Happy Hour at Don the Beachcomber, Huntington Beach


Watching the Ken Burns documentary “Prohibition” got me thinking about the Noble Experiment’s influence on tiki. Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt (a.k.a. Don the Beachcomber) was a part-time bootlegger and opened the first tiki establishment as the bar business was booming after Prohibition ended. Jeff Berry’s fantastic book “Sippin’ Safari” even says one of the reasons Don made his original cocktails with rum was that it was cheap because the rumrunners had so much leftover stock.

Long story short, none of the original Don the Beachcomber restaurants are still around but his name and spirit have been carried on in Huntington Beach for the last two years. (There are also two unrelated DtB restaurants in Hawaii). This one also happens to have an awesome happy hour available in the Dagger Bar Sunday through Thursday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. and all night on Mondays.

Don’s signature drinks are $3 off ($5 off the Rum Barrel) and there’s also deals on beer and wine but why would you drink that here?! (Unless your name is Mr. Baseball.) A few of our favorites include Don’s Own Mai Tai (above), Lapu Lapu and Hurricane (one of nine cocktails they recently added to the menu).

There’s also a great selection of discounted “happy hour pupus.” The garlic fries ($3) are potent—just how I like ’em—and the coconut shrimp skewers ($8) are good, too.

The spam roll ($5) is a fun novelty, however I don’t see it making it into our regular ordering rotation. But it does make me want to try making my own spam musubi at home.

Hands down the winner of the bunch is the brie quesadilla with kalua pork ($7) topped with chipotle mayo. I think I might have to get this super flavorful dish every time now, though there are still more tempting appetizers I’ve yet to try, like the sticky ribs and ahi poke tacos.

Sadly, I wasn’t as crazy about the pineapple upside down cake ($9). The cake was kind of dry. (That’s not to say we still didn’t clean that plate though.)

Don the Beachcomber also has several signature mugs available for purchase. From left: green Don the Beachcomber “short neck” (they also have it in brown), green & yellow versions of Don the Beachcomber “long neck” designed by Crazy Al, white rum barrel, and coconut mug.

Don the Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Huntington Beach, CA 92649

Don the Beachcomber on Urbanspoon


Mai-Kai Happy Hour at the Molokai Bar

When friends of ours told us they were getting married in Miami, my first thought was: “Congratulations!” And then my second thought was: “I get to go to the MAI KAI!”

The Mai-Kai is one of the most impressive (and last remaining) original Polynesia-inspired palaces. For more than fifty years its thatched A-frame has stood on a once remote (now industrial) stretch of highway in Fort Lauderdale.

Spending an evening here is not just dinner, it’s an event. And you must start off in the Molokai Bar, which resembles the belly of a storm-faring ship complete with carved wooden figureheads, rigging and nautical lanterns.

Simulated rain streams down the angled windows, adding to the sense of escapism. And there are plenty of tikis out there to spot, too.

You might be so distracted by the surroundings (and the bandeau/sarong-draped lady servers) that you don’t even notice there aren’t any bartenders around. Rather, they’re kept behind closed doors in part to preserve the long-held secrets of the recipes.

Mariano Licudine, a former Don the Beachcomber bartender, created the cocktail menu with variations of Don’s drinks and new signatures like the Derby Daiquiri and Mystery Drink (more on that later). I picked up this repro of a vintage menu in the gift shop.

Happy hour is from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and appetizers and almost all the drinks are half price. As advertised and classified, the Jet Pilot ($6.50) was seriously potent. Mr. Baseball opted for the non-alcoholic Tropical Punch ($3.25) which is made with pineapple juice, passionfruit syrup and guava and papaya nectars, according to this article.

We also ordered the won ton soup ($3.25) and my favorite Polynesian app: crab rangoon ($4.75) flavored with cheese and curry and served with barbecue, sweet and sour and hot mustard. There’s lots of other fried delights, including intriguing things called Tahitian cheese tangs, plus oysters Rockefeller and even escargots.

Happy hour at the Molokai Bar was just the beginning of our night at the magical Mai-Kai. There’s still the garden and dinner and show and, of course, more cocktails.

Trader Vic’s – Scottsdale, AZ

Last month Mr. Hockey morphed back into Mr. Baseball when he went to Cubs fantasy camp at their spring training grounds in Mesa, AZ. I flew out there to cheer him on…and drag him (and various other members of our families) to a couple tiki spots, like Trader Vic’s in neighboring Scottsdale.

When we first walked in, I was impressed by the huge Japanese fish floats hanging over the reservation stand. (Or as Mr. Baseball might so eloquently put it: Nice balls!)

According to my trusty Tiki Road Trip guide, this branch opened at the Hotel Valley Ho in 2006. The previous Trader Vic’s in Scottsdale operated for almost 40 years (1962-1990) before shuttering.

There are some traditional design elements, like tall tiki columns, tribal masks, and a glass-enclosed Chinese oven, but it also feels very modern with the floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial touches like exposed ducts and cement.

One nitpicky detail I noticed was the shade of the Maori candleholders on the tables was a lot lighter compared to the one I picked up at the Trader Vic’s warehouse sale.

We headed to the bar and took a couple low-slung seats around a drum-inspired table. We were still able to enjoy the perpetually fair weather, though, because the lounge area opens up to the outdoors where there’s a fountain and swank fire pit

At Trader Vic’s Scottsdale, there’s double happy hour: Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-11 p.m., and all day on Sundays starting at 4 p.m. Bar bites are $5, beers $3, glasses of wine and six classic Vic’s cocktails (Mai Tai, Bahia, Zombie, etc.) are $6.

The food and drink menus seem to be pretty standard across most Trader Vic’s. However, each of them has a different signature drink. The Cactus Bloom was a bubblegum pink concoction made with tequila, Pisco brandy, lemoncello, fruit juices and prickly pear syrup. My companions opted for the Gun Club Punch and Zombie (middle & right).

Also unique to this location were the happy hour offerings. Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of the Char Siu Bao: two giant snowball-sized steamed buns with barbecue pork, chili-garlic sauce and pickled daikon. The shredded meat inside was kind of dry, and there wasn’t enough sauce to overcome it.

I kept stealing bites of what Mr. Baseball ordered: the Chinese Oven Roasted Maui Burger with sweet potato fries. The Hawaiian flatbread (more like ciabatta) and sambal cream cheese were a very tasty twist. I noticed a lot of people ordering it. And of all the $5 “tidbits” available, I think it gives you the most bang for your buck.

It may not be the most tiki of all Trader Vic’s, but I thought the Scottsdale location still had a lot of style. The hosts and servers were super nice, and big bonus points for having such a great weekend happy hour.

Trader Vic’s Scottsdale
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251

(UPDATE: Trader Vic’s Scottsdale closed July 30, 2011)

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon