This past weekend I took a road trip with my friend John Coyle, our destination was Mod Palm Springs. But you can’t just go straight to Palm Springs, tradition dictates a stop in Los Angeles along the way. Can you even find Palm Springs from Los Angeles if you didn’t go to Tiki-Ti the night before? No one knows, it’s never been attempted.
We started with visits to some old standbys…
I’ve had many requests to add The Warehouse to Critiki over the years. I adore The Warehouse! But it’s a nautical restaurant, not tiki. If you love tiki, you’ll love The Warehouse… but you’ll also love Whitechapel, Casa Bonita, and any number of other over-the-top themed bars and restaurants that aren’t Polynesian-themed. BUT—at last, this trip, I had what I needed to justify adding The Warehouse to Critiki: they’re now calling their bar a “tiki bar”. Being honest now, it’s still not a Tiki bar. All they’ve done is added a neon sign that says “TIKI BAR” (a sure sign that a bar’s claim to tikiness is tenuous), and a couple of small, bad Indonesian tikis. But, I’ve now added The Warehouse to Critiki, with 27 photos.
Setting aside the actually irrelevant is-it-tiki question: The Warehouse is a god damned treasure and you need to go experience it if you haven’t. It was built in 1969 by Burt Hixon, who also owned Beachbum Burt’s in Redondo Beach. The entry is via a wooden pier over a small palm tree-ringed lagoon (with turtles!). The whole restaurant is filled with nautical flotsam and jetsam, and shipping crates. It does have a Polynesian tinge: they’ve been serving drinks in tiki mugs for quite a while, the chairs are upholstered in floral barkcloth fabric, and the music is Hawaiian. Go, you’ll love it. Just don’t expect a full-on tiki bar.
Everyone knows Tony’s from their ubiquitous souvenir Mai Tai glasses, found in every thrift shop for miles around. Tony’s is also much more nautical than tiki, but it’s another must-see. The Redondo Beach Pier is slated to undergo some significant redevelopment, and it’s unclear how this will impact Tony’s. I didn’t want to miss a chance to soak up the atmosphere. I’ve added four new photos to the listing for Tony’s in Critiki.
Always the highlight of any Southern California vacation, my night at Tiki-Ti was magical as ever. There’s no friendlier bar on the planet, and I was treated to time with friends old and new, some there because they were also on their way to Mod Palm Springs, others because I’d shared my visit plans on Critiki, and most others because it was Wednesday, and that’s what you do on Wednesday in Los Angeles, you go to Tiki-Ti. It was the happiest, loveliest crowd. After Tiki-Ti we popped over to the Dresden Room for dinner and then drinks in the bar. Marty and Elayne are still performing, thank goodness.
The Home Depot of Tiki is celebrating 60 years in business (!), and according to Bob, they’re going gangbusters right now. My heart soars, hearing that they’re getting the benefit of the current tiki bar boom. We were there on a Thursday morning, and I’ve never seen it so bustling. Bob and LeRoy had some time to chat, and Bob even took us into their back rooms for some wonderful reminiscing of days gone by.
Bob and LeRoy let me buy this very rare and lovely circa 1960 demitasse cup for after-dinner coffee from the recently-closed Trader Dick’s outside of Reno. PINKIES UP. They have another one of these on display in their tiki mug case, and if you’re in the market for a vintage Suffering Bastard decanter, they have a beaut. I’ve added 15 new photos to the listing for Oceanic Arts in Critiki.
After Oceanic Arts, we had one last stop before hitting the road to Palm Springs: lunch at Clearman’s North Woods Inn in West Covina. Like The Warehouse, if you love tiki, you’re bound to love this barely-lit, pure-’60s, logging-luxe restaurant with a faux snow roof. In addition to West Covina, there are locations in San Gabriel and La Mirada.
Coming up in another post: Tiki in Palm Springs!