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New Tiki Bar in Chicago

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From Tiki News Mailing List:

It's been almost 30 years since chicago has seen a new tiki bar open
and this Thanksgiving, Food and Drink Inc. and DSK Designs will
proudly open the Rock-A-Tiki Lounge at 1942 w. Division (Damen and
Division) in Chicago. The Rock-A-Tiki Lounge will feature all your
favorite loung,surf, exotica tunes as well as contemporary rock n'
roll/pop music. A full menu will be available with pu-pu platters,
coconut shrimp, grilled swordfish and more.....Tiki drinks of course,
served in tiki mugs which are available for sale. The bar itself,
designed by David Krys of DSK Designs, features two rooms of tropical
decor, a 15 foot tall Moai head, a fish tank, a water spitting tiki
fountain, and a shrunken head chandelier among other custom lighting
and decor. Special thanks to Wayne Coombs and Co. at Mai Tiki for the
carved tiki head bar stools and Bob, Leroy and the folks at Oceanic
Arts. T-shirts available soon through DSK Designs-email them at
mailto: [email protected] for more info.

Hey PolyPop,

I think I should start sending you my $12 a year for Tiki News as I get more of it from your posts.

P.S. let us know when they start selling the shirts.

Ha Ha Bong. Thought I'd send this out to the group for those who don't subscribe. I wasn't a subscriber to Tiki News for a long because I don't like spam and they use Listbot for their mail-list. As such, I would only find out about these announcements via messages similar to the one I sent.

Thanks for the info! A surfer from Chicago on our surf forum posted the address but this is more detailed. I'm in Chicago next weekend... this is now on my list. If no one else makes it there before me I will post pictures here...

hey all, this is my first post, but i've been lurking at this amazing site for a while....i grew up in chicago, now reside in champaign,il.....this news of the rockatiki nearly made me cry i was so happy!!....i'll be there this weekend, and can hardly wait!!......heres to hoping the rockatiki can be a legendary mainstay like the hala kahiki, and trader vics in chicago!!!

hala bullhiki,
Welcome to Tiki Central. Hey, if you get a chance to make it out there this weekend, post some pics so we can see the place! I wonder if they'll have unique mugs or if they'll just use those Orchids of Hawaii knockoffs.


The RockaTiki will have TikiFarm mugs, not custom ones.

It is in the hip Bucktown neighborhood, and was opened by a guy who owns a few other trendy bars. Judging by the way places open and close in that neighborhood, my prediction is that this place will last exactly a long as the current Tiki fad does, and not a day longer. Too bad...

The reason Hala Kahiki has lasted is because it is in the middle of nowhere.
You open a Tiki Bar in a trendy neighborhood, and it is only going to last as long as it is trendy... All of you Californians don't see this becasue for some reason kitchy things built in CA seem to stay there forever - but in the rest of the country, things come and go, dictated by the economy.

For an example, look at how NYC had NO Tiki Bars for decades, until a year or two ago when Tiki got 'cool' again...

....sure its in hipsterville (aka bucktown), but at least they're doing it, and i'll support, until they close or give me a reason not too.......hey james, hows the book going?...when can we expect a release....looking forward to it!....can hardly wait to see it!!......i'll be up at the rock-a-tiki tomarrow.......i'll try to get some pics!

hello Tiki-folk, I'm a first-time poster but long-time Tiki lover. I checked out the Rock-A-Tiki this weekend and thought you might be interested in my impression. I'm a big fan of Hala Kahiki and was glad to hear of a new Tiki joint in Chicago after so many classics (Kona Kai, House of Tiki) have closed. Well - here goes!

DECOR..... A+
The decor is probably the best damn thing about the place, at this point - it's extremely well done. Lots of thatch & straw on all surfaces, a 16-foot Tiki god overlooking the place, and authentic-looking goodies everywhere. Low lighting a la Trader Vic's. Cozy booths and tables seated about six each; the bar had Tiki-god stools and bamboo sofas for lounging. Glowing fish tank behind the bar; Tiki murals painted on the walls of the bathrooms. All in all, MOST impressive!

