At last, we find ourselves in the final segment of my Spring 2017 tiki tour recap. If you’ve been following along, then you might – like me, find it hard to believe how much stuff I saw and did in what amounts to a relatively small window of time.
To recap, just about 3 months ago already (wow, time flies…) I touched down in Las Vegas and high tailed it to Long Beach California where I spent a night aboard the Queen Mary before swinging in for a drink at Don the Beachcombers. After that it was off to Los Angeles where I sang along in the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland then imbibed at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar and the Pacific Seas at Cliftons. From there I drove over to Palm Springs where I basked in the desert sun and drank some more tiki drinks at The Tonga Hut, Bootlegger Tiki, and The Reef Bar inside the Caliente Tropics Hotel, in between ogling the Mid Mod architecture.
From there on, it was back to Las Vegas, the final destination for this two week escapade. Our objective was the 20th annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender. This, in itself isn’t a tiki specific type event as much as a music and car show, but there is a fair amount of crossover in social groups. In fact, it was at one of my first attendances of VLV that I first became associated with the current tiki culture. It seems, where there is sun, libations, a pool, and surf rock, tiki people will gather. The other main draw, is the opportunity to stop in at a couple of well known tiki bar destinations. Which brings me to my secondary goal for this last leg of our trip: Frankies Tiki Room, and the Golden Tiki.
Full disclosure – this post is going to be somewhat light on images. I’ll tell you why; Frankie’s might possibly be the darkest tiki bar I have ever visited. If you leave the bar after dark, you’ll still find yourself squinting when you walk out. It’s that dark! And when you’re nabbing most of your content photos with just a smart phone in – a darker than the night sky dark – bar, you will edit the living crap out of them and they still end up looking like this:
So, if you haven’t visited Frankie’s before, you’ll have to visualize. Or, I’m betting google could help you out if you feel like cheating. So, it’s dark, we’ve covered that. But, once your eyes adjust you’ll see that there is a good amount of tiki decor all around. Bamboo walls, glass float lamps, nets and other nautical paraphernalia, and of course – tikis. Frankies is not the smallest tiki bar I’ve been too but it is definitely cozy. There is a built in bamboo hut off to one side for settling down with a group, and one long bar all along the back wall where you approach to place your order. Behind the bar, where the expert tenders will be buzzing away mixing up all manner of drinks is a display of their liquors as well as the entire array of tiki mugs available for purchase. I especially love this part. Being able to awe at the collection of mugs – and Frankies has a really good selection of signature mugs – really adds to the spirit. If you decide to buy one of the mugs, and why wouldn’t you, you can opt to have any of their available cocktail options served in it, or you can go with the one made to compliment the mug. I ordered the Kapu i’a and accompanying mug. If you look really hard at the above photo you can almost make it out. Or check out their menu here for a glimpse.
Frankie’s has been around since 2008, so it’s relatively new in the grand scheme, but has already cemented itself as a tiki bar staple for locals and travelers alike. On the other hand, there’s the Golden Tiki which has only been around since 2015. With just over two years under it’s belt it really is just a wee one. I can say from experience that there was some hiccups around their launch, but it seems they have worked out the kinks and are focused on locking in their place in Las Vegas history.
The Golden Tiki is nestled into a nondescript strip mall outside of downtown. This makes it especially exciting when you enter to find yourself immersed in a veritable exotic paradise. It’s difficult to even decide where to start. There’s voodoo ephemera, nautical decor, giant clam shells, flora, fauna, a twinkling ceiling-scape, cheeky little pin up photos, mermaids, zombies… whew, and even some tikis mixed in. While this might sound like absolute chaos, it does actual work cohesively. I was able to talk with some staff that told me they are even currently scheming several new ideas to continue building on the decor, including, but not limited to, animatronic octopi.
The first thing you notice is the sweeping bar running all along the back of the interior. Around that is a lot of cozy, theme heavy, booths and various other little lounging nooks for gathering with a group, or more intimately. Further back there is a stage space that hosts live acts, and further still are multiple private spaces for events. During a previous visit we were surprised by impromptu bar top dancing voodoo maidens. So, there’s that.
The drinks at Golden Tiki range from classic to original. They are pretty good and priced accordingly. They aren’t usually served in decorative mugs, but they do have a selection available for purchase upon request. The most noteworthy cocktail though is their Dole Whip rum float. I tried one of these myself and it is to die for. They’ve taken a tiki drink and turned it into dessert. Or is it the other way around. At any rate, it’s well worth a try.
With that, I bring this tiki tour recap to a close. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This was such a great trip! If you’re thinking of planning a tiki tour of your own, hopefully you can glean a little inspiration from my travels. You really can’t go wrong visiting the Southern California area, arguably the birthplace of American tiki culture, to immerse yourself. And if you do plan such a trip, weather it’s to the west coast, the midwest, Canada, Eaurope, or beyond, my highest recommendation is tune into the community ahead of time. You’ll find people wherever you go who are eager to welcome you into their circle of Ohana and share their tiki enthusiasm.
I’m already planning future trips, including back to Chicago at the end of July to visit the locations I couldn’t squeeze into my last stop and meet up with friends. Hopefully I’ll see some of you out there. Until then, quite a bit has been going on inside my home bar that I need to get caught up on, so for those of you who are all about the tiki drinks, make sure you check back next time!