Souvenir Tiki Mug at Emeril’s Tchoup Chop in Orlando


If you’ve guzzled enough butter beer at Universal Studios Orlando and want to mix things up with a tiki drink, you should check out Emeril’s Tchop Chop (pronounced “chop chop”) at the posh Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

You probably know Emeril Lagasse from his many Food Network appearances (“Bam!”) but he’s also got a slew of respected restaurants in New Orleans plus Las Vegas, Orlando and beyond. Emeril’s Orlando at CityWalk offers his signature upscale Cajun/Creole food, while Emeril’s Tchoup Chop presents Asian/Polynesian fusion fare.


Rockwell Group in New York designed the techno-tropical decor with a lily pond in the center of the restaurant, chandeliers composed of small glass flowers and a colorful mosaic of giant blooms above the counter facing the open kitchen. It reminds me of a restaurant you’d find in Vegas casino.


On the left side of the restaurant there’s a bar with about a dozen bar stools. A few tables are also crammed in on that side of the room divider but we were told they were for those with reservations. The place was booked pretty solid on the night of our visit.


Lurking underneath the bar are several Balinese-style tikis, each carved in a slightly different style. One holds a fish while another carries a water jug and so on. (Notice the “E” carved on each.)


One of these was the model for the restaurant’s custom Tiki Farm mug, which has “Emeril’s Tchoup Chop” emblazoned on the back. There have been a few different glazes (green, blue, brown) over the years and the tiki mug even used to have metal rings hanging from its ears. The mug is sold for $15, with no discount for ordering a beverage in it.


Happy hour is offered every day from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. at the bar inside and at the outdoor “Tiki Bar.” (The weather was cold and rainy when we were there in February so the thatched hut bar was all shut up.) The deals include $4.50-$6 beers, $5 well cocktails and $6 house wines and homemade sangria. There’s also a discount on one featured specialty cocktail, The Painkiller ($10, normally $15), a cousin of the piña colada. I tend to make those at home so I opted for the 1944 Mai Tai Roa Ae ($15), made about as true to Trader Vic’s recipe as one can get. Other choices from the “Tiki Classics” section are the Fogcutter, Hurricane, Dark & Stormy and La Floridita (Hemingway Daiquiri.) (They’ve even put in the extra effort to include a little background information on each drink with the description.) On top of that, there are several original “Signature” cocktails that have some tropical flair.


You’re free to order off the full menu at the bar, but we made a meal out of the happy hour “small bites.” I’d skip the robata shishito peppers ($4) since there’s not much bang for your buck, but we did enjoy the spicy salmon cucumber roll ($6).


Those kalua chicken egg rolls ($5) were so good that we ordered another helping, and I still wasn’t able to snap a decent picture before we started demolishing them. The regular menu gets kind of pricey, but definitely has some dishes that sound tempting, like the “Duck Duck Goose” (kiawe smoked duck breast with foie gras gyoza, gooseberry “poha” jam and citrus mustard vinaigrette). Their new chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas is a Hawaii native and an alum of Four Seasons Resort Hualalai and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, so he’s pretty legit.


The theming of Loews Royal Pacific Resort takes inspiration from the “Golden Age of Travel,” so the vibe is luxurious and exotic but not really “tiki.” (Although the hotel does host a weekly luau and I did spot a tiki mask in Jake’s American Bar, which is worth a look.) I’d highly recommend taking a stroll down to Universal’s neighboring Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which was all my mid-century modern dreams come true.

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop
Loews Royal Pacific Resort
6300 Hollywood Wy.
Orlando, FL 32819

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Bootlegger Tiki – A Rum-Soaked Oasis in Palm Springs

Bootlegger Tiki entrance

In 1926, a young man named Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt left home and traveled around the South Pacific, Caribbean and beyond. Back on American soil, he was a bootlegger during Prohibition and when the Noble Experiment ended, he opened the first tiki bar. Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood became such a success that Ernest legally adopted the moniker.

