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The Polynesian (at The Pod Hotel), New York, NY (bar)

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Name:The Polynesian (at The Pod Hotel)
Street:400 West 42nd Street
City:New York


Opening delayed, but finally, on May 24th. It's not listed on the parent company's web site yet. I just saw this location on Monday, when I was in the neighborhood, but didn't know about the bar until today when I received an opening invitation from Brian Miller's mailing list. This is around the corner and a very short walk from The Foundry bar, Sardi's, Times Square, and Broadway. Tiki folks know Brian Miller from famous "Death & Company," "ZZ Clams," The Hukilau, and from various cocktail nights and events like "Tiki Mondays with Miller" in and around New York City.

If you visit, you can post your thoughts and impressions here. The Pod hotel is very Euro-styled, so I'm happy about the prospect of some polynesian / tropical decor to break up all the minimalist monotony which so many New York places embrace. The group does make comments about becoming "the best," and the press picks up on "over the top" stylings of the restaurant group, so this could turn out nice. But if the drinks alone are good, dang, then I will gladly embrace it on that basis alone. I believe Brian Miller's presence in this venue carries quite a bit of weight - he knows true tiki and loves tiki cocktails.

First, here's the invitation for the opening which is happily open to all.

Then a few articles about the new place.

From "cititour.com:""The Polynesian" is a new tiki bar from the Major Food Group located in the new Times Square Pod Hotel. 19 different cocktails and "tiki" drinks will be available, according to the New York Times, including one meant for sharing served in a huge clam shell on a cloud of dry ice.

From "ny.eater.com:"
Major Food Group Unleashes an Over-the-Top Tiki Bar in Midtown West Next Week
The Polynesian will have large format drinks and a balcony
by Serena Dai Apr 10, 2018, 1:24pm EDT

Major Food Group — the love-em-or-hate-em restaurant crew behind The Grill — will open its outrageous new Midtown West tiki bar next week, a Polynesian island-inspired spot with a balcony called The Polynesian.

The bar on the third floor of the new Times Square Pod Hotel, at 400 West 42nd St. near Ninth Avenue, embraces colorful cocktails and large-format drinks, including one in a fish bowl and one in a huge clamshell with dry ice, according to the Times. The drink menu here comes from Brian Miller, a ZZ’s Clam Bar alum and co-owner in the Polynesian who’s played a role in making tiki bars so popular.

Besides over-the-top beverages, the mural-bedecked space will also have a large balcony overlooking Midtown, fitting a total of 200 people inside and out. Food will include snacks like crab rangoon. “My idea was Trader Vic’s meets ‘Mad Men’ meets ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Miller tells the Times.

MFG also plans to open a location of Parm in the hotel on the ground floor. The Polynesian is the first tiki bar for the restaurant group, though ZZ’s Clam Bar has served tiki-esque drinks in the past. As with many MFG projects, the players are talking a big game here, with Miller telling the Times that “New York’s been waiting for it. And honestly, I feel like people have been waiting for me to do it.”

Whether or not it becomes “the best tiki bar in the world” as MFG’s Jeff Zalaznick says he wants, at the very least the Polynesian will be one of the more ambitious bars to open near Port Authority and Times Square, an area with more tourist traps than anything else. Stay tuned for more.

And from "nytimes.com:"
A Grand Tiki Bar for a Less-Than-Tropical Island, Manhattan

By Robert Simonson
April 10, 2018

Manhattan is an island. It sits at the northern end of New York Harbor. The bartender Brian Miller, who with Major Food Group is poised to open a sprawling tiki bar — in Midtown West, just a block from a bus depot with “port” in its name — wants you to remember that.

“I want to bring the Polynesian islands to the island of Manhattan,” Mr. Miller said. “Just because we live in an urban jungle doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate that we live on an island.”

The Polynesian, which will open the week of April 16 on the third floor of the Pod Hotel Times Square on West 42nd Street, is New York’s latest attempt to embrace the tiki-bar revival. Past bars, most of them short-lived, have been small, even cramped affairs. The Polynesian will not be like that: Like most undertakings by Major Food Group, which owns Carbone and Dirty French, it is a tad over the top.

“We are committed to making the Polynesian the best tiki bar in the world,” Jeff Zalaznick, a partner in Major Food Group, said in a statement, with typical restraint.

The 4,900-square-foot, L-shaped space will have sweeping views of the city on two sides, and a balcony that equals the interior in size and seating — in all, room for 200 people. A private room in the back, where Mr. Miller will keep his considerable stash of rare and vintage rums, will evoke the captain’s table on a ship.

