Sadly, another Southern California restauran institution is now history. Bahooka Restaurant in Rosemead shut down this weekend after nearly five decades in business. Bahooka wasn't necessarily known for its food, but it was definitely known for its kitsch. Fish tanks at nearly every table, Tiki heads and plenty of surf memorabilia lined the walls, and stepping inside was like stepping back, well, almost five decades.
Here's how big fan Chris Nichols eulogized it over at his L.A. Times "Ask Chris" blog:
No! No! No! This can't be happening. Bahooka, the most lavish, bizarre and wonderful restaurant ever built in Los Angeles (did I mention the drinks are served on fire and in salad bowls?) will be gone by next month. The massive labyrinth of flotsam and jetsam, filled with hundreds of blue glowing fish tanks, tikis. street signs, plastic birds, and a jail cell, will close its doors on March 10th after 46 years in business. The first Bahooka opened in my hometown of West Covina but was just a tiny guppy compared to the full majesty of the Rosemead location, which sold after just one day on the market. “They don’t want tiki around here, they want Asian,” says co-owner Suzanne Schneider. “The new owner just wants the building, the liquor license and the fish.” Schneider would not sell the Bahooka name as she plans to sell a line of salad dressing through Costco. A sick relative caused her to act quickly to dispose of the beloved restaurant.
We stopped by on Saturday night (which turned out to be the last night of operation), and although the 4-hour wait meant that we couldn't get a table, I still wandered around and snapped plenty of photos for posterity. Here are some shots from the final weekend of Bahooka, including Rufus the fish:
And here's a video produced by LA Foodie about the final days of Bahooka: