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Mai-Kai

Fort Lauderdale, FL
Bar, Restaurant, Store & Floor Show
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3599 N Federal Hwy
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Opened in 1956
Open daily at 5pm
dinner til 10:30pm Sun-Thu
til 11:30pm Fri & Sat
All ages in restaurant,
21+ only in bar
(954) 563-3272
Fire dancers,
flaming Kona Coffee Grog,
Mystery Drink,
flambeed desserts

Critiki ratings

Mai-Kai

9.7

Overall

by 362 people

1

10

Detail
Everyone You
Decor 10
Drink Quality 9.3
Drink Selection 9.9
Food Quality 8.8
Food Selection 9.5
Mood 10
Music 9.8
Service 9.6
Tikiness 10
Tilt 9.9
Vibe 9.8

Upcoming Visits

Regulars & Visitors

View all 550 Mai-Kai regulars & visitors

Humuhumu’s description

The Mai-Kai is perhaps the last of the grand Polynesian palaces still operating from when tiki was at its peak in the late '50s and early '60s. That the Mai-Kai not only still exists today, but is vibrant and thriving, is something we should all be very grateful for—but not take for granted.
The Mai-Kai was opened in 1956 by two brothers from Chicago, Bob and Jack Thornton, in an age when roadside attractions were springing up all over Florida; eventually Bob took over the business. Like many of these attractions, the Mai-Kai grew over time to be quite a spectacle—it includes eight dining rooms, a bar that on its own would stand as perhaps the best tiki bar in the world, tropical gardens with walking paths and waterfalls, a stage in the center to showcase the Polynesian floor show, and of course, a gift shop.
Today, experiencing the Mai-Kai is much as it was in the '60s. The experience begins as you listen to the wooden slat bridge you drive over to reach the porte cochere and valets. As you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by an elegant maitre'd. Be sure to bring some singles when you visit the restroom, as the bathroom has attendants on hand to assist you. The Mai-Kai's manager is Kern Mattei, who took over the position from his father.
When you're drinking at the Mai-Kai, you're drinking tiki history. The bar program here was created by legendary bartender Mariano Licudine, who came from the Don the Beachcomber
history
Don the Beachcomber
Chicago, IL
Bar & Restaurant
10
in Chicago, and brought Don the Beachcomber drinks with him.
Bob and Jack have passed away, and the restaurant is now run by Bob's wife Mirielle. Bob met Mirielle when she joined the Mai-Kai as a Tahitian dancer, and still today she runs the Mai-Kai's Polynesian revue. As new dances are added to the show, Mirielle first visits the island where the dance originates to ensure it will be performed properly and will be blessed by its people. All dining rooms overlook the popular show, and dinner reservations are recommended.
The enchanting nature of the female form is something that is celebrated throughout Polynesian pop, but perhaps nowhere quite so extensively as the Mai-Kai. The beautiful waitresses to this day are attired in bikini tops and wraparound sarongs. For many years, a Mai-Kai calendar was offered featuring the many beautiful women of the Mai-Kai. This worship reaches its zenith with the Mystery Drink, delivered by the Mystery Girl, an experience that must be witnessed to be fully appreciated, so I will not describe it here, but rather urge you to visit the Mai-Kai yourself and order one.
In February 2015, the Mai-Kai was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Comments

KevinCrossman
KevinCrossman has visited Mai-Kai.
November 16, 2019, 2:46 PM
I should have never visited the Mai-Kai.

Everyone says this place is the best. That you "have to visit once in your life." That it is the last remaining tiki palaces from the golden age.

It is (mostly) everything they say it is. Which is the problem. I can't wait to come back. And let's just say I don't have too many good reasons to be in South Florida on a regular basis. I don't know when/how I'm going to swing a trip back here.

I was able to visit thanks to a business trip with a couple extra personal days tacked on. So, I was grateful for the opportunity.

This post will cover the famous gardens, which was my first destination. I arrived around 7:00, about 90 minutes early for my 8:30 dinner+show reservation. So a perfect time to stroll the garden.

What a lush paradise.

Water and stone features. Tikis in every style as far as the eye could see. So relaxing and elaborately themed. This truly is a special place.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4cXtn5ADHL/

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My next stop at the Mai-Kai was the Molokai Bar, a nautical themed bar just off the lobby. I had time to kill before my dinner+show reservation so it seemed like a perfect time to sample some of the Mai-Kai's famous tropical cocktails. The menu is literally the largest I've ever seen. See the photo with my hand as a comparison!

