While the COVID pandemic is by no means a thing of the past, the Tiki events circuit was back to almost full capacity in 2022. This also includes many rum and surf music events around the world that we also documented on The Tiki Times, The Atomic Grog’s ongoing event guide. It was great to see many old standby events back in full force, while new happenings also made their mark. Check below for artwork and links to official sites, plus images and videos from social media. THE TIKI TIMES 2023: Latest upcoming live and virtual events Social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
We remain thankful for every bit of good news. While a few of the stories below are frustrating (No. 4) or bittersweet (No. 1), they’re far out-numbered by the explosions of creativity and collective talent that drove most of the year’s activity. For that, we toast the entire Tiki community with a new cocktail and The Atomic Grog’s picks for the 10 most newsworthy stories of 2021. Bonus recipe below:The Tiki Lover
1. ALOHA AND FAREWELL, OCEANIC ARTS
As sure as the sun rose in the east and set in the west, there was one enduring creative force over the past six decades of Polynesian Pop style. In November 2021, there was a total eclipse and extended period of mourning when it was announced that Oceanic Arts would be closing its doors as its 80-something-year-old founders embark on a well-deserved retirement. Established in 1956 in Southern California by Robert Van Oosting and LeRoy Schmaltz, the company was always the go-to provider of original and imported pieces of South Seas art and decor for everyone from home enthusiasts to theme park giants including Disney (the doors to Trader Sam’s in Disneyland are Schmaltz’ handiwork). Art and woodwork originating from Oceanic Arts has been featured in nearly every legendary Polynesian palace, from Don the Beachcomber to Trader Vic’s to The Mai-Kai. The company put together movie set pieces and provided the distinctive style of many of the mid 20th century’s Tiki-themed hotels and motels, bowling alleys, and countless other establishments. Buoyed by the Tiki revival, the small shop in Whittier became a mecca for Tikiphiles from around the world and inspired a new generation of carvers and artists in the 21st century.
While the closing seemed to have come out of the blue, Van Oosting and Schmaltz had been planning their retirement for some time. They joined forces with longtime friend Jordan Reichek, owner of Peekaboo Gallery in nearby Montrose, for an epic career-spanning retrospective coming in 2022. In the spring, look for what’s being called an “experiential Tiki exhibition” featuring art and artifacts from Oceanic Arts paired with special events that include live music and performances, panel discussions, an “epic Tiki bar,” and more. The events will culminate with the “ultimate Tiki auction” art show and sale. In the meantime, the gallery is taking pre-orders for a mammoth Oceanic Arts history book compiled and written by Reichek, who worked closely with Van Oosting and Schmaltz. Oceanic Arts: The Godfathers of Tiki is a 500-page opus that documents the rich history of Oceanic Arts via thousands of photos, original artwork and historical documents from the archives. After 65 years, Oceanic Arts leaves an indelible mark on pop culture that is likely to last for many more decades to come.
The entire Tiki community heaved a sigh of relief in September when the announcement came that The Mai-Kai – the historic, 65-year-old restaurant in Fort Lauderdale that has been closed due to storm damage since October 2020 – was saved from extinction by a new ownership team that will pump millions of dollars into a restoration and refurbishment. The year started with much concern after press reports emerged about the roof damage that destroyed the kitchen. A “Save The Mai-Kai” petition gathered more than 10,000 signatures in less than a month as devoted fans united online to share their support and concerns. The skeleton crew of owners and staff continued to offer regular takeout cocktails and began a series of events in the expansive parking lot. The highlights were The Mai-Kai’s first-ever Tiki Marketplace in April featuring vendors, entertainers, cocktails, rum tasting and more. A follow-up event in July kept the momentum going while behind-the-scene negotiations were likely starting to ramp up.
The big announcement came in September, just after hundreds of Tikiphiles from around the country finally returned to Fort Lauderdale for the 19th edition of The Hukilau. Then, a week later, the long-awaited news dropped. The founding Thornton family released details on social media on Sept. 28, outlining the joint venture with a South Florida-based real estate investment and development company known for working with legacy businesses. Its sister hospitality company already operates several vintage venues in Miami’s Little Havana. “We’re looking forward to working closely with the Barlington Group and Mad Room Hospitality to sustain The Mai-Kai the world has come to know and love,” the announcement said. “We’re excited to bring back The Mai-Kai better than ever before — and for you to be a special part of it!” Check out links to our in-depth report above and latest updates below.
