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Showing posts with label Tiki. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tiki. Show all posts

Sunday, May 05, 2024

#5703 - 4 Kahuna's Tiki Lounge, Fort Worth, TX - 4/5/2024

4 Kahunas Tiki Lounge is not in a location where you stumble upon it by accident -- unless perhaps you took a couple wrong turns coming home from a Cowboys game. So I was quite glad that my research had included it on the list of DFW area bars to check, and with few expectations, it exceeded my tiki hopes. From a non-descript warehouse and freeway sort of neighborhood, one steps into the 4 Kahunas to find just the right sort of lighting and vibes. And the tiki drinks were quite nice in both the drinking and the presentations -- in my case engagingly prepared and served by bartender Maggie, who was a whirlwind of drink making mixed with friendly chatting.

Re. the creation of the drink program, the Dallas Observer wrote:

"To help the four friends create a respectable tiki program (because, yes, it can be done wrong), they brought in Brad Bowden. Bowden started the weekly tiki program at Lounge Here and has made a name for himself in the Dallas tiki scene. (Yes, it's a thing.) He brings his laid-back elegance to the program and doesn't take any shortcuts when it comes to ingredients — think fresh-squeezed juices and housemade orgeat and syrups. The lounge even makes its coconut cream, and it's decadent."

This article and some others also state that the 4 Kahunas (J.P. Hunter, Scott Smith, Chris Powell and Randy Shepherd) originated the idea for the bar while visiting Frankie's Tiki Room in Las Vegas. However the bar's web site itself tells a very different story, and in light of the entire tiki movement's well earned reputation for never swerving from a rigorous adherence to the exact truth, I think we must rely on that version of the origin story:

"As the word spread that Lord C.C. Bigsby was missing, a brave band of four brothers set out to sail the seven seas to find him - and perhaps have an adventure or two along the way.  Not long into their journey, adventure found them (in the way of a tropical storm) that marooned the brothers on the very island where Lord Bigsby was last rumored to have been seen. The island's infamous witch doctor wasted no time in capturing the brothers, and she boasted they would soon share the same deadly fate as the island's king had bestowed upon Lord Bigsby!

The brothers put their heads together and thought fast. Surely the rum in their battered ship's cargo hold could help them! They began crafting drinks for the king with the rum and the island's many fresh fruits. So pleased was he with their tropical concoctions, he declared the four brothers Kahunas (wise men) and made the witch doctor grant them one wish! They wished to use the king's radio, called for a rescue and imbibed with the king, witch doctor, and other islanders while waiting for their lifeboat.

Now that they're home, the Four Kahunas hope you enjoy the drinks they've created in honor of their Polynesian adventure!"   (


506 E Division St #160, Arlington, TX 76011 - (682) 276-6097
Est. June 15, 2018 
Previous bars in this location:  None known 
Web site: - facebook - instagram 
Articles sorted: dallasobserver - fwweekly - tikirepublic - dallasnews - dmagazine - texasmonthly - eater - hoodline - - - (mug) - fwweekly

Thursday, May 21, 2020

#2696 - Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA - 1/29/2015

The Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA
TL:DR - A must visit in LA, confirm they are open and get there early (e.g. 4:00 Thursday), bring cash, order a Ray's Mistake, then an Uga Booga, then a Blood and Sand, and eventually an Uber home.

An immigrant from the Philippines, Ray Buhen established the Tiki-Ti in 1961 in a former violin repair shop owned by his father-in-law, where his son and grandsons run the bar to this day. Buhen had been part of the very founding of tiki culture in the U.S., one of the original bartenders at the seminal Don The Beachcomber's in Hollywood. Buhen had arrived in the U.S. in the last few years of prohibition, worked as a hotel bellhop and elevator man, then trained as a bartender before joining the new Don the Beachcomber's in 1934.

