Bahooka, The Craziest Most Wonderful Tiki Restaurant In L.A. To Close

72 Comments

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. Schneider is planning a going away party on March 10th. I’ve been a regular since I was in diapers. I’ve celebrated birthdays, marked funerals, brought tour groups inside, and fed Rufus the giant Pacu for so long that I don’t know if I can handle a funeral for Bahooka itself. Goodbye old friend.

 

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Comments

  1. Diana Gosliga

    February 15, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Who is taking Pacu? They aren’t going to kill him are they?

    1. Charles Bennett

      February 16, 2013 at 6:23 am

      If the owner wants the fish, I assume he’ll take Pacu…

      1. Frenchie

        February 17, 2013 at 12:30 am

        Very sad. Just saw the menu for March 10th. The special: Pacu patties. Sad. I’ve been going there for 30+ years. It will be missed.

  2. EH

    February 15, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    This is terrible news. One of the few places with character in the San Gabriel Valley, it’s such a shame to lose this great, unique place!

  3. PhilG

    February 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Talk about underpricing a property. Fire that listing agent.
    Of course things sell in 1 day if you give them away.

    1. RG3

      February 15, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      Did I miss a mention of a selling price? I see no mention of a “sold” amount. I’m certain it sold for a pretty penny. Commercial real estate in that area goes for fairly high money. Shame though. Never been so I should make it a point to go before it goes.

      1. Rex Monaco

        February 16, 2013 at 12:06 am

        Try following the links in the article. It sold for $3,300,000.

  4. Manglor

    February 15, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Since when is Rosemead in Los Angeles? Might as well be in another country.

    1. pasnat54

      February 16, 2013 at 12:02 am

      Rosemead might as well be in another country? You must be a Westsider.

      Well, you’re right. Rosemead, and Pasadena, and Monrovia, and Arcadia, and Sierra Madre are way too far away from you, so don’t worry about ever coming over here. No reason to make the drive. Nothing to attract hipsters. Nope, not worth your time. Nothing to see out here. Best to stay away.

      In other words, Westsiders… PLEASE stay home. We have a great valley out here and don’t need it to get “discovered” and Westsided.

      1. Manglor

        February 16, 2013 at 12:10 am

        Not a westsider and, your defensiveness aside, Rosemead is still not in L.A. Your conflation of Westsiders and hipsters – when most of LA’s hipster population lives in eastern neighborhoods like Echo Park and Silver Lake – exposes you as the IE rube you are.

        Be proud of where you’re from. No need to group yourself in with L.A. Own being from the SGV. It’s your thang!

        1. Tom Slick

          February 16, 2013 at 12:48 am

          Rosemead has L.A. County Sheriffs contracted. Your argument is null.

      2. john

        February 19, 2013 at 11:14 pm

        It’s strange that you use hipster in a derogatory way since you most obviously are one yourself. Are you farting into a wine glass right now and enjoying the aroma? Maybe you should ride your fixie on up to the Bay Area so you can look down on all of LA.

    2. Tony

      February 16, 2013 at 12:35 am

      Lame. Rosemead is part of Los Angeles county knucklehead.

      1. John Clifford

        February 19, 2013 at 11:40 pm

        If you’re questioning Rosemead, those of us out here in Pomona are REALLY not worth anything. Even though we’re the home of the LA County Fair. And I guess poor Claremont, LaVerne, Industry, Diamond Bar, Hacienda Heights, Walnut, San Dimas, etc. are also out in the cold. Something tells me that they don’t even get included with those San Gabriel Valley types.

    3. decal626

      February 16, 2013 at 12:53 am

      What a dope. It’s literally right next to Pasadena, which is less than ten miles from downtown LA. You’re even likely to meet REAL Angelenos over that way…not the transplanted Yups and industry shills that populate your neck o’ the woods. Stay put honey…stay put.

      LOUD AND PROUD FROM DOWNTOWN LONG BEACH! (Yes…it’s part of LA too, darling)

    4. kanes

      February 16, 2013 at 3:15 am

      Rosemead is a suburb of Los Angeles they say “Los Angeles so people know approximately where it’s at…DUH

  5. Paul Hansen

    February 15, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    It must be hard to get top dollar for your property when it’s located next to a mental institution.

