Entries in the 'Los Angeles' Category

August 25, 2010

Ordinary Bars, Extraordinary Tiki Drinks

Filed under: Continental Europe,Drinks,Houston,London,Los Angeles,New York,Perfect Tiki Bar,Portland,Seattle,Tiki,Washington, D.C. — Humuhumu @ 2:23 pm

Bartender Michael Bertrand tends to his fire at Vessel in Seattle,
photo by Rocky Yeh

First, let’s get this out of the way: the outstanding bars on this list are not ordinary by any measure, but one… they are not tiki bars. These establishments are part of a new class of cocktailing, where constructing a beverage is paid the same attention as that given to preparing a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But they are not tiki bars.

You won’t find them in Critiki, and they may very well be off your radar. They may not even be able to make tiki drinks any time, any day, as the ingredients required are notoriously numerous and fussy. But each location on this list has at least one bartender on staff who shares your passion, and wants to make your Nui Nui dreams come true. Some have regular or periodic tiki nights, some even have dedicated tiki sections of their menu. When it comes to tiki drinks, frankly these places are going to deliver better than most any tiki bar out there. Encourage them, won’t you?

Drink – 348 Congress St., Boston, MA
Drink keeps a number of flavored syrups around just for making tiki drinks–prepared for them with love and care by none other than Randy Wong of Waitiki!

Death & Company – 433 East 6th St., Manhattan, New York, NY
Though Brian Miller, a driving force behind Death & Co.’s tiki drinks, has moved on, his imprint lingers. Tiki drinks, and tiki-leaning beverages, can still be found on the menu.

Please Don’t Tell (PDT) – 113 Saint Marks Pl., Manhattan, New York, NY
There are reports that you may be able to snag a high-quality tiki drink at the world’s worst-kept-secret bar.

Flatiron Lounge – 37 W 19th St., Manhattan, New York, NY
Joe Swifka: ask for him by name. He’s gotten to have a bit of a reputation as the go-to bartender for tiki drinks in New York. Tiki drinks make frequent appearances on Flatiron’s rotating menu.

Clover Club – 210 Smith St., Brooklyn, New York, NY
Clover Club has the same owner as Flatiron Lounge, Julie Reiner. Reiner grew up in Hawaii and plans to open a tropical (but not tiki) restaurant in Manhattan later this year. Clover Club is Victorian in style, but if you ask nicely, they may be able to hook you up with the good stuff.

Dram – 177 S 4th St, Brooklyn, New York, NY
Dram’s rotating menu often has tiki items on offer—at this writing, it’s a Jet Pilot.

Dutch Kills – 27-24 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, NY
Dutch Kills is from the same team that opened New York’s latest tiki savior, Painkiller.

Rum Bar – 2005 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Rum Bar is, well, all about rum. Most of the cocktail list is Caribbean-focused, but a few traditional tiki cocktails are also on offer.

Embury – 2216 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
Embury has a Tiki Tuesday event, and they’re game for tackling the complicated drinks.

Farmers & Fishers – 3000 K Street NW, Washington, D.C.
Zombies, Fog Cutters, Grogs… all part of their regular menu!

Anvil – Houston, TX
Anvil is perhaps most notable for their “100 drinks everyone should try at least once.” Naturally, tiki is part of the prescription, and Jeff Berry’s Grog Log is a heavily-thumbed reference behind their bar.

Vessel – 1312 5th Ave., Seattle, WA
Spur – 113 Blanchard St., Seattle, WA
Tavern Law – 1406 12th Ave., Seattle, WA
My hometown may be lacking in the tiki bar department, but I’m proud to say that when it comes to the drinks, it’s “ya sure, ya betcha.” All three of these establishments have the materials on-hand to whip up traditional tiki drinks, and each has periodic tiki nights. Vessel even serves some drinks out of tiki mugs.

Teardrop Cocktail Lounge – 1015 NW Everett St., Portland, OR
Teardrop hosts periodic Tiki Nights, typically with the involvement of local tikiphiles and cocktail obsessives Blair “Trader Tiki” Reynolds and Craig “Colonel Tiki” Hermann. The next one is on September 12.