The décor, by Vanessa Guilford, takes deep turquoise as its predominant color note, and includes large murals, teakwood floors, bamboo ceilings, a 30-foot-long lava-rock bar top, and cut-metal screens that evoke Polynesian masks.

It’s an expansive vision of tiki culture the likes of which New York has not seen since the days of Trader Vic’s and the Hawaiian Room of the Hotel Lexington. “New York’s been waiting for it,” Mr. Miller said. “And honestly, I feel like people have been waiting for me to do it.”

Mr. Miller, 47, is one of perhaps a half-dozen figures who spearheaded the recent tiki renaissance in the United States, and the only one without a bar. Instead, he has spread the aesthetic through an itinerant tropical party called “Tiki Mondays.” The event began in 2011 at the SoHo bar Lani Kai (since closed), and later put in time at the Gold Bar, Mother’s Ruin and Pouring Ribbons.

He worked at ZZ’s Clam Bar, Major Food’s pocket-size cocktail and raw bar in Greenwich Village, and in 2014, the partners asked him to pitch his idea for a bar. For the presentation, Mr. Miller had leis mailed from Hawaii, and brought in an act called the Hula Belly Sisters. It worked.

“My idea was Trader Vic’s meets ‘Mad Men’ meets ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Mr. Miller said. Food will include pu pu platters and what Major Food boasts will be a “best-of-class Crab Rangoon.”

The four-panel folding bar menu, modeled after Trader Vic’s, lists 19 cocktails, four large-format shared drinks (one is served in a fish bowl) and two virgin cocktails. Among them are a few originals Mr. Miller has popularized over the years, like the Double-Barrel Winchester, which employs four different gins to create a panoply of flavors; the Fiddler’s Green, a cross between two classic tiki drinks, the Blue Hawaiian and the Montego Bay, served from a slushie machine; and the Smokin’ Sarong, a mélange of Scotch, coconut, tea and honey.

Speaking of sarongs, Mr. Miller, who promises to be at the Polynesian every day for its first year, will wear one as host, just as he often did at “Tiki Mondays.”

“Everyone knows I will be in a sarong,” he said. “Sarongs will be optional for staff.”

The Polynesian, 400 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.

(Edited to go back and correct some weird phrases in my intro.)

[ Edited by: AceExplorer 2018-05-18 14:12 ]

Mahalo Ace. Very interesting-wish the drive was not so long

I will be in NYC next weekend and very much plan on going!
Will take plenty of photos, and drink as many drinks as my bank account allows (donations welcome, for research!)
Hoping for souvenir mugs!

Good article with lots of photos.

I'm surprised some of the tiki purists haven't started crapping all over this since it for sure isn't dark and moody. Plus, windows! I'm sometimes okay with windows, if it's view of the ocean/water (e.g. Trader Vic's Emeryville) and also am not always against more modern feel. This does look sterile, though. Hopefully it's better in person or when there are people there rather than empty restaurant shots.

On 2018-05-27 13:01, kevincrossman wrote:
I'm surprised some of the tiki purists haven't started crapping all over this since it for sure isn't dark and moody. Plus, windows! I'm sometimes okay with windows, if it's view of the ocean/water (e.g. Trader Vic's Emeryville) and also am not always against more modern feel. This does look sterile, though. Hopefully it's better in person or when there are people there rather than empty restaurant shots.

I think there's room for a bit of minimalism in the Hawaiian/Polynesian Colonial vein, which this seems to be capturing a bit of the spirit of. That style is also more airy, which you kinda' need windows for. I don't know if windows out on to downtown Manhattan really help the sense of escape, but could this be a growth of a kind of "unironic" Tiki among people who are too self-conscious about Disneyland-style escapism but still appreciative of tropical decor and flavours?

Alright! I was able to go Saturday afternoon very shortly after they opened. The staff were all still getting used to everything, but were incredibly friendly. Decor-wise, they place is very sparse, save for a few lovely paintings. On the opposite wall from the bar there is just some huge blank wall space that is just asking for some nice big carved wall hangings. (Also maybe a fountain on the rooftop deck?).
The drinks were really good and all house originals (interestingly, no Mai Tai on the menu). At $15-16 for the regular drinks, and $22+ for the stronger ones, the price is what I'd expect. Music trended towards slightly reggae-ish covers of songs. The food, while good, was ridiculously overpriced. At $18 for Crab Rangoon, I expected at least 8 pieces, but what came were four small triangles, and the other foot on the menu was roughly the same portions. For a place that has as much seating as they do, the food program is very small.
Overall I enjoyed the place and would consider it a great place to take some friends for a drink or two after dinner and before going someplace else.
Also, they are not currently selling any mugs, but I was told they will revisit that in a month or two.