The Tiki-Ti, Los Angeles, CA
Part of a substantial group of Filipino bartenders who created much of the "tiki" menu and culture, Buhen would go on to work at several more Hollywood grog shops, including The Dresden Room, the Seven Seas, Palms in the Jungle, China Trader, Sugie's Tropics, Ching Hau, The Luau, and the Clark Gable funded Christian’s Hut. (The drink making was interrupted by a stint in the Long Beach shipyards during WWII.) And as this was Hollywood and thereabouts, Buhen's customers included Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Burt Reynolds, Jack Palance, Marlon Brando, Jack Palance, and Tyrone Power (the inspiration for the "Blood and Sand").

Ray worked the bar until he was 88, and passed away shortly after, in 1999. Since then his son Mike and grandson Mike Jr., have run the place, taking a moment every Wednesday to ring a bell five times, whereupon the entire bar makes a toast to the revered founder. Further details on Ray's life may be seen on the bar's web site here.

Virtually everyone agrees that Tiki-Ti is "a classic," but a classic what exactly, is a bit more complicated. Most critically, the huge cocktail selection, 96 choices at last check, and full of secret recipes that Ray took with him from Don the Beachcomber's as well as inventing along the way (and no beer and wine available), is top notch. The house favorite is "Ray's Mistake," a white rum, gin,  passionfruit, pineapple juice, bitters, falernum, and dark rum float concoction of some sort that resulted from an error in constructing an Anting Anting in 1968, and the rest is history. (The recipe is officially a secret but googling reveals any number of attempts to reconstruct it.) The most fun drinks to order, on the other hand, are those that inspire the assembled regulars to chant throughout the preparation. These are the aforementioned "Blood and Sand" (to chants of "Toro, toro, toro!"), perhaps served in a new custom mug designed by Doug Horne, and the Uga Booga, accompanied by chants of the drink's name.

Ray Buhen working at the Dresden Room, late 1960s
(photo via Tiki-Ti Facebook page)
The size and decor are as much those of a cozy dive bar as the more famous tiki establishments, and while purists may not have chosen the pop music over exotica, or the kitschy bric-a-brac over a more deliberately fashioned polynesian decor, it remains one of the most beloved tiki bars in the country. Given its tiny size (12 bar stools and about 30 people max), customers may face lines if they go on a popular day, and/or during popular hours (again, try being there at opening time, currently 4pm, at midweek). The bar is closed Sundays through Tuesdays, which repeatedly frustrated this eager would-be patron, as those seemed to be the only days I had available in LA. But I finally made it in 2015, and am much looking forward to future and longer visits.

Mug designed for Tiki-Ti by Doug Horne,
inspired by the "Blood and Sand" cocktail
(photo from the Tiki-Ti Facebook page)

4427 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 - (323) 669-9381
Est. Apr 28, 1961
Web site: - facebook
Recommended Articles: critiki - theworld
Additional Articles ranked: instagramlaistbbctikiwithray - losangelesconservancy - thirstyinlaworldsbestbars - punchwikipediayelp - tripadvisor - wanderingchopsticks - bonapetit - roadtrippers - thrillist - timeout - drinkableglobe 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

#3591 - Sip 'n Dip Lounge, Great Falls, MT - 8/19/2018

Fifty years ago Great Falls was the largest city in Montana and included the swanky O'Haire Motor Inn, which included a tiki bar with windows into the swimming pool, inspired by the Chicago Playboy club, and a young Pat Spoonheim playing piano in the bar. Today, Great Falls has slipped to the 3rd largest city in the state, the local economy has struggled for many years, and the O'Haire is a fairly pedestrian motel. And yet the old Sip and Dip Lounge inside, still featuring keyboards by Piano Pat -- now well into her 80s and semi-legendary -- is now known nation-wide and was once cited by GQ Magazine as one of the ten best bars in the world and the "#1 bar...worth flying for."

What has made the Sip and Dip probably the city's most famous attraction -- over the local symphony that has hosted guests like Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the local minor league baseball teams that have included players like Pedro Martínez and Raúl Mondesí, and the shortest river in the world -- are the mermaids that have regularly graced the pool since 1995. A story I read in the bar itself said it started when a housekeeper put a sheet around her legs in 1994, but the more prominent histories (e.g. Wikipedia) only mention that it was started by general manager Sandra Johnson-Thares on New Years Eve 1995 as her idea to inject a "fun factor."