Caña – 714 W Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
Caña is dedicated to all things rum, so of course this means some tiki representation on the menu.

Lewers Lounge – Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki, HI
It’s tragically difficult to find a decent drink in Hawaii. You may have heard good things about the House Without a Key in the Halekulani Hotel, but the better bet is actually the Lewer’s Lounge in the same hotel.

Paparazzi – Laurinská 133/1, Bratislava, Slovakia
Paparazzi’s Stanislav Vadrna knows his way around a tiki drink… he’s even hosted a tiki drink seminar at his bar.

Cotton’s Rhum Shack – 55 Chalk Farm Rd, London, UK
Cotton’s Rhum Shack in Camden has a very long rum list, and a smattering of tiki cocktails to match. There is a sister location, Rhum Jungle in Islington, that may be worth trying, too.

The Merchant Hotel Bar – 16 Skipper Street, Belfast, Ireland
Crowned as the Best Bar In the World, the Merchant Hotel Bar’s menu is more of a book. The menu is exhaustively thorough, and tiki drinks do not get short shrift. On the contrary: Bar Manager Sean Muldoon takes tiki drinks so very seriously that he has the last remaining bottle of the true original Mai Tai rum: vintage 17 year Wray & Nephew. This is the only place in the world you can have a truly old-style Mai Tai—though it’ll cost you about $1,000.

Mahalo nui loa to the following for their assistance in compiling this list: Peter Andrijeski, Alice Berry, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, Dan Budiac, Robert A. Burr, Nicole Desmond, Boris Hamilton, Liz Lang, Kiki Lenoue, Georgette Moger, Ben Wagner, Doug Winship

May 9, 2010

Benefits for Don the Beachcomber Bar Manager Marie King

Filed under: Events,Los Angeles,People,San Francisco,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 8:48 pm

This tiki carved by Jungle Trader from a design by Doug Horne will be auctioned at the NorCal benefit for Marie King

Marie King, much-beloved bar manager at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, and a very dear friend to many in the tiki community, was injured badly in an automobile accident recently. She’s likely to make a complete recovery, but it’s not going to be easy–she’s a bit more battered and broken than we like to see our friends, and she’s dealing with incredible pain.

In the hopes of easing the financial pains, her friends are rallying behind her in the form of two benefits, in both Southern and Northern California:

Northern California Benefit for Marie King
Thursday, May 13, 7 p.m.
Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, Alameda
Meshugga Beach Party, the TomorrowMen, raffle, silent auction and a special Marie Cocktail.
More details

Southern California Benefit for Marie King
Sunday, May 30, 2 p.m.
Don the Beachcomber, Huntington Beach
$25 donation gets you a wristband for discounted food & drinks. The Tikiyaki Orchestra, The Eliminators, The Smokin’ Menehunes, The Glasgow Tiki Shakers, OuterWave, The Boardwalkers, Exotiki, The Slacktones, raffle and a silent auction.
More details

July 6, 2008

Los Angeles: Tiki Luau Nights at the Egyptian Theater

Filed under: Events,History,Los Angeles,Music,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:37 am
Tiki Luau Nights, artwork by Kevin Kidney
Tiki Luau Nights, artwork by Kevin Kidney

It’s time once again for tiki movies at the Egyptian! This has been an annual event for the past few years, and I’m always sad to miss it (this year I’ll be in Portland). But here’s why you shouldn’t miss it:

After the success of our Tiki events the past three summers, we’re back again with more exotic ephemera: more fun feature films, diverting oddball shorts, vendors, food, music and more! We’ll be showing old-school island adventure pics FAIR WIND TO JAVA, ALOMA OF THE SOUTH SEAS and HER JUNGLE LOVE (all in gorgeously saturated color) will screen along with artist Kevin Kidney’s collection of rare, island-themed TV surprises. Join us in the Egyptian’s Courtyard for a Royal Southern California-style Luau with exotic musical entertainment from King Kukelele and his Friki Tikis and the Polynesian Paradise Dancers. There will also be Tiki vendors and other special surprises in the courtyard on Saturday from 1:00 PM until we shut it down.

