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


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


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


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


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?

Frosty the Cheeseball Man by Charles Phoenix


If you’re feeling extra festive this holiday season, you may want to try one of the wacky and wonderful Test Kitchen ideas from Charles Phoenix, the “Ambassador of Americana” who promotes fantastic vintage kitsch through books, tours and slideshows. (He also had the honor of riding on the City of Downey’s tiki float in last year’s Rose Parade.) His “food-crafting” projects include the Astro Weenie Christmas Tree (as seen on Conan O’Brien) and the Cherpumple (a cherry, pumpkin and apple pie takeoff on the turducken).

(Photo from Charles Phoenix on Facebook)


Last year I vowed that we would attempt to make Frosty the Cheeseball Man. This “jolly, happy soul” is made of Velveeta cheese with a layer of cream cheese “snow,” plus olive and bell pepper accoutrements. I named him Tiny Tim because he couldn’t stand up without being propped up by a pretzel stick crutch.


…Frosty the Snowman
Knew the [electric skillet] was hot that day


So he said let’s run
And we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away
[Into processed cheese dip]


Thumpety thump thump
Thumpety thump thump
Look at Frosty go…

Tiki Turkey Dinner by Charles Phoenix

For a Thanksgiving-themed Test Kitchen project a few years back, Charles Phoenix made a Tiki Turkey Dinner complete with a Moai meatloaf centerpiece, Hawaiian bread stuffing, and coconut curry green bean casserole. Maybe next year we should throw a holiday luau!

(Photo from

Related posts:
City of Downey’s Rose Parade Tiki Float
Tiki Holiday Gift Guide 2012
Tiki Wonderland at the Tonga Hut 2010

Tiki at the LA County Fair: Part Four


In this requisite annual post I present to you more of the myriad reasons why I love the LA County Fair. Among them are taking photographs of the ferris wheel at sunset, eating strange fried food and finding random tiki sightings.


Chicken Charlie is famous for serving up deep-fried delights, but this year he introduced a new stand called The Pineapple Express that offered some island-inspired options that were promoted as healthier than your typical fare fair.


One of these was the “Naked Shrimp” ($11.95) with white rice and pineapple chunks, served in half a pineapple shell. If you’re concerned this dish sounds too healthy, don’t worry, they also give you a side of melted butter! The shrimp looked like they might have some spice, but were pretty bland. I appreciated the novelty presentation, but we’ll skip this next year.


On the other hand, the deep-fried lobster on a stick ($12.87) was juicy inside and the crisp coating had great seasoning.


Of course, Chicken Charlie couldn’t stray too far from his roots so there was also deep-fried Spam and deep-fried pineapple rings with chocolate sauce (both $6.44) to continue the Hawaiian theme. Not surprisingly, the latter wasn’t very good. I guess the deep-fried Klondike Bar shall remain my all-time favorite.


Even though we went at the end of September, the weather was still hotter than it had any business being. We paused to cool off with some shave ice at The Big “Kone” Huna, which I think might have been a new food vendor at the LA County Fair this year.


Their stand had a thatch roof, some tiki masks and bamboo poles, but also hot rod flames, disco lights and dance music, so that was a bit odd. As was their logo with a surfin’ dude in a scary-looking tiki mask. Yikes.


We couldn’t decide what flavors to get so we went with their suggestion of strawberry and pina colada “Hawaiian style” with sweetened condensed milk on top ($5.06). It was pretty good, though I kept stealing spoonfuls from our friends’ order of lime and margarita.


Every year we make sure to visit the arts and crafts building. We speculate on the fierce rivalry among the jam and preserves makers, and examine the prize-winning baked goods slowly decaying in the glass displays. There was no tiki cake this year, but there was this impressive cake for “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”


We’re also slightly obsessed with the tablescaping contest where people decorate tables according to themes, complete with elaborate centerpieces and menus for an imaginary meal. (Part of our fascination has to do with the nitpicky critiques from the judges, like “Teaspoon near knife is a questionable decision.”)


Of course this table caught my eye! It was inspired by James Michener’s book Hawaii, and featured a thatch roof over the table, woven palm frond placemats, monkey pod wood dishes, mini tiki torches, fake tropical flowers and tiki salt and pepper shakers. The Hairpin has some great pictures of some of the other tablescaping entries (including one for Game of Thrones!).

Related posts:

LA County Fair 2011 – Lumberjacks & Tiki Cakes
LA County Fair 2010 – Chocolate Covered Oreos Wrapped in Bacon!
LA County Fair 2009 – A Horse Named Tiki