The drinks are expensive by regular-bar standards but typical by Tiki-bar standards, $8 each... and much stronger than most Tiki tasties I've had. Mai Tai's came in normal pint glasses (a disappointment) while Zombies, Suffering Bastards, etc. arrived in legitimate Tiki mugs. Some thought the drinks were mixed with too heavy of a hand; I was well buzzed after two drinks. The bar did not yet have key ingredients in stock (Brandy for Stingers, for example) which will probably be rectified in time. The Singapore Sling was inexplicably made with vodka instead of rum. A polynesian kitchen makes a full menu of appetizers and entrees; the coconut shrimp were particularly tasty.

The name "Rock-A-Tiki" is exemplified in the music selection: a jukebox runs the show at this bar, and its contents are about 75% rock/soul, 15% reggae and 10% tiki/lounge. Thus we were subjected to lots of Led Zep, AC/DC, Prince, Doors, etc. while attempting to get in the Tiki vibe... not very nice. A friend and I pumped $5 into the machine for 17 tracks of nothing but tiki tunes, but only ended up hearing two of our songs (someone else had apparently overtaken the machine with two hours worth of loud-ass rock). We left comments for management regarding this sad state of affairs and hopefully the content of the juke will be changing. An alternative would be to get in early on a weeknight and monopolize the juke with TIKI tunes while you have the chance! The crowd was what now passes for standard in wickerpark - yuppie a$$holes, hot chicks and a minority of coolkids. The sweet scent of cannabis drifted over our heads midway through the night, which certainly added a positive element to the atmosphere!

Very slow, uninformed regarding drink selections and probably understaffed since the place just opened two days prior. Waitress answered "how would I know?" when queried about the contents of a Gin Fizz but was otherwise quite friendly. Will probably also improve with time.

Super-stiff drinks and beautiful decoration are countered by a schizophrenic musical selection and an overwhelmed staff, both of which will hopefully change in coming days.

I'd love to hear anyone else's impression... Aloha oe!

thejab posted on Sun, Dec 1, 2002 9:43 AM

Thanks for that informative review, Polynesian Pachyderm. Your first posting was a good one as we always appreciate reviews, especially of new places. May you be posting more in the future!

One minor correction: a Singapore Sling is made with Gin, never with Rum (or Vodka). It's simply Gin, Cherry Brandy, lemon juice, and soda (optional).

Please don't feel bad that I corrected your post as most members on tiki central know that I'm a cocktail snob and that I would never let a mistake like that slip by.

...i was at the rock a tiki on friday as soon as they openned, i'll be doing a review with the pictures i took in the next couple days...

From one Polynesian to another, Welcome to Tiki Central. Very nice review you provided for us. Unfortunately, I think the new reality is right decor + wrong music = bad atmosphere. I'm glad you mentioned something to management. Hope to hear more from you.

....well, i've decided to go ahead and let ya'll know of my experience at the new rock-a-tiki lounge in chicago......i'll try to post the pic's i took tomarrow(never tried to post pics on a website before).....we showed up around 7:30 pm on friday, as we were unsure of the hours of operation for the bar....we walked in, and the staff informed us they were not opening until 8, so we should come back then.....i then asked to snap some pics, and they said "not now, but you can when were open."........we came back at 8, and ordered food and drink.....since i'm sure james over at the tikibar review page will go into alot more detail, i'll just break down my experience the same way polynesian pachyderm did......:

....i'd give it an A, but the hala kahiki is what i think of when i think of perfect decor.....some very cool stuff for sure(especially the shrunken head chandeler, and 15ft.moai on the back of the enterance).....a small place with some really cool stuff ......the Coombs&co. carved bar stools were great looking(even if they were glued to the floor).

....we were apparentely the fist people to order food there (or so our waitress said), but the food was excellent........the pu pu platter was one of the best i've ever had, good stuff.....my wahinie said the salad she had was a vegitarians dream....

...maybe i'm being a little harsh, but i could tell the bartenders were not all that familiar with the drinks they were making(our waitress said they were still learning the drinks out of the recipie guides) and i could tell which recipie books were being used on several of the drinks.....this is something i'm sure will get better with time(this was only the 2nd day they were open).......most drinks $8, and all were plenty strong, just not mixed well......

