Omni Hut – Smyrna, TN

A few images from another fantastic meal at the Omni Hut, established in 1960.


Weapons are a great classic tiki bar theme.


Lamp 2

Lamp 1


Eliston Place Soda Shop – Nashville


This soda shop is not a place made to look like an old soda shop. It is an old soda shop, vintage 1934. I have been here before, but never got pictures of the awesome interior until this trip.

Juke box

A wurlitzer juke box has a box at every booth. And they work. The music is a weird mix from about 1978. Disco Duck and country you never heard of.

Juke box detail




These doors have seen a lot of use!


Froot Loops…

Coon Tiki 2007

Coon Tiki carving by Crazy Al

We have set the date for the next Coon Tiki carving class here in the mountains of East Tennessee. Last time, everyone had a fantastic time. It was great to get away to a secluded, peaceful cabin (minus Basement Kahuna’s heavy metal acoustic jam sessions, and the occasional Crazy Al bobsledding incident), and spend time with like minded people. We all got to know each other better and really share aloha in a way you don’t get very often. The one on one teaching from Benzart is unparalleled.

This is an incredible opportunity in many ways and we hope to see you here in July.

Make your reservations at the Coon Tiki site. Class is limited to 12 people.

Abstract Title

Abstract Title


Save Internet Radio

I have had an internet radio station for a few years on Live365. The diversity of music available to listen to for free online is incredible. The music industry thinks this is bad however. They have decided to drastically increase the fees charged to online radio. That’s online radio only. This will kill Internet radio. Of the hundreds of stations on Live365, probably 98% will vanish, including the Swank Pad and Vegas Vic’s Tiki Lounge. This sort of variety is what makes the Internet fantastic. No more streaming of on air radio either. It will all go away over night.

Check out the Live365 page about it and sign this petition.

Do it!

Mahi Mahi – Blue Hawaii Nashville Tiki History

I visited the Omni Hut doing a shoot with Turner South for a “Tiki Blue Ribbon” show. I was very much looking forward to it so I could talk with Jim Walls, the man who created the Omni Hut. I wanted to see what he knew of the other places in Nashville, the Surf Rider in the Andrew Jackson Hotel, the Mahi Mahi of which I have seen a postcard and a mug, and the Blue Hawaii from which I have a matchbook and a mug. I knew where the Blue Hawaii was from the matchbook. I also wanted to know all about his inspirations, etc.

He told me he was a pilot in the Air Force and was stationed in Honolulu around 1938-1940ish. He only worked 4 hours a day, so in his spare time, he was interested in food. He found things he liked and would go back again and again until he could find out the recipes and secrets of the dishes. He worked at one of the luaus on Waikiki Beach until the airplanes put the steam ships out of business and this luau. He worked at some Asian restaurant that was famous. Joe Young’s? I am not sure. All these places he was gathering recipes as well as all over the world. He was in Panama and all over. He just liked it and had no plans of opening a restaurant.

He decided to retire and his choices were in Savannah and Smyrna which was home of Ft. Stuart. For technical reasons he chose Smyrna. So, he started his restaurant of “Chinese Cuisine.” He showed me the first sign there for that. But with the decor, everyone said “you can’t fool us, this is the best Polynesian food we ever ate!” So, 6 months later he renamed it the Omni Hut, because it was a nice short name. Open since 1960, he was the first Asian restauant in the area and is the oldest in the state now.

He brought a box of stuff with him. There were clippings and menus. They had nothing from the old days. The clippings were all from 2000, after they re-opened from the fire. The menus were all there from the beginning. They have not changed except the prices and colors occasionally. There was a red one he didn’t bring:

Then I saw something black at the bottom of the box that looked older. I dug it out quick and nearly lost my breath:

A Mahi Mahi menu! With the tiki from the mug on it!

I opened the menu and inside was the postcard:

I’d seen this in BK’s collection. Awesome! Wait!

Next I see 5 X 7 black and white photos!

The interior of the Mahi Mahi!

The architectural drawing of it! Looks exactly like the postcard image!

So I had to ask him what he knew about the Mahi Mahi. “I owned it!” Wow! And I looked at the postcard again:

95 White Bridge Rd. Same as the Blue Hawaii!

It turns out, he did not build the Mahi Mahi. He bought it either in the late 60’s or early 70’s (his sons gave different years) and got a lot of debt when he did. He hoped his good food would make it profitable. It did not. A year later is was foreclosed on and the bank took all property and auctioned it off for pennies on the dollar! All they had was this stuff in the menu. Sort of…

After that it was bought again and it became the Blue Hawaii and had new big tikis erected out front. Last anyone knew it was the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant.

The things they did manage to sneak out the back door before the bank came in were these two Maori panels that hang in the entry of the Omni Hut today:

I realized 95 White Bridge Road was 2 miles from my sisters house in Nashville, so we went there. I was so excited. I wanted to scour the grounds for tiki stumps or whatever. Here is what I found:

Too late! It was demolished months ago. My sister says I had asked her about the building before. I must have passed it dozens of times over the years. CRAP! CRAP! CRAP!

