Built in 1961, the Kahiki in Columbus wasn't the first tiki restaurant in the nation (that honor goes to Don the Beachcomber's, in Hollywood, which opened in 1934), but it may have been the most elaborate. The New York Times dubbed the Kahiki "the grandest and best-preserved of a nearly extinct form of culinary recreation."
Placed in its socio-historical context, the Kahiki vividly recalled a time when America inhabited a sort of South Seas Camelot. Songs from the movie musical South Pacific (1958) were on everyone's lips, Hawaii had joined the union as the fiftieth state just two years before (1959), and Elvis was starring in Blue Hawaii (1961).
Tiki bars were among the original theme restaurants, dating from a time when Americans began to evince an apparently lasting appetite for the artificial over the real. If historic buildings serve as cairns that mark our path as we march resolutely forward through time, we should preserve places like the Kahiki in the event we ever want to go back. Alas, the time-worn relic was knocked down in 2000.