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M

Alright, those in the know: I'm going to Chicago for a weekend next month and the itinerary looks like this:

  1. Hala Kahiki
  2. Vic's
  3. As much Frank Lloyd Wright as I can lay my eyes on.
  4. Art Institute

I'm looking for other must sees, as well as restaurant ideas.

Does anyone know if there is still any evidence of the Kona Kai at the O'Hare Marriott?

thanks all,
-martin

M

What, no game at wrigley? Go Cubs!

Hala Kahiki is a must, even if I as unable to go on my last visit, drat. TV's for Wed. night Zombie specials, or was that Thursday?

You have to get some deep-dish don't ya? Uno (and #2) is pretty good, think I went to Giodarno's (sp?) on my last trip, Gino's East is the most famous.

I always go to Harry Caray for dinner, it really does have top-notch Italian food. Have the Vesuvio chicken, trust midnite! Also for great Italian is Maggiano's Little Italy.

No idea about Marriot, I thought it was available for parties, but not "open" open. Did someone mention you could swing a looksee if you ask nicely? I think that is it, it's there (the room and decor) but only available for hire, parties/receptions and the like.

Check out the mug situatio at Hala Kahiki, let me know what is available, ebay prices getting me poor!

midnite

[ Edited by: midnite_tiki on 2002-07-16 12:20 ]

[ Edited by: midnite_tiki on 2002-07-16 12:21 ]

So here's some Chicago scoop on the Kona Kai room at the O'Hare Marriott:
-- I just got off the phone with one of their sales directors, who said that the room is still intact (for now...there's word it may be gone by next summer.) If you get there and find the room closed, simply ask for one of the sales people to show you the room and she said they'd be happy to give you a peek. As they still host frequent "polynesian-themed" events there, the room remains pretty much "as is" from days gone by.

Three tips on the Hala Kahiki:
-- if you're planning to cab there from downtown, plan on $20-$30 each way
-- if you're interested in having your pick of tables and a good look 'round the place without tripping over a ton of others, get there before 7pm (it opens at 4pm Friday and Saturday.) After that, you run the risk of having to wait in line. Be prepared to see all sorts of fine Chicago suburban folk, ranging for the baseball-hat/sports jersey crowd to sweet older couples in matching aloha outfits...
-- Eat first, or after, because they don't serve food and there's no where to eat in that neighborhood...

Elsewhere in Chicago, consider:
-- James' Tiki Bar Review Pages has a few other recommendations for "sort of" tiki sites in Chicago
-- artist Dave Krys spins a nice sampling of exotica Tuesday nights at Cleo's, I believe...
-- the California Clipper at 1000 N. California is a very nice hang for drinks and atmosphere (another healthy cab ride from downtown, though worth it...)
-- although damned touristy, and therefore usually highly annoying, a cocktail cruise on one of the excursion boats which depart from Navy Pier can be a pleasant way for out-of-towners to appreciate the city in a nice leisurely, boozy manner

Depending on your other tastes, you can usually find a polka show or a bowling alley or a meat-packing plant or some other appropriate hang by checking out http://www.chireader.com or http://www.metromix.com. Or drop me a line with specific questions via konakai.com. Always happy to help...

The Chicago Natural History Museum has a large collection of Oceanic art, I don't know how much of it is on display, but they also have a complete fully carved Maori Meeting House standing in there.
To go there, and then to the Hala Kahiki, might be a nice Tiki art warp.

Another Chicago must is Chef Shangri-La at 7930 W.26th Street in North Riverside. It looks Chinese, but it has lots of Witco. James took me there when I went on the Hala Kahiki shoot for my book, and I immediately showed the owner my book (as my Tiki Press Club card), whipped out my lights and camera and started shooting. Apparently the owner used to be a chef at the Shangri-La in Chicago and when he opened his own place in the early 70s, he bought the last Witco pieces available from the Chicago showroom.
Check out the room behind the bar.
Maybe go there on a seperate day than the Hala Kahiki, or you'll get Witco overkill.
And don't expect "good food"...but the cocktails are OK

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki on 2002-07-16 13:31 ]

K

One VERY important Hala Kahiki point: The giftshop is CLOSED Mondays!!!!

And don't forget the complete, intact WW 2 U-Boot at the Museum of Science and Industry (I believe). It's incredible.

Kentiki

M
mig posted on Tue, Jul 16, 2002 4:03 PM

Give JT a yell (the guy who runs the tiki bar review pages). Tell him you're a Bay Area tiki-centralite from both Crawls... supposedly he has a killer tiki pad out there, and might show you around!

B

My friend Anthony lives in Chicago and said that htere is a place called The House Of Tiki on 53rd Street. I wrote it down, in case the conversation ever cameup. No one knows about this place?