...now dont get me wrong, i happen to love loud rock music(i'm in a rock band for god sake!), but i do NOT want to hear led zepplin when i take my wahinie out for an evening of polynesian food and drink.....i, just as poly pachyderm before me ran to the juke within 15 minutes of being there to play as much les baxter, and south seas music as i could(although the juke was infact half empty)........hopefully this will get better with time.....as for the crowd, we were there early enough to not really experience one, which is fine with me, knowing what the usual bucktown bar crowd can be.....

...i felt as though i knew more aboout the bar than our server....i questioned her on the tiki farm mugs , and she looked at me like i was from another planet, then told me of a store in chicago which sometimes get in some tiki mugs....i also asked decor questions, and those were met with a smile and blank stare.....i mean, i dont know NEARLY as much as most people who post here, and i was curious about some of the pieces in the bar, but couldnt get an answer....ah well, i prolly should have tried to ask management rather than wait staff......

....excellent food,awsome decor,and drinks that will only get better make this place worth going to....i may be being a little harsh, as i went to hala kahiki and ate at chef shangri-la the following evening,my 2 favorite tiki digs here in illinois.......(pics coming soon of the rock-a-tiki!)

[ Edited by: hala bullhiki on 2002-12-01 22:33 ]

Thanks for the reviews... they were going to be my decision whether to check it out or just go to Hala Kahiki. I will be in Chicago on Saturday for some shopping and to propose to my very patient girlfriend. Not at the tiki bar, as much as I'd like to, but somewhere holiday looking downtown.

So they didn't hassel you about taking pictures? And are they selling any tiki stuff yet?

What's the parking situation? Is there a lot nearby or street parking available?

Mahalo for the info...


If anyone has any specific questions about the decor, the guy who designed it all is a pal of mine. I can/do talk to him.

Don't get me wrong - I also plan to patronize and support Rock A Tiki for as long as I am able - my comments on it's predicted lack of longetivity were perhaps a little portentious, but I don't mean to give the impression that I am not enthusiastic about Rock A Tiki - I am VERY enthusiastic about it! The rock music in the juke was a given from the start: between the nighborhood the bar is in and the name of the place, having an all-exoitca juke was too much to ask for, unfortunately.

One correction - I stated that the mugs were from Tiki Farm, but my designer friend tells me they're using the Dynasty mugs in reality.

...and the book (Tiki Road Trip) is coming out in April (maybe March). Shag's cover is done - looks AWESOME - and Sven's intro has been in my hands for a while too. The graphic designer is laying out the book as we speak. The book has 300% more data than my old web page, and fewer typos! It is PACKED full of data on Tiki Bars, past and present (thanks for asking and giving me an excuse to plug it yet again!).


o.k, so i'm the closest thing to computer illiterate.....i need to know how to post photos on this site....i got a bunch loaded off the camera onto my hard drive, now how do i get them up here?.....got about 10 of the rock-a-tiki i'd like to post

[ Edited by: hala bullhiki on 2002-12-02 22:05 ]


I am not enthusiastic about Rock A Tiki - I ...and the book (Tiki Road Trip) is coming out in April (maybe March). Shag's cover is done - looks AWESOME - and

Hiya James,
I am seeing the book tour now...yeah, the signings. Mai-Kai, Hala Kahiki, Tonga Room, a TV's or two? Congrats...

midnite...just made flight reservations for Chicago '03. Two Cubs games, a few visits to Hala and TV's. Have to check out this new spot now, too.

My pal Warwick writes...

"Know anyone that would want rockatiki.com ?

I got it a while ago when there was a rockatiki in town, and I put up a note on the site where the bar was, and apparently the owners didnt' want the domiain name, then the place died.

Anyway, if I "let it go" then the domain name vultures get it, and they don't give it up easily to anyone, and they charge a boatload id you want to buy it. I have about 100 domain names, and I know what the vultures are like. You may as well just think of a new name, cause trying to get an expired one, that a vulture stole, is next to impssible.

Anyway, wanted to know if you know anyone that wants it for like $100 bucks?"

Email him at [email protected]

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