    1. Belinda

      March 2, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      Hey, I was IN that mental institution in the summer of 1968! There was no room in the teen ward so they put me in with the adults. There was one guy who played Nights In White Satin over and over again all day!!!! My room mate was some sort of depressive who hardly ever got out of bed and we watched the Democratic Convention (the violent one in Chicago) and I got so upset seeing the pigs beat on the kids they turned the TV off. As for Bahooka, this is a tragedy. I will be driving up from San Diego just to have one last moment there!!!!!

      1. ._.

        March 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

        ^^ Nothing undermines your credibility like saying , “I was in a mental hospital”.

  6. Steven Price

    February 16, 2013 at 12:10 am

    The owner says: “They don’t want tiki around here, they want Asian”… as if there is some kind of shortage? There are literally THOUSANDS of Asian restos everywhere in the San Gabriel Valley!

    I sincerely think this is nuts. People taking the ONE DISTINCTIVE THING in any area — food, housing, you name it — destroying it, and putting something just like everything else in its place (“what Hollywood needs is a really good gourmet burger place.” — i’ll bet some idiot is thinking, right now). It’s saddening, maddening.

  7. Mike Kim

    February 16, 2013 at 12:37 am

    RIP :(. I remember as a kid passing by this restaurant and always wondering what the heck this place was. Finally as an adult I got to go see all the crazy stuff in the restaurant! Nothing like it out there. So sad to see how much it’s changed out there, especially TC, my hometown!

  8. Karie Bible

    February 16, 2013 at 12:37 am

    I’m devastated to hear this news! That place had so much charm and character! It so surreal and felt like being in a David Lynch film. Bahooka will be dearly missed.

  9. Tom Slick

    February 16, 2013 at 12:40 am

    This is just a shame. Location is everything, and unfortunately Bahooka just isn’t in the best demographic area, anymore. in 1967, they were in a marketable area, with people who at one time supported and patronized the business on a weekly basis. Since then, the demographics have changed, as well as the surrounding landscapes, and along with that, so has people’s tastes. I wish the business didn’t suffer the burdens, as it seems it may have, and really wished it was on the market a bit longer, to maybe entertain the thought of keeping it open with a like-minded buyer, maybe making minor changes and improvements. It will be sorely missed, and only regret not being able to patronize it more often myself.

  10. candyisdandy

    February 16, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Say it ain’t so. Don’t they have enough Asian restaurants around here?

  11. Seaside Freddy

    February 16, 2013 at 1:28 am

    They want Asian, not Tiki? There can’t be both? My god, people sure are boring now.

  12. Jimmy Rustles

    February 16, 2013 at 3:37 am

    “They want asian?”

    Way to make it a race issue. You ever wonder maybe its because their food isn’t all that great and at the same time pricey. The ambiance might be “interesting” but its not going to draw me back to it. I say that loosely because, for one, I’ve never once seen them renovate anything at all. I’m a Rosemead resident, and I’ve only been there once. Never once did I think, “Lets go to Bahooka’s. Their food is amazing.”

    Adding to the Asian thing, I take offense that the owner actually blames the Asian community for their loss of business. I mean the In-N-Out down the street isn’t taking any business away from them with their fairly priced food right? Or those many other American restaurants more North (San Marino’s “B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burgers” comes to mind). I can guarantee you if you Yelp “Burgers” around the SGV you’ll get a ton of results and guess what they’re doing fine and also have higher ratings.

    I can guarantee if Bahookas had something worthwhile, Asians would be going to eat there. I actually would drive past Bahookas and frequent B-Man’s for a burger crave. A good percentage of the customers I see are Asian. Again, if you can’t compete, don’t blame the demographics.

    Good riddance IMO.

    1. Russel D Jimmies

      February 16, 2013 at 4:04 am

      +1 for B-Man’s

      1. Jimmy Rustles

        February 16, 2013 at 6:38 am

        Keep rustlin Jimmy

    2. Roz P

      February 16, 2013 at 6:22 am

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    3. Amy Mao

      February 16, 2013 at 7:01 am

      Jimmy Rustles is right…I grew up in the SGV, but I’ve only ever been there once, & was horribly disappointed in the food. The best thing there was the fire cocktail. Look at the pizza shops in Rosemead…they’re still thriving, & they’re not Asian cuisine!

