A-Frame Goes Hawaiian with Local Favorites & Tiki-Inspired Drinks

IMG_2237 Five years ago, chef Roy Choi of Kogi food truck fame transformed an old IHOP in Culver City into an Asian-influenced “urban picnic” dining spot called A-Frame (after its iconic shape, naturally). In February 2015, the restaurant fulfilled its architectural destiny by transitioning to a more Hawaiian-centric concept with tiki-esque drinks.

16793277049_6a892bce81_o_1 While it’s true that Roy Choi was chef of the old Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills back in the day, the real driving force for this was the new executive chef, Johnny Yoo, who wanted to serve up Hawaiian comfort food inspired by places like Side Street Inn in Honolulu. On A-Frame’s web site, Choi points out that the menu already had some aloha flavor to it, with the furikake kettle corn and baby back ribs. (Those are two of the few dishes kept on the menu since the switch.)

IMG_2241 The decor stayed essentially the same, with the addition of some vintage longboards above the bar and artist Eric Junker’s graffiti art of “Hawaiian-inspired alchemical symbols of abundance and gratitude.”

IMG_2244 There are some tiki amongst the decor, including a Big Kahuna tiki bottle opener from Smokin’ Tikis perched on the bar. Take a look in the merch display at the reservation stand and you’ll spot a few more tikis.

16793281649_12e9126b4e_o_2 Even if you sampled poi at a luau once and didn’t like it, don’t let that deter you from ordering the Hush Poippies ($9) to start. These crispy bites of taro and potato arrive piping hot to the table because the kitchen sends each dish out as soon as it’s ready. They’re served with a side of sweet chili sauce but are addictive enough on their own with the grated white cheddar and Parmesan.

IMG_2272 A-Frame produces its own house-made Spam, a noble endeavor that we had to support by getting the musubi (one piece for $5 or a trio for $12). The ume paste brings an interesting, tangy taste to this essential Hawaiian snack made with white rice and Spam wrapped in nori.

IMG_2288 Eight Legged Duck ($17) presents an intriguing pairing of seared foie gras and slices of baby octopus terrine, though we wish the portion had been a bit more generous. In the interest of not running up the bill too high, we’d skip this next time.

IMG_2294 - Version 2 My meat-and-potatoes man went for the Double Kimcheesburger ($14). He tends to have more traditional tastes but he was on board with the toppings of cucumber kimchi, bacon guava jam, sweet Maui onion and aged cheddar.

IMG_2298 Curry gravy and pickled pearl onions put a slightly different (but very welcome) spin on Loco Moco ($15), that Hawaiian staple of a hamburger patty with rice, gravy and a runny egg.

IMG_2302 Another carryover from A-Frame’s previous menu is the dessert Chu Don’t Know Mang ($10): pound cake churros with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. We were blown away by these and can definitely see why it had to stick around.

IMG_2304 The cocktail list features 11 tiki-inspired tipples, priced at $12 each. The most traditional of the bunch is the Zombie Isle (Bourbon barrel rum, Hawaiian dark rum, lime, orange, apricot, absinthe). (Bonus points for serving it in a tiki mug.) I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Pina Cholada (reposado tequila, coconut milk, orgeat, lime, pineapple, egg white). Normally I have no issues with tequila but here it turned me off. I’m still curious to try the other drinks, though — I’m sure there’s a favorite to be found. There’s also 24 oz. cans of Primo available plus several California craft beers on tap.

IMG_2240 Every night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. and weekends from 10 p.m.-closing there’s Luau Hour, featuring deals on select dishes, $4 beers, $6 wine and $8 cocktails (Kona Old Fashioned, Guava Buck and a Big Island Gimlet with passionfruit). During weekend brunch, A-Frame pays tribute to its IHOP roots by offering all-you-can-eat pancakes ($15) in tropical variations like banana mac nut and lilikoi butter. (You can also add on unlimited Mimosas, Micheladas and Bloody Marys for $16.)

A-Frame
12565 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310-398-7700

A-Frame on Urbanspoon

Lunch at Capt. Cook’s: Set a Course for…Nachos!

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Five years ago when I first set foot on Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I was pretty unimpressed by the decor of Capt. Cook’s, the quick-service restaurant in the Great Ceremonial House. Dated pastels and bland hibiscus flowers weren’t doing it for me. When the major renovations started at the resort last year, this interior was one of the first things to be refreshed. (Oddly enough, the entranceway remains the same.)

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Capt. Cook’s reopened in August 2014 and we got to see its new look last month when we stopped by for a meal before drinks at the Tambu Lounge upstairs. (Alas, the bar opens at 1 p.m. but doesn’t serve food until 5 p.m.) Rustic, natural-looking materials (like wood in various tones) play off warm oranges and bright, colorful images. The light fixtures, flooring, tables and chairs were all changed for the better, too.

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I especially love the 12 vintage-style travel posters highlighting the Polynesian islands after which the resort’s longhouses have been named: Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, etc.

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The dining area on the other side of the cash registers isn’t as detailed in decoration, but the floor-to-ceiling windows should reveal some nice views once the construction walls are removed. (That’s likely to be very soon after I post this.)

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The touch-screen kiosks are no more, so guests place an order with a cast member near the menu boards then take a receipt to pay at the central register. (Also gone are the self-serve Dole Whip machine — there’s the Pineapple Lanai for that now — and the Grown Up Grilled Cheese, a cult food favorite made with cheddar, Swiss and Boursin. That actually sounds really good so I’d be on board with bringing it back.)

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On the lunch and dinner menu (served 11 a.m.-11 p.m.) you’ll still find mainstays like the grilled chicken sandwich on a pineapple coconut bun ($9.49, pictured), pulled pork sandwich, bacon cheeseburger and flatbreads. (With the sandwiches you get a choice of fries, chips, steamed vegetables or Asian slaw.) A slew of new dishes were also added recently, including fish tacos, a noodle bowl, coconut curry meatballs, a hot dog with garlic ketchup and mango relish, and buffalo fried chicken and waffles.

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I went for the famous pulled pork nachos ($8.29) and they totally exceeded my expectations. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with super-flavorful coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. I polished off that entire plate! (FYI, these nachos are also on the abbreviated dinner menu at Tambu Lounge.)

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In the mornings from 6:30 a.m.- 11 a.m. you can drop in for Tonga Toast, The Poly’s notorious “banana-stuffed sourdough bread, battered and deep-fried, and dusted with cinnamon sugar.” It’s a staple from the breakfast menu at Kona Café upstairs, but I appreciate that it’s also served here so one doesn’t have to worry about making reservations in advance to try it.

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With the imminent opening of its neighbor, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, I imagine Capt. Cook’s will get a boost in business from the overflow of people who won’t be able to get in next door. Naturally, the new tiki bar would be at the top of my list if I were there, but Capt. Cook’s should get credit for being a pretty delightful option for a quick, casual meal at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Related Posts:
The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Where to Find Dole Whip with Rum All Year Round at Disney World
Tiki Bars in Orlando

Captain Cook's Snack Company on Urbanspoon

Torpedo Room at Eat Street Social – Minneapolis

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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).

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.)

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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.

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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).

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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.)

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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.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eat Street Social’s tiki bar has returned for the Fall 2014 season!

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

Eat Street Social on Urbanspoon