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Bahooka is Closing

j
Jack Flash Feb 15, 2013 06:16 PM

I just read that the venerable Bahooka, probably the last remaining Tiki/Polynesian restaurant in L.A. County, will be closing for good on March 10th. It may not win any awards for its cuisine (though J. Gold has written poetically about it), but it remains true to its roots. It's a place everyone should visit at least once.

  1. Will Owen Feb 18, 2013 05:32 PM

    Okay, it's dark and weird and the booths are cramped, the drinks can be watery and the food is more entertaining on the menu than on the plate. BUT: being surrounded by green light from the burbling fish tanks, taking in the silliness of it all and enjoying it, and then getting a show from that venerable fish that could and happily would bite off your finger (assuming he's still alive) … that can be worth more than any strictly culinary experience, if you're in the mood for it, and heaven knows I frequently am. Guess one more trip back is called for.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen
      blimpbinge Feb 18, 2013 05:39 PM

      If social network sites and comments sections of the news articles are any indication, that place should be packed from now until they close. Seems like a lot of people are suddenly talking about it again.

      1. re: blimpbinge
        c
        cacio e pepe Feb 18, 2013 06:04 PM

        2 hour wait for a table last night. It'll be a zoo until the very end.

        1. re: cacio e pepe
          k
          kevin Feb 18, 2013 06:08 PM

          damn, i really want to visit now, and since i've never been, oh, well.

          i guess that would make me part of the old bandwagon.

          well, if it dies down in a week or so i still might hit it uop.

          why o why, did i not visit years ago ?

          1. re: kevin
            ipsedixit Feb 18, 2013 06:57 PM

            Don't worry about it, dude.

            It's like when Twinkies went bankrupt a few months ago. Those that ate it growing up, ran out and bought all they could. Those that never grew up with Twinkies made like lemmings and came away with "What the fuck is all the fuss about??"

            1. re: ipsedixit
              k
              kevin Feb 18, 2013 07:32 PM

              yeah, but i have a feeling i'd like the place, what with tiki style drinks, etc.

              i do like Tiki Ti, even though it's overrated, and i heard a lot of people lambast that place before.

              oh, well.

              1. re: kevin
                j
                Jack Flash Feb 18, 2013 09:36 PM

                FYI: they take reservations at Bahooka. I strongly encourage you to try it, and by all means make a reservation or you'll be stuck with a 2 hour wait.

                1. re: Jack Flash
                  k
                  kevin Feb 18, 2013 10:18 PM

                  Thanks Jack.

                  Problem solved if they are taking reservations.

          2. re: cacio e pepe
            cagey Feb 19, 2013 05:52 AM

            Just hope that all the 11th hour Lookie Lou's don't come away underwhelmed. There *is* that very real possibility given the refined and ever-revolving tastes of the Chowhound community at large.

      2. raytamsgv Feb 18, 2013 12:23 PM

        They've had a good run. I can't say I thought highly of their food, but it was certainly a unique place.

        1. j
          Joani Macaroni Feb 16, 2013 08:15 PM

          Thanks for letting us know. 30+ years isn't a bad run for a restaurant. Will have to stop in for old time's sake, as well as see my alma mater (RHS) across the street.

          1. TonyC Feb 16, 2013 09:07 AM

            37 comments on LA Mag: http://www.lamag.com/citythink/askchr...
            yet the only pertinent sentence is this: "They don’t want tiki around here, they want Asian".

            Well, DUH. Has anyone actually enjoyed Bahook's food, or drinks, in the last decade?

            23 Replies
            1. re: TonyC
              j
              Jack Flash Feb 16, 2013 09:13 AM

              I have. But then again, once upon a time my favorite restaurant was Don the Beachcomber. Surely, part of it is childhood nostalgia, part guilty pleasure, but that doesn't make it bad.

              1. re: Jack Flash
                Servorg Feb 16, 2013 09:20 AM

                Our go to place was the Islander on La Cienega. Great fun and really over the top kitch: http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/b...

                1. re: Servorg
                  cagey Feb 16, 2013 10:39 AM

                  Sadly many of these "go to" places are gone. (Don't get me started on The Luau or even Trader Vics in B.H. - when it had character.) The de-evolution of Tiki continues... The gods are NOT pleased.

