Mahalo, Hala Kahiki!
Tales from other places, part uno
As the idle sojourner I currently am, my days are typically spent biding the time until September, whence I return to the loving, yet sandy and slightly intoxicated, arms of Burque. Occasionally though, during time that is not bode, I indulge in the native cultures of the far away lands in which I travel. This last Wednesday night I had the opportunity to experience the rare and wonderful magic of River Grove, Illinois's number one tiki bar, Hala Kahiki.
"Hala Kahiki is the place to enjoy tropical drinks in an exotic atmosphere." It is also the place to enjoy bowls and bowls of pretzels while surrounded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. My involvement with this fine tiki stretches back to the summer of 2006 when myself, a comedian, a fellow music writer, a Second City producer, a gay Scottish cruise director and a man just returned from 10 years in Micronesia all enjoyed its tantalizing Siberian and Polynesian fruits.
That night was one to remember, and culminated with the comedian, the gay Scottish cruise director and myself bar hopping, drinking martinis and dancing with shirtless, muscle-bound homosexuals in Chicago's Boystown at 3 a.m. This is what drinks with names like "Passionate Rummie," "Tahitian Milkmaid," "Skip And Run Naked" and "Strawberry Daiquiri" can do to a person.
This year's pilgrimage to Hala Kahiki was decidedly more subdued. For one thing, there was no gay Scottish cruise director and no guy from Micronesia. I had a mere three drinks (a shared "Tiki Bowl" sipped from a two-foot straw, a "Mai Tai" and a "Chi Chi"), while others in our party had only one. Despite this disappointing lack of debauched tropical drink drinking, Hala Kahiki remains one of the best bars I've ever visited.
For starters it's decor is authentic, down to every detail: Bamboo tables and chairs, palm fronds here and there, pineapple lamps adorning the bar, and a lush outdoor area with dancing waters and tiki gods aplenty. And the drinks, for the artful and delicious creations they are, cost about the same as drinks at a regular bar. It makes me long for the bygone days when I could order a Volcano or Singapore Sling at our local "tiki" without fear that the bartendress would spit in my face and demand I drink the PBR. I exagerate, but still.
While Hala Kahiki, summer '07 didn't match up to '06, three of us stragglers still managed to drink until 4 a.m., precipitated by a visit to one of Chicago's real, ultimate dives, Bob Inn. After a couple cold ones, and a couple pretentious sneers from dumb bearded hipsters, we went home and finished a bottle of Bushmills, and a bottle of Freixenet. Fuckin' yikes. Thank you, Hala Kahiki!