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Feb 15, 2013 06:16 PM

Bahooka is Closing

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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 37 comments on LA Mag:
          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

            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

              Our go to place was the Islander on La Cienega. Great fun and really over the top kitch:

              1. re: Servorg

                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

              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

                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

                  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

                    Absolutely. Look at how hard Mr. Gold had to scrape the bottle of the barrel for this list:

                    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

                      So what's next on the chopping block?

                      Clearman's Galley and North Woods Inn?

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        the northwoods inn, ?????

                        no, say it ain't so.

                        1. re: kevin

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

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            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

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

                        2. re: TonyC

                          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

                          "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

                            >>>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

                              "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

                                >>>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

                                  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

                                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?


                            2. re: TonyC

                              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

                                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

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

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    >> "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. 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.