It’s shameful to say, because it shows just how much of a newbie I am, but Saturday night was my first visit to the Tiki-Ti. Mr. Hockey was surprised that I hadn’t already been, considering I have six years of drinking eligibility under my belt plus a year and a half of tiki fandom. My poor pseudo-excuse is that we’ve been visiting so many other tiki spots near and far that I didn’t want this experience to get lost in the shuffle.
I’ll go into the significance of this spot at a later date, for now I’ll just say that of the few drinks we tried that Ray’s Mistake was the clear favorite, followed by the Pearl Diver, with Rum, Gum & Lime bringing up the rear. (Hmm, kind of sounds like I’m calling a horse race.)
After Mr. Hockey’s fateful spin of the wheel landed on Stealth, an “ass-kicker” of a drink that masks the multitudes of liquor involved with a splash of Baileys, we decided that we should probably walk around for a bit before trying to head home.
Apparently, neither of us was hip enough to know that it just happened to be the weekend of the Sunset Junction Festival (so that’s why it took us half an hour to find a parking space…) And where there’s a fest, there’s food trucks! Mr. Hockey pointed out the LudoBites truck, the ever-elusive stand that inspired foodie fanatics to wait in line for hours upon hours during its debut.
I got the two-piece combo ($6) of the Provencal Pepitte “Chicken Balls”—they were perfectly crispy and juicy and dusted with herbes de Provence. And the lavender biscuit drizzled with honey was divine. Southern food infused with the South of France, and best of all, no line!
Hopefully, this was the kick-start for many more visits (and less logistically cumbersome ones) to the Tiki-Ti. Yet another sidenote: all those fried foods and rickety rides did get me looking forward to the L.A. County Fair…
Doctor’s offices aren’t known for having stellar selections of magazines, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the latest issue of Saveur on my MD’s coffee table. The March 2010 issue is devoted to the Los Angeles dining scene, and I recalled that my buddy the Gastronomer had contributed an article on KFC (Korean-fried Chicken) at Kyochon.
After giving that a gander, I flipped forward a couple pages and what do I find?
A short profile on the Tiki-Ti bar in Los Feliz entitled “Spirits of Polynesia” (click the link for full text) written by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Maybe this will make all those foodies and mixology buffs take (more) notice of tiki…
(Bonus: The Saveur web site also includes recipes for the Puka Punch and Cuba Kola. Makes me want to get my bartending skills up to snuff.)
With all the dirty, sorta scary dive bars in LA to choose from, what is the Tiki-Ti doing on a list of The Best Dive Bars in America?
Rob Willey in Details magazine describes the venerable tiki bar thusly:
“Forget Trader Vic’s: A rum-soaked night at this violin shop turned tiki lounge is as close as you’ll get to the tropical-drinks craze that swept Hollywood from the thirties through the seventies. Marlon Brando drank here; Burt Reynolds too; but when the Polynesian fad went bust, founder Ray Buhen managed to keep rolling. Today the menu includes something like 90 concoctions—including Ray’s Mistake, a mixture of rum, passion fruit, and ‘super-secret flavor.'”
However, Willey seems to disqualify the Tiki-Ti from the dubious honor of being named a “best dive bar” in the very first line of his introduction: “Fancy, handcrafted cocktails have their place—and it sure as hell isn’t any of these watering holes.” Sure, I guess they’re not “fancy,” but there’s no doubt that they’re handcrafted!
Of course, half the fun of reading any kind of “best” list is in disagreeing with it.