    4. wickedwitch2

      February 16, 2013 at 7:27 am

      I agree with you. I dined there once years ago and was singularly unimpressed. The decor was cluttered and cheap, and the food was worse. Many people love the place, I suppose, because it’s a landmark, or perhaps because of the drinks. But, the food? No way. You can do better almost anywhere.

    5. Jo

      February 19, 2013 at 6:10 pm

      Mmmmm … B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burger! I crave the ABC burgers, chicken bowls and gyoza. Any opportunity to rave about Byron and his food … I will take! I’m not just saying that because he was my first boss either. I have great memories working in that kitchen.

    6. Oi

      March 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      When will people stop taking offense at everything?

      Sure, I agree that Bahooka’s wasn’t all that great, and she probably was saying Asians are why she’s going out of business…but who cares?

      Why don’t we let businesses and local economies speak for themselves instead of causing unnecessary noise? Ultimately, the dollar wins. The bitching is like nails on a chalkboard.

    7. Hisao Nakai

      March 12, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Obvious troll is obvious.

  13. maryam

    February 16, 2013 at 3:52 am

    it would be nice if the owner wanted to keep some of it ala noodle world on valley in alhambra. and probably a smart business move on the part of the owner too.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/14/business/fi-noodle14

  14. maryam

    February 16, 2013 at 3:52 am

    it would be nice if the owner wanted to keep some of it ala noodle world on valley in alhambra. and probably a smart business move on the part of the owner too.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/14/business/fi-noodle14

  15. JR

    February 16, 2013 at 5:05 am

    Wow….sad to hear. As for “racist”…no, her comment is not that, yet it is factual. The clientelle of the area are not into Tiki…and the many Asian restaurants are not doing poorly despite their numbers. “Going the way of Noodle Planet?” no thanks. It’s a Tiki-Pacific island themed dive ….no trying to alter it. Let’s face it, if Bob’s Big Boy, IHOP, Pizza Hut, “Chris’s”, Norms, Brown Derby, Farrell’s, Love’s, Bavarian Inn, and H.Salt Fish n Chips can’t make it in this valley….I suppose Bahooka’s demise was on the wall anyway. I shall toast (literally) a Captain Cook’s goat to you and hope to get one last visit in before Bahooka slips below to Davey Jones locker. Good luck with the Costco salad dressing…..I’d buy it.

  16. Connie

    February 16, 2013 at 5:11 am

    My heart just broke. This place reminded me of my dad. It was his favorite and we had many Friday night dinners here. Then my husband and I went on many,many dates here. I actually shed a tear. It’s closing on my birthday. I guess I will have to go and celebrate one more time.

  17. Bligh

    February 16, 2013 at 5:23 am

    it’s too bad so few people appreciate unique, historical places these days.
    this was quite a landmark, not to mention being recorded for posterity in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
    well, like so many other bulldozed landmarks in LA, we won’t miss it until it’s gone, and there’s no going back.
    everything is BLAND and repetitive these days. yes, please, build more of the same. so we don’t have to drive as far to get our fix of more generic “product.”

  18. Richard Dean

    February 16, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Need more Asian restaurants? If only there were a few around there in say Alhambra, Monterey Park, and yes even in Rosemead. If there are more Asian restaurants in any three adjoining cities in America I’d be surprised. C’mon.

    1. 714gg

      March 1, 2013 at 12:19 am

      Try my area, garden grove. 3 cities garden grove, westminster, and santa ana. Garden grove and westminster have the two highest proportions of vietnames in the country and combine to form the largest vietnamese community outside of vietnam. Add garden grove’s koreatown and the widespread Chinese community and we probably win :p

  19. Roz P

    February 16, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Who cares if they want asain just stay!!! Your food is sooo goood!!!Why the Asains are taking over i cant believe it!! Dont take the money they offered lol… been going there with my huge family for over 40 years!!! Say it isnt soo :(

  20. Charles Bennett

    February 16, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Lame. Now where am I going to get my midsummer birthday Hawaiian fix?

  21. LauraP

    February 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Nooooooo! I used to go the one in La Puente and now I drive to the one in Rosemead…The Bahooka will be sorely missed!!

