The Kahiki

Kahiki Supper Club Columbus Exterior View
Each year during Tiki Month, I reflect on one of my real cocktail-related regrets: That I never visited the Kahiki Supper Club here in Columbus while it was still open. The Kahiki was a massive, and I mean massive, Tiki palace. I’ve never heard of a Tiki-themed restaurant that was larger. Inside the massive building you see pictured above, were something like six smaller thatched buildings housing various bars and dining rooms. Surrounding these were a lagoon, a rain forest, and an eighty foot high fireplace.

The Kahiki survived far longer than the original age of Tiki (2000), succumbing finally not to abandonment by its customers, but to a need by the owners to divert capital to their frozen food business, which still thrives today. The Kahiki food in its early days got the laughing reputation around Columbus as the only place where the food could kill you, served as it was on sharp swords and spears with lots of open flames on the table. I’ve eaten the grocery store product they have now, and it isn’t half bad.

I worte this post to direct you to the Kahiki’s website, where they have an incredible, vintage video of the Kahiki that gives an idea of what the experience was like. I curse them for not making it embedable, so you’ll just have to follow this link, then click on “Kahiki Supper Club Video” right below the picture of the grand old palace. It’s a pain, I know, but it’s worth it if you have any Tiki in your soul.

I do have one video I can embed. When the place was finally torn down (to make room for a CVS Pharmacy!) Much of the decor was salvaged. To get an idea of the scale of the place, check out this clip of the massive fireplace being removed:

UPDATE: Mike Monello, who posted the YouTube video above has dropped by in the comments, and provided a link there to his Flickr page with lots of stills of the demolition! Thanks, Mike!


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  1. Frederic

    9 February

    We have a great place outside of Boston (in Saugus which is around a 15 mile drive) called Kowloons. Great atmosphere including a room with a boat, many fountains and waterfalls, etc. The food isn’t bad but the Tiki drinks suck. They’re not bad tasting, but they taste nothing like the classic name suggests. Plus, most are sweet and nondescript.

    I’ve always wished that some of the Tiki geniuses around Boston could rent out the place for a night…

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  2. Doug

    9 February

    I think I have eaten at Kowloons. It’s on a big hill overlooking the highway, right?

    I thought it had bitten the dust last time we drove by. I’m glad it hasn’t. I wouldn’t have known a real Tiki drink if it bit me on the ass, back 15 years ago when we ate there.

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  3. Frederic

    9 February

    Yes, and open kind of late. We were there last in Sept 09 and I hadn’t heard of it closing.

    I remember drinking a Suffering Bastard and not tasting ginger ale. I forgot what was up with Andrea’s Mai Tai but it wasn’t identifiable in the slightest as one. The Scorpion Bowl I let slide though.

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  4. Doug

    9 February

    I last drove by about three years ago. 90% of Mai Tais anywhere couldn’t be identified as such with DNA testing!

    For that matter, Don’s would be unrecognizable if all you had had were Vic’s….

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  5. Wow! What a cool old place. It’s such a shame it is gone. I’d have loved to gone there. It was sad watching the fireplace being removed.

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  6. Mike Monello

    12 February

    Cool, that’s my YouTube video of the Kahiki fireplace salvage. I also have a set of photos on flickr from that day, including some interior shots after the fireplace was removed:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/campfiremike/sets/72057594131033655/

    Such a sad day that was. Locals walked by all day, reminiscing about the great times they had in the Kahiki.

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  7. Brerarnold

    14 February

    In 1969, my high school put on a performance of “South Pacific.” That was in Chillicothe, just about 45 miles down U.S. 23 from Columbus. One of the faculty called the Kahiki and got permission for the cast to come during the off-hours, to shoot publicity photos. What a great experience. We had the whole place to ourselves … fantastic. I still remember my amazement at the indoors rain forest that towered overhead. I wonder if any of those old photos still exist anywhere? Maybe in the yearbook.

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  8. Doug

    14 February

    If you find any, post a link here, please!

    Or send them to me and I’ll add them myself.

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  9. Nicole

    2 May

    @Doug: the restaurant in Boston you were thinking of (on the hill over the highway) is indeed closed, but thankfully, it’s not the beloved Kowloon. The other place was called Jin http://www.yelp.com/biz/jin-asian-restaurant-and-caterer-saugus and was themed like a traditional Chinese restaurant, not Polynesian. I just ate at Kowloon last week (as is usual when I head through the area) and although one of the rooms has been updated in it’s looks, the rest is still retro-tikitacular! Grass roof over the bar, a Polynesian panorama glued to the wall, a dark ceiling with little lights emulating the night sky… And fountains between the booths! I love going there- the food is as great as the atmosphere. My only qualm is that the drinks don’t taste quite right, though they’re still decent, and not watered down. http://www.kowloonrestaurant.com/

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