Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge – San Diego, CA

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I headed down to San Diego (home of the much-maligned new tourism slogan ‘Happy Happens‘) to see the lovely Rachel (and her also lovely boyfriend), and they were kind enough to indulge my tiki-phile tastes so we ventured out to Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge in the Gaslamp District.

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The last time we came here there was some kind of special where we ended up drinking carafes, yes, indeed, carafes, of Mai Tais. Happy hour has changed a bit since then and now they offer five sushi rolls, appetizers and drinks for $5 each until 7 p.m.

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Even better, happy hour is available not just in the bar but in the entire restaurant. I enjoy the lanterns in the dining room, but I think it’s more interesting to sit in the bar where the giant Moai with the neon nose ring presides.

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Preserved pufferfish lamps are popular fixtures at tiki places (like Luau, for one), so I thought these blown-glass blowfish were a nice take on that design theme.

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We sipped a “haole” mai tai and the coconut kiss cocktail. (The former features an interesting naming choice…) Both were absolutely delicious, but more like desserts than drinks, and also quite dangerous to our tolerance for that very reason.

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Out of focus calamari fries with sweet and sour sauce. I think the chef must have captured the giant squid from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” to make these. They were ok, I guess I prefer my fried squid in either bite-sized ring or tentacle-y form.

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I love the shiitake and goat cheese wontons with garlic ponzu sauce. I could eat a million of these!

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So-Cal artist Bosko created the tikis found in the restaurant—more than thirty carvings—according to his site.

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Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge
801 Fifth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
619-233-1183

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Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge on Urbanspoon

Update 6/29/10: I’m very bummed to report that Mister Tiki Mai Tai Lounge closed a few months ago, and in its place will go yet another burger joint. The Cohn Restaurant Group gets no points for creativity.

From Muay Thai to Mai Tais

Last weekend, Curiouslaydee and I went to the Songkran Thai New Year festival in Hollywood. We drank Singha beer on empty stomachs, gorged ourselves on food from Jitlada and then watched some Muay Thai fighting before we fled the hot sun to sip Mai Tais at the Tiki Mugs book signing at 8-Ball.

Now, you might be asking yourself—Didn’t I just go to a Tiki Mugs book signing? Well, yes. Yes, I did. But this one was different because artists Crazy Al, Tiki Tony, Tiki Diablo and Squid had merch set-ups for their wares. And I mentioned the free Mai Tais, right?

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The centerpiece was “The Collector,” a carved tiki by Crazy Al. I dig the fleur-de-pineapp-lys nose.

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Squid’s excellent “Uncle Shrunkle” bowl. You lift the top of its head and put the straws in the brains! (Photo credit: Curiouslaydee)

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I also really loved Crazy Al’s Kona Club mugs.

This repeat trip to 8-Ball also gave me the opportunity to pick up a few more random gifts for some folks. And I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of new stuff among what I’d seen before. Those who weighed in on the telephone vs. the bed purse may be saddened to know that they both seemed to be sold out. But take heart, as I did end up with a very cool purse that day. Stay tuned…

Tiki Mugs Book Signing – Los Angeles

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Last weekend was the release/book signing for the brand spanking new book Tiki Mugs: Cult Artifacts of Polynesian Pop at La Luz de Jesus gallery. It was kind of a pain to get there, though, because I guess Lance Armstrong decided he wanted to take a bike ride down Hollywood Boulevard or something so a bunch of the roads were blocked off, making the LA traffic even worse than usual. But it was definitely worth it.

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“It’s addicting, isn’t it?” This—or something to that effect—is what Holden Westland (hunched over at left), owner of Tiki Farm, said to me when I gushingly admitted my admiration for his wares. He’s right on the money about that! Author Jay Strongman is next to him in that photo (signing books on a tiki bar, of course) and he was very cool and nice as well.

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A side view of the bar in the gallery area where they were serving up free mai tais courtesy of Trader Vic’s. Don’t you love that ginormous lava lamp?

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Note my attempt at product placement. (I guess I’ve learned a thing or two from watching so much “Top Chef” and their Gladware glad-handing.) Ah yes, that reminds me. I believe it’s only t-minus-one-month until Trader Vic’s at L.A. Live opens…

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“Mauna Loa’s Minions” mugs by Crazy Al, which, along with being featured in the book, were also on display as part of the “Everything But the Kitschen Sync” group art show in the gallery section of the shop. That show is going on through March 29, so you still have a chance to go check it out. (Just make sure that Lance is not going on a little joy ride that night.)

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Tiki Farm’s special set-up of mugs for sale. *Drools*

La Luz de Jesus
4633 Hollywood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
323-666-7667