By the 1940s, he had moved to Hawaii and turned over the U.S. rights of the business to his ex-wife, Cora Irene (“Sunny”) Sund, who opened more than a dozen additional locations over the next few decades. Don the Beachcomber was a favorite among celebrities so it made sense to have a branch in Hollywood’s desert playground. Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs opened in 1953 and in its heyday attracted famous faces (and voices) like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Bootlegger Tiki

Literally following in the footsteps of that historic establishment is Bootlegger Tiki and neighboring sister spot Ernest Coffee Co. (The tiki bar references Don’s former profession, while the coffee shop was given his real first name.) A curtain in the hallway separates the two, but Bootlegger Tiki also has an official entrance flanked by two carved tikis on Via Lola Street just off North Palm Canyon Drive.

Don the Beachcomber bamboo

I knew the tiki torches on the roof had been restored — and even worked into the logo for Ernest Coffee Co. — but I was excited to learn that to the right of the bar is a pillar (painted to resemble bamboo) that had also been part of Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs.

Bar at Bootlegger Tiki Palm Springs

The space is quite small so you’ll want to get there close to when they open at 4 p.m. to snag one of the three booths or five spots at the bar. There are also three seats along a ledge by the entrance and three shorter rattan chairs to the left of the bar. (Patrons can also take their drinks out to the patio shared with Ernest Coffee.)

Seating next to bar

Above them you’ll notice one of Tom Hofer’s paper collages designed to look like giant vintage matchbooks. This one features Don the Beachcomber, naturally. (Hofer is often one of the vendors at the bi-monthly International Tiki Market Place at Orange County’s Don the Beachcomber — Don’t get confused, that restaurant is a recent incarnation of the brand.)

Bootlegger Tiki booth

The decor of this tiny tropical retreat is just gorgeous. The requisite lauhala matting and bamboo are interspersed with panels of red-velvet, Chinese-print wallpaper that give a glamorous touch to the island hut vibe. Further enhancing the sultry setting are flickering candles, the red glow of pufferfish lanterns and titillating black velvet paintings. (See what I did there?)

Bootlegger Tiki interior

Another nod to local tiki history is this reproduction of Edgar Leeteg’s famous “Hina Rapa” (left), which Palm Springs businessman Irwin Schuman saw in a Honolulu art gallery and inspired him to open the Chi Chi Grill Cocktail Lounge in 1941. There was a copy of the black velvet painting on the wall of the Polynesian-themed spot, and it was so popular that Schuman reprinted it on menus, matchbooks and many other items — but he didn’t bother to get permission from the original artist.

More seating at Bootlegger Tiki bar

Reggae music was on the sound system when we first arrived, then it switched to Rat Pack and other loungey tunes, which I personally preferred. Even better would have been some exotica to really set the mood!

Bootlegger Tiki menu

When Bootlegger Tiki opened in September 2014 they started off with a core menu of 10 cocktails. That’s since expanded to more than 25, ranging from non-tiki standards (French 75, Sazerac, etc.) to complicated concoctions involving mole bitters and cinnamon smoke.

Bootlegger Tiki Mai Tai

Trader Vic is credited for inventing the Mai Tai, though there’s been debate about that over the decades. (A chapter in Jeff Berry’s book Beachbum Berry Remixed offers an interesting investigation behind the claims.) Bootlegger lets you know where their loyalties lie by serving up the Ernest Gantt “Original” Mai Tai ($12). It’s a very different creation, composed of gold and dark rums, lime, orange liqueur, Velvet Falernum, absinthe and Angostura bitters. (Don’s famous drink, The Zombie, is also featured on the menu.)

Drinks at Bootlegger Tiki

One of the most popular drinks is the Pod Thai (left, $10), a more exotic Pina Colada with Thai basil and cardamom-lemongrass syrup. The “Modern Classics” are where the staff lets their creativity loose. For the spring menu, bar manager Guillaume Galataud devised the Hasenpfeffer ($14), made with Barr Hill gin, rhubarb-lavender purée, Amaro Nonino, lemon and house-made peppercorn ginger syrup.

