Tiki bar offers escape from Michigan snow


Photo credit of Ethan Stafford

The second floor of Max's is decorated to resemble a cargo ship.

With winter fast approaching, Grand Rapids now offers an escape to its own corner of a tropical island. Max’s South Seas Hideaway gives customers their own tropical getaway with their tiki-themed bar and restaurant.

The tropical paradise is located on Ionia Street in the heart of downtown between Luna’s and Menna’s Joint. The menu consists of Polynesian-themed dishes, offering lots of seafood along with steak, chicken and salads. The real attraction comes from the drink menu. Max’s offers over 40 exotic South Seas themed cocktails with 16 signature cocktails. Each cocktail is based off an early 1930’s recipe.  

Owner Mark Sellers — creator of HopCat and Stella’s —  holds one of the world’s largest tiki collections, and every decoration in the restaurant comes directly from his collection. According to their website, Max’s South Seas Hideaway is a passion project between Sellers, Martin Cate and Gecko. Cate is an awarding winning mixologist and Gecko is a renowned tiki and Polynesian artist.

There are zero windows in the entire restaurant, and during a tour with restaurant manager Buzz, he explained it’s because the restaurant’s goal is to make people truly feel that they’re on a tropical island. Buzz said, “You won’t believe how many people I hear leaving say, ‘Well, back to reality.’” 

The greeting room is made of thatched walls covered in tiki paintings and sculptures, which immediately sets the mood for the restaurant. From there, customers can either head upstairs to the second story or stay on the main floor in one of two areas: the main dining area and the smaller bar area.

The main dining area is made up of a variety of different tiki huts that each have their own theme. A large tiki waterfall creates a small lounging area and neighbors the bar. The walls of the main level are covered in a traditional wallpaper called tapa; tribes would pound bark into paper and then stain and paint it..

The back of the main floor is home to the Atomic Lounge. It’s a smaller bar area with a handful of tables that line the walls. To get there you’ll first walk through a section of the main dining area that houses a massive collection of tiki themed mugs. Every mug along with every sculpture and painting comes from Sellers’ personal collection. Behind the bar, hanging front and center, is the prized possession of the collection. “Tiki God,” painted by artist Mark Ryden, was recently sold on auction for over $300,000. Sellers is the proud owner of the 31st copy out of just 35 made. 

The second floor is decorated to resemble the inside of an old cargo ship, complete with burlap sacks and barrels. The bar is shaped like the bow of a ship and is accompanied with a 500-gallon saltwater fish tank and more tiki huts for dining. The restaurant has a third story planned to open in 2020 that will offer lodging in the same tiki-themed interior design.

Although Max’s serves as an illusion of vacation, their prices may jerk Calvin students back to reality. Cocktails start at $11 and entrées under $15 are few and far between. However, they do offer larger drinks that are meant to be shared with a group.