Tiki No Bar – North Hollywood, CA

Tiki No sign

Here in “The Valley” we already have the Tonga Hut, and the Tiki-Ti is just over the hill, but it was still very exciting to hear that a new tiki bar was opening last month in North Hollywood: Tiki No (as in NoHo).

Bar at Tiki No in North Hollywood

There were initially rumors that maybe it was a reincarnation of the Lucky Tiki (the defunct Mission Hills bar that was also my first tiki bar visit). But no, apparently the space used to be a low-key lounge called Match, and the owners decided to turn it tiki!

Bamboo booths at Tiki No

And they hired the right beachbum for the job: Bamboo Ben. The decor is topnotch, with pufferfish lights, bamboo-lined walls, and thatch rooves over the bar and booths. I especially liked the shipping containers hanging from the ceiling, kind of gave it the feeling of an island trading post.

Sup and All Black cocktails at Tiki No

A lot of patrons, including us, started off by asking the bartender what she recommended. When she replied, “Sup,” this was almost always responded to with a “Huh?” The menu revealed that the Sup ($11) is their very tasty version of a Painkiller. (It’s kind of like a Piña Colada, but it doesn’t sound as silly to order.)

On the left is the All-Black ($15), made with dark rum, blackberry juice and kiwi purée. I was a little put off by the texture and spice flavors, but I’d give this one another shot though since it seems to be a favorite with others.

Raging Bull at Tiki No

She also told us how nobody believes her that the Raging Bull ($10), a nightcap of Scotch, milk and honey, is actually pretty good. Mr. Hockey decided to live dangerously and order it, and we had to agree. The interwebs say this has been a popular drink over the years for folks with ulcers and, according to Esquire, Dizzy Gillespie.

Tiki No drink menu

These tiki cocktails can add up, so for the cost-conscious the Mai Tai is always $5, and there’s happy hour on weekdays from 4-7 p.m. I believe their mugs were also available to keep for an extra $2 — they said they didn’t have any plans yet for signature designs.

Tiki at Tiki No Bar

There’s plenty of things to look at behind the bar (Chinese dragon…pig with a jaunty cap…) but they also have a couple vintage-style televisions that were showing “The Magnificent Seven” when we were there. We dug the eclectic music, ranging from Fats Domino and Elvis to Bob Dylan to The Bird and the Bee.

Outdoor patio at Tiki No

I hear there’s DJs on Fridays and Saturdays, though I prefer the more chill vibe of an off-night. There’s a covered patio where smokers can congregate; it’s not tiki but the Edison-esque pendant lights are a neat touch.

Inside Tiki No in No-Ho

Overall I think Tiki No is an excellent addition to the So Cal tiki scene. Like Frankie’s Tiki Room in Vegas, it really nails the feeling of pseudo-Polynesian escapism. And when I want to introduce folks to the wonderful world of tiki, I might just start taking them here.

Tiki fire pit

Tiki No
4657 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91602

Tiki No on Urbanspoon

Tonga Room – San Francisco, CA

When we first started planning our trip to San Francisco, I knew that we had to hit up the Tonga Room (not to be confused with the Tonga Hut down in NoHo), since it’s considered to be high on the list of endangered tiki establishments.

Unfortunately, the Fairmont folks have gotten the idea in their heads that they can make more money by turning the land where the Tonga Room is into condos. (Even more unfortunate is the fact that this is a familiar story. I’m looking at you, Beverly Hilton!) There’s an effort to Save the Tonga Room, but it’s going to be difficult to stop the developers.

The Tonga Room feels more like an attraction at Disneyland than a restaurant: diners are seated in an enormous A-frame with outrigger canoes or beneath thatched huts with a simulated night sky above. Not to mention the “rain storm” that occurs every 20 minutes or so, with thunder sounds and lightning and water falling into the lagoon (yep, there is actually a pool inside the restaurant).

The space started out in the 1920s as the swimming pool underneath the lobby of the Fairmont San Francisco, and then in 1945 it was transformed into this nautical-themed restaurant by Mel Melvin, a set designer for MGM. He kept the water feature relevant by ingeniously turning it into an aquatic arena for live music.

And that’s still done to this day! A cover band performs on a boat-slash-stage that they float out to the middle of the lagoon. As expected, their set was kind of cheesy, but their Jackson 5 renditions were quite the crowd-pleasers.

However, the Tonga Room wasn’t truly tiki-fied until it was remodeled in the ’60s with décor from Oceanic Arts (you might know them from another little project they were a part of…The Enchanted Tiki Room).

Ever since the word got out about a year ago about the seemingly imminent closure, there seems to have been a resurgence of interest in the old gal. There was a $7 music cover charge on the Friday night we went, but the place was still packed, with most people crowded into the bar area.

Not only was the dance floor built to look like the deck of a ship—complete with sails and netting, nautical lanterns and a tiki masthead—it was actually built from a ship. According to their history page, it’s made with parts from the S.S. Forester, an old schooner that made trips from San Francisco to the South Sea Islands.

The setting and decor are unquestionably awesome, but the food is widely considered to be bad. Most folks advise to go during happy hour, but we weren’t able to be so choosy with our time of visit so we took our chances with dinner and I actually was pleasantly surprised.

I ordered a mai tai, of course, but I wasn’t all that hungry so I got the mussels with Portuguese sausage, Maui onions and shoestring potatoes. The broth was made with Kona Longboard lager and it was so savory that I had to sop it up with the bread.

I also nabbed the miso eggplant from Mr. Baseball’s plate of flatiron steak, which was doused in a sort of sweet sauce that we enjoyed but not might be to everyone’s tastes. It will be such a shame if the hotel’s plans come to fruition because the Tonga Room is just on another level, definitely one of the top tiki spots I’ve been to thus far.

The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
The Fairmont San Francisco
950 Mason St.
San Francisco, CA 94108

Tonga Room on Urbanspoon