The crushing blow of the pandemic was not easy to overcome for event organizers, but we slowly came out of our homes in 2021 and began to gather again in safe and physically-distanced environments. Longtime online meet-ups – most notably Tiki Trail Live and Spike’s Breezeway Cocktail Hour – continued to thrive. But many longed for live human interaction, and a handful of key (mainly outdoor) events delivered that experience in the year’s early months. Then, when vaccines became widely available, we saw the return of several major Tiki events starting with Arizona Tiki Oasis on April 22-25. Carefully organized by Baby Doe and Otto von Stroheim, the event paved the way for an active summer, including the couple’s flagship Tiki Oasis on July 28 -Aug. 1 in San Diego. Momentum slowed in the late summer and fall as the first of several coronavirus variants emerged, but Tikiphiles still flocked to scaled-down events including Ohana: Luau At The Lake in upstate New York, The Hukilau and Tiki Fever in Florida, and Tiki Caliente in Palm Springs, Calif. Rum aficionados around the world also were able to get back into the swing of tasting events, from the Jamaica Rum Festival in March to the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival in November. See the full list of major 2021 events below.
Dec. 2 – Holiday Party & Print Release at Shag the Store in West Hollywood. Artist Josh Agle will be on hand to sign the new “Duet for Two Cats” prints as well as merchandise. Wear a leopard print and get a special gift. Complimentary cocktails, plus DJ Wyatt Magnum spinning an all-vinyl, holiday-themed set.
Dec. 3 – Tiki Wonderland 12 at Tonga Hut in Los Angeles. The city’s oldest Tiki bar celebrates its 12th annual holiday event featuring a parking lot sale and art show with holiday tunes provided by Big Tiki Dude. Inside, High Tide will play The Ventures iconic Christmas album in its entirety.
* More on Tiki Central
Oct. 1 – Tiki Safari in Australia, a celebration of Tiki culture featuring live music, DJs, merchandise, food and carver Tiki Bob plying his trade.
Oct. 3-7 – El Floridita’s 200th anniversary celebration in Havana, Cuba. Tales of the Cocktail presents a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to celebrate the bicentennial of the legendary cocktail bar with special events, tours, tastings, competitions and more.
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.” Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
June 7-11 – The Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale is the east coast’s largest and longest-running Tiki weekender. The 16th annual bash returns to the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 for the third year and the historic Mai-Kai restaurant for the 15th straight year. As usual, there will be a schedule packed with symposiums, live music, rum tastings, special events and parties, a huge vendor marketplace, plus more.
The Hukilau highlights
* Tikiphiles take over The Mai-Kai. From Wednesday night’s pre-party to Sunday’s finale, there are plenty of opportunities for The Hukilau’s “villagers” to enjoy the 60-year-old Tiki palace that was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. The biggest gathering is Saturday night’s main event, which includes two performances of The Mai-Kai’s Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii.
* Symposiums, merchandise put spotlight on The Mai-Kai. The Hukilau’s villagers can satisfy their never-ending thirst for all things Mai-Kai with three special symposiums: The Mai-Kai’s Untold Stories with Tim “Swanky” Glazner will be held Friday at Pier 66. The author of Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant will lead a panel discussion with current and former employees of The Mai-Kai, presenting the real history from the people who lived it. Saturday at Pier 66, Nautical Tiki with Mike Skinner will include the Tiki researcher’s deep dive into Polynesian Pop’s connection to adventures on the high seas, plus new details on how the legendary HMS Bounty is linked to The Molokai lounge at The Mai-Kai.. Then, on Sunday at The Mai-Kai, The Atomic Grog’s Hurricane Hayward will present “The Menus of The Mai-Kai: 60 Years of Tiki Cocktail History,” an interactive slideshow that will explore dozens of vintage menus and trace the chronology of the legendary cocktails. Rare “lost cocktails” from the early menus will be served during the all-day event that also includes live music. Artist Tiki Tony is also putting a Mai-Kai spin on the event merchandise, from the event mug (produced by John Mulder of Eekum Bookum) based on the shrunken heads in the Samoa dining room (see above) to a pendant based on the restaurant’s distinctive lamps.
