Saturday, December 19, 2009

Top 12 Tiki Bars

Top 12 Tiki Bars

The Fun Is Finding The Tiki

A tiki is, by definition, a likeness of a Polynesian god, usually carved in wood or stone.  Polynesia represented mystery and exuded exotic allure to mainstream America in the mid-20th century.  The country was recovering from war and looking for a bright and happy escape.   With dressed up food presentation, fancy drinks, and even more fanciful decor, this is where tiki bars found their niche -- offering a happy escape to a beautiful island.  Regular folks now had an escape; an "island getaway" to enjoy.  The advent of the Vietnam War spelled the end for many tiki restaurants, but a few did persevere through that time.  And, now it seems that everything old is new again, andtiki bars are once more coming into their own (and new ones are showing up).  Some just try to live up to their former glory, some achieve their goals.  All will take you to a tropical island in your mind if you let them.  Here are 10 to get us started that are worth a visit.  See what you think, and let me know about others and the list can change:

Forbidden Island 

Alameda, CA

Forbidden Island is a classic tiki bar interior evoking the legendary tiki lounges of the '50s and '60s, with bamboo huts, waterfalls, and much more. It's sometime shard to believe that it is only a couple of years old. They just seem to have gotten everything right: from the blowfish lamps, private bamboo booths, and a wall of spears and clubs, to the waterfall, to the fact that there is no television anywhere on the premises. Forbidden Island is the brainchild of owners Michael Thanos, Emmanuel Thanos, and Martin Cate, who are dedicated to bringing back the classic look & feel of an authentic 1960's tiki lounge. Located in the heart of Alameda's historic Bay Station Shopping District, Forbidden Island features a wide array of classic and contemporary gourmet cocktails, served in an exotic and funtropical atmosphere.

Forbidden Island Hours: Tuesday through Thursday - 5pm-12am; Friday & Saturday - 5pm-2am; Sunday - 3pm-10pm

Forbidden Island Website
1304 Lincoln Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501

(510) 749-0332

Tiwaka's Tiki Bar & Grill

Haiku, Maui

This virtual bar has existed at the pleasure of a few lucky souls on Maui's hidden northern coastal jungles for some years.  It is the home to the yet to be famous COCO LOCO MOCO drink, made famous by the namesake parrot, Tiwaka.

Best way to get there is read the book: use CODE 2W94FB4CC for the Christmas discount.



The Retro Tiki Lounge

Facebook Fan Page

Tiki Lounge Conversations is all about living it up retro style. It's for swingin' hipsters that believe in having a cocktail at your rec room Tiki Bar, knocking your lobes to cool jazz, and generally digging the best parts of the mid-20th century.

Check Tiki Chris Pinto for all the kook haps!



Facebook link To The Retro Tiki Lounge

Trader Vic's 

Atlanta, GA

Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron helped popularize Tiki culture in the '30s and '40s with their restaurant chains "Don the Beachcomber" and "Trader Vic's". You can't find anymore "Don the Beachcomber's", but there are still many "Trader Vic's". They are in Scottsdale, AZ; Emeryville, CA; Palo Alto, CA; San Francisco, CA; Destin, FL; Chicago, IL; Las Vegas, NV; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; and 20 international locations (including Spain, England, and Germany). The Atlanta location is one of the earliest that is still around and is located in the lower level of the Atlanta Hilton. It is a labyrinth of dark rooms stuffed with artifacts. Trader Vic invented most of the drinks (including the Mai Tai, the internationally renowned restaurant's famous cocktail blend of Martinique and Jamaican rums, fresh lime and crushed ice), and his recipes have been preserved. Trader Vic's Restaurant and Mai Tai Bar continues to host Mai Tai Thursdays -- Mai Tai's are $4.50 every Thursday evening. Also on Thursdays, join the Hiti band for live music. The band starts their exotic island sounds at 8:00pm. Trader Vic's is a delightful place to slip into a lively island setting!

Trader Vic's Lounge Hours: Monday through Saturday - 5pm-12am.