This year it’s happening over two nights, July 25-26, 2008. It all starts Saturday at 1pm at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles. Tickets will be sold at the door, but if you want to guarantee you’ll get to enjoy the luau dinner, it’s best to get tickets in advance.

June 26, 2008

Hollywood Home Tiki Bar For Sale: Only $7.5 Million

Filed under: Los Angeles,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 10:09 am
Tiki bar at the Wolf's Lair in Hollywood
Tiki bar at the Wolf’s Lair in Hollywood
Hollywood! Dah dah dah dah!
Hollywood! Dah dah dah dah!

Mentally cue up Robin Leach for this one: (Is he dead? I forget.) Nestled here on 3.3 acres of land overlooking Hollywood, a mansion fit for a Kamehameha… The Wolf’s Lair, built for and by L. Milton Wolf, one of the original developers of Hollywoodland. Former occupants include Debbie Reynolds, Efram Zimbalist Jr., Marlon Brando, and The Beatles.

The house has secret tunnels, and a whole turret was dedicated to the housing of a pet gibbon. A monkey! In a turret! How can anyone hate Hollywood when they’re keeping monkeys in turrets? I mean… they’re just living the dream. You can’t hold it against them.

Anyway… back to this tiki bar. Okay, it’s not really a tiki bar, there aren’t any tikis. But it’s gorgeous. It’s stripped a little bare at the moment, but can you imagine this space with low light and fllotsam & jetsam everywhere? And a drink in your hand?

Does anyone we know have $7.5 million? What would the down payment be, d’you suppose? Maybe if we all throw in together and start a commune?

June 24, 2008

Los Angeles: King Kukulele’s Floating Luau at the Tonga Hut

Filed under: Events,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:02 pm
Mahiki Rum
Mahiki Rum

King Kukulele’s monthly Floating Luau is drifting into the San Fernando Valley this Friday, to the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood. The Tonga Hut recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, making it a natural choice for the King to weigh anchor in her port.

The Friki Tikis will be performing, and the King has brought back a special gift from his recent trip to England: the brand-new, currently-unavailable-stateside Mahiki Rum.

Also on hand will be the Polynesian Paradise Dancers and Ali Lexa, host of KPFK’s Ukulele Spotlight. A special highlight this month is a presentation of Johnny Halifax’s “Tiki Tiki Tiki,” which was filmed at the much beloved and sadly defunct Kahiki Supper Club in Columbus, Ohio:

If you’ve heard King Kukulele’s song “Otto’s Odyssey”, then you’ve heard the line: “Halifax is filming for the BBC”. This is what Johnny Halifax was filming, and now you have the ultra rare opportunity to see “Tiki Tiki Tiki”.

Wish I could be there to see it myself — I’ve always wondered what became of the BBC filming mentioned in “Otto’s Odyssey.” The show is happening this Friday, June 27 at 8 p.m., and there’s a $5 cover.

Tonga Hut
12808 Victory Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91606
(818) 769-0708

June 26, 2007

Phil Spector, Tikiphile

Filed under: Los Angeles,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 1:51 pm

Now, there are so many really fantastic, interesting, awesome people who love tiki… but tiki is not immune from attracting the occasional nutjob.

It has already been widely reported that before (allegedly) killing Lana Clarkson, famed record producer and coiffure aficionado Phil Spector paid a visit to Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills, where he downed some Navy Grogs. He was apparently a bit of a regular there. When he made his way to Dan Tana’s later in the evening, he tried to order a Navy Grog there, too (I wish I could have seen the confused look on the bartenders’ faces).

But now comes this tiki-flavored contribution from The Smoking Gun, a postcard sent by Phil Spector last year to a friend:

Postcard sent by Phil Spector (via The Smoking Gun)
Postcard sent by Phil Spector (via The Smoking Gun)
from the collection of Cool Manchu
from the collection of Cool Manchu

This is a promotional still photo from a 1960s film (I always forget which one) — it’s a great photo, and accordingly it really makes the rounds. The Polynesian restaurant backdrop has been matted out here, but you can still see that they’re sipping out of a Kneeling Hula Girl bowl, like those once used at Trader Vic’s. The back of the postcard is on the crude side, so I won’t post it here, but you can check it out on The Smoking Gun if you wish.