* The host hotel, the iconic Pier 66, is the perfect setting. Another 60-year-old venue, this state-of-the-art hotel includes a signature mid-century modern 17-story tower added in the mid-’60s with a rotating penthouse lounge used for special events. There’s a large ballroom for the vendors, a separate ballroom for symposiums and the Friday night main event, plus lush grounds and multiple pools. It also has a prime location just east of the Intracoastal Waterway, adjacent to Port Everglades and not far from Fort Lauderdale’s famous beach.
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. The biggest will get extended coverage as “spotlight events.” Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram February recap:Bar openings and closings, cocktail competitions, Modernism Week, more
From the ashes of the Week in Tiki (and, later, the Month in Tiki) rises The Tiki Times. Still ambitious, but more practical, this monthly guide to what’s going on across the world of Tiki culture will hopefully be a definitive resource of where to find special events that touch on topics of interest to many Tikiphiles. You’ll find all the major Tiki festivals, plus smaller gatherings along with events that scratch our itch for rum and cocktails, surf and rockabilly music, mid-century modern design, even Disney. And don’t forget authentic Polynesian culture, the well from which Tiki springs. Social media:Follow our Facebook page for daily news updates Pinterest | Coming soon: Twitter and Instagram
TIKI NEWS: Book and mug releases
Shag the Store announced the release of Shag’s newest signed book, Shag: The Collected Works. It’s available signed by Shag directly from the Palm Springs and Hollywood stores. It’s also coming soon to the online store. The 192-page hardcover book features the “Balcony on Sunset” print on the front cover and the “Three Coats” print on the back cover.
BAR NEWS: Farewell Tiki Mondays With Miller, Longitude, Kreepy Tiki and Trader Vic’s; Aloha The Reef and Tiki Underground
Lost Lake in Chicago continues to rake in the honors, the most recent being named a semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program by the James Beard Foundation. “It’s really a thrill to see Lost Lake listed alongside the incredible bars that inspire us daily,” said a message on the acclaimed Tiki bar’s Facebook page. Among the many other nominees are Anvil Bar & Refuge in Houston, Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, Bar Agricole in San Francisco, Canon in Seattle, Clyde Common in Portland, The Dead Rabbit in New York City, and The Varnish in Los Angeles. The 2017 James Beard Awards Gala will be held in Chicago on May 1. Lost Lake’s Paul McGee, Shelby Allison and Erin Hayes at the Tiki Tower Takeover at The Hukilau 2016 in Fort Lauderdale. (Photo by Go11Events.com)
* More photos, full coverage of the special cocktail event
Following his Tiki Mondays With Miller finale on Feb. 13 at Pouring Ribbons in New York City, Capt. Brian Miller posted the following missive on Facebook: “The crew and I left it all on the stage and we hope each and every one of you had a great time. We said we wouldn’t go quietly and we didn’t. There was so much rum and so much love. I was humbled by all of it. Thanks to all of you that came on Monday and everyone else that has come to Tiki Mondays over the past 5+ years. It was my pleasure and my honor to serve all of you.” Look for a new venture in New York City in the near future from Miller and company.
There was sad news out of Oakland, Calif, where owner Suzanne Long announced a March 5 closing of her beloved Longitude. Open since August 2014, this was the respected rum and cocktail expert’s first bar of her own, and it was well-received across the Tiki and rum communities. In her Facebook announcement, Long wrote: “Thank you to all of you who have walked through our doors in the last three years. It has been an amazing, glorious adventure and we couldn’t have done it without all of your love and support. Mahalo to you and Aloha, with so much love! And from me, don’t worry. You haven’t seen the last of me yet.” We’re holding you to that, Suzanne!
While many will say it was a shell of its former self, Trader Vic’s ended a 62-year association with the Beverly Hilton with the Feb. 2 closing of the poolside lounge that was the last remnant of the legendary Tiki restaurant at the venerable hotel, Los Angeles Magazine reported. “The original Beverly Hilton Trader Vic’s was a sprawling Polynesian pop masterpiece that opened with the Welton Becket-designed hotel in 1955 and was a celebrity hot spot for decades,” the article says. Added Eater Los Angeles: “Operating on land owned for decades by Merv Griffin and playing host to everyone from Hugh Hefner to the Rat Pack, Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills had become a beloved staple for that side of town – but now it’s all been scrubbed away.” When the restaurant closed in 2007, the pool bar became the only place in Los Angeles to get an authentic Trader Vic’s Mai Tai and pu-pu platters. A more modern Trader Vic’s restaurant operated at L.A. Live from 2009 to 2014. Now the only U.S. locations are in Emeryville, Calif., and Atlanta. There are more than a dozen overseas locations.
