There are touristy places and then there are touristy places. Rick's Cafe in Casablanca, Morocco is inevitably of the latter type, a restaurant whose very identity is anchored in a classic 1940s Hollywood film and whose raison d'etre is therefore principally alluring to (now aging) Americans. But the mere fact that it is touristy does not mean that it is not worth a visit. The restaurant was constructed from scratch in 2004 by former American diplomat Kathy Kriger and was carefully designed by the famous American designer Bill Willis, who is widely known for his elegant Moroccan-influenced interiors, to replicate the film version of Rick's Café. Busloads of wistful octogenarians arrive nightly, shuffling along, cameras in tow, to admire the columned interior courtyard with the piano where Sam played "As Time Goes By" and the bar where Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Berman numbed their past-haunted lives.
The restaurant, built against the walls of the Old Medina in a 1930s courtyard-style riad, contains a number of interior touches meant to evoke the film: curved arches, balconies and balustrades, antique brass floor and table lamps, and of course the bar downstairs. Upstairs, there is another bar area where the film runs endlessly on loop. There is often live piano and jazz. The combination is deeply atmospheric, myth reified into reality. The ambiance is the main reason to go, as the international and Moroccan cuisine is unremarkable. But the nostalgia is enough to make it one of the best gin joints in town.