Mai Kai Restaurant: History of a South Florida Institution
Fort Lauderdale doesn't have the long history of cities like New York or Boston. With just over 100 years under the city's belt, you're not going to find landmarks like the Plaza Hotel. However, you will find mid-century gems like the Mai Kai.
All photos courtesy Mai Kai Restaurant
To many residents, the spot may be thought of as a quirky happy hour destination or even a tourist trap, but the Polynesian themed restaurant is actually steeped in tradition and history -- as well as a bit of mid-century kitsch.
With this weekend's of the Hukilau, a massive tiki-themed event, we decided to revisit the home of the longest running Polynesian review in the entire country -- mainland, anyway.
Brothers Bob and Jack Thornton opened the restaurant on December 28, 1956 in the middle of nowhere on US1. The construction cost about $400,000, making it the most expensive restaurant construction project to take place anywhere that year. Within the first year of opening, the Mai Kai recouped the entire 400 grand in construction cost and actually turned a profit.
Mai Kai circa 1957