Then & Now
The Kahiki opens. And jaws drop.
Twenty-foot Tiki idols stood guard at the front door. The Mystery Girl delivered drinks to your table. Celebrities gathered and crowds gathered to see them. The Kahiki restaurant was as much about the experience as it was about the meal. If you were ever there, chances are, you never really left.
How a game of backgammon changed history.
If you believe the story, Mitch Boich acquired the Kahiki in 1978 from the original owners Bill Sapp and Lee Henry by winning a high stakes game of backgammon. Mitch didn’t know anything about running a restaurant. So his first job was to find someone who did. That’s when he found Michael and Alice Tsao 2000 miles away at Trader Vic’s in Hollywood.
Tsaos enter picture. Kahiki takes off.
When the Tsaos moved from Los Angeles to Columbus and brought their talents to the Kahiki, the accolades followed and the Tsao’s impact was felt well beyond industry recognition. They fostered a warm and welcoming atmosphere that added to the legend that was Kahiki.
The Tsao family takes ownership, and pride, in everything Kahiki.
When Michael and Alice bought the Kahiki, it became a family business. People who were around in those days are quick to tell you the Tsaos loved Kahiki. Michael brought his never-ending energy to the dining room. Alice brought her mad skills to the kitchen. Their two children, Jeff and Tim, were also part of team Tsao. Their presence helped create the energy that defined the Kahiki for generations.
Frozen foods. Keeping the fun alive.
With seating for more than 500 people, the Kahiki was larger than life. But it wasn’t big enough. The popularity of the brand ultimately outgrew the restaurant, which closed in 2001, so they could focus on frozen foods. When our favorite menu items became our first frozen foods, it was the perfect way to introduce the Kahiki experience to people who never stepped foot inside the restaurant.
The legend grows beyond the supper club walls.
Before long, Kahiki Frozen Foods took on a life of its own. As sales and popularity grew, it became obvious to Michael and Alice that their attention needed to shift. They made the decision to close the Kahiki so they could devote their time to a growing frozen enterprise. Closing the Kahiki was a year-long adventure that broke every sales record on the books. Every day for a solid year, customers lined around the building waiting to experience one last meal at the restaurant that had become a Columbus institution.
A visionary lost. A new chapter began.
When Michael Tsao died unexpectedly in 2005, the void he left behind was felt by every person associated with Kahiki. Employees, customers, partners, Michael treated everyone like family. So when the Tsaos began the search for new partners to help Kahiki expand, it came as no surprise that the search led to Abarta, another family focused company that became investors in 2007.
It’s all-natural or it’s nothing.
We changed every recipe to contain only 100% natural ingredients. Yes, it took a lot of work, but we did it because we’re committed to making food that customers can feel good about feeding to their families. We never use artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, trans fat, food dyes, artificial flavors or artificial preservatives. Promise.
If taste is king at Kahiki, innovation is queen.
Kahiki is proud to have launched two new frozen food categories – the first “steamable” Asian entrée line, Steam & Serve™, and the first egg roll and entrée in one, a little something fabulous we like to call the Bowl & Roll®.
What will they think of next?
Year after year, Kahiki launches deliciously unique products. Our introduction of Yum Yum Stix™ thrilled not only consumers, but industry insiders, too, being chosen Editors’ Pick for Best New Product by The Gourmet Retailer.
You need a strong team to keep winning.
With Kahiki’s deep roots in Columbus, it felt natural to partner with the Columbus Crew SC and the Columbus Clippers to bring our food to the fans, while they cheer on their favorite hometown heroes.
We live to stir your senses.
We pour our hearts into every Kahiki recipe, because we know the details make the difference. The aromas that fill your kitchen. The taste and texture of every bite. And how you feel when the last bite is gone. Why go to such lengths? It’s simple, really. Kahiki is about so much more than just satisfying your appetite. We want to Stir Your Senses.
Our Food Philosophy
The Kahiki story just isn’t complete without including a chapter on our passionate approach to ingredients. Find out what 100% Natural means and why it means so much to us. Read more