Mauna Loa, 1967

The Way It Was


Published:

1967 During the 1960s, the popularity of tiki bars and restaurants exploded like a South Seas volcano. Carved masks, palm trees, beaded curtains, and rattan furniture became the décor rage, and exotic drinks laced with rum, pineapple, and coconut were merrily chugged down. Trader Vic's in the Hotel Statler and the Chin Tiki on Cass were well-known downtown Polynesian-themed restaurants, but for over-the-top exotica, no place matched the Mauna Loa. It opened in 1967 on West Grand Boulevard, across the street from the old General Motors building in the city's New Center. Palm trees and waterfalls set the tone outside, but the interior, divvied up into several themed rooms, was almost outlandish in its ambience. The 1970 book Detroit: A Young Guide to the City dubbed the Mauna Loa "the Disneyland of Detroit restaurants" and offered this vivid description: "Every inch of its enormous interior is splashed with colors and shapes … catamarans slung from the ceiling, palms, giant blowfish lanterns, streams gurgling past the tables … a pool where girls dive for pearls." A 1967 article in The Detroit News made note of the Mauna Loa's "lighted waterfalls flowing from nearly every corner" and "romantic lights glowing from stuffed blowfish." For all its spectacular adornments, the Mauna Loa lasted only a few years and was later taken over by a seafood restaurant that burned down. Today, the area where the lavish restaurant stood is part of the Hotel St. Regis property, and Detroit's slice of Polynesia, however kitschy, is just a glamorous memory — although Mauna Loa tiki mugs and menus sometimes turn up on eBay.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

The Way It Was - The David Whitney Building

Unlikely Sprinter

Cass Tech/U-M graduate Eddie ‘The Midnight Express’ Tolan ran to fame in the 1932 Olympic games.

Read All About It

Detroit Public Library looks back at milestones, and forward into the digital age

The Beat Goes On

Oak Park independent bookstore owners have been keeping the literary faith for more than 30 years

The Way It Was

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
    We asked some far-from-regular guys from metro Detroit to guest star as models for our fashion...
  2. Coming Home
    John Varvatos has opened high-profile boutiques from LA to London, but perhaps no location means...
  3. 2015 Restaurant of the Year
    Torino chef Garrett Lipar’s tasting menus take guests on expertly paced and emotional culinary...
  4. Dining Like Diego
    Local Mexican chefs to take on Frida Kahlo’s recipes as side dish to DIA and MOT events
  5. 2015 Winter Beer Festival Recap
    The cold presented some challenges, but the breweries rose to the occasion
  6. Solid Gold
    Pawn shop turned farmstead-cuisine restaurant feels like home sweet home
  7. Sharing a Passion
    2014 Hatch Detroit winner Sister Pie is all about baking and community building — and taking...
  8. Rochester Tap Room Opens Its Doors
    Serving up 60 Taps with a focus on Michigan beer
  9. Beer (Cheese) Me
    Brown Iron Brewhouse’s Deni Smiljanovski combines two things he loves in this easy,...
  10. Batch Brewing Company Launches Their ‘Feelgood Tap’ Charity Initiative
    Giving back to the community is important to Founder and Head Brewer Stephen Roginson