An era ended in Fort Lauderdale, where the proprietors of Kreepy Tiki Lounge announced that the live music venue and craft cocktail bar would be closing its doors on April 1. “We invite you all to celebrate the times we had, friendships we’ve made, and enjoy the last remaining days with us,” said a Facebook announcement. The adjoining Kreepy Tiki Tattoos will remain open during construction in the weeks to come, so look for news on future upgrades to the space near Fort Lauderdale International Airport. South Florida Distillers, makers of the award-winning Fwaygo rums, is a recent new addition to the building. A longtime rockabilly and punk-rock hangout under various names, the bar received a major upgrade (and full liquor license) when Ayme Harrison took over bar operations in late 2014. It was subsequently named one of the best 22 Tiki bars in the country by Condé Nast Traveler, and Harrison’s mixology skills were recognized in 2016 at such high-profile events as The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and The Hukilau. Harrison is one of several high-profile partners in a new craft cocktail bar in nearby Delray Beach called Death or Glory, set to open April 1, according to Miami New Times. The article also says that the old Kreepy Tiki Lounge “may continue to operate in another capacity” under Kreepy Tiki Tattoos owner Jackson Valiente.
It was not all about closings this month. Some exciting news in Palm Springs heralded the opening of The Reef at the Caliente Tropics resort. Home of the annual Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs events, the vintage resort with the iconic A-frame entrance and distinctive mid-century Polynesian Pop architecture had once been home to a bar called The Reef. When Rory Snyder, creator of the aforementioned Tiki weekenders, saw an opportunity to take over the bar space, he jumped at it. He enlisted the talents of artists Buzzy Meeker (design, build-out), Doug Horne (logos, menus and mug design) and John Mulder of Eekum Bookum (mug creation). “I want the mood and menu of The Reef make all who walk in here feel at home,” Snyder said in an announcement on Facebook. “Everyone from the long-time Palm Springs residents, to vacationing tourists, to our enthusiastic Tiki ohana. Because The Reef is located at a hotel, some people might wander in from the pool in their flip-flops and some might arrive dressed up for a night out. Regardless, I want people to come in knowing that, just because this is a tropically-themed bar, they can get still their favorite standard well drinks or enjoy one of our craft Tiki cocktails, along with some good food while having a memorable time. You will be entertained.” Previews were held in February, with a grand opening scheduled for March 4.
It’s clear that the best Tiki bars are a passion project of their owners, and the new Tiki Underground in the Akron, Ohio, area is no exception. Cleveland native Sean Coffey was a Tiki fanatic for 20 years before realizing his dream and opening a tropical paradise for all to enjoy. “Sean has loved Tiki culture for so many years and he’s basically had a Tiki bar, at home,” his wife and co-owner Jessie Coffey said in an article on Cleveland.com. “Now we get to have the public come over.” Funded in part by fans and supporters, the bar is a DIY effort in the truest sense of the word. Coffey took over a 4,500-square-foot space that was formerly home to a sports bar in Hudson, Ohio, bringing South Seas style and the spirit of aloha to an enthusiastic opening day crowd on Feb. 24. A grand opening and the roll-out of more entertainment and menu options were planned for March.
In Fort Lauderdale, news broke about a new restaurant opening in the beachside B Ocean Resort, perhaps best known for the classic “porthole lounge” The Wreck Bar and long-running swim shows by Marina the Fire Eating Mermaid. Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restauranteur Ralph Pagano, who has had success with his Naked Taco and Naked Lunch concepts in Miami. Less successful was the short-lived Naked Tiki on South Beach, but hopefully Pagano’s appreciation of Tiki shines through in his new 150-seat restaurant, which also includes The Florida Bar. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Naked Crab is a “stripped-down but also dressed-up crab and seafood and steak house where I cook impeccably sourced fish,” Pagano told New Times. In related Wreck Bar news, Marina and her pod of aquaticats launched a new, burlesque-themed swim show for ages 21 and older on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30 p.m. These are in addition to the regular family-friendly “fishtail glam” mermaid shows at 6:30.
