This year, the Mai-Kai celebrates its 60th anniversary, having been established in 1956. It is currently one of the longest-running tiki bars/restaurants in existence, and it maintains its reputation by continuing to serve top-notch food, delicious cocktails, and by having one of the most authentic and spectacular Polynesian floor shows in the world. The voters of Critiki voted it # 1 on the list of the Top Ten Best Tiki Bars In The World 2016, no small feat. Over Thanksgiving week, I finally got to experience it for myself, and I am so excited to share it with you!
Let me start by saying there are several parts to the Mai-Kai, and it’s important for you to experience as many as you can, if not all of them. After you park your car, when you enter, the Molokai Bar is immediately to your left. If you go on weekdays before 7PM, you can take advantage of their happy hour. The drinks are served up by the famous Molokai girls, sporting their Hawaiian bikini tops and sarongs. There is also a FREE (with drink purchase) happy hour buffet (Wednesdays only) which is not to be missed. They had pan-seared pork & scallion dumplings and sushi the night I was there, and both were delicious. There is sometimes some light live entertainment, too, which adds to the ambiance. Take special note of the decor, especially the “waterfall windows”, as I call them, which are a feature the bar has had since its inception.
Inside The Molokai Bar
If you want to have dinner, reservations are strongly recommended, and even more so if you want to see the Polynesian show while you eat. There are various dining rooms at the Mai-Kai, each named after a region of the Pacific. While you wait to be seated, you can go check out the gardens in the back of the restaurant. The gardens are another amazing testament to the Mai-Kai’s attention to detail. The plant life is green, lush, and will totally make you feel like you’re in some wonderful tropical jungle. There are also TONS of tiki idols, both old and new, and of varying sizes. Some have been there since the glory days, so keep your eyes peeled! This is also a great place to take selfies, so pull out that smartphone, and snap away. I loved all the beautiful waterscapes, and there was a Suffering Bastard tiki idol that I oohed and ahhed over.
Waterscape in the gardens
The Suffering Bastard makes an appearance
Me with a huge tiki idol
Dinner at the Mai-Kai will suit just about any taste. When you are seated for your dinner, you will be brought a MASSIVE menu. Our group of six had to take turns opening ours, because they took up a lot of room! Pull out your phone flashlight, because the dim light in the room can make it a bit hard to read for some. Entrees are separated by fowl, pork & beef, seafood, fresh fish, and combinations, which is super handy, and makes ordering very easy. In addition, many of the meals can be made vegetarian upon request. The drink menu is also categorized by “mocktails” (non-alcoholic), mild, medium, strong, and after-dinner drinks. Again, this makes ordering a breeze. I decided to try the Yeoman’s Grog, and my boyfriend tried the Zombie, both under the “strong” category. Both also lived up to the description. We nursed those things all throughout our dinner. My Yeoman’s grog was very rum-heavy, but not spice-laden, which was one of the reasons I ordered it. I could definitely taste the honey in it, too. Yum!
Todd and I enjoying our drinks
The food, while not “true” Polynesian food, was delicious nonetheless. My entree was the chicken with peanut sauce, while Todd tried the Thai red curry chicken. We cleaned both of our plates, as did the other 4 people that were with us.They cook some of their food in huge Chinese ovens, which you can see through a window in the gardens if you are looking carefully. Entrees average around $17 each, so consider ordering an appetizer and sharing if you are on a budget.
About halfway through our dinner, it was time for the floor show! There is a narrator who guides you through the regions that each of the dances represents, and she has a very thick New Zealand accent, so some words were a bit hard to understand, because she spoke quite fast. But I got everything, thankfully, and I loved being able to actually know where the dance originated. The dances themselves were such a delight to watch – my favorites were the wedding dance, and the fire dance. The costumes were beautiful, too. Check out the photos below, and see some of the action for yourself!
The last stop was the Mai-Kai’s gift shop. There are TONS of things in there (T-shirts, jewelry, home decor, and other tchotchkes). I opted for mugs – I got a barrel mug for me, and one for a friend back home. As I was checking out, I noticed that one of the sales gals was replacing a Mystery Bowl in a glass case that had just been bought with a spectacular custom Mai-Kai mug by Tiki Diablo. I didn’t even wait a full minute before asking them to pack it up for me. This makes the 2nd Tiki Diablo mug in my collection, and it’s a beauty!
Mai-Kai mug by Tiki Diablo
The end of my night at the Mai-Kai was also notable…I went to look for my boyfriend (who had disappeared after the show), and found him in the Molokai Bar ordering a Mai Tai, because he wanted to try it. While in the bar, I met Mark, a new friend from Las Vegas. After initial introductions, I found out he is also a huge tiki-phile and collector. We have since kept in touch, and are doing some swizzle exchanges, too. You just never know who you will meet when you go to a tiki bar, and I love making new friends.
If you haven’t been to the Mai-Kai yet, what are you waiting for?? It is an absolute tiki-lover’s paradise, unmatched in its presentation and offerings. Book a trip to Ft. Lauderdale as soon as possible, and go check it out! It has such a rich history, and the fact that it is still around 60 years later is incredible and almost unheard of, as many spectacular tiki bars in the U.S. unfortunately didn’t survive the 70’s and 80’s. Also, you may want to check out Tim “Swanky” Glazner’s new book on the history of the Mai-Kai. It just came out this year, and is a great read! You can find it here.
To see more of what the Mai-Kai offers, and to make reservations, visit www.MaiKai.com
Have any of you visited the Mai-Kai? If so, what was your favorite part about it? (Besides the drinks, of course!)