Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good Tiki, Bad Tiki

I've been to no less than three Tiki bars in the last two months, more than I've visited in all my years until now. I still haven't made it to the Hala Kahiki, but I did get to the new Trader Vic's in Chicago, Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA, and the Conga Lounge in Oakland, CA. Seems like Tiki, along with classic cocktails, is having a bit of a resurgence perhaps? Or maybe I was just missing the boat until now.

Tiki is a lesser-explored segment of the cocktail realm for me, but I've been trying to learn more about the culture, lore and drinks favored by my Tiki-crazy blogger friends.

Chicago's New Trader Vic's
For some reason, we ended up here at the end of our St. Patty's day pub crawl. Perhaps it was because it was the only place we found without a huge line on a Saturday evening (and perhaps that was because it's not Irish). The decor is fantastic, and the menu has many favorite cocktails I've read about. We tried a few of them, but honestly my taste buds weren't at their best due to the beer and Irish whiskey consumed earlier in the day. We did enjoy the Pupu Platter (no longer called that) and the Tiki Puka Puka cocktail, but the Mai Tais were dyed green and too sweet. So were the crazy shots that our friend Maeve insisted on ordering for us.

I gotta go back and give Trader Vic's another shot, and I'll post more about that when I do.

Conga Lounge, Oakland, CA
I was hanging out with Melkon Khosrovian from Tru Spirits and Jonathan Forester from Penobscot Bay one night last month after a craft distilling conference, and we were trying to go and have dinner at one of our joint customers. Unfortunately, the place was tiny and also packed, with a 2 hour wait. So we wandered down the street and settled on pizza at Pizza Rustica. They didn't have any tables either, but said we could order pizza in their upstairs bar. So up we went.

What we found when we went upstairs was a decked out Tiki Bar called the Conga Lounge - fun, with lots of great things to look at on the walls and hanging from above. The pizza was great, but unfortunately our drinks were not so great. We only had one drink each, and didn't even finish those. Darn, we wanted to like the place.

Forbidden Island, Alameda, CA

Since I happened to be in Alameda, of course I had to go to Forbidden Island. Unfortunately, the legendary Martin Cate recently left, so I couldn't see him there, but I knew I had to go anyway.

Every drink I tasted was great, and the ladies behind the bar were a blast. My favorite drink was the Sidewinder's Fang (pictured), although the Forbidden Island and Painkiller were both great too. Definitely have to go back next time I'm in the area.

It was definitely fun to try some more Tiki drinks, I'll have to continue my explorations in Tiki.

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