South Florida's Most Unique Dining Experience With Award-Winning Cuisine

  reservations  email  954.563.3272

The Mai-Kai Restaurant & Polynesian Show

About The Mai-Kai:
Our Story

MAI-KAI HISTORY

“In its first year it earned over one million dollars, becoming one of the most successful restaurants of its time and for many years it sold more rum than any location in the United States.”

The Mai-Kai was created by Bob and Jack Thornton. The brothers visited Don the Beachcomber’s in Chicago, as children, and even at that young age said they wanted to open a similar place. Their original design cost 300 thousand dollars; it was the most expensive restaurant built in 1956. In its first year it earned over one million dollars, becoming one of the most successful restaurants of its time and for many years it sold more rum than any location in the United States.

The Mai-Kai became rather expansive in time; it includes eight dining rooms, a bar, tropical gardens with walking paths and waterfalls, a stage in the center to showcase the Polynesian Islander Revue floor show, and a gift shop. The last large renovation took place in 1970. Even during these massive construction projects, the Mai-Kai never closed. They stipulated that the work must be done so that customers could not see or hear it. This often meant the work was done in the wee hours of the morning.

“The show is the longest running Polynesian Show in the entire USA including Hawaii.”

 

 Today, the Mai-Kai is much like it was in the 1960s. A wooden slat bridge is crossed to reach the porte cochere and valets. A maître d’ greets visitors, and in the beautiful restrooms there is an attendant, which the restaurant says is “a luxury missing from too many places today”.

The Mai-Kai is a family run business and is now run by Bob’s stepson Dave Levy, Owner and General Manager together with his sister Kulani Gelardi, Head of Bookkeeping Department. He has undertaken a massive renovation of the building as of 2008 to restore the building and repair damage from Hurricane Wilma.

The manager of the Mai-Kai is Kern Mattei, whose father, Kern Sr. was manager, having started at the Mai-Kai in 1963. The Assistant Manager is Mireille Thornton’s grand daughter Mireille Levy.

In 2014 Mai-Kai was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mai-Kai Islander Revue features authentic Polynesian music, dance, costumes and artifacts. Members of the troupe represent many of the islands that make up the South Pacific including Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. Mireille Thornton, Owner of The Mai-Kai and Choreographer has been in charge of the Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue since 1962. As new dances are added to the show, Mirielle first visited the island where the dance originates to ensure it will be performed properly. One large dining room overlooks the show. The show is the longest running Polynesian Show in the entire USA including Hawaii.

“The Mai-Kai contains many genuine Polynesian artifacts, some that are over 100 years old. “

MOLOKAI BAR

Designed as a turn-of-the-century seaport saloon, the Molokai bar features 57 specialty drinks, a full service bar and extensive wine list. Lighting from ships’ lanterns enhance the intimate and friendly atmosphere. The waitresses at the Mai-Kai’s Molokai Bar are attired in bikini tops and wraparound sarongs. The sarong-clad serving girls were a Mai-Kai invention. For many years, a Mai-Kai calendar was offered featuring the women of the Mai-Kai. This worship reaches its zenith with the Mystery Drink, delivered by the Mystery Girl, which is supposedly “an experience that must be witnessed to be fully appreciated”.

 

“In 2014 Mai-Kai was added to the National Register of Historic Places.”

THE MAI-KAI GARDENS

The Mai-Kai has taken advantage of the nearly year-around growing season and sub-tropical climate to its fullest advantage. Some of the palms and orchids are over fifty years old. On June 8, 2009, a massive carving by Barney West that stood in the gardens for decades collapsed. It was replaced by King Kai in May of 2016, a tiki carved and donated by members of the Tiki community to commemorate Mai-Kai’s 60 Anniversary.

POLYNESIAN ARTIFACTS

The Mai-Kai contains many genuine Polynesian artifacts, some that are over 100 years old. Much of the original collection of Polynesian artifacts was donated to the Thornton’s alma mater Stanford University in the 1970s. Part of the collection was donated to the local Fort Lauderdale art museum. An insurance appraisal put such a high value on the artifacts that it made the Mai-Kai virtually un-insurable.

“The Mai-Kai Islander Revue features authentic Polynesian music, dance, costumes and artifacts. “

THE MAI-KAI TRADING POST

Our Mai-Kai trading post and gift shop will give you a chance to bring home your favorite memories of the Mai-Kai. With Hawaiian shirts, Polynesian jewelry, your favorite tiki mugs and everything in between, you will find your treasury here.

MAI-KAI CATERING

Be a guest at your own party with the professional catering team from the Mai-Kai. We will take care of all arrangements, from food and drinks to tropical decor and entertainment.

Street view of the Mai-Kai today with it's brightly lit rock and water garden with lush flora against the iconic Mai-Kai sign and carved woodwork.
Vintage black and white photograph of Mr Thornton with glass next to Polynesian velvet painting.
McKirahan_mai_kai_postcard_drawing
Johnny Carson with Mystery Girl on the Johnny Carson Show.
1957_image
63 March Mireille
The Mai-Kai exterior in 1948.
The Mai-Kai exterior in 1961.
1967 ad for the Mai-Kai featuring group of Mai-Kai women.
Photo from past of Mai-Kai women on the waterfall in the Mai-Kai garden.
The old exterior of The Mai-Kai.
Old color photo of the Mai-Kai exterior.