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The Mai-Kai is easy to love. It's not that its oversized tiki cocktails and Lobster Tahitienne are anything to write home about. It's just that you can't set foot in the place without succumbing to a deep enchantment: You've entered a waking dreamworld, part Blue Lagoon, part Monkey's Paw. Maybe because it's dark as a cave or because you're never more than ten feet from running water. Or because the cocktail waitresses are dressed in Barbarella-era bikinis or because, as you grope your way through room after room lit by jewel-colored lanterns, there's a kitschy-surreal surprise around every corner. What most people are looking for is the Polynesian dance and fire-eating shows, which are fun, for sure. And the Mai-Kai's daily happy hour in the bar, with half-price food and drinks, is fair game for any bargain hunter. By the time you finally make your way out to the winding, torch-lit path in the garden, you're feeling as intrepid and remote as Henry Morton Stanley trailing Livingstone through the Congo. Yet, you're still in Fort Lauderdale.
Shows: Sun-Thu 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., Fri-Sat 7 p.m. and 10 p.m
1/2 price all drinks (except for bottles of wine, champagne, sidewinders fang, and the mystery drink) 1/2 price of appetizers.
The main event for the Hukilau will take place at the restaurant.
Common Machine presents "Plastic Paradise": a highly anticipated documentary filmed at The Hukilau and other Tiki locations.
Ahh. Happy hour. That wonderful time of day when a smiling bartender, cheap booze, and inexpensive food are intended to dissipate all of your workday's stress. Of course, you could go for a run or do... More »
Aloha, South Florida. This June Fort Lauderdale's Mai Kai will once again be hosting the annual Polynesian pop-lovers paradise, The Hukilau. This year marks the 13th annual Hukilau, a four-day ti... More »
Mai-Kai is one of Fort Lauderdale's treasures. Though a rare gem now, in the 1950's and 60's the United States was filled with restaurant showplaces like Latin Quarter, Trader Vic's, The Hawaiian... More »
Hanukkah is here, Christmas is less than two weeks from today, and New Years is a just a few sleeps away. Which is all good...unless you're a procrastinator. And not just any old procrastinator, but... More »
Mai-Kai's cocktail menu is ominous. The shrunken skull is "dangerous and deadly." The Bora Bora is an "adventurous challenge," and the 151 swizzle is "only for the sturdy." Although all are tasty concoctions that will have you slurring after a few sips, the real standout is the aptly named black magic. This potent snifterful of dark rums, lime juice, coffee, and other mystery ingredients is frighteningly refreshing and surprisingly complex. From the first sip, the flavor of coffee lingers on... More »
Here, at one of the last remaining "Grand Polynesian Palaces of Tiki," the drinks are legendary. They are phenomenal, magical concoctions comprised of rum and fruit juices and time-tested mixology. Whether it's the "barrel o' rum," the piña colada, or the mystery drink (served on fire, with four straws and a personal Polynesian dance), these spirits will take you to another period in Florida's history -- a simpler time, when a man with a pompadour hairdo and a woman with a flower... More »
The Mai-Kai was a mini Polynesian theme park in the middle of Fort Lauderdale when Fort Lauderdale consisted only of a beach and a few condos. Except for some recent, hurricane-induced renovations, the restaurant hasn't changed much since its opening in 1956. Its over-the-top jungle décor, flowing rivers, and roadside torches remain. The drinks are your typical island-vacation fare, except for one: the "mystery drink," which might fail to be much of a mystery to devoted South... More »
The tradition of kitsch is unique to our region, and the Mai-Kai is the king of kitsch. This tropical time warp has been owned and run by the same family for more than 50 years and boasts the amazing Molokai bar. Built out of an old movie set's pirate ship, this plank-floor rum factory is quickly disorienting. Water runs down the exterior of the submarine-style windows, and the lighting is always dark and warming -- soon the outside world is just a hazy memory and your new, much funner,... More »
Loud, dark, and pricey -- is there a better formula for all-important date number two? Broward's tiki mecca has all the makings of the place to close the deal you started negotiating in (nervous, crazy-making) date one. The low light helps minimize the sorts of thing she should have noticed the first time -- the thinning hair, the love handles, the look of sheer terror. And the Polynesian floorshow is loud and mesmerizing, which helps if the conversation wanes. Finally, the drinks are pricey... More »
In the 1950s, that famous buttoned-down, Eisenhower-era stiffness let loose in the phenomenon of the tiki bar. At the time, they were ubiquitous. All things Polynesian seemed foreign, so it was OK to delve into a world of rhythmic hips and almost fleshy tropical blossoms. Even in the backyard, tiki torches burned. Since 1956, Mai-Kai has been serving this Polynesian fantasy on a deluxe plate. While other spots on the tiki circuit slowly went under, this one persisted. Tiki culture lives on... More »
With its rum-voiced narrator nattily attired in white à la Fantasy Island's Ricardo Montalban, the nation's longest-running Polynesian floorshow could easily be played as a joke. But while the enormous restaurant trades on fantasy, it is refreshingly free of irony. Opened in 1957, the Mai-Kai hails from a time when exotic meant chic, fondue was fun, and women dressed for dinner with gardenias in their hair. This was pre-postcolonialism, of course, but even so, the feel of Mai-Kai lies... More »
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