I headed down to San Diego (home of the much-maligned new tourism slogan ‘Happy Happens‘) to see the lovely Rachel (and her also lovely boyfriend), and they were kind enough to indulge my tiki-phile tastes so we ventured out to Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge in the Gaslamp District.
The last time we came here there was some kind of special where we ended up drinking carafes, yes, indeed, carafes, of Mai Tais. Happy hour has changed a bit since then and now they offer five sushi rolls, appetizers and drinks for $5 each until 7 p.m.
Even better, happy hour is available not just in the bar but in the entire restaurant. I enjoy the lanterns in the dining room, but I think it’s more interesting to sit in the bar where the giant Moai with the neon nose ring presides.
Preserved pufferfish lamps are popular fixtures at tiki places (like Luau, for one), so I thought these blown-glass blowfish were a nice take on that design theme.
We sipped a “haole” mai tai and the coconut kiss cocktail. (The former features an interesting naming choice…) Both were absolutely delicious, but more like desserts than drinks, and also quite dangerous to our tolerance for that very reason.
Out of focus calamari fries with sweet and sour sauce. I think the chef must have captured the giant squid from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” to make these. They were ok, I guess I prefer my fried squid in either bite-sized ring or tentacle-y form.
I love the shiitake and goat cheese wontons with garlic ponzu sauce. I could eat a million of these!
So-Cal artist Bosko created the tikis found in the restaurant—more than thirty carvings—according to his site.
Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge
801 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
Update 6/29/10: I’m very bummed to report that Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge closed a few months ago, and in its place will go yet another burger joint. The Cohn Restaurant Group gets no points for creativity.