Excellent report, thanks for sharing! It's a big win for tiki. There are more bars per capita in NYC than anywhere else in the US, so they have to stay on top of their game. I paid around $18/drink at most of the high-end places I visited in NYC, and the tiered pricing is appealing. Let's see if things change over the next few months. I expect to be visiting again soon and this is on my must-do list.

Great report @DixonAlibi

An article from 6/5/2018.

There are no TV screens inside the Polynesian, the giant new tiki bar that opened three stories above Times Square over Memorial Day weekend. That means no news crawls, no Fox & Friends, no jaw-gritting headlines—nothing to break the illusion of a rum-fueled tropical oasis.

The Polynesian’s splashy opening signals the arrival of more than just another themed bar serving $15 drinks in skull-head tiki mugs. It’s the manifestation of a certain mood in America: the escalating need for escapism. (The over-the-top drinks are just a bonus.)

On opening night, the Friday heading into the holiday weekend, aloha-shirted tiki enthusiasts queued in the lobby of the Pod Times Square hotel, awaiting the grand unveiling. It was an ironic moment that echoed one from almost 30 years earlier, when another sprawling tiki bar inside a Midtown Manhattan hotel closed, ushering in what would be the end of tiki in New York for decades to come. That was when Donald Trump closed Trader Vic’s, a tiki bar in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, which Trump then owned, deriding it as “tacky.” Today, the tumult surrounding the Trump administration has helped reinvigorate the tiki machine.

The original tiki movement grew out of a similar sense of unease, says Martin Cate, a tiki historian and the proprietor of the tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove, in San Francisco. Don the Beachcomber, the tropical-themed café in Hollywood that set the template for the modern-day tiki bar, opened in the 1930s, in the middle of the Great Depression, Cate notes. “It offered a sense of a escape,” he says. “It was an imagined South Pacific, a transportive journey outside of the Depression.”

America’s tiki obsession hit its golden era in the postwar years, continuing into the 1950s and ’60s. After World War II, servicemen carried home stories of faraway Pacific lands. Among those returning was the author James Michener, a former naval reservist, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for his book Tales of the South Pacific. Rewritten as a musical, South Pacific became first a Broadway hit, then a movie sensation in 1958. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state in 1959. Two years later, Elvis Presley released Blue Hawaii, setting off a fresh wave of enthusiasm for island culture. And thanks to developments in commercial aviation, more Americans were able to visit the actual South Pacific. In particular, tourism to Hawaii thrived.

Tiki bars continued to provide a sense of escape, but during this economic-boom time, they acted as “a dramatic counterpoint to the go-go sense of progress, big money, chrome and steel and future and space age,” Cate explains. “Maybe I want to loosen my tie and forget about the rat race. Or the flip side of all that advancement—the constant threat of nuclear war that loomed over America as this existential threat throughout the 1950s.” It’s not a coincidence that Sven Kirsten, who wrote The Book of Tiki, called tiki bars “the emotional bomb shelter of the Atomic Age.”

This all sounds eerily familiar: Tensions with North Korea have put the threat of nuclear war back in the headlines. Study after study shows that Americans feel overworked and chronically stressed. Meanwhile, smartphones make tuning out work obligations and worrisome news harder; for many, “out of office” no longer equals “off duty.” Added to that, social media amplify the chatter of headlines and arguments, often churning up anxiety and discontent. The trappings have changed, but the “go-go sense” remains. “Maybe we’re not in the recession anymore,” Cate says. “But we’re back to those original feelings.”

No wonder tiki bars are booming again.

Yet tiki—a catchall term for mid-century-inspired homage to all things tropical and vaguely Polynesian—has evolved in recent years. For one thing, tiki has gone from being an appropriation of actual Polynesian culture to becoming an adaptation of that earlier appropriation. (More on that in a moment.) For another, the scrappy and kitschy are increasingly giving way to the luxe and well funded—in other words, 21st-century tiki is escapism, capitalized anew.

A growing number of deep-pocketed restaurant groups now back successful tiki enterprises. In Orlando and Anaheim, California, Walt Disney World and Disneyland each have a Trader Sam’s outpost, a relatively kid-friendly take on the tropical-bar concept. Chicago has Three Dots and a Dash, a sprawling space in the downtown business district, as well as Lost Lake, a more intimate bar in the hip Logan Square neighborhood. But Tiki bars don’t have to be high-end productions to transport patrons from daily worries. Most major cities have seen new tiki bars launched within the past few years, from Latitude 29 in New Orleans to Hidden Harbor in Pittsburgh and Hale Pele in Portland, Oregon. Even cities that don’t have tiki bars often have popular tiki nights hosted within existing establishments.

