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
773-293-6048
www.lostlaketiki.com

Related Posts:
Thrilled by Three Dots and a Dash
More Reviews of Chicago Tiki Bars

5 Things You May Have Missed: This Week in Tiki

Original Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room Bird from Van Eaton Galleries auction

I’ve been prepping for a trip to Walt Disney World in a week — too early to check out Trader Sam’s at the Poly, but oh well — and my weekly blogging schedule has suffered as a result. However, I’ve still been active over in the social media realm (Facebook, Twitter and fledgling Instagram account) so if you’d like to get a daily dose of tiki you can like/follow accordingly.

In case you missed it, here are some of the notable goings-on in tiki I’ve been posting about:

TIKI ROOM TREASURES

Lots of vintage Disneyland memorabilia — including an original bird from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room — are going up for auction this month. You can go see the items in person at the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks from February 7-27. I’ll be checking it out this weekend and hope to blog about it soon thereafter.

ALOHA `OE

Cafe Rustica and its upstairs tiki bar, Conga Lounge, announced it is closing this month. The last day of service will be February 21. The Bay Area has a wealth of great tiki bars, but it’s still sad to see a good one go.

NEW MUGS

Danny a.k.a. Tiki Diablo has designed a new mug for the Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles. They posted some preview photos over on the bar’s Facebook page. Look for it in March. He also created a unique tribute mug for the Royal Hawaiian Estates in Palm Springs. (Local pick up only at the moment.)

MY KIND OF TOWN

Which cocktail at Trader Vic’s Chicago was served with a floating gardenia? This “Ask Geoffrey” segment on Chicago Tonight answered that question — and happened to include one of my photos of the ill-fated Trader Vic’s Chicago reboot.

SOME SHOUT-OUTS

Eater highlighted a few tiki bars during its Classics Week: Tonga Room in San Francisco, Bali Hai in San Diego and The Alibi in Portland. El Segundo’s Purple Orchid was also just named Best Tiki Dive on Thrillist’s list of the 24 Essential LA Dive Bars.

2014 Tiki Gift Guide for the Holidays

Get a head start on your holiday shopping with this year’s round-up of some of the best tiki-related goodies from 2014, including books, bitters and more.

SanTiki Moai Masks by Bamboo Ben

1. SanTiki Moai Masks by Bamboo Ben

Bamboo Ben has created the escapist settings for many tiki bars, such as Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas and Tiki No in North Hollywood, to name a few. For Christmas, he’s gotten into the festive spirit by making SanTiki Moai masks ($25, plus shipping) and also some Shrunken Grinch Heads. I hear there will be some for sale at his booth at the International Tiki Market Place at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach on December 6th, but you can also contact him via Facebook about ordering.

Krampus mugs by Munktiki

2. Krampus Mug by Munktiki

Now this is some Black Friday shopping I’m on board with! On November 28th, Munktiki will release the fourth and final glaze of this year’s Krampus mug. (Pictured is the red and black style sold earlier.) This terrifying creature from Bavarian folklore punishes naughty children during the Yuletide season. There are 25 of these super limited editions ($80) and they’ll be available for purchase on Munktiki’s web site at 6 p.m. PST.

Tiki Pop book by Sven Kirsten

3. Tiki Pop book by Sven Kirsten

As mentioned previously, this year author Sven Kirsten (The Book of Tiki/Tiki Modern) and Taschen published a new tome, Tiki Pop: America Imagines its own Polynesian Paradise ($40). It’s the companion book from the recent exhibition at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. Make sure you have a sturdy coffee table to support this hefty edition filled with incredible images and fascinating history. Also of interest to tiki fans will be the book Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus ($16) by David Meyers, Elise Meyers Walker, Jeff Chenault and Doug Motz. Many of us never got the chance to visit that Ohio oasis before it was bulldozed in 2000, so this is as close as we’ll get, alas.

Horror in Clay bitters

4. Horror Infused Better With Bitters Gift Set

Horror in Clay — who you may know from the Cthulhu mug Kickstarter success story — has followed up with a few neat new products this year, including the Innsmouth Fogcutter Tiki Mug ($40) and Horror Infused: Fiendishly Tropical Bitters ($13.13). Made in partnership with Bittercube Bitters (the gentlemen also responsible for the Torpedo Room in Minneapolis), these are small-batch cocktail bitters “tentacle-crafted with care” featuring flavors of molasses, grapefruit, allspice, cinnamon and vanilla. They even come in a gift set ($20) with stickers, swizzles and coins.

Gene Rains - Far Away Lands

5. Far Away Lands: The Exotic Music of Gene Rains CD

When you need a respite from carols, mix things up with some Gene Rains, the vibraphonist considered one of the “Big Three” of exotica music in the 1950s-60s along with Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman. His music had never been available on CD until this past July when Real Gone Music released “Far Away Lands: The Exotic Music of Gene Rains” ($15), which includes songs from his three albums. (Check out episode 68 of DigiTiki’s Quiet Village Podcast to hear some of the interesting stories behind the making of this compilation.) Featured on the cover art is the lovely MeduSirena the Fire-Eating Mermaid (in her human form) from the Wreck Bar in Fort Lauderdale.

Related Posts:
2013 Tiki Gift Guide (Beachbum Berry’s Book, Kon-Tiki DVD & More)
2012 Tiki Gift Guide (Enchanted Tiki Room Ornaments, DVD of Tiki & More)