Take a Sneak Peek Inside Max’s South Seas Hideaway
You may have heard rumblings about a new Tiki bar coming to town, and if you haven’t, well, “rumble rumble”. It’s real. The famed McFadden’s-turned-Waldron Public House-turned-Private Event Center building has gotten a tropical makeover the likes of which Grand Rapids has never seen. And, it. Is. Spectacular. I wandered into a soft-opening of this delightfully over-the-top treat this week and I think it changed my personality. I’m a Tiki Freak, now. And you will be too.
A passion project of Mark Sellers, the man behind Hopcat (and Stella’s, my second home), Max’s South Seas Hideaway is a massive 3-story creation that is just the right amount of “too much”. Sellers teamed up with Tiki Bar superstars Martin Cate (a James Beard award-winning mixologist) and Gecko (a master Craftsman and founder of South Sea Arts on the island of Oahu) to ensure top quality cocktails and ambience that all but literally transports you to the islands.
Like all things retro, Tiki has been experiencing a resurgance in recent years. With a cocktail menu that’ll enable your escapist tendancies and a decor that will jack up anyone’s Instagram likes-per-minute, I can see why. The cocktail list is extensive and mostly rum-based, but offered just enough variety of bourbon and vodka choices to make my comedy wife and me feel comfortable in our respective liquor-bubbles. Megan ordered the Bourbon Special and I the classic Blue Hawaiian, and we both had to actively stop ourselves from sucking them down like a Capri Sun. They were delicious. Not overly sweet, which I was very nervous about. Just sweet enough, and clearly made with artisan ingredients instead of bottled simple syrup, these cocktails are definitely going to be repeat offenders in my bloodstream.
Luckily for my liver, the food menu was equally impressive. Unlike the cocktail menu, the food menu is respectably concise, pointing to the craft and care taken with each dish. To start, we ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna appetizer. With avocado, house kimchi, wakame (subtly sweet seaweed) and oven-roasted Shiitake mushrooms that almost stole the show, the tuna was a highlight of the night. The sesame notes were perfection, but, as Megan said a little suggestively, “you can overpower me with sesame any day.” Our server, Justin, seemed to appear exactly when we needed him, and had downright clairvoyant entree suggestions in the form of the Huli Huli Ribs (slow-cooked pork ribs with a Hawaiian citrus glaze, sesame and garlic fried rice) and the Citrus Glazed Faroe Island Salmon (with Crispy Brussels Sprouts - YUM)
I’m not typically a dessert person if I’m in public (I reserve those moments for secret-eating in bed), but we couldn’t pass up the Halo-Halo Bowl. Even before we knew how beautiful it would be and how much fire it’d inject into our Instagram feeds. Halo-Halo is traditionally a Filipino dessert including crushed ice, evaporated milk, ube and sweet beans, but this pared down tropical take was everything we wanted and more. With loads of fresh lychee, pineapple and berries mixed with Thai tea custard and a stunning ube ice cream, I’ll likely talk about this dessert for the rest of my life. Just look at it. This Halo-Halo Bowl is already a social media influencer.
The entirety of Max’s South Seas Hideaway is an unexpected delight amongst the arena district of downtown, and I suspect it’ll be the kind of place people come to Grand Rapids specifically to visit. I know I’ll be back. I didn’t even get to photograph the second floor, the cozy lounge nooks or the back bar. My Instagram is crying, and my tastebuds are rubbing it in.