  22. GARY COLE

    February 16, 2013 at 7:59 am

    you need to talk to the lady from in-n-out, this place needs to be saved

  23. Bobo

    February 16, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Too bad. I love this place. it’s so different and fun. The owner mentioned that they don’t want Tiki here, they just want Asian. Of course they do. That’s all there is around here. It’s too bad that something with character can’t be here along with all the Asian places. Good bye to you Bahooka. sniff sniff

  24. RoseAnne Boone

    February 16, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    This Closing makes me very sad! I hated when the one on Fransquito closed but felt a little better knowing this one was in place. It has been a staple with my family for almost the entire time it has been open. The memories and fun that I have had in this place makes the thought of it closing so much worse than a normal resturant. Wish I had the recipe for the crab puffs which have been a family favorite for years! I just Love the place and I am very sad that it is closing. I will have to visit soon.

  25. THEBIGB

    February 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    THE ASIANS ARE COMING! THE ASIANS ARE COMING!!

  26. Butter nubs

    February 16, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Jimmy Rustles thinks saying “They want Asian” is racist. Hey, Jimmy.. They want Asian means Asian food, ya dope. Stop playing the race cards, you white libtard.

    From now on, we should refer to this sort if thing as the “Jimmy Rustleization of America”.

    Whenever something good is turned into something bland and boring.

    By the way, Jimmy.. A you one of those dolts who calls Walmart “Walmart’s” as if Mr. Walmart works the register? It is called “Bahooka”, not “Bahooka’s”.

    Ah, the Jimmy Rustleization of America.. Making it all bland for the bland in all of us.

    1. Jimmy Rustles

      February 17, 2013 at 3:15 am

      shhhh no tears just dreams.

      1. GregN

        March 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm

        What a sad, rude person you are “Jimmy.”

  27. Thatsforshire

    February 17, 2013 at 2:16 am

    This is an incredible bummer. I am a new transplant and thought I’d found kitschy heaven at Bahooka after going for the first time a few weeks ago, only to find out this news. On a semi-related note, I’ve noticed in my scouring of fun/interesting/weird things to do in LA, no one ever mentions Vineland Drive-In and Swap Meet, also in SG Valley. Of course it’s not an institution with the same history as Bahooka, but it’s certainly a bizarre and dated weird/fun place to go, and probably one of the last drive-in theaters in the area. I always read about ‘Devil’s Night Drive In’ but what about this place?! It’ll soon go the way of Bahooka I fear if no one ever bothers mentioning it to people looking for new things to do in LA.

  28. donna guzman

    February 17, 2013 at 2:35 am

    Fun times and fond memories from my high school days @ E.M.H.S., with old friends from same were spent at the Bahooka. If you went you were cool, if you got one of those fancy drinks in the giant shell you were even cooler! Everything changes, sometimes for the better and sometimes not! I don’t go to that area anymore, if I can help it! Have moved to greener pastures… less smog… less conjestion… where people speak my language… So long Bahooka… May you rest in peace.

  29. erich martin

    February 17, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Well this sucks!. I wish that it could have been sold to someone that would preserve it and keep it going. The place is always busy, how could they do this??. So damn sad.

  30. Lordocasl

    February 18, 2013 at 5:42 am

    I’m sooo sorry, I loved the one in West Covina, I mean I hated to see that one go!
    This so sad. Another tradition going away.

    Thank you for the great memories !

    Michael

  31. Caveneighbor

    February 19, 2013 at 4:24 am

    Pacu is getting served with chow mein.

  32. Matthew

    February 19, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Bahooka in Rosemead is the first real restaurant my parents took me, (after Cole’s)–so I guess Pacu and I have known each other our whole lives….

    I still try to drag the family there on my birthday, but it’s been getting harder and harder. I like to take my kids to see the fish and maybe eat jello, but–with all love and respect–the food has really not been doing it for anyone for several years. (At east the salad’s were fresh and crisp…until the last time we went, in January.)

