Hula’s Modern Tiki – Phoenix, AZ

On the way back to LA from Mesa, AZ, our two-car caravan stopped at Hula’s Modern Tiki in Phoenix for Sunday brunch. There were quite a few folks enjoying the nice weather on the outdoor patio, but we opted to eat inside. (Well, everyone acquiesced to me since this whole tiki thing is more my gig.)

This Phoenix location is the newest (opened in 2009) of the Hula’s Modern Tikis—the others are found in Santa Cruz and Monterey, California. They remodeled and expanded a unique 1960s-era building with this rad hexagonal window.

“Tiki Time” happy hour is from 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and all night on Wednesdays with $5 appetizers and drinks. There’s also all-day drinks specials on weekends, Mahalo Mondays that benefit nonprofits, and “Word of the Day” Tuesdays with “2 Apps & 2 Tropical Cocktails for $20.” (See Facebook & Twitter for more details.)

It’s a bummer that they were out of their signature mugs, designed by Philippe Tilikete. The logo reminds me of Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants. (Tiki Farm had also produced a smaller companion mug.)

The bartender was totally gracious in answering all my questions about their for-purchase drinkware, and he trotted them all out so I could take a look. From left to right: a limited edition mug made by one of the locals, signature mai tai glass ($8), and generic Fu Manchu.

Hula’s Modern Tiki forgoes thatch and bamboo in favor of a mid-century, Palm Springs-style look. The Bosko shield and tikis carved by Tiki tOny provide an interesting contrast with the blond wood and retro atomic fabrics.

Another really cool touch was the long double shelves of devilish Munktiki mugs (“El Bastardo” and “U Bastard”) in red, black and white.

I didn’t have to drive the remaining five hours home, so I ordered a Zombie ($5). Their very tasty version had Cruzan rum, dark rum, lime, pineapple juice and passionfruit. And I adore brunch so I had to get the Island Eggs Benedict ($10) with fried spam.

Salads, burgers, tacos and sandwiches (like the luau pork and coleslaw sandwich, $9) made up the rest of the brunch menu, and everything sounded pretty good. Unfortunately, what did leave a bad taste in my mouth was our waiter. He was actually kind of rude and sarcastic, and not in a joking sort of way either.

Aside from that bump in the road, I really did dig this place and would definitely return. It’s practically worth the trip just to see the amazing collection of Munktiki mugs on display at the bar. Here’s another tip: According to the bartender, you can get $2 off buying one of their logo mugs or glasses if you order a cocktail. (Although, our server neglected to figure that in the bill…)

Hula’s Modern Tiki
4700 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85012
602-265-TIKI

Hula's Modern Tiki on Urbanspoon

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Trader Vic’s – Scottsdale, AZ

Last month Mr. Hockey morphed back into Mr. Baseball when he went to Cubs fantasy camp at their spring training grounds in Mesa, AZ. I flew out there to cheer him on…and drag him (and various other members of our families) to a couple tiki spots, like Trader Vic’s in neighboring Scottsdale.

When we first walked in, I was impressed by the huge Japanese fish floats hanging over the reservation stand. (Or as Mr. Baseball might so eloquently put it: Nice balls!)

According to my trusty Tiki Road Trip guide, this branch opened at the Hotel Valley Ho in 2006. The previous Trader Vic’s in Scottsdale operated for almost 40 years (1962-1990) before shuttering.

There are some traditional design elements, like tall tiki columns, tribal masks, and a glass-enclosed Chinese oven, but it also feels very modern with the floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial touches like exposed ducts and cement.

One nitpicky detail I noticed was the shade of the Maori candleholders on the tables was a lot lighter compared to the one I picked up at the Trader Vic’s warehouse sale.

We headed to the bar and took a couple low-slung seats around a drum-inspired table. We were still able to enjoy the perpetually fair weather, though, because the lounge area opens up to the outdoors where there’s a fountain and swank fire pit

At Trader Vic’s Scottsdale, there’s double happy hour: Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-11 p.m., and all day on Sundays starting at 4 p.m. Bar bites are $5, beers $3, glasses of wine and six classic Vic’s cocktails (Mai Tai, Bahia, Zombie, etc.) are $6.

The food and drink menus seem to be pretty standard across most Trader Vic’s. However, each of them has a different signature drink. The Cactus Bloom was a bubblegum pink concoction made with tequila, Pisco brandy, lemoncello, fruit juices and prickly pear syrup. My companions opted for the Gun Club Punch and Zombie (middle & right).

Also unique to this location were the happy hour offerings. Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of the Char Siu Bao: two giant snowball-sized steamed buns with barbecue pork, chili-garlic sauce and pickled daikon. The shredded meat inside was kind of dry, and there wasn’t enough sauce to overcome it.

I kept stealing bites of what Mr. Baseball ordered: the Chinese Oven Roasted Maui Burger with sweet potato fries. The Hawaiian flatbread (more like ciabatta) and sambal cream cheese were a very tasty twist. I noticed a lot of people ordering it. And of all the $5 “tidbits” available, I think it gives you the most bang for your buck.

It may not be the most tiki of all Trader Vic’s, but I thought the Scottsdale location still had a lot of style. The hosts and servers were super nice, and big bonus points for having such a great weekend happy hour.

Trader Vic’s Scottsdale
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
480-248-2000

(UPDATE: Trader Vic’s Scottsdale closed July 30, 2011)

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon