Has anyone been to King Tiki in Portsmouth, NH? or the Kowloon in Sagus MA?
Any good? Worth a two hour drive?
Kowloon, 948 Broadway (Route 1), Saugus, MA (781) 233-0077
Kowloon Restaurant, with a capacity of 1200 seats (4th largest in the US), was established by the Wong Family in 1950. Located on Route 1, among the legendary strip of googie weirdness north of Boston, Kowloon’s Tiki paradise fits in well with it’s neighbors.
Kowloon was expanded in the early 1960’s, and partially remodeled in the 1980’s. The present day building looks like a huge pagoda, with a fifteen foot replica of the Hawaiian temple image Kukailimoku towering over the front door. The inside decor (by Oceanic Arts) contains several rooms: The Tiki Lagoon is just that, a lagoon surrounded by booths, with a large Tiki watching over it. Palm trees line the booths, which are built to look like Tiki Huts. The Luau Room has a stage and hosts entertainment. Tiki masks adorn the bamboo walls every eight feet or so. Off to the left is Volcano Bay, a room comprised entirely of half of a real schooner. A moving volcano mural on the wall is surrounded by very realistic palm trees. The Thai Grille is a more modern addition.
The tropical drink menu is quite extensive. The Fog Cutter comes in an Orchids of Hawaii Moai mug, the Pi Yi in a well-detailed pineapple cup. They use Island Oasis brand Daiquiri Mix, and Bacardi in their rum drinks. The Mai Tai, Scorpion, and Planters Punch are all served in the Orchids of Hawaii Ku R-74 style mug. At one point, Kowloon had a custom mug to keep, which vaguely resembled a Marquesian Tiki. Another design made for the Kowloon (and bearing their logo) was a hula girl mug, which appears to be a knock-off of the one previously seen at the Luau Hut. These are long gone, however.
The chow is good too, try Volcano Lychee Duck ("Sweet and Sour roast duck sautéed in fresh lychees”), or Flaming Ambrosia (“fried chicken in a pungent sauce with fruit served in a flaming shell of fresh pineapple").
Route 1, beginning about 10 miles north of Boston, is a treasure trove for urban archaeologists, kitsch lovers, and mid-century enthusiasts. Look for a huge T-Rex in a mini golf course, plenty of 1950’s motels with elaborate neon signs, the Leaning Tower of Pizza, The Ship (a restaurant in a schooner), The Hilltop Restaurant (with it’s 70-foot tall neon cactus - the biggest neon sign anywhere), The Golden Banana (a strip club!), and an exact replica of Beijing’s Weylu’s Imperial Palace. Twelve miles of tacky bliss.
King Tiki, 2 Bow St., Portsmouth, NH (603) 430-5227
King Tiki is chock full of some really amazing Tiki collectibles; owners Robert and Melissa Jasper opened the bar because their house was so full of Tiki stuff that they needed somewhere to show it off and/or store it. Although the couple are genuinely friendly and seriously into Tiki (and all things retro), their client base doesn’t seem to be very appreciative. Pabst Blue Ribbon and heavy metal Karaoke on Thursdays just don’t say ‘Tiki’.