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This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Hukilau “- an annual event celebrating Hawaiian and Polynesian Pop culture while honoring a historic Tiki bar and location.” And what better place to celebrate than at the tiki-tastic Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Say Aloha to mid century tiki fun!

hukilau-tiki-mai-kai-festival-june-2011RetroRoadhusband and I are not able to attend this year’s Hukilau, but based on the rave reviews of the event and the Mai Kai (where the Hukilau has been held these last many years) we made a special trip to Florida’s east coast last year specifically to check out the Mai Kai, and we had a fabulous time! You can read all about our visit to The Mai Kai here.

Sneeky TikiThe Hukilau is named for the traditional festive feasts celebrated on the shores of Hawaii and meant to emphasize the spirit of family and community, or ‘ohana.

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Hooray! The rain has stopped and the sun is out – hope it’s the same type of lovely morning for all you RetroRoadap Readers. As promised here are some of the great Key West vintage signs and sights I discovered while walking around one sunny morning.

This first one has a special place in my heart, as it’s the sign for the hotel that RetroRoadhusband and I honeymooned at all those years ago (it now hangs in their lobby):

Eden House Hotel

A & B Lobster House Restaurant
A & B Lobster House Restaurant Vintage Sign

The Strand Theatre – alas now a Walgreens

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The wind she’s a blowin and the rain she’s a fallin here tonight at the beach version of RetroRoadmap HQ. What better time to remember what a warm spring night can be like – in Key West Florida for example!

Here are a few shots of the nifty neon you may see when you walk around Key West at night – tomorrow I’ll show you some daytime shots of some of the cool vintage signs I found down there too.

Tropic Cinema Tropic Cinema Marquee

Strand Theatre now (sigh) Walgreens Strand Theatre Walgreens (more…)

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Now that the sun has finally come out and the snow has melted away, I guess I can share my final Florida vacation post, of the historic and lovely Columbia Restaurant, which has been delighting locals and visitors alike since 1905.

Columbia Restaurant In the Sunshine

The Columbia is located in a neighborhood of Tampa known as Ybor (EEE-BORE) City, which was founded in the 1880s as a neighborhood for immigrant cigar factory workers primarily from Spain, Cuba and Italy. Luckily for us Ybor City is also easily accessible from the highway that leads to the airport, and it was en route to that destination that we snuck in a final Retro Roadtrip meal before heading back to the snowy north.

Columbia Exterior

Still family owned and operated, the Columbia is open 365 days of the year and is Florida’s oldest restaurant. It began as a corner cafe in but later blossomed into an elegant dining destination with multiple dining rooms, with gorgeous tilework and stained glass. We were lucky enough to sit in the beautiful daylight filled Patio dining room, which was built in 1937 .

Patio Dining Room

As one account describes it:

It resembles a courtyard like the ones found in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, it is surrounded by a balcony, with a colorful mosaic-tiled fountain with the “Love and the Dolphin” statue in the middle. The statue is a replica of a sculpture found in the ruins of Pompeii. A large retractable glass skylight was installed, giving the room a wonderful bright and sunny look during the day, and an enchanted glow at night.

And indeed on a gloomy late morning, knowing we were heading back to unheard of amounts of snow, it was heartening to see the sun glimpse through the skylight, so we could pretend that it wasn’t as cold as it really was.

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While we’re still on a bit of a Mid Century Modern jag here at Retro Roadmap I wanted to give my dear readers in the Sarasota Florida area a heads up on a modern home tour this Sunday, to benefit to Benefit Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, Inc.

sarasota-modern-house-tour-retro-roadmap
Mod Realtor Martie Lieberman of  Modern Sarasota and I exchanged a couple of notes when I admitted to being smitten with a mod bungalow down in Venice (not that we can afford a Retro Vacation Location, but a gal can dream!) Martie specializes in Mid Century Modern and Current Century Modern homes in the Sarasota area, and also runs guided tours of Florida modern and mid-century architecture.

rupp-siebert-modern-sarasota-tour-retro-roadmap
I am intrigued by the house above, known as the Rupp-Siebert House which Martie informs me

…is a 1960 house designed by William Rupp, who used to run Paul Rudolph’s office. The Rupp Seibert has gone through a number of mutations and was completely renovated and restored back to its original intent by Seibert Architects.  It is an authentic Sarasota School of Architecture mid-century modern architecture.”

