of tiki hunting...

When no one's looking... hop in the boat out back... RUSTY you say!!! I say FUN!!!

OL

Here is some more info about the history of the Bahooka, as told by Stacy the bartender.

The owner of the Bahooka was named Jack, who traveled around the south seas as a navy private in the early 1950's. When he left the navy he learned the restaurant business while working at Kelbo's for 10 years.

In 1967 he started the first Bahooka restaurant in West Covina with his sister and younger brother. This restaurant was in operation from 1967 to 1980, and Jack kept adding on to it as the business grew. Unfortunately the building grew three feet over the property line and he lost his lease in a legal dispute. The contents were removed, a beautiful custom-built bar was sold off, and the building was demolished.

In 1976 Jack had opened a second restaurant in Rosemead. From 1976 to 1980 there were two Bahookas in operation. This time he owned the land rather than leasing. The city officials were reluctant to issue a liquor license to an establishment across the street from a high school. Apparently their fears were well-founded, because Krustiki recalls being served alcohol there when he was under the legal age.

Stacy said that the 1980's were lean years for the Bahooka. The only way they stayed in business was to have family members do all the work - cooking, cleaning, serving, etc.

Then in 1987, a television restaurant critic named Elmer Dills did a story about the Bahooka, and business improved considerably for the next five years. Since then they've had ups and downs, but right now they're doing OK.
The Bahooka appeared briefly in the movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas".

Stacy told us about some of the decor that can be found around the Bahooka. Much of the authentic nautical items were sold as scrap out of a navy stockyard in Long Beach:

350 mm cannon and anchor

life boat

Air intake tube

Other ship stuff?

Jack collected many weird and wonderful things while traveling all around the southwest.

Jail doors from Lincoln Heights

At one time he had up to 20 of these old gas tanks. For a awhile they were converted into fish tanks, but they developed leaks over the years.

Lots of interesting items like this flag from a WWII warship. The Japanese flags represent boats and planes they shot down.

You can spend a whole evening exploring the Bahooka, which is cluttered with new treasures in every row.

They have over 100 fish tanks, which add to the ambiance and provide most of the light in the restaurant.

The food is tasty and inexpensive (Krustiki recommends the ribs) and the drinks are strong and sweet.

Great story and cool pic's-I am ready to pay another visit to Bahooka any day now!!!

On 2005-09-07 21:31, ookoo lady wrote:
The city officials were reluctant to issue a liquor license to an establishment across the street from a high school. Apparently their fears were well-founded, because Krustiki recalls being served alcohol there when he was under the legal age.

Unfortunately they were known for this in the '80s, but it probably peaked some kids interest in Tiki, too. There are many old Tiki/Exotica/Nautical apartment buildings along Rosemead, I wonder what the relationship is between their remaining the same & the Bahooka: Did the Bahooka influence the building owners to keep the Tikis, or did the Tikis influence the Bahooka to keep going?


Air intake tube

You mean Krustiki Intake Tube. :D

Just a little tweaking...

I don't believe that there are Privates in the
navy. Ensigns yes, Privates no. Privates are
Army,Marines, and Air Force.

Navy Rates
http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ranks/rates/rates.html

And the Cannon. While I'm not sure of the exact
make and model, it is probably a 3 inch or 5 inch
anti-aircraft cannon. The largest howitzers in the
army or marines are around 155mm in bore size.
A 355mm cannon would be massive.

Just minor points as I said.

That said, I love Bahooka.

I need to go back soon.

T

A little tweaking of the tweaking...

On 2005-09-08 08:09, TikiGardener wrote:
Just a little tweaking...

I don't believe that there are Privates in the
navy. Ensigns yes, Privates no. Privates are
Army,Marines, and Air Force.

He would have been a Seaman Recruit. An Ensign is an officers rate (the same as a lieutenant).

it is probably a 3 inch or 5 inch
anti-aircraft cannon.

Yes, it is a 3 inch / 50 cal / Mark 22 dual purpose gun (for both surface and AA).