Bootlegger Tiki drink

If you’re more of a Don Draper type of drinker, seek out the Ring Around the Rosie ($12). Head bartender Heather developed this recipe comprising Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Luxardo, Fernet Amaro, Angostura, orange bitters, rosemary oil and lemon rind.

Cheese & charcuterie menu at Bootlegger Tiki

There’s isn’t much available in the way of food, but you can request the cheese and charcuterie menu from Ernest Coffee Co. (Since our visit a few more snacks have been added: sriracha coconut popcorn, dried mango chili, Coachella Valley dates and Hawaiian macadamia nuts.)

Charcuterie plate at Bootlegger Tiki

The regular platter ($25) turned out to be quite a spread, as you can see by that hefty slab of pork liver mousse. We were also pleased with our picks of the aged gouda, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses (St. Pat’s and Truffle Tremor), sopressata picante salami and smoked chorizo. (The platters are listed as chef’s choice, but our server let us make the six selections.)

Bootlegger Tiki happy hour

Happy hour is offered every day from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and again from 12 a.m.-2 a.m., featuring $5 daiquiris, mojitos and Sloppy Joes (not the sandwich but the drink made with rum, dry vermouth, lime, triple sec and grenadine).

Bootlegger Tiki doesn’t have any souvenir ceramic mugs specially designed for them, but they do sell logo pint glasses, flasks and shakers, along with t-shirts and tanks tops. They’re available for purchase at the bar and at Ernest Coffee Co. next door.

With both Bootlegger Tiki and Tonga Hut Palm Springs opening in the past year or so, Palm Springs has become an even more desirable location for a weekend getaway.

Bootlegger Tiki
1101 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs CA 92262

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Lost Lake – Chicago’s Tiki Bar Comeback Continues

Exterior of Lost Lake

After creating the smash-hit Chicago tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, mixologist Paul McGee parted ways with the company in late 2014 and joined Land and Sea Dept. (Longman & Eagle, etc.). Fortunately, his next project was another tiki bar, Lost Lake, which opened in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood in January 2015. Also involved in the venture is Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. He put together a rum tasting club, The Avondale Maritime Academy, that’s starting soon.

Lost Lake fish floats

Back when McGee hosted “Tiki Nights” at The Whistler in Logan Square, a friend dubbed one of his drinks “Lost Lake” after an Oregon lake that disappears down a lava tube. He thought it would make a good name for a tiki bar (and could also allude to Chicago’s own body of water).

Bar at Lost Lake in Chicago

As you can see in the first picture, the outside is pretty nondescript (kind of like Smuggler’s Cove, as a matter of fact). There’s no “Lost Lake” signage, so keep an eye out for the banana leaf print awning and “tiki” spelled out in pink neon letters. The entrance is actually next door through sister establishment Thank You Takeout.

Lost Lake aquarium

Take a close look in the aquarium by the front of the bar and you might see a piranha or two swimming about among the skulls and driftwood. (The ferocious fish is featured on Lost Lake’s custom swizzle sticks.)

Piranha at Lost Lake

This little fellow is called “Monster” and for the moment he seems to have an uneasy truce with “Rambo,” who apparently scarfed down on his other original tankmates.

Lost Lake in Chicago

Fish traps outfitted with light bulbs are strung in a line above the bar and the ceiling is covered with lauhala matting and bamboo. The banana leaf print wallpaper (same as outside) adds some vintage-style flair. Right when you walk in there’s a seating area with a couple peacock chairs next to the frosted window decorated with netted glass fishing floats. There are more than a dozen rattan stools at the bar plus four tall four-top tables along the wall.

Booths at Lost Lake

Continuing around the corner, there are two booths that allow a bit more privacy. They’re opposite the busy service bar, which is capped off with a thatched roof. Sunlight doesn’t reach this part of the bar so there’s a moodier vibe courtesy of the glowing fish floats above.