Among big-ticket tiki, the Times Square Polynesian is the latest—and arguably most expensive—example, launched under the umbrella of Major Food Group, which runs such concepts as The Grill/The Pool in the former Four Seasons space, ZZ’s Clam Bar, and Carbone. With the exception of the Trader Sam franchise, the Polynesian, launched within a hotel, also seems the most explicitly targeted to tourist traffic.

It’s a particularly lavish, theatrical experience. The 200-seat indoor/outdoor space features an intricately carved wooden bar topped with lava stone glazed an oceanic turquoise. A “pirate room” is secreted away in the back, centered around an enormous round table topped with a pirate’s map of Polynesia and illuminated by an oversize, gilded hanging lamp shaped like an inverted cocktail coupe. It’s not hard to imagine the space for corporate meetings; it’s even easier if you imagine all the corporate honchos wearing eye patches.

Adding to the drama, Brian Miller, a co-owner, bartender, and self-declared “pirate,” presides over the operation, cutting a Jack Sparrow–esque figure in his trademark sarong and tricornered hat. According to the Mariners’ Museum, pirates are associated with the Caribbean in the late 17th and 18th centuries, not Polynesia, adding to the tropical mash-up.

The revelers at the Polynesian may be more interested in rum drinks than a history lesson, yet allegations of cultural appropriation have long dogged the tiki industry. Tiki was, after all, a key export of the tourist culture built upon the stolen Kingdom of Hawaii, which was a by-product of Hawaii’s transformation from sovereign nation to U.S. territory to state. Is a respectful approach even possible? Yes, insists Shelby Allison, a co-owner of Lost Lake, in Chicago: Today’s tiki is “more conscientious and more considerate,” she says. “We’re able to leave behind the old tropes that were problematic in tiki bars of yore.”

Others, including Miller, hope to sidestep implications altogether: “I don’t want to get into arguments. I don’t want to talk about cultural appropriation. I’m not looking to fight,” Miller says. “We’re not about that ... I want to bring tiki to more and more people. We’re just trying to honor the culture and shine a light on tiki cocktails.”

For Miller, the Polynesian is the culmination of several years of hosting semisecret tiki nights at venues across Brooklyn and Manhattan. The cocktail menu features some of his original cocktails, such as the derelict, a potent, banana-spiked sipper featuring a quartet of rums; the playlist, which on opening night bounced from reggae to Run-DMC, is also his. “Hopefully down the line we are the greatest tiki bar in the world,” he told me.

Although the Polynesian-branded glassware isn’t (yet) available for sale, it’s a reminder that merchandising also is part of the tiki-bar economy. For example, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the proprietor of Latitude 29, has his own line of tiki merch on the website Cocktail Kingdom. Similarly, Chicago’s Lost Lake sells mugs, T-shirts, even “garnish kits” for decking out cocktails at home. The mai-tai mug is a particularly strong seller, Lost Lake’s Allison reports. “Mugs are a huge source of revenue for tiki bars,” Allison notes. It also helps offset the cost of theft, she says, a problem many tropical-themed bars face, thanks to patrons seeking souvenirs. “No one is stealing coupe glasses at Death & Co,” a speakeasy-style bar in NYC, “but at least five ceramic pieces walk out my door every Saturday night.”

Although it’s difficult to pin an exact number on how much money is spent on chasing escapism through tiki bars; conferences such as Tiki Oasis, in San Diego, and the Hukilau, in Fort Lauderdale; or exotica music and loud floral-print caftans, it’s abundantly clear that tiki is in yet another golden age. Americans are still finding refuge in spaces that bring the pageantry of flaming cocktails to the forefront, and push TV screens and the ever-frenzied news cycle deliberately out of sight.

Of course, nothing is stopping patrons from pulling up Politico or CNN on their phone. But a quick glance around the Polynesian reveals that everyone’s too busy Instagramming blue drinks in fishbowls to check the latest headlines anyway.

KARA NEWMAN reviews spirits for Wine Enthusiast magazine. She is the author of NIGHTCAP: More Than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening.

Here's another article from Liquor.com which was posted on June 13th, 2018. This one includes a number of references to Jeff Berry, his research and books, and the downstream influence The Bum had on Brian Miller. There are also some more photos with views I haven't seen before. The Polynesian is definitely more minimalist than what we're used to in a "traditional" tiki establishment. This seems to be very much in line with the design aesthetic of the host hotel - The Pod NYC.