M

Well everyone- I have returned from the Windy City and would like to lodge the following report.

First things first- thanks to everyone for the tips and ideas. It was really a big help.

So here goes- in chronological order, just like your crazy uncle's vacation slide show. I'll try to leave out the non-tiki stuff:

Friday:

Breakfast at Kitsch'n On Roscoe- Cool cafe with old 50s knick-knacks. Has a back patio with a small thatch tiki bar and a few mugs scattered here and there. worth a visit if you're in the neighborhood. They have Twinkie Tiramisu! http://www.kitschn.com/

Museum of Science and Industry- The U-Boat was very cool- Thanks Kentiki!

Trader Vic's- I have to say that rumors of Vic's demise seem greatly exaggerated to me. I thought the place still looked great. Bar décor is top notch still- I guess I was expecting the worst. Of the Vic’s I’ve seen, I’d rank it just behind London and Wash DC. The dining area is smaller that I expected, and completely nautical. Drinks were very good, though the Queen’s Park Swizzle seemed unusually strong. Free appetizers on Friday night! Beat that, Emeryville! Clearly, the “Tiki Time” happy hour promotion and materials show that someone in Chicago management is in the know. There were some bowls I’d never seen at Vic’s before- Glossy black 3 sided moai. I asked the bartender if they were selling any mugs, he said not until Nov, but I’ve heard that BS at Vic’s before. He did say you can buy their mugs off their website, but that’s the first I’ve heard of that, and I certainly don’t see any evidence of it on-line. Has anyone else?

Trader Todd’s- Oh, god. What a terrible place. Frat slob karaoke fiesta. Looked like a nightmare out of Key West. They even had a picture on the wall of The Evil One: Buffett! Here’s the strangest thing: The drinks were very good! ($8) All fresh squeezed to order. My wife had a very good Painkiller, and my Coconut Lime Rickey was good, though had too much half & half. Maybe if it’s quiet it might be OK, but I still doubt it. Don’t believe everything you read in Metromix.

Saturday:

Field Museum- Thanks for the tip, bigbro. The Maori meeting house as well as all the Pacific artifacts were very interesting. The Meeting house comes complete with an old woman volunteer with a raspy cigarette voice who showed me around. Despite the huge crowds in other parts of the museum, I was the only person in this wing. She was good enough to tell me, in a hushed voice, “The Maoris used to be cannibals! But it’s OK, they’re all Christians now.” Ugh. She also said that they no longer tattoo their faces, being good Christians, so I guess she missed “Once Were Warriors” at the art house a few years ago.
Kona Kai- I went to the airport Marriott to check it out what was left. There is no evidence that it is anything other than a slightly dated looking hotel, with lots of plain looking conference rooms. At one end, is a very stark Japanese façade of Shoji screens that reads NIKKO in big chrome letters above the doors. I just tried the handle- it was open and walked in. Unbelievable! There’s a few more white screens, but otherwise- it’s still completely tiki. Waterfalls running, creeks under bridges, it’s still great. What a shame it’s closed. There was a woman setting up for a reception who was very nice and let me take pictures.

Hala Kahiki- Ah, you locals have got it good. What an incredible place. First the gift shop: I’ve never seen so much stuff in one place and had so little interest in most of it! Somehow I didn’t find much to love. Problem one: There are NO products bearing the name/logo/likeness of the Hala Kahiki! (except the matchbooks) That’s really a shame. Here’s a quick recipe for instant money: Make Hala Kahiki mugs, only make them “limited edition”, put them on Ebay, voila! There are great clothes- some appear to have been there so long they have become vintage. There are some Mai Tiki poles that are overpriced but nice, and some great non-tiki bar memorabilia in the back. We picked up a rotating Seagram’s light. Midnite: They had plenty of mugs, all generic: bamboo, Fu Manchu, small skulls, buddas. Nothing to get excited about.
Ah, but the bar is wonderful. It really is Witcoriffic. Nice crowd, mostly blue collar, and racially diverse, which I liked. The music needed a little help- Believe by Cher does not set the mood. But there is some Hawaiian (Apaka, Ho) on the juke, so we fixed that. The Scorpion Bowl was terrible. Pure grenadine. The next two were ok. Our waiter was a nice guy so no complaints. It was really filling up when we left, so it’s glad to see it doing well.

Chef Shangri-La- I think this place is very underrated. This kind of Chinese/tiki hybrid is all but gone in California, so it was neat to see. Lots of great Witco. The bar area is great, except for the Corona neon signs, TV showing “Dog Eat Dog”, etc., but it looked like it was just a great local hangout, like Trad’r Sam’s in SF. The drinks were pretty good as well.

