Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kona Kai, Philadelphia, PA - Part 1

In the last round of posts exploring Trader Vic's architecture, we saw that Vic's aligned himself with the Hilton hotel chain. But he was not the only tiki franchise to be associated with a major hotel brand. Stephen Crane & Associates opened his chain of Kon Tiki/Kon Tiki Ports restaurants and partnered with Sheraton.

Marriott, the last of the major hotel chains did not want to be left out, so they opened a few select Kona Kai restaurants in various locations around the United States.

The Philadelphia Marriott got the flagship Kona Kai restaurant, opened in 1961, it was designed by famed Googie architectural firm Armet & Davis of Los Angeles, California.

As part of the initial planning, Armet & Davis created this architectural rendering for the interior lagoon, including a multi-tiered waterfall.

Then they created a color conceptual rendering. Note that the waterfall has been scaled down a bit, but the bridge crossing the lagoon concept remained.

After the construction was finished, the completed version turned out pretty close as to what was portrayed in the color rendering.


  1. I loved the Kona Kai; growing up near Philly, it was often where I requested my birthday dinner to be.

    1. Do you speak of the Kona Kai restaurant located on City Line Ave and Presidential Boulevard?

  2. The Mariott Kona Kai of Phildelphia, then newly opened, is featured at the very beginning of the popular TV series, Route 66, in an epidode from Dec.8, 1961, titled, "The Thin White Line". It can currently be seen on youtube. It's a very good episode, and the show's star Martin Milner's personal favorite, as well.

  3. I have the same memories it was a special treat as a kid growing up in late '60s Philly. I remember as a child wandering around the mock up of the schooner and the lagoon rather than sit at the table and wait for the food. I still have a tiki salt and pepper shaker "borrowed" from kona Kai .


  4. My dad was a bartender at the Kona Kai. I remember going there as a young child. I have staff pictures somewhere in my mom's stuff

  5. What sweet memories I have of a larger than life special occasion wonderland of a restaurant as I think back to those little pink umbrellas and birthday cakes.

  6. Spent my honeymoon in 1966 at the Kona Kai on City Line ave. My most loved memory is of the Scorpion featured a real gardenia floating on it. Don't remember how the drink tasted.....just the Gardenia. I think the drink was called a Scorpion.