Recently, we went to the Hala Kahiki in River Grove, IL (just as an aside, you get a very different website if you leave out the hyphen on the web address).
The Hala Kahiki has long considered the best tiki bar in Illinois, and one of the best vintage tiki bars in the country by some. So it's been on our list of places we needed to visit for a long time. Of course, since it's in River Grove, and keeps somewhat limited hours, we hadn't made it there. Until now.
The Good News
We were amazed by the decor and ambience. Truly a beautiful oasis in the middle of nowhere, will lots of great decor items, down to the small details like the puffer fish lights. It's a really big place, even without the outside patio space. The parking lot was packed, but there were still tables, so we got lucky.
Great ambience, great vibe, good crowd.
The Bad News
The drinks were not good. I know I'm a cocktail snob, and they're trying to hold their prices down in the tough economy, but the drinks were not what we expected based on the decor.
I ordered a Mai Tai (foreground) and Derek ordered a Fog Cutter. Our drinks tasted very similar to each other, with tons of crushed ice. Unfortunately we were not at the bar and did not see how they were made, but mine tasted like vodka with cheap sour mix - no rum flavors whatsoever, no orgeat, no fresh lime. And it seemed like they used lots of foaming bar sugar.
Maybe they were busy and took shortcuts, or maybe it was an off night. I'll probably go one more time and see if I can sit at the bar next time so I can see what's happening. But this was a disappointing introduction to the Hala Kahiki.