A couple days ago, Heydays Vintage TV reached out to my friend Jeff Kunkle, of Vintage Roadside, to ask an interesting question: how many of the old, vintage tiki bars are still operating in the U.S.? Well, now, like our earlier question about which still-operating tiki bar is the oldest, this got my wheels turning. In Critiki, I track the dates when places open and close, but it can be hard to find good info, so my coverage is sometimes imprecise and spotty. Further, I’d been thinking about how to better present that information at a glance. This question helped me gel some ideas on that front, and my first step forward can now be seen on Critiki. Any classic locations that are still operating now have a “CLASSIC” ribbon indicator in the corner, similar to the “HISTORY” ribbons that indicate locations that have closed. What makes a place “classic”? By my estimation, anything that opened before about 1990. In practice, almost nothing opened after, say, 1978. Anything that opened in the ’80s was overseas, and were the final echoes of the original Polynesian Pop craze, and I believe belong in that Classic era category.
Check out the Critiki Map for tiki in San Diego: it’s a hotbed of classic tiki! Bali Hai, Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Trader Mort’s, the former Hanalei Hotel, The Islands Restaurant… not all of it has survived equally well over the decades, but there’s a lot of history to soak up in San Diego.
In my mind, the newer places fall into two distinct eras: the early tiki revival, and modern-day tiki bars. Examples of early tiki revival bars would be Bamboo Hut in San Francisco, Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City, and Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge in El Segundo. They may not get much attention today, now that we’re up to our eyeballs in modern tiki bars—but in the 1990s, these places were true oddballs, and kept the torches lit during what otherwise would have been a very dark time. They’ll always have a piece of my heart for that, and I’d like to help put them in context so people can appreciate the role they’ve played.
I have a bit of thinking to do about how I’ll choose to present the Classic/Early Revival/Modern era distinctions on Critiki. In the meantime, I hope the CLASSIC ribbons help you spot the longstanding treasures!
Oh! The answer to the original question? 74.
- Tiki in San Diego [Critiki]
- Bali Hai Restaurant in San Diego [Critiki]
- Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn in San Diego [Critiki]
- Trader Mort’s in San Diego [Critiki]
- Crowne Plaza (formerly the Hanalei Hotel) in San Diego [Critiki]
- The Islands Restaurant in San Diego [Critiki]
- Bamboo Hut in San Francisco [Critiki]
- Otto’s Shrunken Head in New York City [Critiki]
- Purple Orchid Exotic Tiki Lounge in El Segundo [Critiki]
- The Oldest Tiki Bar In the World [Critiki News]