Torpedo Room at Eat Street Social – Minneapolis

IMG_8837

With its vintage vibe and old-fashioned soda fountain drinks, Eat Street Social in Minneapolis seemed like a place I would have liked even if they hadn’t installed a pop-up tiki bar last September. Our annual Minnesota visit coincided with one of the last June weekends before the Torpedo Room went on “summer vacation” (aka hiatus).

IMG_8941

The Torpedo Room was hidden behind a curtain off to the right of the main bar and was only open Friday and Saturday nights. The set-up reminded us of Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans, as they’re both tiki annexes operating on certain nights in the private party areas of restaurants. Each also presented its own unique take on tiki drinks (but more on that soon.)

IMG_8861

The narrow room had a small bar on one side with a thatched roof and a “tiki bar” sign — just in case you weren’t sure what kind of bar you’re in. ;) Up on the top shelves above the liquor were a few tiki mugs, including Cthulhu (a smashing kickstarter success) and vessels from Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago.

14678519743_10aeffddd1_k_2

The rest of the space had clusters of wicker chairs and nautical-esque barrel tables, chairs and sofas, plus fake palm trees strung with colorful lights and wall decorations of netting, cork floats and a large marlin.

14658607815_b636d83295_k_2

We arrived right around 7 p.m. when they opened the Torpedo Room and had the place to ourselves for the most part. The impression I got was that most of the Minnesotan patrons wanted to savor the summer weather on the patio, which was where the tiki bar was originally intended to go.

IMG_8862

Twin Cities cocktail guru Nick Kosevich and fellow Bittercube Bitters founder Ira Koplowitz, along with Marco Zappia and the Eat Street Social team, designed the Torpedo Room’s cocktail menu with a “Minnesota exotic” theme. This meant there were a few nods to the Midwest (like Wisconsin’s Modest Vodka and Gamle Ode aquavit) brought to the table in addition to housemade syrups (orgeat, falernum) and interesting ingredients (Red Boat fish sauce and Thai basil). To top it all off, there were even several sno cones — available with alcohol (“makua” i.e. for adults) or without (“keiki” i.e. for kids). These featured sophisticated flavors like “Nectar” (Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, almond-vanilla syrup, cream and orange blossom water).

IMG_8894

One of their most talked-about tipples was the Corn Tiki ($13), which was inspired by the Painkiller but substituted sweet corn cream for coconut cream and mulled apple cider instead of pineapple and orange juice. (So, it’s really nothing like a Painkiller at all.) I appreciated the unique concept though it was a touch viscous for my taste. I preferred the Royal Hawaiian #Pine ($13), which was accidentally created when Marco misinterpreted the recipe notes and mixed the drink with pine liqueur instead of pineapple juice. The team liked it so much that they kept it, and I can see why. (I told him he missed the opportunity to call it Marco’s Mistake.)

IMG_8913

Served in Atomic Tony Tiki’s Mana Mana mug from Tiki Farm, Zappia’s Zombie ($15) gave a good wallop with Plantation 3 Stars & 5 Yr. Rum, Lemon Hart 151, lime, orange, housemade falernum, cinnamon syrup, passionfruit cordial, pineapple, hibiscus grenadine and Bittercube Bolivar bitters. A few of the other drinks dabbled with more unusual spirits. Case in point was the Sri Lankan Sling ($11), a spin on the Singapore Sling made with White Lion Arrack (a Sri Lankan alcohol made from coconut flower nectar), housemade tart orange and cherry liqueurs, Benedictine, hibiscus grenadine, pineapple, lemon and Mahalo Bitters.

IMG_8905

Meanwhile, the kitchen offered several “Island Bar Food” dishes, including island jerk spice chicken wings ($7), “butcher’s cut” steak ($18) and, my favorite, the house-made Spam and cream cheese wontons ($5).

14471960919_2f39e9a523_k_2

I love that they went the extra mile to make their own version of Spam, which was also featured in the steamed bun sandwiches with kimchee and pineapple-cilantro-jalapeno jelly. (They’d ran out of Chinese bao so ours were served on mini brioche buns.)

IMG_8888

Eat Street Social’s web site promises that the Torpedo Room will return in the fall. Perhaps a little tropical escapism will be more appreciated then. As much as I adore the veritable tiki theme park that is Psycho Suzi’s, the artisanal tiki cocktails at Eat Street Social were on another level, so I’m definitely rooting for a comeback.