The 75-room motel and tiki bar were constructed by Edgar O'Haire in 1962 and the lounge has maintained most of the same tiki theme and decor ever since. Piano Pat was sadly not available during our visit in the Fall of 2018, but we did make sure to visit during mermaid hours (the pool is open to guests outside of the mermaid hours, and we were informed that not all of them wear a swimsuit despite (or perhaps because of?) the bar room view.

The menu features pretty standard contemporary pub food, there is a good beer selection, and the cocktails tend to be more toward the beach party end than craft cocktails. But the history, Piano Pat, and just the existence of one of the tiny handful of mermaid bars in the middle of Montana should make this a bucket list sort of stop for just about anyone.


Mermaid hours (if you go, check online for current times):
Monday: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Tuesday - Thursday: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 6:00pm to 12:00pm
Mermaid Brunch: 10:00am - 2:00pm, 1st and 3rd Sunday

17 7th St S, Great Falls, MT 59401 - (406) 454-2141
Est. 1962 - Building constructed: 1962
Web site: - facebook
Articles ranked: critiki - atlas obscura video - wikipedia - national trust for historic preservation - ixploredelishorbitz - yelp - tripadvisor - headhuntersflyshop 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

#2618 - Lee's Tahitian, Richland, WA - 9/12/2014

Lee's Tahitian, Richland, WA
Established as the Vina's Tahitian in 1952, following approximately two years as "The Mixer," Lee's Tahitian is a classic, mid-century dive tiki bar that also appears to be the longest running bar in the Tri-Cities area of Washington state. It retains the striking neon signage outside, a Witco fountain, space age interior lighting, a tiki lounge in back, and another bar in the Chinese restaurant portion in front. For a little more history, I will quote the Critiki entry:

"Lee's Tahitian is an old Chinese/Polynesian restaurant in Richland. It opened in 1952 as Vina's Tahitian, became C & L Tahitian in 1956 (so named for its then-owners, Chin & Lee), and then became Lee's Tahitian when Lee bought out Chin in 1976. The restaurant changed ownership in 1996 and became a karaoke bar. Today it is admittedly downtrodden, but still has tons of beautiful history, starting with the dramatic neon signage that remains. Inside there are still traces of Polynesian decor, including some Witco pieces."

The drinks in the lounge are of classic dive bar quality and strength with lots of candy-style cocktails to coax amateur drinkers to the karaoke microphone.

1342 Jadwin Ave, Richland, WA 99354 - (509) 946-1068
Est. 1952
Previous bars in this location: The Mixer
Web site: facebook
Articles ranked: tikiroom - critiki - yelp - tripadvisor 

Saturday, November 05, 2016

#2484 - Tiki Tolteca, New Orleans - 3/23/2014

Tiki Tolteca, New Orleans, LA

Tiki Tolteca is upstairs from Felipe's Taqueria in the Quarter, and, about eight months after this visit on the same block as famous tiki author Beachbum Berry's Latitude 29. Tolteca was a little spare, light, and commodious for a tiki bar, but that might be expected for a place that recently started out as a pop-up open a few nights a week.

It definitely delivered on the cocktails. We chatted with bartender Richard "Trader Dick" O'Dell, who had recently devised his Hurricane entry for Tales of the Cocktail. His "Subtropical Itch" was excellent -- a concoction I liked as much as any tiki cocktail I've ever tasted.

Trader Dick, Tiki Tolteca, New Orleans, WA
In 2014 the bar won a popular vote for Best New Bar in the Country run by Food & Wine, as well as a list of the 21 best new bars in America from Thrillist, a USA Today list of best tiki bars, and an award for 'Best Place To Make Out/Make Up/Have The “More Than Friends” Discussion/Go On A First Date/Go On A Third Date/Profess Your Undying Love/Propose.' From virtually no quality tiki cocktails a few years ago, the Big Easy now has at least three bars that focus on craft tiki drinks (Tolteca, Latitude, and Cane & Table) along with very nice tiki choices commonly offered at several other craft shops, including Sobou, Bar Tonique

