The other night, I watched a really great documentary about Tiki culture called Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession. It’s a must see for anyone into the Tiki lifestyle. There was one point that they brought up which I thought was fascinating. Don the Beachcomber borrowed many of his cocktail ideas from the Caribbean! When you dig into the roots of Tiki culture as we know it, many of the ideas were actually constructed and imagined. Let’s be honest: do you really think ancient Polynesian societies were sitting around drinking cocktails with umbrellas in them?
I’ve known about Rumba for some time and I’ll be honest, I never really had any interest in checking it out. I knew they serve great drinks, but Rumba isn’t really a Tiki bar…
Well, a couple weeks ago I was going to a concert at the Paramount in Downtown Seattle. Rumba is literally two blocks away from the Paramount. My friends and I had some time to kill before the show started, so I suggested we check out the place…
When I got the invite for Tikifest, I just had to laugh. I messaged back, “Well, it looks I’m going to Tacoma!” Tikifest was set up by Jeffery from the Ukadelics. The idea was simple: have some Tiki bands play at Bob’s Java Jive and have a prefunk at Tacoma Cabana beforehand. Easy enough.
Old school, new school. We’ve all heard the terms, haven’t we? Can this pertain to Tiki as well? When I think of a Tiki bar, I think of the normal décor: thatch, bamboo, tiki statues, and a very dark environment which I like to call old school. But can there be a “new school” Tiki bar? These are the things I’m thinking about as I am enjoying my cocktail at Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh, PA.
Nothing makes my day more than finding out that a new Tiki bar has opened. It’s even better if that Tiki bar is in your own city! Up until a few months ago, Seattle has had only one Tiki bar: Hula Hula. Now it has two. The new Tiki bar is called the No Bones Beach Club.
If you know your US history, you will know that Philadelphia is one of America’s oldest cities. It was built during Colonial times and needless to say cars, busses, and trains didn’t exist when it first started growing. People lived close to where they worked because, well, they had to. They were walking. Philadelphia back in the 1700’s was tight and compact. Most streets were wide enough for a horse and wagon to travel on and row homes lined every street. Actually, that pretty much describes Philadelphia now!
Fishtown is one of Philly’s newest and coolest neighborhoods. A couple years ago, people started moving to Fishtown because rent was cheap. Then cool places to eat and drink started popping up. The Yachtsman was one of those cool places.
The Steelers, the Penguins, the Pirates, Pirmanti’s, and Tiki? That’s right! Pittsburgh is known for its sports teams, food, and its steel industry. But most people wouldn’t know that it has one of the coolest Tiki bars there is.
I live in Seattle now, but I actually lived in Pittsburgh a few years ago. I was only there for a year, but while I was there I discovered the Tiki Lounge!
An interest in all things retro and old is a actually a new thing. Up until the ’90s, we mostly thought about the future and what it will bring. We were all about owning a new car, having a new home, and buying new clothes and furniture. The past was, well, just that—the past. Recently, I think websites like Youtube have brought the craze for nostalgia. Right now, you can go online and watch footage from any decade you like! I was a teenager in the ’80s, so I love watching old commercials, music videos, and clips from TV shows that were on while I was growing up. I think we’ve all become more nostalgic, just because we can be.
One great thing about people becoming more nostalgic is that there has been a push to preserve older buildings. For example, Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL has been deemed an historical landmark. This is awesome and it makes me happy. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like going to older Tiki bars. If a place has been around for a few decades, you’re seeing a piece of history. The Alibi in Portland, Oregon is one of these bars…
Seattle is a growing city. It’s not just growing, but growing quickly. New buildings are appearing everywhere, from Downtown to West Seattle. I counted thirteen construction cranes in Downtown alone!
I grew up in Pennsylvania’s Coal Region. The coal industry started dying out there even before I was born in early ‘70s. For decades, buildings have been getting shut down, demolished, or boarded up. Most of the little towns around the Coal Region have become ghost towns. It’s a sad reality. I learned early on that you want your city or town to be growing, not dying.
Progress and growth are great things for a city, but as the saying goes, you can’t have an omelet without breaking some eggs. To construct Seattle’s new buildings, the old ones need to be removed. Dozens of really cool restaurants and bars are being shut down and destroyed in the name of progress.
I was down in Portland a few weeks ago. What I noticed and admired about Portland was it still had tons of cool places that have been around forever, some since the ‘50s! You don’t have to travel far before you run into some cool old place with a neon sign flashing above its door. Seattle used to be the same way, but not so much anymore.
Thankfully, there are still some “old school” Seattle bars left. The Lava Lounge in Belltown is one of them…
The TV show Portlandia has made the city of Portland famous. It’s a really funny show that pokes fun at some of stereotypes about Portland’s residents. The parodies are pretty much spot on. Portland has a very big cycling scene, cute little shops selling bric-a-brac, punk rockers, hippies, punk rock hippies, and more organic food shops that anyone could ask for. But when I think of Portland, I think of one thing: Tiki bars! Portland has not one, but three! It has the Alibi, Trader Vic’s, and last but not least, Hale Pele.