So a busy two days all around, plus The Art Institute, Gino’s East, FL Wright homes, and a few other things. I’ve got the blisters to prove it!

Thanks again for everyone’s help, and thanks for sitting through the longest post ever.

Hope I can get some pictures up soon.

-martin

M

Chicago is a great town...the best, after New Orleans, San Francisco, London, a few others, but the BEST.

I will have to make the trek out to Hala Kahiki next year. Glad you liked TV's, I think it is a great place...if you can handle the $$$ for food/drinks, we ate in the smooking section (a bit less nautical, $80+). That's why I love the Tiki Time promotions. Can you say $4 Zombies/Mai-Tais? I can!

Sounded like a stellar trip. I have to make it to the museum next time, check out that tour guide. She sounds worth the ticket price alone!

midnite

Thanks for the follow-up. I'll be in Chicago Oct. 13-16 and plan to hit some of the same spots. I'm realy loking forward to comparing Chicago Vics with Atlanta.

  1. Hala Kahiki

A must-see - avoid weekends.

  1. Vic's

A probably-see

  1. As much Frank Lloyd Wright as I can lay my eyes on.

Go to the nearby suburb of Oak Park for TONS o' Frank, including his own residence, etc, etc, etc

  1. Art Institute

Brilliant.

Give JT a yell (the guy who runs the tiki bar review pages)

Yes, do this!
Particularly single women bearing Mai Tais.

Chef Shangri-La- I think this place is very underrated.

Indeed.

Iorana!

JT

Mary-Margaret and I went to Chicago in July for a long weekend. We did make it to the Art Institute, Oak Park and Trader Vice, but the Hala Kahiki was the highlight by far...
Our first night we drove directly from the airport to the Hala Kahiki. We spent literally hours in the gift shop poking around and talking with the owner there... Finally we did make it to the bar, but only after we decided to buy a fabulous dusty old plastic tiki hiding in the back corner - the owner kept trying to convince us we shouldn't buy it! But she finally reluctantly sold it.

Here's the main bar - note the pineapple lights on the bar.

Fabulous fruit chandelier in one of the main rooms including glowing bananas against a grass ceiling. Witko masks from one of the other main rooms.

One of the many tikis in the garden area.

The final challenge was shipping a 4 foot tall 2 foot wide tiki home to L.A.!!! Luckily, we had friendly folks at United who let it slip by their luggage size standards

If anyone knows the history of this type of tiki- I'd love to know.

T

On 2002-09-23 01:47, C.B. Howlie wrote:
but only after we decided to buy a fabulous dusty old plastic tiki hiding in the back corner - the owner kept trying to convince us we shouldn't buy it! But she finally reluctantly sold it
If anyone knows the history of this type of tiki- I'd love to know.

Maaaannnnn! Every Tikiphile in Chicago has been trying to buy that thing for years. How the heck did you finally talk Rose into selling it? You must have offered her quite a wad of cash... Me, Duke Carter, and about 10 other people have had our eyes on that thing forever.

I am in awe...

Hey James,

It's Mary-Margaret and Cary. Remember - we tried to hook up with you when we were in Chi town... Anyway - I think Rose softened up to us when we told her we were friends of Sven's and spent literally hours in her shop. We also bought a bunch of other smaller things, too. Some cool plastic flower pins and leis from the '60s and a paper Hawaiian boy from 1968 in his original packaging, etc.

She kept telling us not to buy the tiki cause "we'd never be able to ship it home" and actually if we had shipped - it would have cost us 3 big bills as in over $300!!! but as Cary said - we got it on the plane for free.

Do you know the story about where it came from? and also - do you know where can you get light-up fiberglass tikis like the one in the first main dining room?

T

On 2002-09-24 06:58, C.B. Howlie wrote:
Hey James,

It's Mary-Margaret and Cary. Remember - we tried to hook up with you when we were in Chi town... Anyway - I think Rose softened up to us when we told her we were friends of Sven's and spent literally hours in her shop. We also bought a bunch of other smaller things, too. Some cool plastic flower pins and leis from the '60s and a paper Hawaiian boy from 1968 in his original packaging, etc.

Do you know the story about where it came from? and also - do you know where can you get light-up fiberglass tikis like the one in the first main dining room?

Okay, so you're saying that if I had been able to come out that night, I would ahve been there for the purchase?

D'ooohhh!

(sound of palm of hand slapping on the forehead)

That fiberglass Tiki is rare. It was recently damaged in fact, and a pal of mine took it home and fixed it for them. Wish I could get my mitts on a few of 'em. Next time you're in town I will come out with you for sure - you have world-class Tiki hunting karma, and a powerful skill of the 'sell-me-that-thing-type of persuasion...

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