Tiki Central / Locating Tiki
Shore Leave, Boston, MA (restaurant)
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I've been to Shore Leave a couple of times now. Both experiences very good. Drinks are exceptional. If you believe drinks are what make a tiki bar, stop reading here.
I ran the menu and got one fail. It was immediately swapped out. The menu consists only of their own recipes, but they honor all cocktail requests. Classic tiki drinks are made correctly and are looked-up in the bar library of the bartender is unsure.
Beer and wine are limited. Rum selection is large. Other liquors limited somewhat to what is necessary to build tiki drinks. Whiskey and gin, for example have only a couple offerings. Wine is red or white. Many people order well drinks on a Friday or Saturday.
Bao are very good as is the duck if you have 4-6 people. Most of the menu is appetizer style. You can easily make a meal out of small plates. The fact that they have food at all is outstanding; although, it is expensive.
I had exceptional service. There are no waiters, only bartenders. Everyone can speak intelligently about drinks and tiki culture. This eliminates ever hearing "I'll have to ask the bartender."
I put an asterisk in because I don't have any experience being there when it is slammed. Things could go sideways, but the place is laid out well they have a surprisingly large staff.
All seats are reserved and are first come first served. Put your name in with the hostess and they will get you when seats open up at the bar. No hovering required. Very civilized.
Shore Leave is a great bar room. Maybe even a 10, but it is almost completely devoid of tiki. There are in-fact, no tikis. The lighting level is low, but unimaginative. Music is diverse and generally good with multiple playlists to match the energy level, but no exotica, Hawaiian, surf or anything else you might identify as tiki. There are no televisions.
Tiki elements include:
That's it. No carved wood, tapa cloth or anything of a mysterious or exotic nature. I found this most disappointing because they missed a real opportunity here: Shore Leave is a basement space with a speakeasy-feel entrance. This could have been a tiki wonderland.
Not a tiki bar.
Harsh, I know. But being a great bar just makes it a great bar. If they changed the drink menu, no one would ever mistake Shore Leave for a tiki bar. No matter how much we might want it to be.
Doug, thanks for posting the in-depth review. I have a good friend in Boston who was just last week asking about local “tiki” establishments and aside from Kowloon, I had nothing. Looks like I still have nothing else, but I wasn’t aware of Shore Leave and will pass this info on to her as she will still hold high appreciation for the top notch craft Cocktails.
We enjoyed a dinner and drinks at Tiki Rock, which we came across last summer when staying just down the street near Faneuil Hall. May or may not be a TIKI DESTINATION depending on one's criteria, but we had a great time there and they do have some modern-ish tiki decor.
Thanks so much for the detailed review, Tiki Doug. I had high hopes for any new tiki location to the Boston area, but no tiki atmosphere or music playing overhead would have to be a dealbreaker for me. I'll now shelve it for a "if I'm in the city" pop-in...
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