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Night Watch: Da Big Kahuna

Da Big Kahuna
17th S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Ste. 380
Call 954-530-4867, or visit here.

I was seated at the palapa bar inside the expansive, open-air Da Big

Kahuna, amid beautiful ocean-themed murals, varying sized tikis (shipped

from Hawaii), and red and yellow lanterns. Pockets of people dined on

authentic dishes like the delicious pipi kuala poke and sipped

island-inspired beverages.

Bartender Aimee, who, by the way, was

both raised in Hawaii and is drop-dead gorgeous, had just placed a

napkinful of sandy-looking powder in front of me. "It's called li

hing mui," Aimee, with her long black hair and flawless skin, said

patiently. "We're the only place around here where you can get it in a


The menu featured a ton of delicious-sounding drinks with aloha-tastic names like Jungle Juice and Hawaiian Punch. The Li Hing Mui Margarita wasn't at the top of my list. Not until I cautiously licked a finger and brought the mysterious powder to my lips.  Li Hing Mui exploded all over my tongue: It was immediately sweet, then sour, then salty. Then all at once. Look, it's hard to explain, but I'm basically saying that it's awesome.

"I think my tastebuds just had an orgasm," I said. I promptly ordered the Li Hing Mui margarita, which knocked me on my ass and was utterly delicious. But more on that later.
Da Big Kahuna is a family-owned bar and restaurant straight from Waikiki, Hawaii, where its sister location has been serving up both alcohol and aloha for years now. The Beach Place spot has only been open a few months now, but already it's a huge improvement over the Sloppy Joe's that used to reside in the same location.

Aimee (and a few other bartenders) came from Hawaii to Fort Lauderdale to help the company open its new location. ("You left Hawaii for Fort Lauderdale?" I screeched. "I want to go to Disney World!" she said.)

"So, what are the plans for this place?" I asked.

"Well, we've already got Tuesday reggae nights, and Thursday night surf parties," Aimee said.

"We'd like to put a half-pipe in here and have pro-skaters come skate on it. Also, we're in talks with the Wailers for something in October...but shh on that." (But, I don't "shh" on anything.)

"We also have a free hula show," she said.

"Like Mai-Kai?" I asked.

"That's more of a Las Vegas-style show, from what I understand," Aimee said. "Here, it's me and two other girls - we do a more modern/ancient blend of Hawaiian dance with Tahitian drums...we like to teach hula moves and Hawaiian words to the audience and get them involved."

So what does Da Kahuna have that other nightclubs don't?

"Aloha spirit," said Aimee. "We're really trying to spread it; Aloha spirit makes a difference!"
"What do you guys think?" I asked Jeremy and Jay, two good-looking, young out-of-towners who were in earshot; both had cropped hair and lean bodies.

"We actually came here earlier to eat, and now we're back to drink," said Jay, "It's a cool place. My liver - if I still had a liver left - likes the drinks."

The boys stood up to go walk around Beach Place with their drinks, safely encased in disposable plastic cups, as is true Beach Place tradition. "We love that you can walk outside carrying drinks," Jeremy stressed.

"I stop in the area every so often," Jay said. "I love Florida, but I hate the mosquitoes. They're totally attracted to me; I'm not sure why." Then he paused. "They must want all the alcohol in my blood."

Marinating in my Li Hing Mui margarita, I chatted with Aimee, who explained to me the bizarre rice-hamburger-egg-gravy mix that comprises the loco moco dish; she also taught me a few Hawaiian words and forced me to repeat them back until I mastered them (Mahalo, Aimee!).
Da Big Kahuna is huge with indoor dining and outdoor drinking, tasty alcoholic concoctions, events and shows, food served until 3 a.m., and beautiful bilingual bartenders. Now, I could be wrong, but my official diagnosis is that this place is awesome, and will be the premier Beach Place club that transforms the complex from a shithole to a nightlife paradise. Don't let us down on this, Kahuna: Fort Lauderdale is counting on you.

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Tara Nieuwesteeg

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