Tiki Tolteca, New Orleans, LA

301 N Peters St (2nd floor), New Orleans, LA 70130 - (504) 267-4406
Est. May 2013
Web site: - facebook
Articles ranked: thetikichick - critiki - - bestofneworleans - eater - gonola - yelp  - shermanstravel - sixtyhotels - wwno - bestofneworleans - frenchquarter

Saturday, May 07, 2016

#2448 - Port of Call, New Orleans - 3/17/2014

Try the: Monsoon

The Port of Call is a nifty little nautial/tiki themed dive in a quiet portion of the French Quarter, known primarily for its massive burgers, which some consider the New Orleans style burger. In addition to the larger patty, this means they come with a huge mound of un-melted, grated, cheddar cheese and a big baked potato on the side. The large burgers are a vestige of its early days as a neighborhood steakhouse:
"It was a sort of back of town place," recalled Wesley Schmidt, the longtime general manager of the jazz club and restaurant Snug Harbor, whose history is entangled with the Port's. "It was the kind of place where the floor director for the 10 o'clock news would come and drink after work -- you have to remember, this was before Bourbon Street really became a drunken frat boy weekend. It was another time and place. And George began serving food to those guys, these steaks and these really big hamburgers."  
(Brett Anderson, Times-Picayune)  
The Port of Call, New Orleans, LA
The tiki theme is a vestige of original owner George Brumat's time as a maitre d at the Bali Ha'i, a large, classic tiki restaurant along Pontchartrain Beach from 1939 to 1983. The 55-acre amusement park there closed, and the Bali Ha'i with it, in 1983. The building was then destroyed by fire in 1986, and the only vestige remaining is a portion of the entrance that now opens to Kenner Veterans Memorial Park.

Port of Call is quite popular with the locals so you are likely to wait for a seat if you do not arrive right as they open (currently 11am every day). In addition to the massive burger, we ordered the signature "Monsoon" cocktail from our bartender Floyd. The drinks here are more French Quarter touristy than craft, but the Monsoon is pretty good as these drinks go -- not overly sweet as you might fear.

Mushroom Burger at the Port of Call, New Orleans, LA

The Bali Ha'i, New Orleans, LA
(Postcard photo via

(A few more photos of the old Bali Ha'i can be found at Tiki Central here.)
838 Esplanade s, New Orleans, LA 70116 - (504) 523-0120
Est. 1963
Web site: - facebook
Articles ranked: nolathetikichickbeakersandbouillabaisse - tikiroom - 24dollarburger - gonola - redbeansandlifeepicurious - stevesbeenthere - yelp - tripadvisor

Sunday, March 08, 2015

#2355 - The Shameful Tiki Room, Vancouver, BC - 11/29/2013

Owner Rod Moore took in some of the top new tiki bars around the country including Martin Cate's Smugglers Cove and put together a tiki bar in Vancouver that is top notch in both decor and cocktails. If you step into the darkness from a sunny day outside, you'll need a few moments for your eyes to adjust to the welcoming dark glow of the float lights and fishtrap lamps amidst the bamboo and thatch. Moore says Cate advised him "Don’t go cheap: even if no one in Vancouver knows what tiki is, they will all know what cheap is" (, and the attention to detail shows. The narrow space reminds me a little bit of Portland's Hale Pale,

The food is smallish menu of Trader Vics-like polynesian and Asian tastes, and the cocktails are reliably good, with shared, flaming Volcano Bowls and Mystery Bowls available, which are sometimes delivered Mai Kai Mystery Girl style, a gong, smoke, thunder and lightning. They also have a Rum Club and we had the good fortune of meeting our friend and Vancouver bon vivant Peter there on the night he became the very first person to complete a passport, having ordered 50 different rums.

4362 Main Street, Vancouver, BC V5V 3P9 - (604) 319-1747
Est. March 2013
Web site: - facebook
Articles ranked: - vancitydrinkspecials - theglobeandmail - vanbrosia - winetimestikiroom - vancouversun - scoutmagazine - foodadventuretime - urbanspoon - yelp - foodology - bcliving - vancourier - 10best - lonelyplanet - kiosk - ooga-mooga