              2. re: TonyC
                r
                RoxyGrl Feb 16, 2013 09:27 AM

                I have, a couple of times. More for the flaming drink bowls than the food but it was a nice option to have. I will miss it.

                1. re: TonyC
                  cagey Feb 16, 2013 10:13 AM

                  Oh c'mon. Many people have. In fact, I work in Pasadena and went there for lunch fairly often. Just wasn't THAT bad, and again it's more than just about the foodie food. (JMO folks.) Asian is so thick on the ground in that part of the city, it's hardly news.

                  1. re: TonyC
                    c
                    cacio e pepe Feb 16, 2013 10:52 AM

                    I have! I'd much rather see the place get a facelift and an update than to see it put to pasture.

                    I mean, really, do we need another regional Chinese restaurant in an area that has an abundance of regional Chinese restaurants?

                    1. re: cacio e pepe
                      TonyC Feb 17, 2013 08:55 PM

                      Absolutely. Look at how hard Mr. Gold had to scrape the bottle of the barrel for this list: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&r...

                      Rephrasing my question (since the owners already made it about race, might as well add age to that): has an Asian person who's under the age of 50 actually enjoyed Bahooka in the last two decades? The answer also explains why Edward's steakhouse (El Monte) had to close in '10

                      1. re: TonyC
                        ipsedixit Feb 17, 2013 09:04 PM

                        So what's next on the chopping block?

                        Clearman's Galley and North Woods Inn?

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          k
                          kevin Feb 17, 2013 09:06 PM

                          the northwoods inn, ?????

                          no, say it ain't so.

                          1. re: kevin
                            ipsedixit Feb 17, 2013 09:14 PM

                            Well, both Goody and Norm's bit the dust.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              blimpbinge Feb 17, 2013 10:04 PM

                              I'm really not sure why norms closed (supposedly a lease disagreement?) because it was packed all the time. Even months/weeks before they closed, there were still lines during breakfast.

                              bahooka's management/ownership should ask di pillas, petrillos, in&out, and even shakeys, all relatively close.. why they're still doing so well

                              I don't think the galley will have issues, but north wood inn is a bit out of date. their concept is a bit old fashioned, the younger gen just isn't interested in their concept anymore.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                raytamsgv Feb 18, 2013 12:22 PM

                                Goody has a new location in El Monte, I think.

                          2. re: TonyC
                            c
                            cacio e pepe Feb 18, 2013 05:55 PM

                            Yeah. That link demonstrates a terrible dearth of regional Chinese in the SGV. Point taken!

                            Rephrase the question all you want, but it's pointless, race and age included. No one is stuck looking for a reason *why* Bahooka is closing. That's pretty clear. It's not even a surprising outcome. The answer to your question, however, is still "yes." What, you don't think there are Asian hipsters who love a night of ironic cocktails and faux-nostalgia? You'd be mistaken.

                            What a lot of are doing is mourning the loss of an old favorite. Bahooka was not about the overall weak food or the Kool-Aid+Well Spirit drinks. Bahooka was about an overall experience. It was just fun. That's it. Some nights, that's exactly what you want and now there is one less place in town that's just flat out fun.

                            I'm sure I'd still mourn the old Bahooka if a group like 213 took it over and Cole-ed it -- gave it a spray wash, updated the menu, and installed an artisan bar program. But at least the old girl would still be around. Now it's just . . . gone. LA is less fun for it.

                          3. re: cacio e pepe
                            blimpbinge Feb 18, 2013 12:41 PM

                            "I mean, really, do we need another regional Chinese restaurant in an area that has an abundance of regional Chinese restaurants?"

                            Yes we do actually. There's also no "abundance of regional Chinese restaurants"

                            1. re: blimpbinge
                              cagey Feb 18, 2013 01:57 PM

                              >>>the younger gen just isn't interested in their concept anymore.>>>

                              I think that pretty much sums up the gist of the divergence of opinion on the demise of Bahooka. Again, I'll restate that it wasn't "all about the food." I don't think the "younger gen" gets that aspect at all.

