By Dan Morgridge
When the city heard that Paul McGee would be leaving the Whistler, it was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced (or at least filled with a nice craft beer instead). But when McGee and the Melman Brothers announced that they’d be opening up a tiki bar, there was rejoicing again. Well, rejoicing, and a quick mental jog to the city that tiki bars still actually exist. It’s sad but true – until the Melman/McGee endeavor opens, there’s really only one current tiki bar in the city proper right now, and … well, we’ll address that. But fear not: the near ‘burbs are chock full of funky fun nooks to sing Mele Kalikimaka while you slug Singapore Slings.
2834 River Road
River Grove, IL 60171
Originally getting into the tiki business because they’d covered up the crappy walls with bamboo fencing, Rose and Stanley Sacharski unwittingly began a journey to tiki greatness that has lasted almost 50 years. Flaming drinks, lamps of palm and bamboo, your great-aunt’s deck chair cushions, and straws as long as the night.
7930 W 26th St
North Riverside, IL 60546
A tiki bar and asian fusion restaurant, Shangri-La is truly the gateway to the east. The brainchild of Chinese immigrant Paul Fong and his half-Hawaiian wife Suzie (who have a pretty amazing combined backstory–go read it on their site!) is a comfy cove of small tables, filtered light, and a koi pond for good measure. Offering Thai, Korean, and Japanese dishes, the menu’s heat is the perfect compliment for the 28 different ways they have of filling you with rum and fruit.
Just as gambling will often be found at its best on the riverboats, Chicago’s tiki culture is so taboo that it must take to the waters as well. The gents who run TikiBoat offer an intimate affair: no more than six passengers, a 40’ boat, and just a captain and staff members to help you with your partying. Sadly, their phone number seems to indicate they are not currently in operation, but fear not–summer approaches, and we’re sure the tiki torches will ride the waves once more.
1591 Lee Street
Des Plaines, IL 60018
One bad mammer-jammer of tiki ‘tude, the Terrace is one of the farthest sites from the city proper–but dag, do they make up for it. Mahi Mahi, Ahi Tuna, Hawaiian burgers and much more are available on their sumptuous menu (no poi, for better or worse). Every Friday and Saturday features the Echoes of Polynesia Revue show. Concerts occur throughout the week. And sometimes, just sometimes, Tiki Elvis stops by for a song. Tiki. Elvis.
3216 N Sheffield Ave
Chicago, IL 60657
Well, they have tiki drinks, to be fair. And the decor is kind of sort of there. Everything else about Trader Todd’s is probably as far from a cute 70’s tiki lounge as you could imagine. Karaoke–every night–infuses the bar with a musical theme, although you’re likely to hear “Don’t Stop Believin’” a hundred times before “Tiny Bubbles” ever gets sung. Also, it’s Wrigleyville, so expect Wrigleyville.
Dan Morgridge just wants the little face mugs and cherries skewered with plastic swords.