Mai-Kai

Bar, Restaurant, Store, Themed Attraction & Floor Show
3599 N Federal Hwy
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
Ph: (954) 563-3272 - Website
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Open daily at 5pm
dinner til 10:30pm Sun-Thu
til 11:30pm Fri & Sat
Opened in 1956
Defunct tiki not included,
distances are as the crow flies.
Hawaiian Gardens, Lauderdale Lakes 6.0 mi
9.7 km
The Original Tiki Bar, Fort Pierce 89.2 mi
143.6 km
Marco Island Marriott Resort, Marco Island 101.4 mi
163.2 km
Mai Tiki Gallery, Cocoa Beach 151.5 mi
243.8 km
Wakulla Suites, Cocoa Beach 153.7 mi
247.4 km
ad, 138
calendar, 139
coaster, 127
illustration, 136-137
picture, 137-139
shirt, 139
tableware, 138
text, 129, 136, 138, 172
newsletter, 145
picture, 63, 83, 87, 109, 143, 145
rendering, 78
text, 145
Exterior of the Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale
January 2005, photo by John Quirk
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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.

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.

There are 14 comments.
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September 28, 2008, 4:30 PM
This is one of the greatest Tikis left in the country. The authentic design and decor, but even more fabulous drinks, great food, two bars, and a dinner show. This is why people in the 40's, 50's and 60's were so high on the tiki experience. This is the place you hold up to compare all the rest too. Recently saved from the wrecking ball, experience it as often as you can!

October 7, 2008, 7:22 AM
Does anyone know who actually designed the building and the surrounding junglescape?

March 16, 2009, 10:19 AM
The architect was Charles McKirahan. He recently passed away.
http://browardtrust.org/resources_the_mai_kai.asp
Q... is a regular at Mai-Kai, and is usually there Happy hour, Sunday, Tuesday, and Saturday.

April 8, 2009, 9:19 AM
George Nakashima designed the renovations to the Mai Kai.
Swanky is a semi-regular at Mai-Kai.

June 3, 2009, 2:35 AM
The recent renovations should elevate the Mai-Kai to "perfect 10" status. The epic facelift includes: newly rebuilt wood-planked bridge and thatched canopy entrance; new front entrance doors; completely renovated Molokai Bar; new thatch, bamboo and tapas throughout the entire restaurant; refurbished tables plus all new chairs and stools; rebuilt outdoor dining area; hundreds of new plantings, renovated waterfalls and new Tiki torches. To top it off, the new Web site finally captures the spirit and majesty of this unique landmark: http://maikai.com
Hurricane Hayward is a regular at Mai-Kai, and is usually there Several blissful times a month.

August 4, 2009, 8:46 AM
The Mai Kai is a classic tiki establishment that should be a must-visit for any tiki enthusiast!
PHF has visited Mai-Kai.

September 5, 2009, 10:17 AM
such a cool tiki-tiki spot...real fun and authentic...worth the drive...
Builtiki has visited Mai-Kai.

January 22, 2010, 1:31 PM
This place is the shiznit. Just make sure you got some cash with you. I run out of money every time i go there.
Martini Whore is a semi-regular at Mai-Kai.

February 16, 2010, 5:02 PM
As a Southern California native, my first visit was long-anticipated - Ft. Lauderdale is a bit of hike from my neck of the woods. Mai Kai certainly did not disappoint. It truly was a wonderful experience. It would require pages to tell all that makes this place so very special. Here, though, churlishly, are a couple of niggling criticisms. Our waitress worked very hard at "up-selling" us on the most expensive menu items, on unwanted bottles of wine, and on unwanted desserts and after-dinner drinks. Yes, all restaurants do this and I often appreciate the useful advice. However, this had quite a strong element of hard-sell and a bit too much persistence to it, along with a perceptible edge of what seemed to us like coldness, disdain, or disappointment shown by our otherwise attentive, if not overly-friendly server in response to our polite no-thank-you’s. The food portions, too, could have been larger for the price - everyone in our party of six, which included seniors with small appetites, felt this way independently. However, the food was absolutely delicious - and if slightly higher prices and somewhat small portions really are necessary in order to keep this grand dame profitably in business then I'm more than happy to submit to them. Oh, just to let you know - if you valet park and elect to attend the floor show (it's optional and an absolute bargain at only $10.95 per person) except to wait 20 or more minutes for your car (everyone in the showroom will leave at the same time). On the other hand, those waiting curbside along with you will be in a good mood and it's a great opportunity to chat with your fellow tikiophiles. Best advice I can give you with respect to the Mai Kai? Go, by all means!
kawikasurf has visited Mai-Kai.

December 5, 2010, 2:35 PM
Believe it or not, I lived in South Florida for almost two years before I even knew the Mai Kai existed (I know, I know). Once I found it, my fear was that it would close before I got to see it. Not a chance. Going to the Mai Kai is like stepping back in time 50 years, and people seem to love that, because the place is always packed. They actually ran out of parking during the Hukilau!

Although the grounds and the inside of the Mai Kai are still very much like they were in the 50s, the area around it has built up from empty fields to urban sprawl. I would have loved to have seen years ago when it sat by itself on that stretch of US 1. Now Furniture stores, a mall, two strip clubs (upscale ones) and several other restaurants surround it. But none of that takes away from the charm and allure of this fantastic Tiki escape.

February 27, 2011, 4:22 AM
I wish Critiki had '11' as an option. Unbelievably fantastic on every level.
tikitabby has visited Mai-Kai.

May 9, 2011, 9:53 AM
Yes this place is amazing. The tiki garden out back is a MUST SEE. We liked wandering around it it's Blue Hawaiin lighting with our drinks after the show.

If i went back I would skip the show and spend all my time at the bar. The bar area is definitely the coolest although the whole experience should not be missed.

I was disappointed when I was there that they were out of pineapples and tiki mugs which did take away from the experience quite a bit especially since the drinks aren't cheap.

On any account the food also was OK but not great. Like I said, at the bar is where I belong.

If I could do it all over again (which I hope I will) I would also break down and actually buy one of the really excellent tiki mugs they have in the extensive gift shop.
Sneaky Tiki has visited Mai-Kai.

June 27, 2011, 12:21 PM
I had another wonderful experience at the Mai Kai during this year's Hukilau! Well, to be honest, I did spend most of my time in Molokai Bar working my way through the menu... again. Still, it is a most pleasurable time-warp for any Tiki/cocktail enthusiast.
NauMai is a semi-regular at Mai-Kai.

October 20, 2014, 5:30 PM
We finally had the chance to visit, and it was everything we had hoped for. The décor is outstanding, with a great deal of variety between the Molokai Bar (which resembles the captain's quarters on an old whaling ship), the dining rooms (with traditional Polynesian touches and a large aquarium) and the lovely garden (with waterfalls, tropical plants and plenty of tikis). The drinks are good, traditional and strong, but not quite on a level with craft cocktail places like Frankie's Tiki Room and Three Dots and a Dash. The food is decent but pricey and nothing special. One comes to Mai-Kai for the atmosphere and the show; the food is just there to help soak up the rum.
Wiki Tiki has visited Mai-Kai.

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