YAHglobal Best & Worst Lists for Attractions Around the World
Best Tiki Bars in America
Tiki culture is alive and well and in practically every major metropolitan area you can find a bar, lounge, or cafe dedicated to the scene. On the coldest days of the Atlantic Northeast or wettest of the Pacific Northwest a trip to a local tiki bar will transport your senses to an island escape until your body can afford the cost or time to fly you elsewhere. While most tiki bars predominantly borrow from Polynesian lore others are born from the Caribbean or parts of Latin America. As long as there are palm trees and plenty of bamboo to match tropical drinks served from hollowed out coconuts or pineapples and a soundtrack reap with ukulele, slack key guitar, reggae or other island rhythms the establishment can lay claim to tiki bar status.
To make this list the bar has to be located on Mainland North America. If we included USA's 50th state the entire list would be populated with 808 area code joints because it's all tiki anyways. We spread the geography around a bit so there's a world class tiki bar within everyone's relative radius and we also incorporated dive bars, kitsch tourist nets, and even an upscale lounge to account for all tastes for things tiki. No stone, or Lono faced mug, was left unturned which was why our morning after Advil budget shot through the roof during this expedition.
So let the Polynesian gods bless this list in hopes that it sends you on your way to explore the Best Tiki Bars in America.
Okole maluna! (Bottoms Up!)
By Marcus Maraih - Editor. Follow Marcus on Google
650 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA
Come early (open at 5PM) if you expect to get a cozy spot in one of the best tiki (pirate?) bars in america. There's literally only room for 49 people within so expect a line if you come later in the evening or on a weekend. Keeping capacity at bay in this Bay Area nautical bar is a part of what makes Smuggler's Cove so appealing. In addition to having elbow room to mingle comfortably the tiki theme is not tacky or obtrusive on your perhaps more polished senses of interior decor. Smuggler's Cove manages to make patrons feel as if they are gathered together as a crew in the comfortable hull of a Caribbean bound ship from centuries ago - complete with an endless supply, and variety, of rum. Within one step indoors you feel as if you're in a different time and place and the building line outside be damned, this place is too damn cool to leave until closing.
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4427 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, LA, CA
For over half a century the Tiki-Ti has been a staple in the tiki bar scene, drawing in thousands of tropical rum guzzlers into its tiny bamboo lined walls on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Tiki-Ti stands as a mini-museum to the culture, collecting items that have been curated by the owner/operators and donated from the loyal legion of fans - the locals that have graced this bar over the decades.
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525 Broome Street, New York, NY
Every major metropolitan mainland USA city has a tropical escape for those that thirst for a taste of exotic drinks, bamboo laden decor, and Aloha spirit. That oasis for New York City is the Lani Kai restaurant and cocktail lounge. Without being tacky this contemporary tiki bar themed destination sets the tone to solve your mainland fever woes.
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2834 River Road, River Grove, Chicago, IL
A tiki bar in Chicago seems out of place but seeing as there's enough of a local crew to surf a frigid Lake Michigan in the wind swept (that's what creates the surfable lake waves) winters of Illinois then there is certainly a big enough following of other Polynesian pastimes - including gathering around a watering hole rich with Hawaiian swag.
Read more on Hala Kahiki Tiki Bar in Chicago
Frankie's Tiki Room
1712 W. Charleston BLVD, Las Vegas, NV
image courtesy of BigToeArt
While it's hard to take any themed bar in Las Vegas seriously due to the fact that the city itself is one big theme park for grown-ups and barely any establishment registers as being authentic, there is no denying Frankie's Tiki Room's place on the Best Tiki Bars in America list. Yes Las Vegas is kitsch all the way and Frankie's too holds a smidgen of that description (slot machines in a tiki bar = big turn off) but they pull it off in a manner that still makes you feel at home if your home at heart belongs to an island retreat and not acreage in the Nevada desert. In a land that recreates miniatures of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty it comes as no surprise that any venue on or off the strip could mimic tiki chic decor to the tee but what makes Frankie's more true is that it captures the soul of tiki culture not only in brick, mortar, and bamboo accents, but in its friendly laid back service, chill clientele, music, and an expansive menu of rum and tropical liqueurs that fit the mold perfectly.
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Trader Vic's Atlanta
Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland St. Atlanta GA
An uncle of yours has a Trader Vic's t-shirt somewhere in his closet next to his Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville collection and the Tommy Bahamas that he keeps around for special occasions. Trader Vic's is popular with the old traveling salty dogs and has been around for a long time. They're the originator of the Mai Tai so they must be placed on every and any list daring to claim Best Tiki Bars in America.
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Don the Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, CA
Everyone knows the name but it's not the Don the Beachcomber you think it is. And yet it is. While Huntington Beach's Don the Beachcomber isn't the famed now closed tiki bar born in LA and spawned 16 chains that played a major part in starting the whole tiki bar theme in America, this less than half a decade old bar/eatery located on the outskirts of Surf City USA along Pacific Coast Highway purchased the rights to use the moniker as an homage to the original.
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Shameful Tiki Room
4362 Main Street, Vancouver, BC
The Shameful Tiki Room recently opened its mysterious doors on the ever-renovating hip strip of Main Street Vancouver in March (2013). Even before its official opening it was being whispered by many in-the-know as being the savior of all things tiki north of the US border. Trader Vic's Vancouver had passed into the distant memories of old salty dogs that paid homage to Polynesian lore and decor when it closed nearly two decades ago. Very few establishments can say they've arrived to fill a void but now, the Shameful Tiki Room is doing just that.