Tiki on “The Simpsons”: Part Two

IMG_7440It’s been several seasons since Mr. Baseball actually enjoyed watching “The Simpsons.” I think he only keeps tuning in to spot tikis for me. (Like this one from awhile back.) He came through again when he brought my attention to “Exit through the Kwik-E-Mart” (season 23, episode 15), which aired on March 4.

IMG_7444Homer kicks off the episode by taking a Puree-Station 3 (these are the jokes, folks) to be autographed by TV chef Paula Paul at Swapper Jack’s, a parody of Trader Joe’s. Accompanied by a lap steel guitar version of the famous “Simpsons” theme, the family walks past signs that advertised “Grass-fed Lettuce,” “Six Aisles of Olives,” and “Salmon so fresh you might get a sperm in the eye.”

IMG_7445My local Trader Joe’s has lost some of its decor over the years so I liked that Swapper Jack’s was decked out with a thatched roof, bamboo, outrigger canoes, fish netting and buoys, and a couple tikis (plus more tikis on this guy’s shirt).

IMG_7448Homer comments, “Finally, a supermarket with a clear premise…Island Something,” while Bart says, “It’s like going to Hawaii without all the murderous locals.”

IMG_7449However, Apu feels threatened that his customers will stop shopping at the Kwik-E-Mart and cheat on his store at this “South Seas Sugar Shack.” (Excellent name for a tiki bar, in my opinion.) After fighting Homer with plastic toothpick swords, Apu has to be restrained with an aloha shirt.

IMG_7452Then there’s some subplot with Shepard Fairey and everything gets resolved somehow. Anyway, here’s a picture of a tiki that I think looks like one of The California Raisins.

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Tong’s Tiki Hut – Villa Park, IL (Chicago Area)

IMG_5765When you first pull in to this strip mall in the western suburbs of Chicago and see the covered up windows of Tong’s Tiki Hut, you might mistake the Villa Park restaurant for being closed.

IMG_5767Upon closer inspection you’ll find that it’s indeed open — and has been for some 30 years. (Unfortunately, its three sister locations haven’t been so lucky over time.)

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In fact, the bamboo blinds obscuring the windows help to accomplish what most tiki bars aspire to do, which is create an insulated tropical environment with no distractions from the outside world.

IMG_5830For being a neighborhood Chinese restaurant, their dedication to the tiki theme is impressive. (They even got the music right with recordings of soothing Hawaiian steel guitar.) There’s a beach mural and lauhala matting on the walls, and a thatch overhang above the brown vinyl booths. Bamboo, shell and tapa pendant lamps are suspended from the ceiling, which is covered with fish netting and entangled plastic seagulls, lobsters and crabs.

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A vaguely Rarotongan looking tiki stands against the rock wall, and to its right is a leopard-print bar flanked by an odd, colorfully-painted tiki pole. Beyond that is another smaller dining room with more rattan furniture and another island mural (last picture).

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I felt like we must have entered some time warp when I saw that most of their tropical drinks cost $3.95! They’re served in tiki mugs and are actually pretty decent considering the price. About a dozen tiki cocktails are offered, from classics like the Mai Tai, Scorpion and Fog Cutter to the Tiki Lover, the house special made with gin, rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and cream. Some even had wonderful throwback descriptions like this one for the Samoan Passion: “Legend has it that this potent drinks arouses hidden passions.”

IMG_5823Along with spicy Hunan and Szechuan dishes, the menu features all the Chinese-American standards you’d expect to find, including syrupy egg drop soup, orange chicken, chop suey and Mongolian beef with crispy fried cellophane noodles. (And if that’s still not American enough, they also have cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and french fries…)

IMG_5825Their version of the pupu platter is called a bo bo tray ($11.95), which includes two each of egg rolls, barbecue ribs, aloha fried shrimp, Polynesian beef and wontons surrounding a small cooking sterno. I, however, went for my favorite “Polynesian” appetizer, crab rangoon (6 pieces for $5.95), and it was one of the better renditions of the dish I’ve had, with lots of filling.

IMG_5873Less pleasing was the barbecue pork combination plate ($6.50), one of several weekday lunch specials that come with pork fried rice, flavorless wontons and an obscenely large egg roll (plus a cup of soup, fortune and almond cookies, and tea).

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If we’re comparing tiki-themed Chinese restaurants in the Chicago suburbs I’d say that Chef Shangri-la in North Riverside has better food and drinks overall, but I was charmed by the decor and cozy vibe of Tong’s Tiki Hut.

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Tong’s Tiki Hut
100 E. Roosevelt Rd.
Villa Park, IL 60181
630-834-7464

Tong's Tiki Hut on Urbanspoon

Anthropologie Spring/Summer 2012 – Sun & Sand (& Tikis)

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Anthropologie, the store I adore but can’t really afford (aside from the sale section), has brought in some tropical inspirations for their spring/summer collection. The theme is Sun & Sand, but this is not your typical aloha wear.

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While I still adore the Polynesia Greetings dress I got a few years ago, I’m not so thrilled with these two frocks. The bird of paradise Aija Maxi Dress ($158) and parrot printed Henga Shirtdress ($168) from Dream Daily by Rozae Nichols seem like they’d be less than flattering on anyone but a model, and the Southwestern style stripes at the bottom are an odd juxtaposition.

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The Fresh Cut Skirt ($68) features a neat tapa print, though they don’t call it that by name. The poetic copywriting describes it in terms of a grassy lawn: Just-mowed clippings cover Vanessa Virginia’s easy cotton A-line. I like the looks of this, but again I’m kind of boggled by the beaded waistband.

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The more I browsed the more island-influenced things I found, like these pink Lace Hibiscus Drops earrings ($28), also available in neon green. (At this point I should probably apologize to any male readers out there for all this.) ;)

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There’s even a Tiki Scarf ($68) with coconut trees, monkeys and tiki carvings.

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Here’s a close-up so you can see the somewhat questionable pattern. The thin tikis in side profile aren’t bad, but I’m not a fan of the other hawk-like totems.

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Although it’s Caribbean and not Polynesian, I preferred the Bahamian Scarf ($98) with its antique-style map with landmarks like Mermaid’s Pool and Blackbeard’s Tower.

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The most surprising discovery was that Anthropologie even has some rattan furniture on their site. There was the handwoven Banda Chaise ($398) along with a couple of pendant lamps with rattan shades.

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Capri Blue candles by Aspen Bay bring the scent of a sweet South Pacific breeze to my tiki room at home. My favorite is the Volcano fragrance, but don’t expect the smell of sulfur and ash, it’s “tropical fruits, sugared oranges, lemons, and limes, redolent with lightly exotic mountain greens.” If you prefer something more floral, try its counterpart Aloha Orchid.