Monday, March 9, 2009

The fall of the last great Detroit Tiki Temple

For several generations in this area, the Chin Tiki restaurant on 2121 Cass Avenue was the place for people to go celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, proms and other occasions of note. Marvin Chin opened it in an era when Polynesian/ Chinese food was relatively new to American palettes. The building itself was two stories of waterfalls, mysterious caverns, coves, tapa cloth covered walls and filled with relics, many made by Oceanic Arts in Whittier, California which is still in business today. The Chin Tiki opened in 1966 and stayed in business until 1980.

On March 6th, 2009, what was once the grandeur of the Chin Tiki came down. It had sat idle for years with Marvin & his son still coming by from time to time tinkering on the place. Many tiki enthusiasts had hoped that this haven would somehow be reborn and its significance be saved. When Marvin passed away in 2006, so did the dream of its re-opening.

The fences went up and the heavy equipment moved in during 2007 after the Ilitch Holdings Company came in and bought up the land for what is to be rumored a new stadium for the Ilitchs' Detroit Red Wings hockey team.

What was the front entrance to a magic tiki temple for so many people is now destroyed.

Visitors were often greeted with costumed hostesses distributing leis.

The second floor housed a huge dance floor that had nightly Polynesian acts.

For many, the Chin Tiki was a place to escape the daily grind. It was a destination.

As we look back at the City and its progress we're left to mourn what was once one of the premier dining destinations and a cultural icon for the area.

Gone are the days that adults can justifiably leave their children at home with the sitter, go partake of potent potables, dine in exotic fare, see scantily clad women and be flung off to an exotic locale... if even for one night. Along with the Mauna Loa, the Tropics, and a Trader Vic's, this building and all of the wonderful tiki memories that it housed is now a distant memory.


Marcyanna said...


Tom said...

Prom dinner in 1971. They had Mai Tai's without the rum. Great memories. But it was time for it to go.

the walking man said...

*sigh* it sat vacant longer than it was a going concern. Just another marker in the history of a Detroit long, long gone.

After 54 years of being here I too am ready to "be demolished."

Carolyn said...

nice but sad obituary Dave.

Bluegrass Ron said...

Brings back a lot of memories, I was the manager of Chin Tiki from 1966 just after it opened, till 1973.

During it's heyday we would have maybe 500 to 600 in for dinner and the floor show.

Thanks for the memory.