The writer at Eater who declared last week that tiki is dead might want to get out of New York for a while. This weekend in Ft. Lauderdale, tikiphiles will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Hukilau at the historic Mai Kai (also celebrating it's 55th anniversary this year, the Polynesian restaurant with the longest-running and most impressive floor show in the continental US). Tiki Tuesdays at Anvil are still going strong, with a new menu each week, and now, Humble has its own little piece of paradise, an odd little restaurant called Hula Mama's.
Nestled in the strip mall wasteland of FM 1960, just north of Bush Intercontinental, Hula Mama's is kind of hard to find. That is, unless you're looking for a restaurant in a double-wide trailer that also goes by the name of Alisi's Hawaii.
Several months ago a friend sent me the link to their website, knowing how into tiki I am. It took a while for me to finally check the place out, in part because it's only on Fridays and Saturdays that they offer the full luau-style floor show. And what's the point of going to such a place if not for the performance, I thought. Little did I know how right I was. But more on that in a minute.
Hula Mama's website neglects to mention that the restaurant is in a trailer. Instead, it describes itself as :
an indoor/outdoor climate controlled tropical theme that has been vastly decorated with island decor throughout that creates the ultimate luau experience
Sounds charming, right? The restaurant also advertises itself as a Southern food/Polynesian cuisine hybrid. And if Houston can do anything right it's fusion.
I made my reservations for the Friday night show and buffet ($39.99 a person), packed a flask (they're BYOB but they also advertise fresh juice drinks) and headed north.
To describe Hula Mama's luau meal as a buffet is stretching it. Five or so chafing dishes does not a buffet make, from nondescript stir-fry to meatballs to overly sweet pulled pork. I was willing to forgive that transgression, though, knowing how much Polynesians love their spam and poi. What I am not willing to forgive are the "fresh juice" drinks I was given to pour my rum into. We're talking mango straight out of a can. We're talking Hawaiian punch. In fact, the best part of the meal was the quartered and sliced fresh pineapple served as an appetizer.
But the best part of the evening had nothing to do with the meal at all.