Entries in the 'Portland' Category

September 6, 2006

Jasmine Tree Tiki Decor Going to Thatch

Filed under: History,News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 12:26 pm
Jasmine Tree tikis, originally from the Portland Kon-Tiki
Jasmine Tree tikis, originally from the Portland Kon-Tiki

The questions surrounding the future of Portland’s Jasmine Tree appear to have largely been answered. Due to urban redevelopment, the Jasmine Tree had the choice of shutting down or relocating, but has to be out of its current location by the end of October. The search for a new location has not been successful; there is still a slim chance that the restaurant could move, but if it does, it won’t have a tiki theme. The owners of the Jasmine Tree have agreed to sell the tiki decor to Robert Volz, who is opening a new tiki bar in northeast Portland, called Thatch. Volz had worked with the Jasmine Tree owners to try to find them a new location; he plans to use much of the decor in Thatch, and may sell some of the decor to fellow Portland-area tikiphiles and Tiki Centralites.

While the Jasmine Tree is not my favorite tiki bar, it is very notable for its decor. The items aren’t presented in the greatest way, but they have a great pedigree — much of it came from the Portland Kon-Tiki when it closed. Most striking is the set of three large cannibal tikis in the picture above, as seen in many menus from Steve Crane’s Kon-Tiki locations, and also Steve Crane’s Luau in Beverly Hills. The prospect of these tikis, and other Kon-Tiki decor, continuing to be available for the public to see (and perhaps in an even better environment) is good news.

Thatch’s opening date has not yet been announced, but it sounds like work is very far along, and the bar will hopefully be opening soon.

July 25, 2006

My Travels: 2006 Portland Tiki Crawl

Filed under: Events,My Travels,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:44 pm
Spitting fountain at the Alibi in Portland
Spitting fountain at the Alibi in Portland, photo by Hanford Lemoore

Last month, Hanford and I paid a visit to the fine city of Portland for the 2006 Northwest Tiki Crawl. The weather was beautiful (if a bit hot on the last day), and the company was grand.

The kickoff night was at Mark and Maggie Axton’s lush backyard paradise, the Castaway Cove, which includes a bar enclosed in a large freestanding building, a small “beach” complete with fire pit, and even a creepy voodoo maze through the shrubberies.

Day two included a visit to the Alibi, pictured above. The Alibi is the shining star of Portland tiki; the bar has a very long history, having started as the Chat n’ Nibble when the road it was on was the main dirt road for horse carts to get to town. It went thorugh a series of evolutions through the years, until becoming tiki in the post-WWII era, and undergoing a remodel and expansion in the ’70s. The natural build-up of dust, cigarette smoke and general grime slowly took its toll, and this past year, the same team of folks who throw the annual crawl started spending every Sunday there volunteering to clean the joint up. The results are outstanding — lamps shine brightly (but not too brightly!), the mural is looking lovely, and there are so many more little details to be seen now. There is more cleanup to be done, but it’s already looking worlds better. The famous neon Alibi sign has also had a refresh, and is looking better than ever. The drinks… well, the drinks still need a lot of work (One gentleman’s Mai Tai came with olives in it! And I thought it couldn’t get worse than the dreaded pineapple juice and grenadine.), but it’s all a big step in the right direction, and gives me great hope.

The next stop was the Jasmine Tree, a Chinese restaurant that years ago inherited tiki artifacts from the Portland Kon-Tiki when it closed. As earlier reported, the building the Jasmine Tree is to be demolished to make student housing for nearby PSU, but they are promising to re-open in a new location. Here’s the thing, though — the food & drinks are absolutely abysmal at the Jasmine Tree, and the space they’re in isn’t too terribly special (though the bar does have a few neat old-school details). The only thing the Jasmine Tree has going for it, in my book, are the cool tiki items that are currently displayed rather haphazardly. I heard the Jasmine Tree say they’re relocating, but I haven’t heard anything about what they plan to do with all their tiki stuff, if it will be re-installed, if they’ll go more tiki (don’t hold your breath), or if they’ll sell some of the tiki stuff off. Ordinarily, I’d blanch at the idea of tiki stuff getting sold off, but if it wound up at another public place, it wouldn’t be much of a change from the current state of affairs. Anyway, it was another typical night at the Jasmine Tree.

The evening events took place at our hotel, the Jupiter, where there was a vendor room (Hanford scored a ton of great vintage aloha shirts), and some bands played. At the afterparty, we made some drinks out of stuff we were able to pull together, and I managed somehow to make something out of Voodoo Rum, lemon juice, sweet & sour and orgeat that tasted just like the brine from a sweet pickle jar. So, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on the drinks at the Alibi & the Jasmine Tree. Hanford & I finally made it to bed at about 4 a.m.

The next day was a scorcher, with the temperature bumping up against 100 degrees, which is unheard of for Portland in June. It was the day of the home tiki bar crawl, and the stops we made it to (before having to bop off to the airport) were lovely home tiki bar setups. A highlight of the day was a sneak peek of a brand new tiki bar opening soon in Portland, called Thatch. Thatch is being opened by the same chap who owns nearby Pour, a sleek wine bar. Thatch will include a small bridge crossing over a water feature at the entrance, a raised hut area at the back, and a sunken bar area. The booths are original Armet & Davis Denny’s booths, and the place is going to be all decked out in bamboo. A lot of imagination was needed to see how it would be when we paid our visit, but it sounds very promising, and there was a lot of excitement. Thatch is due to open in mid-August.