Lost Lake grotto

Keep going and you’ll discover “The Grotto,” a neat cave-like nook with a rock wall and a gorgeous chandelier of colorful pufferfish lamps.

Lost Lake tiki mug shelf

The décor draws inspiration from the bamboo/beachcomber aesthetics of Polynesian-inspired establishments from the 1930s, before tiki carvings really started showing up in these kinds of spots. So, the only tikis you’ll find here are in ceramic form — a few Smuggler’s Cove Sunken Tiki mugs on the bar and a shelf above with mugs representing Longitude in Oakland, Trader Sam’s at Disneyland and more. There’s also a display case by the door with more fun stuff like the mask-shaped Tiki-Ti ashtray and a bottle of Lemon Hart rum.

Lost Lake cocktails

The cocktail menu presents a dozen drinks — mostly original creations priced at $12 each — plus four more for sharing ($25 serves 2-3, $45 serves 3-4). Poipu Beach Boogie Board and Bunny’s Banana Daiquiri from Three Dots and a Dash make encore appearances here.

McGee is known for experimenting with different combinations of spirits, but we inadvertently stuck to the rum-based beverages. Naturally, we had to start with the signature drink, Lost Lake, made with aged Jamaican rum, passionfruit, lime, pineapple, Maraschino and Campari. (Luckily, the Campari is not too overpowering — that bittersweet liqueur is an acquired taste.) It’s served in a signature Collins glass, available for purchase for $10, with the recipe printed on the side. (Collectors will also want to snag the Lost Lake double old fashioned glass, $10.)

Meanwhile, the South Sea Dipper (rhum agricole blanc, aged Jamaican rum, lemon, pineapple, passionfruit, ruby port) arrives in a blue seahorse mug imported by Munktiki. (This and Munktiki’s orange pufferfish mug are also for sale for $20 each.)

Lost Lake Tic Tac Taxi

The Tic Tac Taxi is a delightful frozen concoction composed of aged multi-island rum, overproof Jamaican rum, house-made coconut liqueur, passionfruit and lime. I tend to like drinks that are on the sweeter side so this was a favorite.

Mystery Gardenia at Lost Lake

I would also highly recommend the lovely and delicate Mystery Gardenia, based on a 1963 drink from Don the Beachcomber in Las Vegas. The twist is that the house-made Gardenia Mix (butter, honey and spices) is used to fat-wash the light Guyana rum, which is then shaken with lime and Angostura bitters.

Thank You takeout

Chinese food and tiki bars have been associated almost from the start. According to Jeff Berry’s book Sippin’ Safari, when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (aka Don the Beachcomber) first opened Don’s Beachcomber Cafe in 1933, he had to serve food to be eligible for a liquor license. The Chinese chef he hired had to cook out of a wok propped up on a crate because there wasn’t enough room for a kitchen.

Thus, it was very fitting for Land and Sea Dept. to set up a Chinese takeout counter, Thank You, in the adjacent space. Hungry patrons at Lost Lake can order from the short menu, which is also available for takeout and delivery. We overdid it for just two people. Next time I’d forgo the egg rolls ($5) and Mongolian beef ($10) and just get the addictive peanut snack mix with whole cloves of garlic and bird’s eye chili ($3) and the fried rice with Chinese sausage and an egg yolk on top ($10).

Lost Lake life preserver

Lost Lake is open every day from 4 p.m.-2 a.m. (3 a.m. on Saturdays). There are a few daily specials, including an $8 daiquiri and $7 Tiny and a Tot (a pony glass of Lost Lake Exotica Ale with a shot of rum). McGee collaborated with Marz Brewing on this Maibock-style beer with fruit flavors intended to complement rum. Yet another reason you’ll want to wash ashore at Lost Lake.

Lost Lake
3154 W. Diversey Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647

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