That said, I love Bahooka.

Well said. We stopped by last weekend. The wahine had never been there before. She was a bit surprised at first, when our Bahooka Bowl was served in a wooden salad bowl. But after consuming 2/3 of it ('helping' me out, since I had to drive), she had a grand old time!!! Our daughter looked forward mostly to seeing Rufus, the carrot eating fish. She was surprised that he was much larger than the photos of him on TC.

Gotta get the recipe for that Bahooka Bowl...


The Tikipedia
www.tikipedia.com

[ Edited by: tikipedia 2005-09-08 11:24 ]

OL

On 2005-09-08 07:51, freddiefreelance wrote:
it probably peaked some kids interest in Tiki, too.

It certainly influenced my taste in Tiki. This sort of dimly lit, eclectic and cluttered atmosphere is my idea of what a Tiki bar should look like. When I was a kid I imagined that it was built from things that washed up on the shore of a remote island.

I remember when the Bahooka tolerated and even encouraged graffiti inside. Every booth, wall, and table top was covered with names and dates. They stopped allowing it when "tagging" became a problem in the outside world.

The flaming drink bowls used to be served in large clam shells. As they disappeared (broken or stolen) they were replaced with wooden bowls.

RD

I've only been there once, but Bahooka is easily one of my favorite theme restaurants. We went during one of the torrential downpours of last winter. The parking lot was nearly flooded so we ran past all the neat outside artifacts straight into the restaurant. Parts of the roof were soaking through and one of the back dining areas was leaking so badly it was closed off. The wet carpet gave the place an appropriate soggy/musty smell. Needless to say I walked over every square inch of the joint to check it out. My party was pretty huge so we didn't get a booth, which made me sad. That place has THE COOLEST BOOTHS ever. EVER. Especially the jail ones. Well worth a long drive, even in a the middle of a monsoon.

-Joe

When my wife and I went there first time, we got the one booth thats is like a three foot cubby hole. Completly secluded in the bowels of Bahooka. Great first time!!!

And thanks for the tweaking of the tweaking. I knew 3" and 5" guns could be used to fire on surface ships, I'm just used to seeing them pointed skyward, blasting away, in old episodes of Victory At Sea.

Those pictures are great. Hopefully I can make it over there this year. Does anyone know if Von Franco is having his annual tiki party there this year?

OL

The Bahooka management is disappointed that Von Franco is not holding their show this year. Apparently there were scheduling conflicts.

If someone else wants to step forward and organize a big tiki event at the Bahooka, they would love to hear from you.

Maybe it's the rum, but...like Dr. Who's Tardis, the Bahooka is clearly much larger on the inside than it is on the outside. I have walked around the interior several times, and I am telling you that you cannot FIT the inside into the outside. Not even with television.

Love the Bahooka. I've gone there for my birthday for the past three years.

The ribs are pretty good, not the best ever, but certainly above average. Some of the rest of the food was a little bit too fried. Lots of fried breaded stuff. But I guess that's the authentic cuisine from back in the day.

The drinks are fantastic. The decor is hilarious and adorable. The fish tanks are cool as hell. Is Rufus still alive?

If you've never been to Bahooka, it's worth at least one trip, maybe a drive of one or two hours. Good road trip.

7
7echo posted on Mon, Oct 24, 2005 9:10 PM

Can anyone confirm that it is open again as of 10-24-05? I drove there on 07-21-05 for my kids' birthday (after checking the website for hours, directions, etc, no hint of problems) only to arrive to find that it was CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS until at least 09-27-05 according to the sign posted outside. Also, the post about it being run by a former employee of Kelbos', I remember reading that in a magazine a number of years ago, and from personal experience, the menu at Bahooka is almost identical to Kelbo's in it's prime (hooray for the baked yams & ribs!!!) Only thing missing is the neon-backlit boards at each booth illustrating the various mixed drinks available. I remember one (can't recall the name of the drink, though) that was touted as being Johnny Carson's favorite whne ever he visited. Gee, the good ole' days!!!!

