Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2018

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1 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 TREND Porco Lounge & Tiki Room Cleveland A museum of tiki's storied past lives on in Cleveland at the Porco Lounge & Tiki Room. "We are curators and caretakers of these tiki artifacts and are teaching a new generation about this colorful his- tory," says owner Stefan Was. Many of the prized pieces exhib- ited were scavenged from the Cleveland unit of the famed Kon-Tiki restaurant chain, which closed in 1976. That includes the two hand-carved Poly- nesian outrigger canoes — Princess Kaiulani and Surf Rider — hanging from the ceiling, pufferfish lamps and the original doors from Kon-Tiki, made of mahogany with ornate brass handles, weighing 300 pounds each. "When cus- tomers walk in here, they pass through the very same doors that opened into the Kon-Tiki," notes Was. "It's hum- bling and neat. I love that connection to Cleveland's past." Many of these original pieces from the Kon-Tiki and other defunct bars were provided through the generosity of a local tiki collector, David Jackman. He would lend out the artifacts until Was had enough money to pay for them. Now deceased, Jackman's cremains are ensconced in a hand-carved statue in a place of honor at Porco's bar. "It was designing on a shoestring budget," recalls Was, who scoured the internet for the remains of defunct tiki bars. For example, he scored some chairs from Chin Tiki in Detroit, which closed in 1980, and rescued a few artifacts from The Kahiki in Columbus, Ohio, which was torn down to make way for a Walgreens parking lot. "For the tiki decor, we just cobbled together elements we found for free," Was says. This included roof thatch from a hair salon/ice cream shop that was going out of business, for example, and an old bamboo hut abandoned behind a barn. "We power-washed the hut, and now the bamboo lines our walls. A bit of thatch and bamboo go a long way to conceal any cosmetic blemishes." T he tiki phenomenon first took root in the United States in the 1930s with the opening of the legendary Don the Beach- comber and Trader Vic's restaurants in California. By mid century, Polynesian pop culture permeated America — in restaurants, home decor, art and fashion — thanks to a confluence of influences that included GIs returning from the Pacific Theater; the Kon-Tiki expedition; and the best-selling book, musical and movie "South Pacific." Elaborately designed tiki dens of yore offered an escape into an exotic tropical paradise. The phenomenon fell out of vogue during the Vietnam Era, but dedicated artists, collectors and aficionados kept the tiki spirit alive. Today, tiki bars and restaurants are enjoying a resurgence. New wave designs pay homage to tiki's history by rescu- ing and incorporating artifacts from its storied past while amping up the drama to include high-tech volcanoes, waterfalls and other special effects. Tiki bars are now part of the greater landscape of bars and restaurants that offer immersive experiences. American Idols: Tiki Bars BY THOMAS HENRY STRENK Porco Lounge & Tiki Room features decor scavenged from the Cleveland unit of the famed Kon-Tiki restaurant chain, which closed in 1976. Image courtesy of Sam Twarek

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