                              Also, if you don't find the plethora of Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese) cuisine and food stores in Alhambra, Rosemead, Temple City, and San Gabriel "pervasive," then I'm not sure what to tell you. The demographic of this area is solidly Asian - that's a fact. And I'm of the opinion that it's a matter of time before the rest of the non-Asian old timers (like Petrillos, Shakey's, etc.,) all hang it up when some investor comes and offers them a deal for their property - and not for their "business."

                              1. re: cagey
                                blimpbinge Feb 18, 2013 02:33 PM

                                "all hang it up when some investor comes and offers them a deal for their property"

                                Asian restaurants can't thrive if non-asian restaurants (and their patrons) don't leave. If the non-asian business owners and non-asian residents find it easier to flip their property or business instead of working hard to improve it, then that happens at the expense of leaving the area, that's their fault. No one is forcing them to move.

                                1. re: cagey
                                  c
                                  cacio e pepe Feb 18, 2013 06:03 PM

                                  >>>the younger gen just isn't interested in their concept anymore.>>>

                                  Well, I agree with that. But if you've been to Smuggler's Cove in SF, I think you'll see the younger generation absolutely loves Tiki. It just needs to be done a little differently. It's too bad we can't see Bahooka get re-invented. Instead it's getting razed.

                                  1. re: cacio e pepe
                                    cagey Feb 18, 2013 07:02 PM

                                    Razed? I heard (from some of the employees) that it would be remodeled and that the fish tanks - most of them - would somehow stick around. What it morphs into will be anyone's guess..... but if you take a gander at what Valley Blvd has to offer, "cozy" isn't how I'd picture it.

                                2. re: blimpbinge
                                  c
                                  cacio e pepe Feb 18, 2013 06:00 PM

                                  I think when someone from NYC or San Francisco slams the LA dining scene, the board nearly always plays the SGV card. And for good reason. SGV is home to a rather large Chinese and East Asian population and there is excellent economic support for a pretty special restaurant ecology there.

                                  Now that some old farts like me are pissing and moaning that an old favorite's time has come, people are claiming that there isn't much of a regional Chinese restaurant scene in the SGV and this property needed to be swallowed up?

                                  Weird.

                              2. re: TonyC
                                e
                                Ernie Feb 16, 2013 11:21 AM

                                Yes. It is a kitschy place for nostalgia for longtime SGV families like ours, however it is understandable that more recent Asian immigrants don't get it.

                                1. re: TonyC
                                  blimpbinge Feb 16, 2013 11:33 AM

                                  I like how they made it about race.. and not about the quality of their establishment. My parents (asian btw) used to go there quite often when they were younger. They stopped going because it was meh, not because "they want asian".

                                  1. re: TonyC
                                    b
                                    Burger Boy Feb 17, 2013 10:10 PM

                                    The Rib Appetizer is stellar and the drinks are first class!

                                    1. re: TonyC
                                      Mr Taster Feb 25, 2013 01:18 PM

                                      >> "They don’t want tiki around here, they want Asian"

                                      Ha. Because they want "Asian". It's high time we get a decent Kyrgyzstani restaurant up in there.

                                      Mr Taster

                                    2. cagey Feb 16, 2013 08:31 AM

                                      From what I gathered from the staff yesterday, the new owner (Chinese) wants the property for the space - not the restaurant. Makes sense with the rest of the area demographic. The fish tanks will supposedly stay, but not sure how that will fit into some new decor.

                                      I was saddened to hear this yesterday as well. Sometimes a restaurant is more than a "food destination" (as was clearly the case here). When you walked in to Bahooka, you tended to forget you were in Rosemead. Don't get that same feeling when I walk into Sea Harbor - not by a long shot. People can knock the food and the downhill alerts on this place all they want, but it's a very sad testament to another lost (if not kitchy) icon.

                                      1. j
                                        Johnny L Feb 16, 2013 02:28 AM

                                        I wonder what's going to happen to the space? I mean it's location is pretty terrible to drive into, quite inconvenient.

                                        Though my money has it on some rich mainland Chinese developer as par the course.

                                        1. k
                                          kevin Feb 15, 2013 07:28 PM

                                          Damn, in some ways, it always felt like it already closed up shoppe these past few years.

                                          I guess I'll have to visit at least once soon, probably in early March, and then high tail it afterwards to Sea Harbour.

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