Trader Vic's Website
255 Courtland Street
Atlanta GA, 30303

(404) 221-6339

The Tonga Room 

San Francisco, CA

Tucked into the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco is a vintage Tiki restaurant built around what used to be a pool. The Tonga Room also has the special designation (at least to me!) as being the bar that was the inspiration for the Jimmy Buffett song "Altered Boy" off of his "Far Side Of The World" album. The Tonga Room has a musical boat in the middle of the pool, tiki huts under which patrons can enjoy a refreshing Mai-Tai, and an exotic menu reflecting the South Sea & Asian ambiance. As you marvel at the exciting decor, be sure to hold on to your drink during the surprise thunder and lightning. (Yes, there is atropical storm inside.) And, the gleaming dance floor was originally the deck of the S.S. Forrester, one of the last of the tall ships that plied the route between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands.

Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar Hours: Sunday through Thursday - 5pm-11:45pm; Friday & Saturday - 5pm-12:45am. (Happy Hour: Monday through Friday - 5pm-7pm)

Tonga Room Website
The Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA

(415) 772-5278

Omni Hut 

Smyrna, TN

The Omni Hut in Smyrna, TN (about 30 minutes south of Nashville), is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Tennessee, it opened in 1960. It has two dining rooms, a waterfall, ceiling fishnets, and lots of palm trees and tikis. There isn't an actual bar in the Omni Hut, but that doesn't quell anyone's enthusiasm for this delightful island paradise. While it does not have a liquor license, customers are encouraged to spike their own drinks. Current owner, Polly Walls is tha daughter of The Omni Hut's creator, Jim Walls. Mr. Walls started the Omni Hut after taking up cooking as a hobby (and second job) while stationed in Honolulu as a pilot before World War II. The military took him all over the world, and he picked up culinary tricks wherever he went. When he retired, The Omni Hut was the result. The intriguing decorations are a constant delight. They have some very pretty Orchids of Hawaii resin lamps (Polly Walls says that those lamps have been there since the early 70's). These lamps have starfish, seahorses, and glass floats all embedded in resin and colored glass.

Omni Hut Hours: Tuesday through Saturday - 5:30pm-9:30pm

Omni Hut Website
Highway 41 & 70
Smyrna, TN

(615) 459-4870

Read About Tiki 

If you can't make a road trip just now - try one of these awesome books to transport you, tiki style.


Hollywood (Los Angeles), CA

This tiny, family-run bar, opened along the Sunset Strip in 1961 by master mixologist Ray Buhen, who was there at the start of theTropical Drink craze at Don The Beachcomber's legendary restaurant. His son and grandson, Michael and Mike Buhen now carry on his tradition; together, they practice the "Lost Art" of Exotic Cocktail mixing in the last of the great neighborhoodtiki bars . They squeeze their fruit juices fresh and use quality rum. They put a lot of care into each drink. When you step into the Tiki-Ti, it's like stepping back in time. You are furst struck by the size of the bar -- it's
small -- 12 stools, and a handful of tables against the walls. Yet, it packs a king sized menu -- there are 86 Tropical Drinks on offer, most of which simply can't be found anywhere else. Please don't ask for beer or wine while you're there though, according to the owners you can get beer anywhere, so they don't serve it. But, since the owners work the bar and there are no other employees, it is perfectly legal for you to have a smoke (as long as it's a legal smoke) while having your cocktail. Oh, but don't try to pay with a credit card -- it is cash ONLY at the Tiki Ti, and they don't run tabs.

Tiki Ti Hours: Wednesday & Thursday - 6pm-1am; Friday & Saturday 6pm-2am (closed Sunday through Tuesday)

Tiki Ti MySpace Page
Tiki Ti Website
4427 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90027

(323) 669-9381


Fort Lauderdale, FL

The Mai-Kai authentically recreates a Polynesian Village, complete with tiki torches, a thatch roof, and a wooden plank bridge entrance. This delightful vision of Polynesia opened in 1956 and has been delighting locals and tourists ever since. The amazing bar features 51 specialty drinks and the wonderful Islanders Revue (45 minute long shows) are performed twice nightly by native Polynesian dancers in colorful costumes. The beautiful maidens and agile warriors recreate, through dance, details of
many facets of life in the Islands. The wedding dance will seduce you, and the Samoan Fire and Knife dance will leave you speechless.