Mahalo to the Portland Tiki Crawl group for such a fantastic weekend, and for doing to much wonderful work on the Alibi!

May 3, 2006

Portland: Northwest Tiki Crawl 2006

Filed under: Events,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:36 pm
Mug from NW Tiki Crawl 2005
Mug from NW Tiki Crawl 2005

Tickets are now on sale for the annual Northwest Tiki Crawl, taking place in Portland the weekend of June 24, 2006. As with last year, there will be a special event mug created by Tikitronic. Special highlights this year include some new home bars on the Sunday home bar tour, a special preview of the not-yet-open Grass Skirt Thatch, Portland’s newest tiki bar, and a chance to spend time in the soon-to-be-closed Jasmine Tree. Of course, the Alibi alone is worth the trip to Portland. Here’s the schedule from the NW Tiki Crawl website:

Friday: Kick-Off Party at the infamous Castaway Cove, home of Tikimaxton & Pele. This will be for full weekend Crawlers only to get to know your fellow tikiphiles and enjoy the Cove’s famed hospitality. Food & drinks provided.

Saturday: There will be gatherings at Portland tiki bars: (soon to be closed!) Jasmine Tree and the venerable Alibi. Then the Tiki-Kon really gets going that evening at the Jupiter, with Bands! Vendors! Drinks! Socializing! Raffle with Fabulous Prizes! Mysterious Other Things! Full Weekend crawlers will also be treated to an EXCLUSIVE preview of Portland’s newest tiki bar, Grass Skirt (not yet open to the public!)

Sunday: A special Tiki-Kon Brunch at the Alibi, followed by The Original NW Tiki Home Bar Tour, which this year will include new home bars (transportation provided). The group will then return to the Jupiter for the weekend farewell – allowing more time for shopping, socializing, and maybe a little drinking at the nearby Doug Fir.


February 16, 2006

Jasmine Tree Falling Victim to Urban Redevelopment

Filed under: News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:45 pm
Jimmy Chan, Jasmine Tree bartender
Jimmy Chan, Jasmine Tree bartender
photo from the PSU Daily Vanguard

The Jasmine Tree restaurant in Portland will have to either relocate or close under current plans by the Portland Development Commission, the PSU Daily Vanguard reports. The PDC is looking to bring affordable middle-income houseing to the area, for those employed by the nearby Portland State University. The plan also calls for a light-rail line, which would run through the space currently occupied by the Jasmine Tree.

The Jasmine Tree has plenty of history — besides having been in operation for 30 years, they also house many tikis from the legendary Portland Steve Crane-owned Kon-Tiki restaurant, including the three large cannibal tikis as seen in the Kon-Tiki & Luau logo.

The Jasmine Tree’s current lease is up at the end of April, and it is unknown what the fate of the location is beyond that.

February 14, 2006

2006 Northwest Tiki Crawl Announced

Filed under: Events,News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:38 pm
Northwest Tiki Crawl
Northwest Tiki Crawl

The annual Northwest Tiki Crawl is gearing up again — this is the fourth year (if you include the first year, which was a combo tiki & polka extravaganza). Portland is home to the Alibi, one of my favorite tiki bars, and also some fantastic home bars. Details about this year’s event have not yet been announced, but in the past there have been live bands, a home bar tour, and commemorative mugs. Like last year, the official hotel is the Jupiter; we had a great time there last year, in particular at the Doug Fir restaurant in the Jupiter. (Roughly one half of my 100+ photos from last year’s event are of a chrome moose head. I had a fair bit to drink.) The Jupiter is accepting reservations for the Northwest Tiki Crawl weekend, and is extending a special rate. The website for the Northwest Tiki Crawl has not yet been updated for this year, but you can see details from last year’s event.

September 22, 2005

The Alibi in Portland Undergoing Renovation

Filed under: News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 4:03 am
The Alibi -- Portland
The Alibi in Portland

The Alibi in Portland, Oregon has a long history, and a promising future. The establishment today known as the Alibi began as the Chat n’ Nibble, a stop along a dirt road in the late 1800s. Over time, the bar morphed, becoming Max’s Alibi, becoming simply The Alibi, and expanding into a restaurant. The Alibi went Polynesian in the middle of the last century, though much of the existing decor dates from about the ’70s.

The Alibi has been operated under lease from the property owner since the 1980s, and the lease agreement has stated that the decor must remain intact. The current lessors have been learning about tiki culture from the dedicated local tiki community, and they share the desire to keep the tiki torches burning (even if only figuratively) at The Alibi. To that end, there are efforts underway to renovate the tiki, while keeping the decor intact. The Orchids of Hawaii lamps are being cleaned and repaired, the spectacular exterior sign is getting a paint job, and the water feature is being expanded. The Alibi’s owners have eagerly recruited the assistance of the local tikiphile community to lend a hand with keeping the tiki aesthetic in good shape.

Just one request guys — keep it dark!


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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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