RR

I ate lunch there last week. If they renovated it, I couldn't tell. The place still leaks when it rains.

I was there twice in August; the second time, with my girlfriend and her four-year-old niece. They'll serve ANY drink on fire, you know; they even served the little girl's milk with a flaming crouton suspended above. We were all impressed with that. I think I shot a couple hundred photos. The place is a beautiful aquarium-lined, tiki-peppered labyrinth.

Order a "Grenade" from the bar (while you're looking down at the fish under the bartop!) AND....if you're feeling a little crazy......order it with the pin pulled! Don't order more than two and expect to drive very well!!!
SoccerTiki

I went here for the first time and really had a good time. The ribs are great and I had a flaming side salad. Everyone else at my table gave me strange looks when I ordered it but were impressed when they brought it out. One of the staff members said that on monday (this would have been December 26th) they were going to be closed to film a movie with Jim Carrey. Fun times.

sporkboyofjustice wrote

One of the staff members said that on monday (this would have been December 26th) they were going to be closed to film a movie with Jim Carrey. Fun times.

As noted previously in this listing, Bahooka was used as a location for "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." I haven't seen the movie, but one of the staff told us it was the booth at the very end of the aisle after you go in and turn right.

As far as I know, several angles of the inside are seen (even giant fish Rufus can be seen!), and there is a shot that was taken outside in the parking lot. I think one of the waiters mentioned that the table you described was the "Johnny Depp table," or the table Depp relaxed at while they filmed there.

I lived just a few miles away from the Bahooka back in the Seventies. In high school, it was a popular place to take a date for dinner because you could make out in the booths and some of the waiters would serve us alcohol without checking IDs.

I went back there last Christmas for the first time in almost 30 years. We had our kids with us this time, so no booth nooky for me and Missus Bali Hai, but it was still a lot of fun.

MrBaliHai, this one's for you:
Enjoying the presentation of a flaming Mai Tai at the Bahooka.

I was there twice in August...went to Tiki Ti right afterwards...nothing against Tiki Ti, and I perceive it's coolness, but I prefer the tranquility of Bahooka.


http://www.thelope.blogspot.com

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2005-12-30 21:50 ]

Our lovely server eyes Rufus...and vice versa.


http://www.thelope.blogspot.com

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2005-12-30 22:07 ]

Great pics, 'lope! That shot of Rufus is a classic. There was a line 5 deep to toss him carrots on the night we were there, so my kids were disappointed.

And I agree that the Ti is not a place known for its peace and quiet, but I sure met a lot of cool folks there the last time I went, and the drinks were amazingly good. Bahooka is the place to take people you already know for some intimate socializing, and watch Go-Go light stuff on fire.

I went there for the first time this weekend and loved every minute of it. On a side note there were alot of rigging trucks in the back and a truck from Univerisal Studios. When we arrived inside I inquired about all the trucks and people out back. The management told me that tommorow(today) they were filming a suspense/thriller movie staring Jim Carey titled "Number 23". While on a non chalent trip to the restroom I could see into the area they had marked off and they had put of Christmas decorations in the parts they would be filming. Rufus was ever present and eating his usual carrots.

On 2005-12-30 22:06, tikijackalope wrote:
Our lovely server eyes Rufus...and vice versa.


http://www.thelope.blogspot.com

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2005-12-30 22:07 ]

How do you get Rufus' attention? Sit at the bar & make noises like a Carrot!

freddiefreelance asked:

How do you get Rufus' attention? Sit at the bar & make noises like a Carrot!

Tybo the carrot man from Lost in Space eagerly awaits a table at Bahooka...

...but recoils in horror at the onslaught of Rufus.


http://www.thelope.com

[ Edited by: tikijackalope 2007-02-11 09:30 ]

K
kirby posted on Fri, Feb 10, 2006 5:34 PM

anyone up for sum bahooka tonight.. I need to get sum crab stuffed shrimp...kirby

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