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House of Foong Lin: Washington, DC's newest Tiki Bar

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Name: House of Foong Lin
Type: Restaurant with a great Tiki Bar
Street:4613 Willow Lane
City: Bethesda (on the Metro, just outside Washington, DC)
State: MD
Zip: 20815
country: USA
Phone: 301-656-3427
Status: operational and newly Tiki renovated

A Chinese restaurant which has long had a solid and superior Tiki cocktail menu which has completely renovated their lounge to Tiki (summer 2018)

[ Edited by: Dr. Coruba 2018-10-11 08:36 ]

[ Edited by: Dr. Coruba 2018-10-11 08:38 ]

This restaurant was just featured in a Event posting
and this is an after visit wrap-up.

A partial disclaimer here. Their previous place, Foong Lin, which closed last September after 26 years (the building is being torn down), was a particular favorite of mine. I got to know the owner and the manager very well and consider them friends. When they re-opened recently in an new location as House of Foong Lin, I helped them with things like their new logo.

As for the March 9 gathering, 8 Rummys showed up for drinks and a nosh, not too bad for a very last minute invite.

We had most of the bar, most of the night. I like the L shaped bar which is so much better than a long bar where the people on the ends are cut off from the folks in the middle. The restaurant isn't tiki at all, but they have these cool hanging lights over the bar which gives sitting at the bar a mid-century mod vibe. (next time I'll take pictures)

They have done very well with their tiki drinks. Mai Tais, Navy Grogs, Scorpions, and Hurricanes were tried and shared hits. The first round of Sneaky Tikis were a hair too sweet for some, but to their credit, the bartender was open to a bit of tweaking (in this case, swapping out the Cruzan Light for a 2nd shot of Coruba). A HoFL off-menu drink choice, the Izquierdo, (the invention of one of our cohorts) was very good as well.

Speaking of Mai Tais...
The house Mai Tai, which is what you will get if you just ask for a Mai Tai, is a good, solid Mai Tai, made with with a house mix (similar to the TV Concentrate). However, if you like something much closer to a Trader Vic's Mai Tai made from scratch, ask for a "Mai Tai '44". Their Mai Tai '44 kicks it up a notch with a better rum (Coruba Dark along with a gold rum) and they use Orange Curacao and Orzata (a type of Orgeat). In my opinion, a very fine version of a Mai Tai. If you visit, I suggest you try both versions and compare them yourself.

Food was another big plus. Unless you count Sweet and Sour Chicken as Polynesian, this is a straight up classic Chinese menu. But a very, very good one. Like the original Foong Lin before it, imo, it has some of the best Chinese food in the entire Washington region (and I'm including DC's Chinatown). The Chef/Owner, Fu (yes, that is his name) has upped his game, especially for those who like spicier choices, and everyone particularly enjoyed their dishes. Btw, they still do the classic wooden Pu-Pu platter with the flaming hibachi in the middle - which is now a pretty rare sighting in the Washington area.

On the downside, we picked the absolute peak dinner time for our visit. For those of us who got there at 7 pm, the restaurant was slammed. Not a single empty seat in the place and a line out the door. Unfortunately for our visit, they only had one bartender, and she had to answer the phone, seat people, AND deal with take-out. Waits just to order drinks were long and getting them was even longer. Fortunately, after about 45-minutes, things eased up a bit and bar service was much better. The bartender (who is also the restaurant manager) did slip people in our party some free drinks to try to compensate for the rough start to our evening.

Lesson learned. If you want to really enjoy the bar, stay away from the peak dinning room times (for now).

Hopefully they will find a way to have a second bartender for their peak times which would take care of this problem. I'm willing to give them a wait and see on the service issue because they are still staffing and working out the kinks.

Sadly for Tikiphiles, Washington DC has lost every bit of what Tiki it once had. However, there are a handful of bars which still practice the art of the Tiki drink. I would rate House of Foong Lin as far, far superior to the average Chinese restaurant for their food, and especially their Tiki drinks. I've been to places with great Chinese food but disappointing drinks, and vice versa. But to find a place with great drinks and great food is pretty rare in my opinion. This is one of those rare places. Worth a visit if you are passing through the Washington, DC area, and worth frequenting if you happen to live in the area.

Iscah posted on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 7:35 AM

Met up with Dr. Coruba and several other folks yesterday evening for drinks and a bite and I have to say, the drinks are some of the best I've had almost anywhere. Proper navy grogs, scorpions, planters punches, fogcutters. Every single one of the recipes tasted spot on to me. The mai tai '44 is a nice twist on an old favorite-- tweak on the recipe but no points off for flavor. Had I not been told what was in it, I wouldn't have been able to guess that it wasn't a Vic's recipe.

No tiki decor, but some drinks do come in tiki mugs, so that's a huge plus! I'll definitely be putting this place on a must-go-back list.

Loads of thanks to Dr. Coruba for the intro to a great restaurant!


I look forward to making it there the next time I'm in the Baltimore area.

On 2013-04-23 03:56, Hale Tiki wrote:
I look forward to making it there the next time I'm in the Baltimore area.

just a quick note, it's in Bethesda, which is a suburb of DC - Baltimore is about an hour away :)

had our inaugural visit to HOFL yesterday, and was very impressed! The Black Magic and the Navy Grogs were great - pro tip - we asked for some additional coffee liqueur to get the Black Magic up to Mai Kai quality. The flaming puu puu platter, the five flavor chicken, and the flaming fried ice cream were all very good. I only wish the fried ice cream had a little more ice cream in it :)

Oh, I also tried the Doctor Foo - that is a very good cocktail as well :D

(Full disclosure: I, along with a cohort of DC area Tiki people, have been doing a weekly Tiki night at House of Foong Lin since 2014)

This is an update to a location first posted about in 2013.
While House of Foong Lin has long been worthy of a drop in by anyone looking for a decent Tiki drink in DC, until its recent renovation it would have been a disappointment tiki decor-wise. I am very happy to report that the owner has stepped up big time and decided to do a complete and major Tiki renovation of the bar and lounge. In addition to the decor, they have Tiki torches outside that they light up every night, the staff now wears Tiki shirts all the time, AND they play a great selection (more than 12 hours worth) of Exotica and Tiki themed music all the time they are open. The results are terrific and and instantly puts House of Foong Lin as a spot not to be missed if you are in the DC area.

A bonus is that they still do a Tiki Thirstday event every Thursday from 5 pm to closing featuring a rotating selection of Tiki classic drinks on special for only $6 each which is usually very well attended by the area Tiki community.

Before photos:

And here are some photos after this summer's Tiki renovation:

The new photos were taken one afternoon recently. I hope to post better evening shots where the lighting and ambiance really shines through.

A year after the big Tiki makeover, the Washington Post named House of Foong Lin one of the Best Tiki Bars in the DC area.

Nice! Good to see it's still kicking. We were just talking about Dr. Coruba the other day behind the bar!


For those visiting DC, the ongoing Aloha Night continues every Thursday - there are even loaner shirts available should you find yourself without suitable attire! Drink specials ensue, along with good and friendly locals ready to welcome you into the Ohana.

The fact that some of the patrons were allowed to tikify the bar of HoFL still floors me - the only community-sourced tiki bar I've ever heard of!

Ask for the Mai Tai 44 and the Five Flavor Chicken when you go... and ask Miss Ling which of her incredible desserts are available.

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