The kitschy dive bar Hula Hula, which has been operating since 2007 and proudly advertising “karaoke 365 days a year,” announced that it has been forced to move from its Seattle Center location. According to a post on the bar’s Facebook page, Hula Hula will shut down March 18 but reopen in a new location in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in April.
RUM NEWS: Bacardi crowns North American Cocktail Competition champion
Darnell Holguin after his presentation at the 1306 Bar on South Beach. (Photos by The Atomic Grog)
Darnell Holguin of New York City won the Bacardi Legacy North American Cocktail Competition Finals in Miami Beach on Feb. 13 with his It Was All a Dream cocktail. Other U.S. finalists included Cody Henson of Miami, Will Isaza of Boston, Alex Chien of Chicago, Cameron George of Seattle, and Vincent Toscano of San Francisco. Holguin will represent the United States at the Global Final in Berlin in May. Around 250 people attended the private industry-only event at the 1306 Bar. Our correspondent tasted almost all of the 19 drinks and reported to us (without knowing the winner) that he thought Holguin’s was far and away the best. He called it “a very Tiki-tastic concoction that utilized condensed milk and allspice dram. … The minute I sipped it, I knew it was the winning drink.”
* See video of the competition
Feb. 11 – Aloha Fest in Venlo, The Netherlands. An evening of European surf music and culture including Surfer Joe, The Terrorsaurs, Kilaueas, Aloha Sluts and more. Plus DJs, unplugged shows, market with Tiki art and music for sale.
Feb. 11 – Southern Surf Stomp at Kavarna in Decatur, Ga. All-ages concert featuring Liz Brasher, and The Fugitives.
Feb. 13 – Tiki Mondays With Miller in New York City. The final voyage of Brian Miller and his scurvy crew, with special guests Gaz Regan and the Hula Belly Sisters. At Pouring Ribbons in the East Village.
Feb. 16 – Mahiki Invasion at UnderTow in Phoenix featuring an hour of Tiki education with Georgi Radev of Mahiki in London. Includes cocktails, a Tiki mug, sponsor Reàl Cocktail Ingredients giveaways, and a recipe guide created by Radev.
THE HUKILAU: Tiki Road Trip announced, Pier 66 and The Mai-Kai sold out, new rum sponsors, and more!
The Hukilau has been gearing up for its 15th anniversary event in Fort Lauderdale on June 8-12 with a flurry of news and announcements since early April. Here’s all the latest:
Get your tickets now for the Tiki Road Trip Pool Party, a condensed version of a cross-country road trip to five bars in five different states serving exotic tropical cocktails. On Friday, June 10, from noon to 4 p.m., guests will have the opportunity to sip cocktails and chat up the bar staff from Porco Lounge & Tiki Room (Cleveland), Foundation Tiki Bar (Milwaukee), Aku Aku (Orlando), plus The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley (New York City). Also joining the party will be Cooking Channel star Jim Stacy, who will be offering a sneak preview of his upcoming Tiki bar in Atlanta, the Barnacled Mermaid. The party takes place at the Pier 66 main pool and surrounding courtyard. Tickets ($20 for weekend passholders, $49 for non-passholders) include one drink from each bar. Also on hand will be the author of the book that inspired the event: James Teitelbaum (Tiki Road Trip, 2003). Also announced in early April was a special screening of Korla The Movie, a documentary film about eccentric and influential musician Korla Pandit (1921-1998). The screening will be held during the finale at The Mai-Kai on Sunday, June 12. * Full report on Tiki Road Trip party and movie screening
The host Hyatt Regency Pier 66 officially sold out of rooms for The Hukilau on April 20. But co-founder/organizer Christie “Tiki Kiliki” White quickly announced the overflow host hotel, the waterfront Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina Hotel. Located just over the Intracoastal Waterway bridge from Pier 66, the Hilton includes such amenities as free wi-fi and beach shuttle, plus a large pool and relaxing environment just a short walk from all the festivities. Room rates start at $119 for a standard king or double. * Click here to book now
Also sold out: Both dinner shows at The Mai-Kai during the Saturday night main event on June 11. This means the entire restaurant will be the domain of The Hukilau’s villagers for the legendary Polynesian Islander Revue, the longest-running authentic South Seas stage show in the United States, including Hawaii. However, the show several times a night, so attendees are welcome to catch it on one of the other nights during the festivities. We suggest booking dinner in the showroom after the finale on Sunday, or during Wednesday’s opening-night party (or both). Also, there might be space available Saturday night in the restaurant’s back dining areas, especially later in the evening. Call The Mai-Kai at (954) 563-3272 for reservations and/or plan on arriving late that night. You can also email Pia Dahlquist (email@example.com) to get on a waiting list. Typically the crowd thins out as the night goes on. The Mai-Kai can hold nearly 1,000 guests, but efforts are being made to keep it from becoming too overcrowded with demand high this year. The venerable Tiki temple, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in December, was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. Look for a special announcement about new additions at The Mai-Kai in time for The Hukilau. More info to come soon.
