Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and take a closer look at one of Columbus’ most iconic restaurants.
When the Kahiki Supper Club opened in Eastmoor on E Broad Street in 1961, it was unlike anything Columbus had seen before. The restaurant was opened by restauranteurs Lee Henry and Bill Sapp, who also brought Columbus yet another iconic restaurant, The Top Steakhouse.
Tiki mania was all the rage after World War II when American soldiers were returning from the South Pacific in droves. Having lived in Hawaii, I can tell you that Tiki Bars are entirely a mainland-made fantasy, but that didn’t stop their popularity. The essence of tiki bars and restaurants like Kahiki was achieved by blending elements of Asian, Polynesian, and Caribbean cultures to create an “exotic” feeling experience for guests.
The restaurant was unlike anything else in the city. With its giant Moai statues flanking the main doors, unique architecture, and tropical vibes, the restaurant left visitors feeling completely transported.
Once inside, there were all of the typical tiki accouterments, including fish tanks, faux rain forests, and kitschy, tropical decor. For years, Kahiki was the place to be in the city. Celebrities frequently visited the restaurant and it was a popular destination for drinks, dinner, and fun.
Some of the restaurant’s most famous guests include Bob Hope, Gypsy Rose Lee, Van Johnson, and even Zsa Zsa Gabor, who reportedly ordered milk. To be honest, I don’t really know why I found her ordering milk so interesting, but I did, and I wanted you all to know. It’s such a Zsa Zsa Gabor thing to do.
The drink menu at Kahiki had all sorts of incredible tiki cocktails. Sure, they had classic options like a Mai Tai and even creative options like the Suffering Bastard, but their most revered cocktail was The Mystery Drink.
The Mystery Drink was all about the drama. The cocktail served four and would be brought out by a Mystery Girl, who’s arrival to the table was signaled by a giant gong. When I say we never had anything like this in Columbus before or since I truly mean it.
The Kahiki was about more than just food and drinks. It was an experience, and it was one that visitors came back to have for decades. Sadly, Kahiki Supper Club closed on August 25, 2000. Even more upsetting is that it was torn down and replaced by a Walgreens.
Kahiki Supper Club is honestly one of the most highly-revered and talked about restaurants in Columbus history, even twenty years after the doors were closed.
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