The weather isn’t quite as warm in Chicago as we’d like to be yet, but do you want to know what will make this uncomfortable, in-between season go by a little faster? A trip to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful flora, warm and humid weather, and tropical drinks with those cute umbrellas sounds really good about now. Well, don’t bother boarding a plane! Take a drive or the Metra over to River Grove, a Northwest suburb, and head to Hala-Kahiki! Located across the street from the Des Plaines River and nestled in a residential area, this tiki bar is all about the booze and the mood.
Walking through Hala-Kahiki’s doors, it takes a moment to adjust to the dim lighting, but once you do it will be impossible to stop looking around at all the Polynesian and tiki-themed knick-knackery and furniture. The mood of Hala-Kahiki induces a mellowness that can be oh-so-satisfying after a long week at work. I don’t suggest operating a motorized vehicle or any heavy machinery after leaving this establishment. The thing I love best about it: it’s a total throwback from my grandparents era. They were frequenting this place in the 70s and 80s when they were heading toward the end of middle-age. I heard about it as a kid and couldn’t wait to turn 21 and check it out. Now, although the groups and couples hanging out at the Hala-Kahiki are of varying ages, the late-night crowd is predominantly 20-something. Seating is varied: a bamboo bar and various-sized tables to accommodate parties of every number. In the summer, however, most people like to sit outside, but be prepared to wait if you’re coming by after dinner and want a table in the patio.
I have saved the most important aspect of this suburban gem for last: the drinks. The waitress will hand you a large menu, but don’t bother looking for food there. Look instead on the table in front of you. See the bowl of pretzels? That’s your food. So if you’re hungry, you’re out of luck (Gene and Jude’s is a block away if you want to catch a bite later). Now let’s get back to the drinks. The alcohol-driven menu in extensive (to say the least), and the drink descriptions are useful in helping you choose which cocktail is right for you. You’ll notice there are no prices, and that means you should be prepared to spend some money. Though, you won’t be spending as much as you’d think considering how much a beer costs at any trendy bar in Chicago. One or two drinks is all you need to feel the effects of these potent concoctions. Among the favorite beverages at the Hala-Kahiki are the Zombie (Rum, lots of rum), Volcano (a fiery drink for two), and assorted fruit daiquiris.
The dress code here is hilarious and enforced! “The Dress Code (This does not apply to females): No head gear of any kind. No cut-offs/tank tops. Your shirt must have sleeves. No plain undershirts.”