Catching up on news from the first half of February, we have reports on the debut of Tiki-themed bars in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach, plus a recap and photos from two of Shag’s parties at Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Quick sips include The Wreck Bar, the Polynesian Village Resort, the Rapa Nui Reef, and Tiki Month on the Pegu Blog. Regular features spotlight California artist Michelle Bickford; Milwaukee surf band The Exotics; New York City craft cocktail bars The Happiest Hour and Slowly Shirley; and Tiki mug collecting website Ooga-Mooga. The Rum of the Week, Plantation Pineapple Stiggins’ Fancy, is featured in an original Atomic Grog cocktail, Kilauea Iki.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events
New Tiki bars open in Texas, Maine, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Miami Beach
It was a banner year for Tiki in 2015 with an unprecedented number of high-profile bars opening across the country. [Year in Tiki recap] It’s too early to know if 2016 will come close to the quality level of new establishments such as Lost Lake, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and The Golden Tiki , but the number of openings could easily top last year. [Previous: See our 2016 preview] And the variety is astounding, from a classic rum den in frigid Maine to the world’s first vegan Tiki bar in Seattle. Already open as of mid-February:
Howie’s Tiki in Spring, Texas: North of Houston, owner Mark “Howie” Voros is aiming for classic Tiki, including lamps from Oceanic Arts, exotic music, and a selection of classic tropical and modern cocktails, according to a Critiki News story. Artwork by California artist Ken Ruzic adorns the walls, with a Big Toe piece coming soon. Communal drinks include the Scorpion Bowl and Blood of the Kapu Tiki.
* Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Rhum in Portland, Maine: A tribute to classic Tiki bars as well as the craft and romance of rum, this full-service restaurant has already made a splash in the heart of winter. “It’s about escapism,” co-owner Jason Loring, who owns several other Portland hotspots, told a Portland area blog. The food is an inventive, modern take on Polynesian-themed cuisine. The cocktails show off the bar’s massive rum collection, running the gamut from the Mai Tai to the Painkiller to the Fogcutter served in unique mugs made by a local artist. Another blogger raved: “It’s what Portland has been missing – a lounge full of escapism with an air of mystery.”
* Official site | Facebook page | Instagram | Critiki
Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh: This small “modern Tiki spot” opened Jan. 19 in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood under the guidance of co-owner and cocktail director Adam Henry. There’s a small menu of creative tapas (Deconstructed Tuna Tacos, Lamb Curry, etc.) and some unique takes on tropical cocktails. Ishmael includes clove-infused Jamaican rum, Tropic Thunder features a house five-rum blend, and Josie’s Faraway Vacation employs Arrack (Indonesian rum). You can also find drinks with sake, gin, rye and coconut-washed vodka. But purists shouldn’t fret: Every Tuesday is the Tiki Time Machine, featuring classics such as Don the Beachcomber’s Pearl Diver and Missionary’s Downfall. “It’s clear that the team at Hidden Harbor respects the classic tiki playbook,” according to the Pittsburgh City Paper. “But it isn’t afraid to add some notes in the margins.” The decor is described as minimalist by Tiki standards, with a few distinctive carvings and nautical knick-knacks.
* Official site | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
No Bones Beach Club in Seattle: Easily the most distinctive of the new offerings is the world’s first vegan Tiki bar and restaurant. This former award-winning food truck and pop-up tent now serves Southern California-meets-Asian tropical treats in the city’s Ballard neighborhood. Highlights of the 100 percent plant-based menu include Sweet Pineapple and Soy Curl Sizzling Lettuce Wraps, tomatillo-avocado salsa-topped Jackfruit Flautas, and Smoked Golden Beet Poke, VegNews Magazine reports. Owner MacKenzie DeVito told Seattle Met’s Nosh Pit that the goal is to make guests in the sometimes dreary city “feel like they’re on a little vacation.” The drinks are made with local spirits and served in Tiki and tropical mugs. The decor includes a large Tiki, bamboo and thatch accents, plus colorful lanterns.