    The family doesn’t really drink, so cocktails aren’t much of a draw. (In my drinking days, I enjoyed with friends Bahooka’s “Russian roulette” approach to mixing. :)

    Anyway, they liquor license is good, the fire department’s paid off :) and the menu’s alright–just whip the kitchen back into shape, and the new owners should do just fine. If the new owners have any imagination, they’ll add their own character, maybe get the place back up to pre-Northridge standards of kookiness. (I wonder if “kooky” is an Asian racial epithet–well, then I’m O.K., according to the Ronald Reagan theory of self-referential racist humor. :P)

  33. sammy

    February 20, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    Well its going the way of the “Tiki’s” if anyone remembers that place. The polynesian village that was located by the pamona freeway. I have been going to Bahookas since I was in high school 35 plus years. I remeber when the Pacu was a little fish. too bad I liked meeting and taking people there so they could see it and have some drinks , but true the food really needed updating and not much of a selection, but the drinks .. forgetaboutit … anyways I will go before it closes and have me some more flaming drinks … Aloha Bahooka!!!

  34. Nathan

    February 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Huge shame… I’m saddened at this loss. I went to Bahooka as a child, lost touch with it (but had these very cool memories), then rediscovered it as an adult. I’ve since moved away from CA and was looking forward to revisiting next time I was out there. Bahooka wasn’t simply about food, it was an experience… for those who didn’t ‘get it’, well, that’s a real shame too. The Tiki Gods will mourn Bahooka’s passing, as will many of us!

  35. tikimouth

    February 23, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Before the place is pillaged….will someone please get over there and do an extensive photographic documentation of the interior for historic reasons and post somewhere such as tikiroom.com ?
    Thank you.
    -tm

  36. TikiTina

    February 27, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Sold just after one day on the market? Seems like it was priced way below what it should have been. Schneider should have reached out to the community to help out and save the Bahooka. There is no place like it and now it is going to to become Asian Restaurant #444.
    I am sad to see it go. The whole area has gone downhill and they took the Bahooka down with it. I am glad nothing else attracts me to that area of LA.

  37. Jay

    February 28, 2013 at 2:13 am

    The price was apparently right if the offer was accepted. The reported 3.3 million it sold for seems like a nice chunk of change.

    So many memories! So long Bahooka!!

  38. Kitty Litter

    February 28, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Such sad news. A fabulous place, can’t be resurrected. I don’t understand why our culture has so little appreciation for history. Trader Vic’s isn’t in the same league, it has no authenticity whatsoever. That leaves the Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale and the Mariana Sailing Club in Honolulu. Log way to go for a Polynesian fix. IMO, Tiki Ti doesn’t count.

  39. GregN

    March 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Another tragic loss of mid-century commercial kitsch. Is someone going to at least save the sign? Its an example of mid-century googie type (in this case tiki) signage. It should be in a museum somewhere, or at least let someone have it for a private collection. Its too bad these kinds of places aren’t all put on historic registers to prevent their destruction.

  40. Johnny b.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:07 am

    Bahookas was where my youngest son always wanted to go for his birthday, and we took him there for years. The Tiki motif was like no other, but the food and servers were challenging. It’s really to bad some multi millionaire couldn’t care enough about preserving Landmarks in Los Angeles. A major cleaning top notch chefs and mixologist and presto a new Bahookas, a Grand Reopening and the rest is history, but it is what it is and it’s really to bad. Like what Jim did with Johnnies Broiler in Downey, he spent millions and look at it now in all it’s glory, thanx Jim for caring enough about California Americana and preserving it. We need more caring people like you. Now that the deadline is around the corner, everybody wants to satisfy their curiosity about the Tiki Bar, so go check it out,raise your glass for the last “Salud”. Aloha,Johnny B.

  41. Ray

    March 7, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I really that the next property owners decide to stick with Bahooka and perhaps even improve upon it. I’d hate to see this place really go away forever. The eastern side of the valley is just devoid unique places you can just sit with friends and have a couple of good drinks.

  42. Dylan

    March 9, 2013 at 3:19 am

    I’ve been eating there with my family since I was 4! It brought us together especially since we’ve had the same server there ecerytime we go. Im now 21 and I hate the fact that its closing. They don’t need more asian! Bahookas was in a movie! “Fear and loathing in las Vegas” its a great restaurant which I will miss. I get to take my girlfriend there thankfully but I wish my future kids could’ve enjoyed it too.

  43. leny and Tom

    March 16, 2013 at 1:39 am

    Good memories of our dating years some 30 yrs ago. Will be missed