Yes, tiki speaks to everyone, even the sociopathic and the mousse-addicted.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike — Beachbum Berry also just made a Phil Spector post, but his is more useful than mine… he expounds on the glorious Navy Grog, and even tells you how you can make your own. Play safe though, kids — guns & rum don’t mix.

New Bartender at Tiki-Ti?

Filed under: Drinks,Los Angeles,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:14 pm
New Bartender at Tiki-Ti (Dramatization)
New Bartender at Tiki-Ti (dramatization)

A dramatic shift, and one that can’t help but make you do a spit-take… word on the street is that Tiki-Ti is training a new bartender.

I only have a few details, sent my way by a little bird who got to see the new bartender in action last Wednesday. He said the new bartender is named Mark, he isn’t a Buhen but rather the son of a longtime Tiki-Ti patron (he is a Buhen after all, see below for an update), and the Ray’s Mistake he made was good.

Tiki-Ti has been a family-run outfit: original owner Ray Buhen was the sole bartender for many years, until his son Mike started helping out; Mike’s son Mike came on the scene with the passing of Ray a few years ago. There are several reasons Tiki-Ti has been family-run:

  1. Ray came from a world where your recipes were your currency, your strongest asset, and you sure as heck didn’t teach them to others who could then take them to the competition. Even today, the descendants of some of the original Don the Beachcomber’s bartenders have been so trained by their fathers on this point that they were still wary of showing any recipe notes to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry when he was writing his book on tiki cocktail hisotory, Sippin’ Safari. It’s likely that Ray Buhen felt that only his own family could be trusted with his recipes, and the sentiment has lived on.
  2. The drink list at Tiki-Ti is extensive — mind-bogglingly so. And complicated. Even if they were comfortable letting another person in on the family secrets, getting them up to speed would be a daunting task, to be sure, and your average bartender frankly isn’t up to the task.
  3. Smoking in bars is illegal in California — not to protect patrons, but to protect employees. Since Tiki-Ti is owner-operated, and thus has no employees, smoking is allowed. Mike & Mike are both smokers.

These three reasons are neat & all, but do they really counteract the plusses of having another bartender in the mix? What happens when Mike or Mike get sick? What happens if Mike or Mike would like, for once in their lives, to get to do something on a Friday or Saturday night? What happens if Mike or Mike decide that even though they really love Tiki-Ti, they want to follow their own dreams? They would certainly be entitled. And when push comes to shove, Mike & Mike just can’t run the bar alone forever and ever. There has to be a plan for either succession, or for closing Tiki-Ti. You can probably guess which of those two scenarios I’d rather see. So, while the news that they have a new bartender is a little shocking, it’s not entirely surprising, and it’s actually totally welcome.

What does it mean? Heck, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Mike & Mike. It’s not likely that they’re going to give up smoking, so I suspect that they’ve made this new bartender part-owner. They’ve probably been training him for quite a while behind the scenes, and they’ll probably start him out just focusing on part of the drink menu initially. Those are just guesses on my part, though.

So, swing by Tiki-Ti and give a warm welcome to Mark!

UPDATE: I just chatted with Tiki-Ti regular Miles Thompson and got more info: Mark is a Buhen, he’s Mike’s son and Mike’s brother. That makes oh-so-much-more-sense, and is wonderful news.

May 11, 2007

Fulton Burley, Voice of Tiki Room’s Irish Parrot, Has Passed Away

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,News,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:00 pm
Michael, photo by Biotron2000
Michael, photo by Biotron2000

Fulton Burley, who was the voice of Michael the Irish Parrot at the Enchanted Tiki Room, passed away this past Monday at the age of 84.

Wait, wait, we forgot to wake up the glee club!

Burley was better known for his many performances as the host and master of ceremonies at the long-running Golden Horshoe Revue. Burley was honored as a “Disney Legend” in 1995. He was married to his wife Terry for an amazing 62 years, until she passed this past January.