Part of the puzzle is solved. I am sending pictures of my Milan Guanko carved tiki for the family to look at and see if it jogs their memory.

Here is Jim.

I hate that my picture is blurry. I met most of the family and they inspired me. I am going to let you all know what that means later. I wanna help these guys make Omni Hut all it can be!

Here are more images of the menu:

Just a few drinks

I was under the impression that the Mahi Mahi was all done by Oceanic Arts. Bamboo Ben told me it was actually by his grandfather Eli Hedley.

“Eli did the Mahi Mahi. It was an unlimited budget, dream job.”

More on that in May…

Also see my half finished Tennessee Tiki History page.

See also Basement Kahuna’s collection for better scans of the Mahi Mahi card.

The “Blue Ribbon” shows seems to be defunct now. I have a good digital DVD of the show which featured the Mai Kai, The Omni Hut, Trader Vic’s Atlanta and the now gone Hale Tiki in Augusta. If anyone is interested in a copy, drop me an email.

Summer Travel in the Land of Tiki

Spring is in the air here at the Swank Pad. I saw the first robin two weeks ago. I may be getting old when this season brings on a certain dread as I think of all the yard work… But, I look forward to the work as well…

Ms Swanky and I take off next weekend to visit Nashville and drop down to Smyrna to see Polly at the Omni Hut. I have asked her many times about the possibility of putting together a little tiki gathering there, and she has balked. I think I may have the answer this time that will get her to say yes. We’ll see.

In May I’ll be heading to the first annual Tiki Eyeball in central Illinois where I’ll help Basement Kahuna and Lakesurfer vending and demonstrating their carving skills. Looking forward to seeing the Aku Tiki.

The week after that I make my first trip further west than Iowa to visit LA. I’ll be doing photography for the Tiki Calendar there and will squeeze in a trip to the legendary Oceanic Arts.

With a little breather after that, we’re off to Hukilau for a long weekend, and more photography at the Mai Kai. We’ll have some preliminary images for the calendar then and may be vending for the first time. We came into possession of a large collection of Hawaiian shirts we need to sell.

In July, the Haole Kats will be around and I am working on some shows for them here and maybe Coon Tiki’s second seminar with Benzart and the annual luau here at our house.

August means Tiki Oasis. I don’t know if I can make that event, but I am helping the Haole Kats and Pablus put together a west coast tour from Seattle to Tiki Oasis that week and I hope to be right there with them. Then there is the Hot Rod Hula Hop in Columbus with all my Fraternal Order of Moai sisters and brothers.

In September, the calendar should be ready and then we work hard at sending it throughout the land as another embassador of Tiki…

I have some hopes of HGTV doing a show on renovating part of our new house into the new Hapa Haole Hideaway this year too.

I’m tired just thinking about all that, but it should be invigorating!

The Volcano – Polynesian Pop Awareness

Volcano Girls

This is why I encourage everyone to start an entry on Tiki Central for every known Polynesian Paradise that ever existed. In August, back in 2004, Kono posted about the Volcano in Winter Haven Florida and a few people added to it. Recently, the daughter of the owner of the Volcano started looking around for information and came across the post. She began finding out more and sharing the family stories, articles and pictures. A wonderful wealth of tiki goodness came out that would likely have dissappeared otherwise.

Enjoy the thread here and add to the Tiki Central database so more kids and grand kids share their findings with us!

Vintage Stewardesses

Take off!

Well, I love the big hair-dos of the bygone days. And the hats that are glued to the sides of their heads is just too damn cute. Add mini dresses. All aboard!

This was too good not to share!

Vintage Barware

My definition of “collecting” has changed over the years. I have been humbled by the vast and cumpulsive collections by people I have met or seen online. I do have a few “collections,” but, nothing that is going to blow anyone away. I suppose I collect vintage lamps, radios, and stuff. But mostly I don’t “collect” those things, I just buy them when I find stuff I like at a price I like. I only really collect Mai Kai and Aku Aku Las Vegas stuff, and a little Don the Beachcomber. Otherwise, it’s just decor. It is not a “collection” and my home is not a museum.

Experiment 33 has posted his collection of vintage barware and started a Flickr group for more to add theirs. I do love the remnants of a lost culture of good drink making. And I have a few of the things pictured myself.

SnoflakeI have had many ice crushers. Hand crank types and motorized ones. These days I enjoy the luxury of crushed ice by way of the fridge door. But, the best other ice crusher is the Oster Snoflake. Not only does it do the job well, but, you can put the crusher over an ice bucket instead of the tray it comes with and make mountains of crushed ice for your party. It does throw out eye piercing shards of ice, like many, but, it’s not too scary. Get one cheap on Ebay.

Oh if we could only travel like this now! I’d be the most popular person on the plane!