The Best Things I’ve Eaten at Tiki Bars – Part 1

Pupu platters of crab Rangoon and spare ribs are staples on menus at tiki bars, but some places offer more unexpected fare like pizza, burgers and more.

I wanted to spotlight some of the best food I’ve encountered at tiki bars. My made-up rules are that the tiki bar still has to be open (alas, no Bahooka stuffed shrimp then). Also, it has to be a legit tiki bar, so I can’t include any of the awesome grub from A-Frame. Here’s the first installment of what I imagine will be an ongoing series. (Later I plan on doing an all-California edition.)

1. Biscayne Biscuits – Psycho Suzi’s, Minneapolis

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The gut-busting Biscayne Biscuits are my go-to brunch order at Psycho Suzi’s in Minneapolis. I describe them as the unholy (but amazing) offspring of eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. Two biscuits were topped with a sausage patty and poached egg, then covered with creamy housemade sausage gravy.

Psycho Suzi’s Review

2. Pulled Pork Nachos – Tambu Lounge, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Orlando

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The pulled pork nachos at Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are famous among parkgoers — and for good reason. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. (Technically I tried these at neighboring restaurant Capt. Cook’s where they’re also served.)

Tambu Lounge Review

3. Pizza – Tahiti Nui, Kauai

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Pizza in paradise is what’s in store at Tahiti Nui on Kauai. The toppings are flavorful, and the buttery crust puts it over the top. We loved the #3 Huli Huli Chicken with red onions and cilantro as well as #5 Da Hui with pineapple and kalua pork.

Tahiti Nui Review

4. Truffle Arancini – Mahiki, London

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Although the attitude at London’s posh tiki lounge Mahiki wasn’t to my taste, the truffle and wild mushroom arancini certainly were. Sadly, these delicious risotto balls don’t appear to be on the menu anymore.

Mahiki Review

5. Thai Fried Chicken – Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago

Pupus at Three Dots and a Dash

Three Dots and a Dash in Chciago offers several small plates, including crab Rangoon and egg rolls. However, I think the best thing on the menu is the Thai fried chicken in garlic-chili sauce (upper right).

Three Dots and a Dash Review

What are your favorite foods from tiki bars?

5 Things You May Have Missed: This Week in Tiki

Original Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room Bird from Van Eaton Galleries auction

I’ve been prepping for a trip to Walt Disney World in a week — too early to check out Trader Sam’s at the Poly, but oh well — and my weekly blogging schedule has suffered as a result. However, I’ve still been active over in the social media realm (Facebook, Twitter and fledgling Instagram account) so if you’d like to get a daily dose of tiki you can like/follow accordingly.

In case you missed it, here are some of the notable goings-on in tiki I’ve been posting about:

TIKI ROOM TREASURES

Lots of vintage Disneyland memorabilia — including an original bird from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room — are going up for auction this month. You can go see the items in person at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks from February 7-27. I’ll be checking it out this weekend and hope to blog about it soon thereafter.

ALOHA `OE

Cafe Rustica and its upstairs tiki bar, Conga Lounge, announced it is closing this month. The last day of service will be February 21. The Bay Area has a wealth of great tiki bars, but it’s still sad to see a good one go.

NEW MUGS

Danny a.k.a. Tiki Diablo has designed a new mug for the Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. They posted some preview photos over on the bar’s Facebook page. Look for it in March. He also created a unique tribute mug for the Royal Hawaiian Estates in Palm Springs. (Local pick up only at the moment.)

MY KIND OF TOWN

Which cocktail at Trader Vic’s Chicago was served with a floating gardenia? This “Ask Geoffrey” segment on Chicago Tonight answered that question — and happened to include one of my photos of the ill-fated Trader Vic’s Chicago reboot.

SOME SHOUT-OUTS

Eater highlighted a few tiki bars during its Classics Week: Tonga Room in San Francisco, Bali Hai in San Diego and The Alibi in Portland. El Segundo’s Purple Orchid was also just named Best Tiki Dive on Thrillist’s list of the 24 Essential LA Dive Bars.

Be Cool to Your School! Poly Hai – Tiki Yearbook

Poly Hai yearbook

In the movie “The Breakfast Club” the high school archetypes were “a brain, a beauty, a jock, a rebel and a recluse,” but in the tiki community it’s more like an artist, a musician, a collector, an imbiber and a mermaid. (And many other niches, too.) In fact, there’s even a yearbook. We’re all honorary students at Poly Hai, an imaginary institution for tiki education complete with its own school crest and alma mater.

Poly Hai 2013-2014

Co-principals Kari Hendler and Matthew Rios published the first edition of the Poly Hai yearbook last year and it’s chock full of photos from tiki events like Tiki Oasis, The Hukilau and Tiki Caliente.

Ask a Jungle Cruise Skipper from Poly Hai

There are also several articles including a behind-the-scenes look at Sven Kirsten’s Tiki Pop museum exhibit in Paris, a little tribute to Bahooka, and “Ask a Jungle Cruise Skipper.” I also love the sections for “Shop Class” (how to build a tiki menorah) and “Chemistry Class” (drink recipes!).

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And it wouldn’t be a yearbook without class photos, of course. I had the alphabetical good fortune to be next to Leroy Schmaltz, the legendary carver and co-founder of Oceanic Arts. (Fun fact: One of his carvings is on the cover of the yearbook).

The next edition of Poly Hai’s yearbook will be released in August, but there are still some copies available for $40 plus shipping. (E-mail polyhaischool@outlook.com for details.) Poly Hai will also have a booth at the upcoming International Tiki Market Place on January 24th at Don the Beachcomber. You can also keep up with all the campus goings-on at the Poly Hai Facebook page. I hear there are some extracurricular activities in the works.

(Photos 1-3 from Poly Hai Facebook)