Mondo Tiki! – Tiki Farm’s 15th Anniversary Exhibition

Tiki Farm sign

Tiki Farm is the king of modern tiki mug manufacturing. For 15 years, founder Holden Westland and his team have collaborated with super-talented artists to create more than 2,000 designs. La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles is hosting an exhibition of mugs along with art from Tom Laura aka “BigToe,” Scott “Flounder” Scheidly, Doug Horne and Ken Ruzic. There’s also a retro-futuristic solo show, “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” from Michelle Bickford.

Mug cases by Bamboo Ben

While the 10th anniversary exhibition rounded up examples of practically every mug Tiki Farm ever produced, this time around the display features 500 of the “most important and coveted selections.” Bamboo Ben customized the eight cases of shelves with bamboo and thatch A-frames.

Bahooka mug and others by The Pizz

Most of the mugs are arranged chronologically, but one of the sections groups together designs by The Pizz, Tiki Farm’s late art director. Seeing so many of my favorites here, like the Bahooka Ruffus mug, for instance, brings home how big a part he played at the company. (Holden penned a beautiful tribute to his friend in the latest issue of Tiki Magazine & More.)

Clifton's owl mug

I’m pretty content with my collection, but this exhibit is full of temptations. This stately mug (by The Pizz) for the recently re-opened Clifton’s Cafeteria caught my eye. It kind of reminds me of the Maltese Falcon … except it’s an owl. I actually ended up visiting that downtown LA landmark the same weekend, but unfortunately they’re out of stock of this style — I hope they get more soon!

Tiki Farm 15th anniversary mugs

Each of the featured artists also designed new mugs in honor of Tiki Farm’s 15th anniversary, including Ken Ruzic’s Poko Ono Pineapple Mug, BigToe’s Bobomb (the iconic Tiki Bob transformed into a hand grenade complete with a pin) and the Rub for Rum Easter Island Tiki Decanter ($75) by Michelle Bickford.

Doug Horne tiki mugs

In the middle is Doug Horne’s Tiki Farm Temple Mug (with holders on the back for Tiki Farm’s anniversary swizzle sticks) and on the right is Flounder’s Nari Rani Marquesan Mug. There were limited edition glazes ($50 each) released at the event — a few are still available on Soap Plant’s website — and Tiki Farm just made the other versions (priced around $20) available for order.

Close-up of "Too Much Information" painting by Ken Ruzic

The artists even incorporated their mug designs into the paintings, as you can see in this close-up look at Ken Ruzic’s “Too Much Information.” I love the whimsical style and incredible details, especially paired with this carved frame by Derek Weaver.

Mondo Tiki catalog

Tiki Farm also made a 40-page booklet ($5) listing all the designs created since 2000, plus some photos and little anecdotes about the process. We also get a sneak peek at some mugs that are in development. There’s some exciting stuff in the works, like a 60th anniversary mug for Oceanic Arts, two new designs for Tiki-Ti, a mug for Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans and a rum barrel/bulldog for Idle Hour in North Hollywood.

Art by Scott Scheidly

Mondo Tiki! is on view until November 29th at La Luz de Jesus. On Saturday, November 28th, Holden, BigToe and Ken will do a “docent tour” from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. to discuss the mugs and art and take questions. You can also see all the art (like Flounder’s gorgeous “Sea Goddess” pictured here) on the website for the gallery.

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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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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