All of that didn't mean much to me, because I knew what drinks I was ordering anyway. First up was their Mai Tai. I had heard mixed things but I just had to try it. This was maybe one of the worst Mai Tais I've ever had. At least those "tourist Mai Tais" have enough rum to taste. All I could taste in this was orange juice, ice, and sugar. I didn't get any buzz. This is supposed to be made with Appleton 12 rum, my favorite. And I couldn't taste it at all.

I had much better luck with my second drink, the Derby Daiquiri. This was an award-winning cocktail from the restaurant's early years and it's so refreshing. It's basically an Orange Daiquiri, and I'll be honest I wasn't impressed when I tried this at home. But in Florida, with fresh orange juice? Such a delight. It's easy to see why this one is a favorite.

The world famous Mai-Kai waitresses, wearing bikini tops and sarongs, were friendly and efficient with the service. The Molokai Bar is rather large (larger than some entire tiki bars in terms of seating) and features some wonderful nautical decor with windows looking out to tiki displays. It's so elaborately themed.

The bar was packed during this early part of the evening, and a young lady played the ukulele and sang pleasant songs. By the time I left for the evening around 10:30, the Molokai Bar was pretty much deserted aside from a few stragglers. Nonetheless this is such as great space to hang out in.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4dXO5AghOZ/

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And now for the world famous Mai-Kai Polynesian Islander Revue.

I was seated in the main dining room, so I had a great view of the stage. This is a traditional dinner service with a junior waiter and then a head waiter. The team was quite efficient.

For dinner I started by trying the Black Magic, a cocktail made with coffee. That's usually not a flavor profile I enjoy but I will say that the Black Magic was amazing. And the size of the cocktail? I've seen Scorpion Bowls that held less liquid. Truly an excellent drink.

My appetizer was Crab Rangoon and even Trader Vic himself would have to admit this Crab Rangoon was amazing. So flavorful and not "too crabby." For the main course I had the Huli Huli Chicken which was just fine and a pretty reasonable value.

The Polynesian revue is a $15 per person upcharge but definitely seems worth it. The show is fairly standard as these things go (I was at a luau a couple months ago in Hawaii) but for South Florida this was a potential one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these dances and traditions in person. The Mai-Kai really leans into the Polynesian aesthetic and this show was most definitely a strength. Fine musicians and a genial host as well.

The main dining room and the adjacent dining areas were completely packed on a Saturday night, so reservations are essential. This is truly one of the gems in our tiki world.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4fVB6PAaVd/

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Mai-Kai Wrap-up

This is such a huge space. It feels like an entire land at a theme park. All kinds of nooks and spaces, with elaborate decor, tikis everywhere, amazing art on the walls, and more. This place makes the "big" places I'm familiar with in the SF Bay Area look like strip-mall tiki bars. It's that big and impressive.

The gift shop had some great stuff. I picked up a Mai-Kai rum barrel mug, a t-shirt, and an recent vintage (non-current) cocktail menu. I also found a CD from Fisherman that I never knew was released (I have the Fisherman and Kitty Chow CD that's amazing). I didn't want to leave. So I went back to the Molokai Bar to try one last cocktail. Jeff Berry says that his visits here inspired him to decrypt the recipe for the Zombie. So, I had to give that one a try. And, friends, I'm afraid that it was rather poor. Maybe worse than my awful Mai Tai. I really can't explain the flavor at all, but it wasn't welcome.

So, in summary, the Mai-Kai is a must-visit. The service, food, decor, gardens, ambiance, music, and show truly memorable and amazing. And several of the cocktails I had were similarly transportive, but a couple were truly awful. So other than the hit-or-miss cocktails I couldn't recommend this place more highly.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4f6fbLAlpD/
crazyqban67
crazyqban67 has visited Mai-Kai.
August 19, 2019, 7:04 PM
This place is a great place to visit. The show is fantastic!!!
MrTiki
MrTiki has visited Mai-Kai.
June 18, 2019, 9:28 AM
(español) primera vez que lo visite y fue una experiencia única, el restaurante es un trozo de la historia tiki viviente, cada rincón desde el molokai bar hasta los jardines es único, viaje desde Colombia únicamente para conocerlo y no me decepcione. Muy recomendado para los tiki fanaticos y conocedores de la historia tiki.

(english) First time I visited it and it was a unique experience, the restaurant is a piece of living tiki history, every corner from the molokai bar to the gardens is unique, I only travel from Colombia to get to know it and it does not disappoint me. Highly recommended for tiki fanatics and connoisseurs of tiki history.
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