Is there anywhere more entertaining, more interesting, more flat out fun to share an adult beverage – perhaps in a coconut – and a laugh, than a tiki bar? We’ll make this easy for you: NO. No, there is not. These kitschy, pithy, Polynesian-themed gems have been coming in and out of fashion ever since the seminal Don the Beachcomber opened for business in Hollywood in 1933. Fortunately, tiki bars are back in fashion again, big time, and Long Beach has its share, BIG time. So much so, might we boldly suggest, that Long Beach is a bona fide Tiki Town. Here are four that honor the traditions while offering their own unique takes on tiki.
You access Secret Island by descending a flight of stairs under Pine Avenue in Downtown Long Beach, hanging two quick rights to be met by a wall of tropical plants and fog accompanied by the sounds of thunder and flashes of lightning … and that’s before you actually step inside. The immersive experience continues once you go through the door as you’re greeted by a "Bamboo" Ben Bassham interior design, including a very looooong bar. The design is of such high quality that more than a few patrons – regulars and first timers, alike – have compared the ambiance to the bar that started it all, Don The Beachcomber’s. All the usuals are here, the tropical drinks and eats, but the Secret Island distinguishes itself for its commitment to live entertainment. Bands perform regularly – some with hula dancers – on the Secret Island’s large stage buoyed by a terrific sound system.
The Bamboo Club
With an interior designed by another “Bamboo” Ben Bassham that features all the requisite tiki touches – thatched-roof booths and bar, colorful fauna and plenty of Polynesian-inspired statuary and wall art – The Bamboo Club presents just the right amount of kitsch without ever feeling kitschy. In addition, it has a large, adjoining outdoor area, ideal for big parties. Drinks range from classics – Navy Grog, Blue Hawaii, Mai Tais – to updated creations. And then there’s the food, which has been top-notch and adventurous since the place opened. Along with staples such as Loco Moco, are the likes of a Thai Tea Brined Chicken sandwich, Bamboo Drumettes and Vegan Unagi burger. Bamboo recently added a late night (10 PM to 1 AM) Yakitori menu, featuring beef, chicken and pork belly along with veggie and vegan options.
Marie's Tek Tec
Attached to Roxanne’s Bar in Long Beach’s historic California Heights neighborhood, Marie’s is a tiki bar like many others, with the usual assortment of Polynesian decorations and a rum selection so varied and voluminous that the bar hosts an annual Rum Tiki Social. But what distinguishes Marie’s is that it is primarily a tropical-themed outdoor bar/lounge that both honors and promotes Latin culture. You can see these nods to Latin American art and historical culture in everything from Marie’s Aztec-tinged logo to its food and drinks – witness the fact that Marie’s mixed a special cocktail to honor the legacy of singer/icon Juan Gabriel.
Part of the fun of Tiki Tiki is simply finding it. So, word to the wise, you’ll first have to go through Rosemallows, which is easy because it’s a wonderful bar and grill, with great drinks and food all its own. After you walk the length of the bar, push on the wall to reveal a secret entrance – that’s not so secret to locals – and enter a cozy, charming space with the usual tiki decorations you’d expect and a tight-knit kind of energy that comes from being in on the secret. Its curated cocktail menu is exceptional as is its food selections, which many times includes selections from local pop-up food outfits. (Image: @bartikitiki)