Sometimes you just gotta get away. This past weekend, my bestie and I piled into the car and headed south…to the tropical locale of River Grove, Illinois, home of Hala Kahiki!
Hala Kahiki has been in operation since 1964 and is considered one of the most well-preserved original tiki bars in the country. I was super excited to check out this tiki treasure, doubly so because they were hosting their second Lowbrow Aloha tiki art show!
I usually obsessively research any bar or restaurant I’m going to (seriously, if you ever invite me somewhere, I’ve probably studied the online menu at least once before we get there), but I wanted to leave some room for surprise at Hala Kahiki. And surprise there was! This place is huge! There’s even a lovely little secret patio with a fountain out back and a dedicated gift shop.
The decor was great; definitely what you hope for in a really authentic feeling tiki bar, lots of layers of knick knacks and natural textures. Watching all the brightly colored drinks go by in their decorative glassware, you really felt the tropical vibe.
The menu is just as big as the bar itself – it’s a full-length book with drinks helpfully divided into categories like “sweet,” “not so sweet,” “coconut-flavored,” “ice cream,” etc. There weren’t any prices printed on the drink menu, which I never like, but they were around $8, which is what I’d expect for a tiki cocktail. I got my trusty Singapore Sling!
One unique feature that I was super charmed by were the flights – you can select 5 different drinks from a list (which includes most of your traditional tiki favorites) and get a 5 oz. pour of each for $18. My friend and I each ordered our own full size drink and split the flight – these drinks were strong, we definitely both got a nice buzz going! My only downside on the drinks were that each of them came premixed from a bottle behind the bar; it improves the speed of service, of course, but I felt like the flavor wasn’t as complex as at other bars where they use fresh garnishes and craft each drink by hand. Still tasty!
None of the drinks on the menu come with a mug, but you’re able to purchase mugs in the gift shop; it does take a little bit of the “experience” factor out of it, but it is nice to have your mug in a nice safe box to take home. The mugs were on the pricier end ($15-18), but they’re custom Hala Kahiki mugs which automatically significantly increases the awesomeness factor. I picked out this cool rum barrel guy to come home with me.
Shoutout to the lovely One Curious Fox who was gracious enough to be my Instagram husband and take plenty of pictures of me throughout the trip. This tiki-fabulous dress is the second custom dress I ordered from Hearts and Found – click here to read my review of the first dress! Everything I said in that review holds true here; the dress is absolutely beautiful and fits great. A plus I didn’t even anticipate is that the tie in the front is actually a separate strip tied into a knot to cinch a wider piece of fabric, which let me loosen up the knot to (mostly) cover my rather industrially sized strapless bra. I felt pretty daring going out with a cutout, and I got so many compliments!
It’s great to know that a real jewel of original tiki is located just 90 minutes south of me! It’s a bit of a drive just for a drink, but I would definitely come back for another event like this one. I loved the opportunity to hang out with other tiki fiends and take it all in!
The Verdict (Out of 4 possible tiki torches)