When I was a little girl, my brother and I could select any restaurant we wanted for our birthday, any restaurant, and without fail we chose… Sea Galley. Sea Galley was a nautical-themed chain restaurant, most famous at the time for their commercials advertising their crab legs. (“We’ve got crab legs! Sea Galley! We’ve got crab legs! Sea Galley!) Sea Galley was dark and felt very large and labyrinthine to my eight-year-old eyes — to me, Sea Galley was the very height of grown-up elegance. We got to sit in a booth surrounded by netting, fish floats and large ropes, and order kiddie cocktails, and every trip to the salad bar felt like an expedition. It was magical.
It makes me a little sad to think back on that and realize that sense of wonder is much harder to come by these days. That’s why Bahooka will always be special to me: it’s a nautical/tiki-themed restaurant that is so bizarre, so encrusted with details, so maze-like, that it manages to evoke that same sense of childlike awe.
Bahooka has been in Rosemead since 1976, and started before that in West Covina in 1967. Bahooka has two major gimmicks: fishtanks — there are more than one hundred fishtanks throughout the restaurant — and flame. The staff have fire, in the form of lemon extract-soaked croutons, and they’re not afraid to use it, on anything from Jet Pilots to coleslaw. The details at Bahooka never end. There are so many red plastic parrots attached to the ceiling, some lit, some not, that we’ve often debated whether it would even really be possible to count them all. I suppose some day we’ll have to at least attempt it.
Ookoo lady and Krustiki are longtime Bahooka fans, and on a recent visit they talked about Bahooka’s history with the bartender, Stacy. They’ve shared what they learned on Tiki Central, along with some great photos.