The Rupp Seibert house will be open for this tour, so if your interested in mid-century mod architecture of the Sarasota School, check out Sunday’s tour!

Here’s a link to the official invite, and if you do go, tell ’em Retro Roadmap sent you!

Modern Sarasota Home tour 2010

March 14th, 11:00am – 4:00pm
to Benefit Habitat for Humanity Sarasota, Inc.

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The Mai Kai has been on my “To Do” Retro Roadmap list for ages, and I’m proud to say “We DID”! This east coast tiki temple has been wowing visitors to Fort Lauderdale Florida since 1956, and it certainly wowed us. Definitely on our top list of Retro Roadmap Recommendations!

Mai Kai SignI am quoting that great tiki resource Critiki when I let you know that “The Mai Kai is perhaps the last of the grand Polynesian palaces still operating from when tiki was at its peak in the late 50s and early 60s. That the Mai Kai not only still exists today, but is vibrant and thriving, is something we should all be very grateful for–but not take for granted.” – I could not say it any better!

Mai Kai Entrance

The Mai Kai is a sprawling Polynesian paradise on a busy commercial strip in Fort Lauderdale, and takes on a look of mystery once the sun sets. Included in this time warp of wonderfulness are 8 dining rooms,  a fabulous sunken ship inspired bar, waterfalls, bridges, tropical foliage, and more tikis and idols than I could count.

This tribute to tiki is currently owned by Mirielle (the wife of one of the original owners) who also runs the Polynesian review dinner show- and was once a dancer in it, herself! She also makes sure all new dances added to the dinner show are performed properly according to the people who live on the island on which the dance originates.

We pulled the rented Retro Roadmapmobile over the bridge, left it in the trusty hands of the valet,  made our way into the darkened interior of the Molokai bar, and into another world.

Mai Kai Bar

Our waitresses were a bit goosebumply in their sarongs on this unseasonably chilly day- too bad they couldn’t have a Rum Barrel to warm themselves up, as I did!

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The bar is a wonderful recreation of a sunken ship and turn of the century seaport saloon, replete with tiki music and underwater effects:

No matter what window you look out of, you would never be able to tell that the busy street is just outside, as each porthole and ship window reveals a lovely tropical scene:
Mai Kai Waterfall IdolsWanting to get a good seat for the floor show, we left the bar promptly at our reservation time and proceeded into the inner sanctum of the restaurant.

Mai Kai Gardens click here to see the inside of the Mai Kai!

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Oh, the eating we do in the name of Retro Roadmap research! One place where I could not resist getting an ice cream sundae that was almost as big as my head was Jaxon’s Ice Cream in Dania Beach, Florida.

Jaxon's Ice Cream Parlor SignI was a little surprised to see Jaxon’s in a roadside shopping plaza on Route 1 South, since the photos I had seen had that Gay ’90’s vintage look. Founder Monroe Udell has been serving up ice cream – made on the premises – on this location since 1956 and the shopping strip has grown along with his business.

Opening Day 1956

We had just had lunch a little earlier and were in no way hungry, but we had to go in. And of course we said yes to free popcorn. And when we saw the menu with all of the ice cream delights listed, well, we just knew we had to order something sweet – all in the name of research, you see. Yep that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Jaxon's Menu(they also serve food, hence the ketchup and mustard in this photo,

but if we ate here there’s no way we would’ve had room for ice cream!)

While our ice cream creations were being concocted I had a chance to wander around and amaze at all of the stuff that Jaxon’s has accumulated over the years. According to their website they have “one of the nation’s largest collections of rural American memorabilia, including a world class automobile license plate collection.” and I will take their word for it. Have a look at the style that Jaxon’s calls “Early American Disaster”:

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