* Official site | Facebook | Twitter | Critiki
Naked Tiki in Miami Beach: The new restaurant/bar/lounge from celebrity chef Ralph Pagano (Hell’s Kitchen, Pressure Cook) held its soft opening on Feb. 11, with a grand opening Feb. 20. Located in the recently re-branded Stiles Hotel, a historic property in the heart of the Art Deco District on South Beach that dates back to 1936, Naked Tiki is a multi-level space that must blend in with the upscale property, so don’t expect over-the-top decor. But the food is outstanding, from the wings, ribs and bacon-wrapped shrimp rumaki to the handmade dumplings, decadent crab rangoon, inventive buns and signature Bang! Bang! Rice. Pagano obviously knows his way around a kitchen (watch him battle Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America). The cocktail menu is less ambitious but very solid, featuring a nice assortment of classics (Mai Tai, Scorpion, Painkiller, Singapore Sling, Aku Aku). “I have a borderline obsession with rum and tropical drinks,” Pagano told Miami New Times. “I’ve taken basically all that I love and put it under one roof.” The decor and music is more South Beach than South Pacific, but it makes sense in this neighborhood. It will be interesting to see how this space evolves.
* Official site | Facebook page
Exciting news this week for fans of The Mai-Kai with the release of new Tiki mugs and pre-orders for a long-awaited history book. News on The Art of Tiki event in South Beach includes a new rum sponsor and the return of last year’s champ. We recap events from N.Y.C. to L.A., including new Doug Horne Tiki mugs. Upcoming events include a tribute to Steve Crane, South Florida’s Polynesian Cultural Festival, and a new Trader Vic’s seminar. In other news, a tree crashes the party at VenTiki, plus Bacardi and Havana Club duke it out. Regular features spotlight eclectic artist Sam Gambino; groundbreaking exotica ensemble Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica; Brooklyn bar Fort Defiance; and online group Poly Hai. The Rum of the Week, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva 15, is featured in the Pineapple Express cocktail.
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* Weekly features: Artist | Band/music | Bar | Website | Rum | Cocktail | Events
Note: For 2016, The Week in Tiki will remain bi-weekly, but we’ve simplified the schedule. Look for blogs recapping the first and second half of each month.
New Mai-Kai mugs released, history book coming in July
In December, a limited number of artist proofs were released and quickly sold out. The mug, which comes with its own pendant, pays tribute to the historic Polynesian Palace’s iconic Tikis. Tiki Diablo, aka Danny Gallardo, has previously created mugs that pay homage to memorable Tikis at The Mai-Kai in 2014 and 2015 (see story). He’ll also be crafting the official mug for the upcoming book on The Mai-Kai by Tim “Swanky” Glazner.
UPDATE: The book, Mai-Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, will be released Sept. 28. The 176-page hardcover book (11 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches high) is being issued by Schiffer Publishing. It’s available for pre-order online via Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Glazner will be hosting a release party and special events at The Mai-Kai on Sept. 17-18. Advance copies of the book will be available at the release party.
In the book, the longtime Mai-Kai historian reveals never-before-seen photos and stories that he’s gleaned from more than 13 years of research on the 59-year-old Tiki temple, which was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a fascinating story of the brash young men who in 1956 created The Mai-Kai for a million dollars, making it one of the most expensive restaurants of its day. By sparing no expense and creating a one-of-a kind Tiki paradise, Bob and Jack Thornton created an acclaimed playground of celebrities and playboys during the mid-century heyday of Polynesian Pop.
Glazner also spotlights the beautiful women who worked there, many who used the experience as a jumping-off point for adventure and fame. The book includes exclusive first-hand stories on more than 400 images, documenting not only The Mai-Kai but the history, allure, and enduring legacy of the original Tiki era. Focusing on 1955 to 1971, the book traces the genesis of the restaurant and its key employees back to Tiki bar pioneer Don the Beachcomber. Many of The Mai-Kai’s original key managers and employees came from the Beachcomber outpost in Chicago, where the Thorntons called home. This includes bartender Mariano Licudine, who created the acclaimed bar menu (based on Donn Beach’s original “rum rhapsodies”) that remains intact at The Mai-Kai today.