Columbus was indeed a slice of Middle America, making it a wonderful place for a nostalgia buff to explore back then. It was full of interesting examples of roadside Americana. Besides the ubiquitous White Castles, there were Big Bear grocery stores, classic drive-in restaurants (such as Jerry's Drive-in), 1950s bowling alleys with garish neon signs, the South Drive-in Theater, vintage Mom-and-Pop motels (such as the 40 Motel), and plenty of great, kitchy signage seemingly everywhere (click here to see some great photos on the RoadsideArchitecture.com website).
In case you've never heard of it, the Kahiki was a well-known Polynesian supper club. Built in 1960 during the height of the Tiki craze, the Kahiki's outside was designed to look like a Polynesian outrigger canoe. Two giant Easter Island heads topped with flaming pots flanked the entrance.
The inside of the restaurant resembled a Tahitian village and rainforest, complete with birds and simulated thunder and lightning. Guests sipped exotic rum drinks out of tiki mugs, all to the beat of exotic South Seas lounge music.
|1962 Drink Menu|
Unfortunately, I never ate at the Kahiki while I was on campus. I didn't have a car the first few years, and during that time rarely got over to that side of town.
But when I finally did have a car on campus, I started to explore the city – and accidentally drove by the Kahiki one night. I remember seeing the two large, flaming Easter Island heads outside this outlandish building – and wondering what the heck was going on in there.
Sadly, the Kahiki closed in 2000 to make way for a Walgreens. Before it closed down for good, I drove down to Columbus to have lunch there, and to grab some Kahiki souvenirs.
I managed to grab some matches (below).
I also found a stack of these brochures (below).
Since my visit, I also picked up a Kahiki mug somewhere (below). You can see a similar mug on the inside spread of the brochure.Kahiki name lives on through its namesake frozen Asian foods, available at your local grocery store.
Feeling bad about not being able to visit the Kahiki? Fortunately, a nice couple from Columbus filmed some great home movie footage during a 1999 visit to the restaurant, and posted it on YouTube (below).
(Courtesy of www.theSupperClubBook.com)