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?

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