There’s a lot of things that people know about Chicago.
We’re called the Windy City for 12 different reasons. We’ve got a big shiny bean. And although our city is totally awesome, we’re very humble about it.
But one thing people might not know about Chicago is that we’re the Hawaii of the Midwest.
That sounds like a stretch, but think about it – we have paddle boarding, beaches (without palm trees), and we just happen to have more tiki bars than you’d ever think possible.
Chicago Tiki Bars That Will Make Everyday Feel Like Summer
If you’re lusting after the tropics but can’t afford the crazy-expensive trip to Hawaii, try these bars and be instantly transported – maybe minus the tan.
Paul McGee started this place back in 2012.
He was inspired by his travels to Hawaii and decided to bring some of that vibe back with him to the Midwest. For that, we thank you Paul. Because if there were an award for ‘Chicago’s best tiki bar,’ this would be the winner.
Three Dots and a Dash is the name of a rum drink created by Don The Beachcomber – aka the founder of tiki restaurants. And the drink itself is named after the Morse code for “V”, which stood for “Victory” in WWII.
So you’re getting drunk and getting a history lesson. Win win.
Just like its name, Three Dots and a Dash’s drink and food menu is a mix of something classic and something new.
I recommend the ‘Poipu Beach Boogie Board’ – partially because it’s a McGee original. Partially because it’s classified as a ‘drink of impressive strength.’ And partially because it’s just so dang fun to say.
This one is a bit newer, but it has a familiar vibe. Probably because it was created by the same dude who brought you Three Dots and a Dash.
Named after a drink that a friend of McGee’s tried in Oregon, Lost Lake is a little more hipster and has a little less tiki. But, it still boasts signature “Three Dots” drinks as well as new ones that are guaranteed to be “weirder.”
And if all of the above wasn’t enough to tug at your island soul, it’s right next to its sister restaurant, a Chinese takeout place. Which means you can down your drinks and then run next door and grab some chicken fried rice to complete the night.
So let’s say that not only are you a landlocked ocean soul – you’re also stuck in, God forbid, the suburbs tonight.
Being stuck in the suburban boonies just outside of Chicago can be painful, I know. And being stuck up near O’Hare where you have to watch the planes leaving and rubbing their awesome travels in your face – even worse.
But besides the awesome Pacman-themed restaurant/bar in Schaumburg, you’re in luck. Because just south of the airport is Hala Kahiki, aka “the most authentic tiki bar in the Midwest.”
This is the epitome of ‘dive bar’ (pun totally intended).
It has been around since 1966 – just after the whole Tiki Bar movement took hold of America.
(SIDENOTE: Who would have thought there was an actual tiki bar movement?)
The theme was inspired by the bamboo fencing that the current owners’ grandparents used to cover their walls with. From there, Hawaiian madness ensued.
With over 100 tropical drinks, a gift shop, and a Hawaiian bungalow straight out of the 60’s – this place is an experience worth having.
Not to mention, a good way to drown your suburban sadness.
This is probably one of the biggest and most welcome misfits of River North. It’s a little bit retro, a little hipster, a little bit of some other certain je ne sais quoi. With a website that looks like it was made in the 90’s and never updated, this place does things their own way. And it works.
The reason it’s on this list is because live reggae music is a regular occurrence here. And while that’s not tiki – and not even Hawaiian, I know – it’ll still make you feel like you’re swinging on a hammock next to water that isn’t Lake Michigan.
Not to mention, it’s open until 5 am on Saturdays.
Tiki image courtesy of Wikipedia/Kon-Tiki Museum