Located at 4501 N. Rosemead Blvd., Bahooka Ribs & Grog is more nautical than tiki, but there are certainly plenty of nods to Polynesian Pop in this landmark. One gets the feeling that some really creative thought and effort went into creating this place initially, but that many layers of additional decor have been added over the decades -- some of which evoke Party City, the local scrapyard, or Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag (with a "whole bunch of crazy crap on the walls") more than tropical islands or Trader Vic's.
|Tiki Magazine is available at the Cashier's counter.|
Decor-wise, the highlights at the Bahooka are the more than 100 fish tanks, featuring an interesting array of critters, including an enormous, 35-year-old, carrot-eating pacu named Rufus. (The pacu, a close relative of the pirahna, has become known as "the testicle-eating fish" after some unfortunate incidents in Papua New Guinea's Sepik River. Tip for the day: Never fish naked in tropical rivers.) Although it sometimes feels a bit like dining in a pet shop, the aquariums are visually arresting and add a mysterious blue glow to the dark, maze-like restaurant.
|A blast to the Mid-Century past.|
|The largest and most visible tiki at Bahooka guards the bathrooms.|
The steaks were cooked as ordered and reasonably well seasoned. But the meat was also tough, thin, and really pretty scarce by the time fat, gristle, and bone was cut away. The salad was drown in dressing (which didn't seem to phase Phil). The fries, though plentiful, weren't quite cooked enough. And the clam chowder (which is generally one of my favorite foods) had a rather un-chowdery flavor to it that kept me from eating more than a few spoons full. Phil's baked potato was okay, but unremarkable.
To be fair, we visited early in the evening on a Sunday, and made no follow-up visit. So I don't know if our experience was unique or par for the course.
|A banquet room in the back features a moai and treasure chests.|
The Mai Tai I ordered was quite recognizable as a real Mai Tai (which is more than you'll find in most restaurants these days), and the presentation was nice, but the execution was a little uninspiring. On the other hand, I've probably been spoiled by occasional visits to Don the Beachcomber's and Trader Sam's.
For the record, this is the only Polynesian-ish restaurant I've ever been to that featured pastrami sandwiches on their menu. Just another curious twist.