Hala Kahiki – River Grove, IL

Outside the Hala Kahiki

For the third and final stop of the day in our Pre-Birthday Chicago Tiki Blitz, we headed back out to the suburbs to the Hala Kahiki in River Grove. (Part one was Tiki Terrace, and Part two took us to Trader Vic’s Chicago).

The bar of the Hala Kahiki in River Grove

The bar had lots of lanterns and nautical touches, it was probably my favorite area of the Hala Kahiki. There was a group of folks there that seemed to be having happy hour after work, and several couples showed up later that seemed to have made special trips to check out the tiki temple.

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They don’t muck about trying to serve anything edible (besides bowls of pretzels)—it’s strictly beverages only. The sheer amount of variations is impressive; there are classic martinis, several fruity incarnations of pina coladas and daiquiris, and even alcoholic ice cream floats.

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This tiki bar is apparently pretty popular with the kids on the weekends (lines out the door, even), and there are several rooms to go get lost in.

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Like Chef Shangri-La, there’s a nice collection of Witco wood carvings.

Hala Kahiki garden

The patio had a bit of a tropical vibe with its fountain and hibiscus, but the Midwest summers are just too humid to sit outside. I also checked out the souvenir shop, which stocked tchotchkes, made-in-China Hawaiian-themed things (which you’ve already seen plenty of if you’ve been to Hawaii) and a Mai Tiki or two.

Planter's Punch

I had the Planter’s Punch (a blend of rum and fruit juices, per their menu) and it appeared to be half foam. It wasn’t bad, but I would go for something else. I’d had my eye on a different cocktail, I think it might have been the Hawaiian Caress, but I went with the punch as they said it was less alcoholic. (It’d been a long day of drinking!)

Hala Kahiki

Hala Kahiki
2834 River Rd.
River Grove, IL 60171
708-456-3222

Hala Kahiki on Urbanspoon

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Trader Vic’s – Chicago

Trader Vic's Chicago

For the second stop of my pre-birthday tiki tour, Mr. Baseball and I went into downtown Chicago to check out the new-ish Trader Vic’s.

The bar of Trader Vic's Chicago

The original Trader Vic’s Chicago was housed in the Palmer House Hilton for almost fifty years before the hotel’s new owners closed it. This location in Newberry Plaza, a petite building mostly made up of condos and a few offices, opened a little more than six months ago.

A tiki in the bar

We sat at the bar since we weren’t interested in eating because a) we were still stuffed from lunch at Tiki Terrace b) the menu at Trader Vic’s Chicago is identical to the one at downtown LA’s Trader Vic’s.

The dining room of Trader Vic's

We got there around 4 p.m., just as they were opening so there was nobody in the dining room yet. Pretty swanky, I must say. (Nothing at all like the now-gone Trader Vic’s Las Vegas).

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The other side of the dining room looked out over a courtyard garden where there were a couple tiki poles lying down, sort of like an archaeological display. (Or maybe they just fell over?)

The Chicago Trader

I ordered the Trader Vic’s Chicago signature drink—The Chicago Trader—made with rum, lemon, grenadine and orange curaçao. I remember it being pretty potent but not particularly tasty because the mint garnish was overpowering. The drink also came with a rock candy lollipop for some reason.

Mr. Baseball committed the cardinal sin of drinking beer in a tiki bar, but it was a bottle of Goose Island’s 312, so I must forgive him.

Trader Vic's tiki mugs

Again, the bartender trotted out all the Trader Vic’s tiki mugs they had so I could choose one as part of my b-day present from Mr. Baseball. Tiki Farm is producing a custom mug called “Rapa Nui Louie” for this location but unfortunately it hadn’t made its debut by the time of our visit.

Outside Trader Vic's Chicago

6/8/11 Update: Sadly, this Chicago location of Trader Vic’s has also closed.

Trader Vic’s – Chicago
1030 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
312-642-6500

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

Frankie’s Tiki Room – Las Vegas

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In closing the Sin City portion of the Baseball/Tiki Road Trip, we uninentionally saved the best for last. I’d originally intended to visit Frankie’s Tiki Room the night before, but I hadn’t been feeling so hot. (Do I blame that day’s lunch at Trader Vic’s?… I digress.)

In true Vegas style, Frankie’s is open 24 hours, so were able to just drop in on a Monday afternoon. It’s off-Strip and north of the Strat so you’ll need a car or savvy cab driver, but it’s well worth seeking out.

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Unfortunately, my photos cannot convey how awesome this place is, but they do show how DARK it gets. Stepping in from the bleached-out daylight, we could not see a thing and had to stumble around for a few minutes until our eyes adjusted.

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You could sit at the bar and watch video clips that ranged from Hawaiian variety performances to an amateur tiki-themed porn/horror flick, but we preferred the banquettes under the thatched roof.

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I had the Tiki Bandit, a potent concoction of pineapple rum, 151, apricot brandy and blue curacao, and it was absolutely delicious. It was like an epiphany—Wow, this is what a well-mixed drink is supposed to taste like! The drink’s eight bucks on its own or twenty in the take-home slot machine-shaped mug. How could I resist such cleverness?

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Again, you can’t really see it here, but the space is just a smorgasbord of art, carvings and design features from an all-star roster of tiki artists. In the corner you can spot the Shag “Vice Tester” machine that I was so amused by, it gets its own post.

In short, I loved Frankie’s and I can’t wait to come back!

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Frankie’s Tiki Room
1712 W. Charleston
Las Vegas, NV 89102
702-385-3110

Frankie's Tiki Bar on Urbanspoon