The liver must be punished! :drink:

Hearn posted on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 6:54 AM

"many are not willing to go FULL tiki"

I'm sure the drinks are fantastic and I truly hope this place is succesful...but lets not fool ourselves...I'd argue that the design of the place (while tasteful and well executed) is far from "FULL tiki".

That said: it is far, far better than the alternative (no tiki bars in NYC).

[ Edited by: Hearn 2018-06-18 06:54 ]

With Brian Miller's involvement, regardless of how the interior is done, you're darn sure going to get some outstanding drinks in this establishment. That alone is a huge win for both tiki and non-tiki aficionados. And the hotels in that area do a huge volume of business year-round. This is likely to increase awareness of tiki and will draw more people in just like it did us poor souls... ha!

I just wish The Polynesian had opened two weeks earlier when I spent 6 or 7 nights in a hotel around the corner.

Hearn posted on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 7:40 AM

Totally agree (I guess I sounded pretty negative in that last post...not my intention)

I just like to see flotsam and jetsam in the ceilings! Ha!


I'll happily go negative on this one: Good drinks are not a win for tiki culture.

The Northeast is seeing a huge increase in the number of bars offering tiki drinks. Many (definitely not all) serve Beachbum Berry documented recipes. That's all good, but tiki shouldn't be just about the drinks. Being able to order a Suffering Bastard at a steakhouse does not make it a tiki bar.

The problem is that the word "tiki" has lost it's meaning. Most people East of the Mississippi will tell you tiki is a reference to Jamaica or some other Caribbean island where tiki torches are used.

If the bar doesn't offer any form of escapism other than getting drunk, I think there is a real problem with calling it tiki.

I was soooo hopeful for The Polynesian. I've had Brian Miller's drinks. The guy has been to the Hukilau more than once, so there there was real promise here. I assume the investors got scared off. Regardless, I went from having a go-bag in the car to putting this one off until I have other reason to be in Manhattan.


I visited the Polynesian with my partner on June 8th. We sampled 5 drinks and 2 appetizers. EXPENSIVE.

Lovely menu with nods to tiki bar history throughout.

Menu has enough drinks to keep you busy. Every drink we had was outstanding.

We had the Tangoroa, Vaya Kon Tiki, Kamehameha, Mistaken Identity, and the Smokin' Sarong. My favorite was the Kamehameha. The ceramic mugs were all neat. I asked about purchasing a mug, and they said none are for sale yet, but will be in the future.

We had the coconut shrimp and the fries. Both were good, but ridiculously overpriced.

Service was terrific. They gave us complementary shots of some kind of tropical cooler. We ate inside for the Polynesian ambience. I wouldn't call it tiki in the main areas. The bar itself was more interesting, but we couldn't get seats there. Music was 60s lounge music, jazz, and reggae. Not too loud. No televisions.

The crowd was mostly young, Manhattan types. Maybe some tourists. Even for being on 42nd street, the bar's just enough past Times Square to be relatively hidden, especially since you have to take an elevator inside the hotel to get there.

I wore a vintage aloha shirt. I wasn't alone. Several other patrons were wearing aloha shirts, including one gentlemen who had a Mai Kai shirt.

While looking around, I ran into Brian Miller, who I shook hands with and congratulated for opening the bar.

My partner and I enjoyed watching the other patrons' reactions to the drinks. She pointed out to me that a lot of the younger people in the crowd were ordering the rum and coke - a travesty IMO when there were so many creative and well re-imagined drinks on the menu. It's all the same price.

We plan to return at some point with friends so that we can share some of the large format drinks.

In all, I enjoyed the experience, and we will return, though I don't think we'll be regulars because of the prices.

On 2018-06-18 13:24, Pelorus wrote:
I visited the Polynesian with my partner on June 8th. We sampled 5 drinks and 2 appetizers. EXPENSIVE.

I'm thankful that people are reporting back on this place. And I'm glad you were able to try a handful of drinks, you know, for science. The fact that they even put the rum and coke on the menu was weird when I first saw it, and even weirder that so many people are ordering it.


I'm thankful that people are reporting back on this place. And I'm glad you were able to try a handful of drinks, you know, for science. The fact that they even put the rum and coke on the menu was weird when I first saw it, and even weirder that so many people are ordering it.

I would hope their thinking is like that of a craft beer bar which stocks domestic-like lagers for patrons unfamiliar with other flavors. The rum and coke is tasty and could be a gateway to further experience. If not, those patrons are still subsidizing more tiki for the rest of us!


I've been here twice. The drinks are excellent, the mugs are very cool, but I really wish it was the full-on Tiki experience. If it was I'd probably be there a lot more often.

[ Edited by: donhonyc 2018-09-13 19:12 ]

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