Torpedo Room Tiki Bar at Eat Street Social
18 W 26th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612-767-6850

Eat Street Social on Urbanspoon

About these ads

A Tricky Trio – Players Sports Grill, Tiki Bar & Arcade, San Francisco

IMG_3559

On our last visit to San Francisco, Mr. Hockey found an ad in our little tourist map for Players Sports Grill & Arcade that billed it as “San Francisco’s only waterfront tiki bar.” He asked me if I knew about it and I snobbishly insisted that it couldn’t be a real tiki bar.

IMG_3188

Our wanderings along the Embarcadero did eventually take us to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, and Mr. Hockey wanted to see if Players was legit. I remained skeptical about a sports bar, arcade and tiki bar coexisting under one roof.

IMG_3279

The front area looked like your typical sports bar, but then we spotted this little kiosk with a Lono (Hawaiian tiki) and a sign pointing towards the Luau Lounge tiki bar that was 50 steps away.

IMG_3270

But first you have to navigate through a little labyrinth of video games and skee ball to the back of the establishment. (I suppose if you have kids you could let them loose here while you go enjoy a drink?)

IMG_3253

Coincidentally they even have an arcade game that features Moai among the graphics. Cruis’n Exotica — no relation to the musical genre, as far as I can tell — is the 1999 sequel to the racing games Cruis’n USA and Cruis’n World. Alas, it doesn’t look like Easter Island is one of the available tracks.

IMG_3268

Maybe it’s the obscure location but the Luau Lounge was a surprisingly serene oasis in the middle of this tourist trap area. Not too many folks had ventured back there that afternoon and there was vintage and modern jazz on the soundspeakers.

IMG_3195

Once you pass the tikis standing sentinel at the bar’s entrance, you’ll find a thatched hut bar in the center of the room manned by a bartender in a Hawaiian shirt.

IMG_3220

My expectations had been quite low so I was a bit surprised to see that the decor was actually pretty decent, with tapa print and bamboo on the walls, fish float and pufferfish lanterns, and prints of Eugene Savage’s Hawaii-inspired art. These were featured on the menus for the Matson Lines steamships traveling from the West Coast to Hawaii in the late 1940s. (You might also recognize them from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel — or that “Mad Men” episode filmed there.

IMG_3252

To top it all off, there are fantastic views of Alcatraz and the bay from pretty much every seat in the house.

IMG_3197

But then things took a turn for the worse when I opened the cocktail menu. Granted, most places that serve Mai Tais don’t make them the way Trader Vic intended, but to call these “Tiki Classics” is too much.

IMG_3216

At least they delivered the Mai Tai ($11) in a tiki glass, though. We also had to order the appropriately named Cruzan Confusion ($11) because it sounded like such an abomination of a beverage. Made with pineapple juice and four flavored Cruzan rums, it reminded me of those “suicide” fountain drinks we’d make as kids by mixing all the different sodas together.

IMG_3193

Normally I wouldn’t advocate drinking beer at a tiki bar, but here that may be your best bet. There are about a dozen options on draft, including local brews like Anchor Steam ($6) and a few rotating seasonal taps.

IMG_3258

With so many great tiki bars in the San Francisco/Bay Area (Smuggler’s Cove, Tonga Room, Trader Vic’s, Forbidden Island), I can’t honestly recommend going out of your way for the Luau Lounge at Players Sports Grill. However, if you’re already at Fisherman’s Wharf anyway, you could do worse!

Players Sports Grill, Tiki Bar & Arcade
Pier 39
San Francisco, CA 94133
451-981-6300

Related Posts:
Reviews of Tiki Bars in San Francisco

Players Sports Grill & Arcade on Urbanspoon

VenTiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai – Ventura, CA

IMG_8290

We’ve passed through Ventura many times driving on the 101 from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, but we were never really compelled to stop by this coastal town until VenTiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai came along.

IMG_8241

This new tiki bar in Ventura opened its thatched A-frame entrance to the public in July 2013. Owners Scott Noble and his cousin Stacey grew up visiting Polynesian-inspired restaurants and, along with their friend Kari Lewis, they’ve created their own slice of tiki paradise.

IMG_8218

The smallish bar area inside has some classic elements of tiki décor, including bamboo, lauhala matting on the walls, netted fish float lamps and a tiki (carved by VonTiki, who also made the one outside). The TV behind the bar is often tuned to suitably tropical-themed entertainment like “Gilligan’s Island” and “Swiss Family Robinson.”

