Mai, Oh Mai!
The nation’s most famous tiki restaurant celebrates a milestone anniversary.
What do the Thornton brothers, zombies, “The Hawaiian Wedding Song,” the Okole Maluna Society, the Samoan fire knife dance and an Impatient Virgin all have in common? As anyone who’s ever basked in the warmth of the flaming rum in a Kona Coffee Grog knows, it’s all part of the rich history at the Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale (3599 N. Federal Highway).
The renowned tiki-themed restaurant opened by Bob and Jack Thornton turns 60 this month. To celebrate, the present-day Mai-Kai team—led by owner Mireille Thornton, the late Bob’s wife and choreographer of the Islanders Revue, the nightly Polynesian show that started in 1961 (with Mireille as one of the original dancers)—is looking to the past.
On the afternoon of Dec. 28, the date it opened back in 1956, the restaurant will welcome Tim Glazner, author of the recently released Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant. The tiki expert and co-founder of the annual Hukilau event in Fort Lauderdale will walk guests through the rum-soaked, grass-skirted annals of an establishment that cost approximately $400,000 to build—an expense the Mai-Kai recouped in its first year.
In addition, the Mai-Kai is bringing back three of its “lost cocktails,” tropical drinks that, on the original menus, cost as little as a dollar. Inflation is about the only thing that can dampen these spirits, which include Liquid Gold ($13), the aforementioned Impatient Virgin ($13) and Suffering Bastard ($17).
Since the restaurant never divulges its cocktail recipes, just assume that there will be fruit juices and rum involved. Lots of rum. In the case of Suffering Bastard (pictured), also expect a slice of cucumber, a leafy garnish and a light dusting of powdered sugar.
As for the Impatient Virgin… yes, there’s a cherry on top.
Visit maikai.com or call 954.563.3272 for reservations.