Mai Kai Hours: Sunday through Saturday - 5pm-2am (Happy Hour 5pm-7pm)

Mai Kai Website
3599 N. Federal Hwy
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308

(305) 947-9052

Tiki To Take Home 

So, reading about these wonderful bars has whet your appetite, but it may be awhile before you hit the road to visit them. Take a little Tiki home to tide you over.

Hala Kahiki 

River Grove, IL

River Grove is a Chicago suburb. The Hala Kahiki is a dimly lit restaurant filled with Tiki artifacts and always permeated with the soothing sounds oftropical music. of you want to step away from your everyday life and the concerns that are there, the Hala Kaliki is your destination. This bar is escapism at it's best - through the doors your owntropical paradise is waiting for you. They also have a delightful kitschy gift shop with a wonderful array of items - from Tiki Statues to shot glasses, and everythingtropical in between...they have it all.

Hala Kahiki Hours: Sunday 4pm-2am; Monday & Tuesday 7pm-2am; Wednesday, Thursday, & Friday 4pm-2am; Saturday 4pm-3am.

Hala Kahiki Website
2834 River Road
River Grove, IL

(708) 456-3222

Jardin Tiki 

Montreal, QC

Jardin Tiki, a mainstay near Montreal's Olympic Village since the 1970's, is a huge tribute to Tiki. They have a wonderful atrium overflowing with tropical plants and a turtle pond complete with, of course, turtles. Not to mention tikis, lots and lots of tikis, some are so huge and all are fun to check out. Very visually appealing, and the drinks are good. It's a great place to meet up with friends.

Jardin Tiki Hours: Sunday through Thursday - 11:30am-10pm; Friday & Saturday - 11:30am-1am.

5300 Sherbrooke E.
Montreal, Quebec

(514) 254-4173


Saugus, MA

Located in the Boston, MA suburb of Saugus is one of the largest Tiki restaurants in the USA. The Kowloon, a pagoda-shaped building, is guarded by a 15-foot Tiki carving. Once inside, in addition to a remarkably extensive drink menu, you will find absolutely delightful food and service. The decor includes a room composed entirely of half of a schooner with a moving volcano on the wall surrounded by very realistic palm trees; also a lagoon room with a huge fountain, with a Kahuna statue at the head holding flowers. Palm trees lined the booths, which were built to look like tiki huts. Tiki mask adorn the bamboo walls -- lots and lots of tikis surround you. And, don't short change yourself and skip the gift shop, you must visit it.

Kowloon hours: Sunday through Saturday: 11:30am-2am

Kowloon Website
948 Broadway (Rt. 1 North)
Saugus, MA 01906

(781) 233-0077

Alibi Lounge 

Portland, OR

The Alibi Lounge started out as The Chat and Nibble, a horse and buggy stop, in the late 1800's. In the late 1940's it was transformed to the tropical paradise it remains today by new owner Ray Nell. It's said that he chose the exotic tropical theme after traveling to the Hawaiian islands. It is said by many to be the "Tiki Lounge Highlight of Portland", the Alibi Lounge is a must-stop on your Tiki Bar Tour. Plan to get there early (around 7pm or so) to be able to enjoy their extensive, very fun Polynesian d├ęcor. The interior of The Alibi is very Pacific, and creates the perfect atmosphere. There is no doubt that you and your guests will be blown away by the giant black-light glowing wall sculpture of the dancing island hula girls to the neon torches, the fountains, and the palm trees under the shell lamp shades. The entertainment at the Alibi is some of the best karaoke to be found. It's the closest you can get to a fantasy island in Portland. The Alibi is listed in the book "Best Places in Portland".

Alibi Lounge Hours: Monday through Saturday - 11am-2:30am; Sunday - 11am-1am. (Karaoke is Wednesday through Saturday - 9pm-2am)

4024 N Interstate Ave
Portland, OR 97227

(503) 287-5335