Laughing Place has a nice, long tribute, with quotes from his performing partner Wally Boag. [via The Disney Blog]

Adventureland Tiki, 1958

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:57 pm
Tiki in front of Disneyland's Adventureland Bazaar, from Daveland
Tiki in front of Disneyland’s Adventureland Bazaar, from Daveland

Dave over at Daveland just posted this neat photo taken in Disneyland’s Adventureland in June 1958. This is the most traditional tiki I think I’ve ever seen at Disneyland, it’s pretty cool. I believe that when this picture was taken, Eli Hedley would have been running the Adventureland Bazaar which is right behind the tiki, and he may have been responsible for procuring this tiki. That’s just a wild guess, though.

May 2, 2007

Trader Vic’s Becomes Trader Meh

Filed under: Los Angeles,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 5:04 pm
Entry at the Beverly Hills Trader Vic's
Entry at the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s

This week’s closure of the Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills has caused widespread sadness — Trader Vic’s closure may have been quiet, but the reaction has not been. The reaction has ranged from sadness to anger, which I suppose is to be expected. But what was not expected was the classless way the closure happened — under cover of night, with an utter lack of pomp. Trader Vic’s deserved a full state funeral and a raging wake; instead, it was buried in a cardboard box under an unmarked grave. I’ve heard more than one person use the phrase “chicken-shit,” and that about sums it up for me, too.

(Speaking of “chicken-shit” — the “relocation” in the hotel is complete horse shit. Trader Vic’s knows it, the Beverly Hilton knows it, and anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows it. This will not be the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s. Period.)

What has happened to Trader Vic’s? They were once the masters of bridging the exotic with the elegant, now they are neither. They give no appearance of caring … and they conveniently don’t realize that if they’re going to drop everything else about Trader Vic’s, they’re going to have to drop their prices, too.

The new Trader Vic’s have all been disappointments: Palo Alto, San Francisco, Bellevue, Scottsdale, Destin… only Dallas is up to the previous Trader Vic’s standard, and that’s only because it had the good fortune of being hermetically sealed for 20 years. I haven’t heard from anyone who likes this new, bland Trader Vic’s better than the Trader Vic’s that made Trader Vic’s famous. There’s lots of apologizing on their behalf, lots of “well, at least I can get a good Mai Tai there” and “well, at least they’ve got some good tikis.” At least, at least, at least, ad nauseum. Yes, there’s a lot of “least” going on with Trader Vic’s these days.

Some of the apologizing comes in the form of remarks about how expensive it must be to decorate in the old style. I’m sorry — did bamboo suddenly become an expensive material? Is tapa cloth more expensive than the wallpapers they’re using? Would it kill them to choose a space with a ceiling that doesn’t feel like you’re in a conference center foyer? A location with a little intimacy? I don’t think their lighting budget is Home Depot-scale, and I know of several sources of really fantastic birdcage lamps, float lights and other more appropriate pieces that would easily fall within their budget. Forbidden Island was decorated with a budget that was undoubtedly only a fraction of the per-square-foot decorating cost of a new Trader Vic’s.

No, the Trader Vic’s are plain because they want them to be. I will never be able to wrap my head around that. When the new Trader Vic’s locations open, they spur a round of articles in the local press that invariably spend a lot of time enthusiastically describing the Trader Vic’s of old… with Trader Vic’s, their history is everything! Why on earth are they casting it aside? They certainly can’t keep up on the merits of their outdated and unspecial menu. Without the immersive environment and the drinks, Trader Vic’s is nothing to write home about.

The recent closure of the Chicago and Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s locations are seen as a massive loss by apparently everyone but the Trader Vic’s organization, which tries to spin it with pathetic-reading press releases about relocating, and no apparent thought to the loss of something they have actively demonstrated they are unable or unwilling to recreate. PR-shaped statements about respecting what the “loyal customers” love about Trader Vic’s ring quite hollow. They seem to think that the public will swallow anything with the Trader Vic’s name on it. They’ve completely lost touch with what makes them interesting and unique.

My enthusiasm for supporting Trader Vic’s is swiftly dwindling.

The Beverly Hills closure is the loss of a major jewel in the Trader Vic’s crown, which more and more is looking like it is made of tinfoil.


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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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