Every now and then I get asked about towns in need of a tiki bar. Often, I’m asked by someone who is dreaming of opening one, and is flexible on location. For a long time the top of that list was Sacramento: it’s not just well-populated, it’s well-populated with tiki lovers. Tikiphiles alone can’t keep a place afloat, of course, but if you already know you want to open a tiki bar, might as well go someplace with a pre-built audience.
Now Sacramento has a great tiki bar in The Jungle Bird, and a bunch of other towns on my list have scored tiki bars in the last year. It’s time for me to revisit my list of tiki deserts in desperate need of relief. Here’s what I’ve got:
This is my current #1. For a long time, Texas had nothing to serve its massive tiki loving population. That’s improved in recent years, particularly with Lei Low in Houston, Howie’s Tiki in Spring, and, briefly, Concrete Jungle in San Antonio. I’m simply boggled, though, that Austin doesn’t have a proper tiki bar. (Hula Hut doesn’t really fit the bill.) I thought for sure that Austin would get one first. Someone: jump on this.
Dallas certainly has a strong history in the Polynesian restaurant scene, and for a few magical years we had the time-capsule reopening of Trader Vic’s. But since its closure in 2010, nothing has come to take its place. Pilikia is coming soon, will it fill the gap?
SO many projects, SO many false starts. There have been rumblings of the South Bay getting its own tiki bar for years and years, but until doors actually open, we can’t count on anything to come true. For now, the region’s large tikiphile set travel north to the tiki-dense end of the San Francisco Bay—or more often than not, hang out at their own elaborate home tiki bars. It’s a discerning crowd, though, so when a place finally does open, it’ll have to be good.
I sure wish Reno still had Trader Dick’s, which closed in 2014 after more than 50 years in business. Reno has a growing cocktail scene, and is a great little vacation destination, especially for those looking for a bit of (very) old Vegas. If any town can handle some over-the-top theming, it’s Reno. Reno seems ripe to have a great tiki bar. I’ve heard whispers…
Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area has still not recovered from the loss of its last tiki holdout in 2004, Honolulu Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. It was a much-beloved restaurant and gathering place, and the last bit of genuine tiki to be had in the area. The area has a large group of devoted tikiphiles, and they still gather on Thursdays at the House of Foong Lin in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s a Chinese restaurant that has a scorpion bowl, and has been warm and welcoming to this wayward group of tiki lovers. A new tiki bar opened last year, Archipelago, but it’s not yet quite the full-on experience that the D.C. area tikiphiles desire.
Toronto has finally gotten its tiki, and Vancouver, too… only for Montreal to lose its beautiful Jardin Tiki. This has left a hole in the local scene, someone is sure to fill it eventually.
The entire Northeast United States
Man, you guys have it rough out there. There are smatterings of vintage tiki-lite out there, and some modern tiki-lite, but throw a dart at that whole corner of the U.S. map and you’ve got a spot for a GOOD tiki bar. It’s a densely-packed but incredibly underserved population.
Seattle has tiki, but it doesn’t have the kind of fully-immersive, no-holds-barred TIKI that you’d expect, given the size of both the cocktail scene and the tikiphile scene. And the area’s history! The second Trader Vic’s opened in Seattle. I know of no fewer than three projects in the works (not counting the possible relocation of Hula Hula), so hopefully something is coming…
This inclusion is prompted only by my looking at the map and seeing that these relatively good-sized cities are smack-dab in the middle of a tiki-less plain. It’s many miles to the nearest tiki bar, so one strategically placed bar here could be a big attraction from a wide radius.
This is another void, it’s miles to the nearest great tiki bar, but this exactly the kind of town that could probably support one.
This one is selfish: I travel here a few times a year to see family. I can’t say there’s much of a tikiphile scene here, but there is a surprisingly large ukulele scene, and ’50s vintage trailer campers are absolutely huge there for some reason, and tons of the folks who live there or have vacation homes there also have homes in Hawai’i… so maybe these folks are just one good tiki bar from tipping over into tiki fandom? Please? Someone?
Which towns do you know of that have a whole mess o’ tiki bar lovers, and no tiki bars to serve them?