After our visit to the American Museum of Natural History, the whole family went above and beyond in their love and support of my tiki obsession: they schlepped with me through rush hour Manhattan traffic to go to… a strip mall in Staten Island.
Staten Island has one of the better examples of old-school tiki in the northeast, at Jade Island, which opened in 1972. Jade Island recently made an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, when he dined there with David Johansen of New York Dolls and Buster Poindexter fame. Bourdain describes it as “untouched by time, unsullied by irony,” which is almost true. The tikis have been painted in horrible, bright primary colors that make the Marquesan-style carvings look like frogs. The lighting at Jade Island is magnificent: there are pufferfish lamps, plenty of old Orchids of Hawaii lamps in a variety of styles, and the room is ringed with wonderful, large, back-lit photographic tropical scenes. Sadly, the effect is countered by some unnecessary bright halogen spot lighting from the ceiling. If the room was just a bit darker, the whole room could feel downright magical. But the quibbles are small, really, and Jade Island’s hut-like booths, bamboo and rattan, numerous waterfall fountains, and scads of tikis make this spot pretty darned special.
My husband and I have been jonesing for some Jersey-quality Chinese food (here in San Francisco, we miss that inauthentic touch). The food at Jade Island fit the bill perfectly. The drinks were sort of middling: not stellar, but not at all terrible, and authentic in a fading-tiki-bar kind of a way. Best of all, they’re served in tiki mugs, so the boys and I all got to add one to our collections. The servers were all jovial Chinese men, who made us feel very welcome. If we lived anywhere near Jade Island, we would definitely be regulars.
Best of all, Jade Island knows the way to my heart: they hand out moist towelettes. They don’t have their logo on them, unfortunately, but they did have logo’ed breath mints with the check. Aw, Jade Island… I love you, too.
See the full gallery of Jade Island pictures in Critiki.