Need proof that the tiki trend still is going strong? Take a look at the parrot-festooned raft of new tiki and tropical-inspired bars that have opened over the last 18 months—with more still to come. Stroll through this tiki bar timeline—some of which are full-on tropical, and others that have strong tropical drink lists—to find where to get your aloha on all summer long.
Image: Gin Palace
1. Mother of Pearl (New York, NY)
Opening Date: Anticipated late May or early June 2015 Aloha Bona Fides: Located in the East Village space that formerly housed Gin Palace (which closed because it was sinking into the ground and extensive reconstruction was needed), Mother of Pearl will open as a “tiki-influenced” bar helmed by Amor y Amargo’s Sother Teague. The drink list has been described as “Postmodern Polynesian,” with plenty of rum and nods to tiki.
Opening Date: April 2015 Aloha Bona Fides: Located within Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, look for drinks like the Polynesian Pearl and Castaway Crush, plus drinks imported from the original Anaheim outpost, like the Krakatoa Punch and HippopotoMai-Tai. Cheery collectible tiki mugs are on hand, of course. It’s a sprawling operation, seating 50 at the lounge inside, plus another 82 on the patio.
Opening Date: January 2015 Aloha Bona Fides: Run by bartending vet Paul McGee, formerly of lauded Three Dots and a Dash, with a rum list curated by Martin Cate of San Francisco tiki haven Smuggler’s Cove, the bar describes itself as a “tropical oasis-meets-flotsam-strewn island hut” that channels the “rugged nautical aesthetic of the original Don’s Beachcomber Cafe. Drinks pay homage to tiki classics, though there are plenty of new creations, including the Coconut Grove Cooler (Scotch, passion fruit, pomegranate, pineapple and lemon juices).
Opening Date: December 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: Although it’s not a tiki bar, the group behind the Forest Hills venture includes vets from the bar formerly known as Painkiller and Dutch Kills. Bring on drinks like the Kon-Tiki Mai Tai (rum, absinthe, fresh juices, ginger syrup) and enormous Scorpion Bowls. The dark wood walls are hung with travel souvenirs like Indonesian masks and maracas from Cuba.
Opening Date: October 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: This hotly anticipated new bar and restaurant was conceived and spearheaded by writer and tiki guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and is located within the French Quarter’s Hotel Bienville. Head bartender Steve Yamada oversees the drinks, which span from Mai Tais and other classics to more adventurous undertakings, including “communal drinks” like the Aquadesiac, intended for two to share (gold Barbados rum, blue curaçao, Bénédictine, lemon, almond and caraway, served in a shell-like vessel).
Opening Date: October 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: Though it’s not a tiki bar, it sure looks like one, decked out with palm frond wallpaper meant to evoke mid-century Florida and California resorts; beach-y knickknacks on the wall (boats, seashells, flamingo figurines); and golden pineapples tucked in along the back bar. Garret Richard, host-creator of the Brooklyn Luau, is behind the bar, transforming tiki classics like swizzles into frozen drinks. And shhh, don’t tell anyone about “Slowly Shirley,” a newly opened lounge beneath the bar.
Opening Date: August 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: From Suzanne Long, former bar manager at Alameda’s Forbidden Island, this space has been lauded for the dazzling tropical-themed interior, full of lush greens and bamboo—even an East African thatched hut. Plus, there’s an ambitious menu of tiki drinks, like the Black Orchid (flambeed rum cordial, Angostura 7 Year Old rum and citrus, garnished with an orchid and freshwater pearl).
Opening Date: February 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: It’s an offspring of Los Angeles’s oldest tiki-themed watering hole: the iconic Tonga Hut in North Hollywood, built in 1958. Bigger than the original, the new desert outpost features mid-century décor, vintage Polynesian collectibles, and plenty of classic tiki drinks. Unlike the original, there’s also a full menu of Polynesian and Cantonese food—and a speakeasy-ish secret tiki room, entered through a PDT-style phone booth.
Opening Date: January 2014 Aloha Bona Fides: This “urban tiki” bar near Jax Beach prides itself on having plenty of rum and minimal kitsch. A sister bar to the chill, equally cocktail-centric Sidecar, look for trivia nights, live music and drinks like the Santiago and Dunbar (Kappa Pisco, Fidencio Mezcal, Yellow Chartreuse, pineapple, lime and Abbott’s Bitters, intended for two people).
Kara Newman is a New York–based spirits and cocktail writer, and author of Cocktails for a Crowd (Chronicle Books).
My wife and I enjoy Psycho Suzi's Tiki Motor Lounge Restaurant & bar in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Great place...Great Vibe... Great group of people that go this place every night. It is always packed from Wed - Saturday. They have a great Location over looking the Mississippi River... People drive their boats up the Mississippi river to Suzi's Dock along the river and everyone has a grand ole' time.
Of course you do not have to have a boat to go there...they have a big parking lot for people like me that drive cars... Ha
P.S. The drink menu is listed by how powerful the Tiki drinks are. Be careful, many drinks are powerful... very powerful.
I believe these are all newer establishments, and great places like Frankie's in Vegas doesn't qualify in that regard. While not a brand new bar, I like Tiki No in North Hollywood, CA. The interior is lovely and their drinks are interesting and tasty! They do a cocktail with Lychee that rocks.
Although it's beginning to show its age; I'm a little partial to the KON TIKI Lounge in Tucson, AZ... I love Tiki bars and hope to visit some of the ones you highlighted in your article... I no longer live in Tucson, but when I get back in town to visit my parents, I have to get away for a bit and visit the Kon Tiki. Thanks for article and for reminding me that Tiki bars are not yet obsolete...
It is a shame that the Grass Skirt, in Columbus, Ohio, continues to get overlooked by writers who rank tiki bars. Usually, these writers are outside observers. As a die-hard tikiphile, mixologist and frequenter of true tiki bars (which excludes a tiki themed sports bar with trivia nights and televisions above the bar), I can tell you that the Grass Skirt deserves much more attention.
Although not brand new, it was overlooked when it first opened, so it would be brand new to many imbibers not in the know. This torchbearer of the famous Kahiki Supper Club offers a high tiki aesthetic and some savory and potent tiki cocktails. It is a shame this place is so embedded in authenticity yet gets overlooked in lieu of "almost tiki" establishments.
Ironically, this one is ALREADY opened for business!
PS -- Congrats to Suzanne Long and Longitude, Jeff Beachbum Berry and Latitude 29 and Paul McGee and Lost Lake!!!!
I love tiki but Tonga hut was a disappointment. They need to verse the bar staff about rum and tiki cocktails. You can't just dress a place up and have some runs and call yourself a tiki bar. I was so sad.
You should check out a real Tiki bar on lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire !!!!!
Akwa beach bar looks and feels like the real thing. It has post and beam construction with a 1904 wooden 28' sail boat as the bar with a 25' mast inside. Sits 20 bar stools. Kitchen looks like a real carpenters hut inside restaurant, right on the water.
The ultimate beach bar with beach,pool,12' hot tub, volley ball, bond fires and more......
See Akwa Marina .com
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