IMG_8267

Meanwhile, there’s also a mid-century modern/vintage-style vibe from the hexagonal bar shelves, pop of bright orange paint, Witco wooden sword and resin chunk lamps (made by Nelson’s Tiki Hut). My favorite feature may be these borders filled in with pieces of bamboo in various sizes. That’s something I don’t think I’ve seen before.

IMG_8273

I’d say the best seats in the house are at the bar, though it’s tempting to enjoy the sunshine on the pet-friendly patio. There are rattan tables and chairs plus an elevated little seating alcove among the palm trees, tiki torches and a neat blue rock firepit that must look neat at night.

IMG_8270

Behind this volcanic rock waterfall with a Moai at the top is a mural based on the menu art from Zombie Village in Oakland, CA. (The maiden was originally topless like the source material, but a flower lei for modesty had to be added because some locals complained, apparently.)

IMG_8207

VenTiki’s cocktail menu features 11 “Classic Tiki” drinks, with each credited to its inventor, place of origin and year created — a little history lesson with your rum. The Mai Tai ($11) is based on Trader Vic’s 1944 recipe, and it’s exemplary. Another favorite of mine is the Lapu Lapu ($12), here made with Ron Matusalem Clasico, Whaler’s Dark Rum, passion fruit, pineapple and citrus.

IMG_8261

There are also several “Modern Tiki” drinks unique to VenTiki with wonderfully evocative names like Lagoon of Forbidden Desire and Voodoo Temptress of the Seven Pleasures. I snapped this photo too late to capture the effect, but the Altar of Sacrifice ($10) is presented with a float of Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters that drips down like blood. (It also tastes quite good in addition to looking cool.)

IMG_8370

Everyone who completes the VenTiki Challenge by drinking their way through the menu — and having the bartenders stamp a card to prove it — gets a T-shirt, VenTiki coconut mug (produced by Tiki Farm) and a mini drink umbrella to personalize and put behind the bar. The first 100 people to finish will also be honored with their name on a plaque. A fair amount of imbibers have already accomplished this so I have some catching up to do. (Tiki tOny designed the logo tiki that appears on the card as well as on the souvenir Mai Tai glasses, T-shirts and hoodies available for purchase.)

IMG_8249

A new chef is running the kitchen so the food offerings have evolved a bit. Build-your-own burgers, sushi and a few more poke variations have recently been added to the menu of pupus, salads and torta sandwiches with kahlua pork, salmon or seared tuna. The latter come with a choice of sides: macaroni salad, potato salad, pineapple coleslaw, Hawaiian chips or sticky rice.

IMG_8247

I think I would have been a bigger fan of the Cali Poke Bowl ($16.95) if the chopped ahi tuna had been marinated more like traditional Hawaiian poke. Sabu’s Coconut Chicken Skewers ($9.95) should be familiar to frequenters of Tiki Central, though here they’re served with a “secret tiki sauce” and seem to be missing the curry flavor from the original recipe. (Not a complaint — just an observation.)

IMG_8359

We were trying to decide on one of the sushi rolls, and they recommended the eel roll ($11.95), a tasty combination of blue crab and mango topped with eel, avocado and eel sauce. I also couldn’t resist getting an order of the Kraken salmon sushi ($4.95) so I could sample the Kraken rum sweet soy sauce.

IMG_8353

Cast all dietary cares aside and dig into the loco moco ($9.95), that infamous Hawaiian dish made with sticky rice, Spam, two eggs and brown sauce. I prefer my loco moco with runnier eggs and thicker gravy, but the sambal chile sauce gives this version a nice kick.

IMG_8336

There are “Tsunami Warnings” aka happy hour Mon.-Fri. from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. (and all day Tuesdays) with half off Mai Tais, Modern Tiki drinks and appetizers (except the pepper seared tuna). Keep an eye on the VenTiki Facebook page to hear about nightly specials like Magnum Mondays and Beachbum Wednesdays plus events like the recent VenTiki Whip Weekend. (They served up their own version of Dole Whip in a float with Whaler’s Dark Rum and pineapple juice. If only the Enchanted Tiki Room could do the same!)

IMG_8284

Hopefully I’ve convinced you that VenTiki is worth a detour, if not a dedicated roadtrip. It’s just an hour-long drive from LA — provided the tiki gods don’t curse you with bad traffic.

IMG_8296

Another bonus? Within stumbling distance of VenTiki is the beach and the Ventura Pier. Just walk south on Ash Street for a few blocks and you’ll find the pedestrian bridge over the freeway to the beach.

VenTiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai
701 E. Main St.
Ventura, CA 93001
805-667-8887

Ventiki Tiki Lounge & Lanai on Urbanspoon