Last weekend, I returned to the Omni Hut, an old family favorite of my 60s childhood. Its still there on the side of Highway 41 in Smyrna TN, about 45 minutes southeast of Nashville. Its a kitschy Polynesian paradise of fun memories and fabulous food. The décor is early Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room, only without the singing birds: bamboo walls, fishnets hung from the ceiling, black-lit volcanic rock fountain, and island wood carvings. Don Ho or native Hawaiian steel guitar music plays overhead. The menu artwork is the same 60's vintage colorful tiki heads, and the familiar paper placemats exclaim Learn to Speak Hawaiian. Now, I need reading glasses, though, to read the Hawaiian phrases in the dim light of the coconut votives and the shell chandeliers.
The food is as good as ever. My favorite selection for dinner is the Tahitian Feast ($17.95) which gives you the most variety. It starts with a cup of light chicken broth based egg drop soup and a big platter of appetizers surrounding a pot of fire (Is it still poo poos on a fiery po po?): crab rangoon, bora bora, egg rolls, tempura fried shrimp, and rumaki. The tastiest treats are the tender Polynesian pit ribs and the intensely flavorful Tahitian tidbits (tender rib ends marinated in the Omni Huts own thick honey-ginger teriyaki sauce, then broiled to deep brown.) The muumuu-clad waitress passes around warm hand towels and then serves the main course: shrimp fried rice, chicken chow mien, and sweet and pungent pork.
Omni Hut founder Col. Jim Walls says he got the recipes while stationed in the South Pacific in WWII. I dont know whether this food is authentic or not, but it sure is good. The ingredients are always fresh and served piping hot. The fried items are light and crispy. One warning the feast doesnt offer much for the vegetarians or dieters its really meaty and high cal.
For dessert, I ordered my kids an old favorite the volcano, a chocolate sundae served in a shell, topped with a flaming sugar cube. Another old stand-by dessert is the Shaded Pit Pat, pineapple sherbet topped with toasted coconut, served with a paper palm tree. (Pit Pats used to come with a lit sparkler on top, but I think that tradition has been discontinued.)
Its corny. Its fun. The food is delicious. Theres always something festive about a trip to the Omni Hut. Be warned though this place is popular, especially on weekends, and they dont take reservations. You could wait up to an hour. And theres no bar. You are welcome to BYOB. They are happy to provide set ups.