Rose and Stanley Sacharski never meant to open a tiki bar. Their first watering hole, The Lucky Start on Fullerton and Lockwood, was a simple neighborhood tavern until some bamboo wall coverings inspired endless questions from customers: were they a tiki bar? By 1963, the Sacharskis decided their answer was yes, and let their young son pick a new name—Hala Kahiki—from a copy of Dennis the Menace Goes to Hawaii.
Now located inside a former greenhouse in River Grove, Hala Kahiki pours more than 100 tropical-themed cocktails, mingling rum with daiquiris and gin with tropical fruits. Hanging shells sway above the bamboo-lined bar, and rattan lampshades and cane chairs evoke the pleasures of an endless Hawaiian summer. Tables and chairs dot a spacious outdoor garden, and an on-site gift shop stocks Hawaiian shirts, leis, wood-hewn lamps, and several former cast members of Gilligan's Island.
The LBGT-friendly Velvet Rope invites revelers with open minds and refined tastes to enhance their evenings with the lounge's slate of fine wines, international cuisine, and elaborate entertainment in the form of go-go dancers and drag shows. Beneath the suffuse lighting of tulip chandeliers, the bustling main floor hosts a full bar, where 35 specialty martinis brim with creative ingredients—such as cookie-dough vodka and absinthe—while the private VIP loft accommodates dozens with a dedicated server, a private television, and plush furnishings for late-night pillow forts. Food and drink packages deck out special events, and the nightclub's calendar overflows with karaoke nights, drink specials, and live performances.
Olive or Twist pairs its 36 unique martinis, 20 bottled microbrews, and international wines with contemporary American fare concocted by chef Robert Nava. Shaken or stirred libations range from the Thin Mint martini, which comes in a Girl Scout box, to the Florida Key Lime Pie martini, a dram of Bacardi rum, Midori liqueur, and chocolate liqueur garnished with lime ($9–$11). Diners can also choose from brews including 3 Floyd's Alpha King pale ale ($5) to accompany small plates such as the potato-wrapped prawns with spinach, artichokes, and mustard-seed butter ($10). Tenderloin sliders topped with blue cheese and red-onion confit ($9) annex tummies before calling for reinforcements of classic American sandwiches ($6–$12) or large-plate entrees such as the jerk ribs with an auxiliary unit of saffron shoestring potatoes ($18). For dessert, sweet teeth delight in the banana split ($8) and apple-and-cheese strudel ($5), named after Frank Zappa's overlooked fifth child. Dinner patrons should call ahead for reservations amid Olive or Twist's low-lit tables and brick walls.
Lincolnshire Gourmet offers proper pairings of healthy, fresh fare and lively musical entertainment within a cozy, welcoming storefront. Lunch and dinner options include gluten-free chorizo meatballs dunked in a jalapeño-lime sauce ($7), po' boy sandwiches gripping shrimp, veggies, and spicy mayo ($18), and entrees starring the restaurant's worst-kept secret, the NoOodle. With zero net carbs, zero gluten, zero soy, zero fat, and zero calories, the all-natural NoOodle boasts oodles of benefits and makes a fitting bed for entangled edibles such as grilled salmon with sautéed spinach, garlic, avocado relish, and olive oil ($20), and ultralite primavera mingling with spinach, red peps, yellow squash, and carrots in a creamy garlic sauce ($11). To accommodate youthful appetites, the chefs also offer finger-friendly items such as grilled cheese paired with fresh fruit ($5), paper-thin, whole-wheat cheese pizzas for two ($6), and napkins. Reservations are not required, but they are recommended.
Fragrant hookah smoke swims through the vividly hued lounge at Arabian Nights, undulating past curtains, pillows, and curling decorative accents. Guests take in scents through the winding tubes attached to their stations' apparatuses, choosing from an extensive list of shishas that includes herbal varieties for those who'd like to avoid tobacco. Guests are free to bring their own snacks to the lounge, which also serves teas, sodas, coffees, and juices.
The decor is eclectic. In one section, royal-blue walls contrast with the fairy-light-sprinkled vines that crawl around the perimeter of the ceiling. In another, orange and red walls corral a TV and a DJ station flanking a fireplace. Dramatic mirrors, low cushions, and checkerboard walls characterize other regions of the softly lit space, filled with guests surfing the web with complimentary WiFi and caterpillars avoiding political topics on first dates.