Wednesday, November 24, 2010

THE ORIENTAL LUAU, OLD TAPPAN NJ


Polynesian Style Chinese Restaurants were among my favorite places to eat out in back in the 1970s-80s.  They were extremely popular all over the US, but here in the northern NJ area there were a few spectacular ones.  One such place…

THE ORIENTAL LUAU in Old Tappan NJ.

WOW.  If I could only get into a time machine, that is one place I’d want to go back to!

I know it closed years ago surrounded by rumors of health department violations and tax issues. 

In trying to search it out online as I was certain I’d find some photos on the web… but the closest thing I could find was a posting HERE. 

It seems as though the name may have been changed to TIKI.  The drawing (above) was a dead giveaway, and the vintage looking menu (below) was so typical of the way the menus looked in those days.

The restaurant was decorated with tribal masks and bamboo hut booths complete with thatched roofs were all around.  Waiters were dressed in uniforms and linen tablecloths and napkins decorated the tables.

This was the first Chinese restaurant that offered a smorgasbord.  Of course you could order off an a la carte menu, but why would you? 

Don’t even think it was similar to the millions of Chinese Buffets of the current day.   This one was amazing to say the least.  It was made up mostly of your typical Chinese-American dishes but also some with a very upscale twist. 

I couldn’t get enough of there “HAWAIIAN STEAK” which was cubed tips of beef that were marinated in a pineapple juice and white pepper.  I have tried to mimic this recipe but with no luck whatsoever.  Barbeque spareribs by the truckload, batter dipped colossal fantail shrimp, succulent egg rolls and the best fried rice ever!

These were just a few standout items.

At $11.95, which was really expensive in 1975(!) THE ORIENTAL LUAU was reserved for special occasions like birthdays…

But my Dad did get his moneys worth.  I surely ate more than enough for one person!

If anyone has any vintage photos of this great restaurant, please send them to klimari@gmail.com, and I’ll post them here.

PS-I did find something funny on the web.  A comment from a woman that reads:

“When I was a child, my parents would take me out to this restaurant in Old Tappan, NJ called The Oriental Luau. Back then if you were 10 years old, they charged you the "adult" rate of $11.95. Since it was a buffet, my father felt that I should eat what he thought was $11.95 worth of food (this was in the mid-1970's) One time, he told me I did not eat enough and I better eat more or he would not bring me back. So I ate more, proceeded to feel sick, went to the ladies room and barfed.

This was the only and only time. I don't allow anyone to bully me into excess, it hurts too much.







9 comments:

Mad Macs said...

This used to be one of my favorite haunts back in the 70 & 80's as well.

Back then I was a an amateur photographer living around the area. I used to dump my rolls of film off at Bergen County Camera in Westwood (my frequent haunt almost every Friday) and, if money permits I always headed here. Fun was the large buffet, but I like the Luau Pork and other Menu dishes.

This place beat many of the Oriental Restaurants in food and cuisine, I also visited in around the southern parts of Bergen and Northern Hudson.

I'll miss it too....

Mike Garner said...

I was a Hawaiian Steak freak there as well. What a great place to go. Their drinks were good too. I remember a concoction called "Thunder & Lightning".

LinJ47 said...

LOVED this restaurant! Went there for many great events including our engagement dinner. Would have had our wedding reception there but they could only accommodate over 100 people. Their food and drinks were terrific. Even years later when we had children and didn't want to "go out" we'd get take out just to enjoy their delicious meals. It was a sad day when they closed!

Ken A said...

I just came across this post about The Oriental Luau....it was my childhood favorite as well! We went there for major holidays even though it was (for then) a long drive and about 15 miles away from home....even though we lived 1 mile from Chan's in Ridgefield! The wait for a table was usually long but worth it. Being a picky kid all I ate was the Hawaiian Steak and the spare ribs!lol I loved the decor so much and contribute this place to my lifelong Tiki obsession! Later as an adult I just went a few times so I didnt get to experience the "adult" experience there much sadly.

I did research on the place and can fill in some details about it. It opened in the early 1960's as "Tikis" by none other than Bob Gaudio, who was part of the famous group The Four Seasons. At some point he sold it (?) and it then became the Oriental Luau as we all knew it, maybe in 1968? I last went there in 1990 and the homes where it stood were put up in 1995, so it went away in the early 1990's.
I would love to see ANY pictures of the inside, as I recall such a lush and well themed decor still in my mind. They have to be out there somewhere!

Anonymous said...

I was a great part of Bergen County History that our family was proud to be part off, I always hear how much everyone loved the Luau...Ken you are pretty acurate on the research..Open in 1969 and sold in 1988...will have to dig in the albums for inside pics....

Anonymous said...

My father was a big shot in the days and we had a house account pre buffet years. Buffet years were the decline. We were mailed the bill once a month. The managers name was Steve a great guy. On dates I took all my lady friends there. They would never think of asking my date or myself for proof and we were treated like royalty. When I just signed the bill I was in like flynn lol. The Lua was pricey in 68-69 and I noticed our family monthly bill was approximately $400 or more per month. My dad and mom, my brother and his date. Myself and my date and our family of 5 together helped support the Oriental Lua. We were playahs back in the day.

Anonymous said...

maaaan, i used to LOVE this place when i was a kid. i'm a bit younger, so my memories of that place are from the 80's. there was just something about being in that place. i loved walking over the little bridge at the entryway. and the wishing fountain near the bar. my dream is to open a restaurant modeled after the old Oriental Luau.

Anonymous said...

The family would go there once in a while. This one time,
my brother and I split one of those volcano drinks, with the
high potency rum burning in the center of the drink. I'll never
forget the look in my brother's eyes and his facial expression
after he put his straw into the burning volcano
and took a big sip!!
I'm laughing now just thinking about it!

Kevin B said...

I was just thinking about the best steak I ever had and realized it was the Hawaiian cube steak at the Oriental Luau. I grew up 2 blocks across the street and remember getting my first cigarettes out of the vending machine. It was the first place I ever had a drink and we used to make it the first stop to get the evening started and sometimes the only stop, wow, those drinks were strong. Scorpion bowels and thunder and lightning were always a favorite. The buffet was one of a kind and the atmosphere was incredible. I sure do wish I could figure out how they made those cube steaks. Miss those days and all the friends I had great times with. Maybe I will dig up a pic and post it when I clean out my basement. I still have a couple of those awesome cups they served drinks in.