It's been close to a decade since I've been back to the Bahi Hut in Sarasota. I'd been an on-and-off customer while going to school at Ringling in the late '80s and made occasional pilgrimages until the mid-'90s, but hadn't been back since. One of the great things about the Bahi Hut is that there seems to be some kind of force field around the place, keeping it locked in time. Other than the clothes on the patrons, it's pretty much the same year after year.
I finally got to return to the Bahi last Saturday after going to see Kathy Griffin at the Van Wezel (highly recommended) and par for the course, the place has changed very little. The drinks are still cheap ($5.00 for a Mai Tai or Sneaky Tiki) and extremely strong. The interior isn't quite as tiki as one could hope -- the area over the bar is built on an a-frame, one of the walls is covered in rock, but the other is a weird kind of driftwood paneling. There's a Maori carving on the lava rock wall, but an abstract painting of leopards on the other. TVs over the bar were tuned to ESPN and heavy metal played over the stereo.
It isn't the Mai Kai, but then it's not supposed to be. The Bahi is exactly what is looks like—a funky local bar that is what it is. It's the kind of honesty that you'll never get from an Applebee's, and as such, makes it well worth the visit.
Sadly, the bar seems to have finally run out of it perennial supply of cocktail napkins with a line drawing of the building on it. Fortunately, t-shirts with the art on it are still for sale!
4675 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. (941) 355-5141
Link to Google Maps