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Tiki Central / General Tiki

If only my dad had sprung for that kiddie umbrella drink all those years ago…

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What was the moment that drew you into a lifetime of tiki obsession? After enough rounds of Mai-tai induced self-analysis, I wonder if my life would be different if my dad had just sprung for the price of the kiddie tiki drink all those years ago (way more than I want to admit) at the Wok restaurant when we were getting Chinese food. The Wok was not a pure tiki place, but like many in the Northeast, a Chinese place that had fully embraced the tiki drink menu and experiential element of immersive exotic decor, experiential sterno pu-pu platters, etc. Is my obsession a result of him saying no to the kiddie umbrella drink, or a pure fascination with the rest of the experience. I guess I’ll never know, but I wonder if there is an alternate reality where he says yes and as a result I don’t consider a pilgrimage to the Tonga Room a necessary part of any northern California visit and I don’t rank Beachbum Berry among my favorite authors. What was your tiki moment?


Interesting question Conn-tiki. Unfortunately I didn't even have your childhood experience of those Chinese restaurants that flirted with Tiki. We had Chinese eateries of course but they did not do Tiki at all. My own infatuation with Tiki came from my childhood escapist dreaming about "exotic" locations whilst growing up on an inland rural location. (Cold winters etc.) Seeing the movie "South Pacific" really fanned my youthful interests and then later travel around the Pacific allowed me to amass a collection of artifacts and flesh out what by then I had come to realise was the Tiki movement. Yes, perhaps its heyday was long over, but it still felt right for me, as it obviously does for others here on TC. And like you, I too wonder what if things had been different? What if I'd grown up in say a tropical location, would I feel the same today, .....or have a "western" themed bar now?

[ Edited by TIKIGIKI on 2023-03-01 18:54:50 ]


As someone who is also from a cold enough climate that the weather is measured in references to a rats behind or witch’s bosom, I wondered if that is also a factor in my obsession. Probably for me, but that doesn’t explain the amazing proliferation of tiki in Southern California.


Where I grew up the cold was measured by a brass monkey's lack of a couple of anatomical features! Brass_Monkey SoCal was probably trying to pretend it was actually "tropical", but I still say Tiki works best where the climate was anything but! Escapism!

[ Edited by TIKIGIKI on 2023-03-01 21:48:50 ]

Growing up I didn't even have that exposure. I watched Gilligan's Island and the Brady Bunch go to Hawaii but tiki never registered as anything that existed in the past. There was a DtB, TV and even a Dobbs House Luau in Houston, a city we visited on occasion, but my folks were strictly meat-and-potatoes people who viewed any other type of food with suspicion as potentially lethal. I was 17 before I tasted even basic Chinese food! By this point I was vaguely aware that such things as tiki mugs and even tiki bars had existed, and recognized the names Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, but that was about it.

Fast forward to 2014 when we ended up buying a house (quite by accident) that had a pool surrounded by palm trees and a 65' covered patio. In the summer of 2016 as we were floating in the pool, The Wife suggested we needed a "tiki bar" to complete the picture. So I built a stand-alone bar with bamboo and thatch and thought I was something special for the next six months. Then, in my arrogance, I went online to see if anyone was as cool as me with a home tiki bar and found Tiki Central. I've been falling down a very deep and twisty rabbit hole ever since, with no bottom in sight.


I think my first exposure to Tiki was living with my parents in Kuwait City back in the 60s and eating at the Trader Vic's in the Hilton Hotel. I would always order Baba au Rhum for dessert, which was served at tableside and lit on fire (and contained actual rum) so it wasn't a difficult transition to go to flaming cocktails when I eventually became legally old enough to drink.

1958 I was born, 3 years later a Tiki restaurant opened half a mine away with big carved Tikis out front. So as long as I can remember, there were Tikis in my landscape.
1970 (about) I got my first pocket knife and started carving Tiki masks from palm fronds but never developed a talent for it.
1975 or 76 I got a job as a dishwasher at that same restaurant.
2003 my wife and I went to Hawaii and it inspired me to carve a couple of 3 foot Tiki's when I got home.
2008 my wife developed cancer and was undergoing chemo therapy. I decided to "Tikify" the patio using my 2 Tikis as a starting point. Named Headhunter Harbor, the idea was to make a relaxing place for my wife to recuperate. I joined Tiki Central and found my tribe. A bunch of caring, helpful, and somewhat crazy people. Unfortunately, cancer got the best of my wife and she passed in 2011
2014 I reconnected with the daughter of the Tiki restaurant owner and we married. She has Tiki in her blood so she lets me go wild in our patio, The Pele Bar at Barefoot Bay

MrFab posted on Thu, Mar 2, 2023 10:38 PM

I said elsewhere here:

I'm a veteran LA punk New Waver (or is that New Wave punker?) and I recall local college stations and hipster friends getting into exotica by around '87. apart from reruns of old movies/shows that we'd grown up watching, we also remember our parents/older relatives taking us to Polynesian-style restaurants, having backyard luaus (mom in her mumu, dad in his aloha shirt, Don Ho on the stereo, etc) and were just continuing the LA suburban lifestyle, albeit with a more post-modern self-consciousness.

It’s a very deep hole. Every time I think I reached bottom, I realize I’m just standing on a ledge with a long way left to go and no end in sight. 😂

Mike, condolences and congratulations. I, for one, enjoy the heck out of the builds you share.


I am so sorry for your loss and so happy to hear about (and see pictures from) phase 2 of your life. Thanks for sharing.

"It’s a very deep hole. Every time I think I reached bottom, I realize I’m just standing on a ledge with a long way left to go and no end in sight."
Isn't that the truth! LOL

Prikli Pear and Conn-tiki thank you <3 We are the sum of our experiences. Some of those experiences I would not have chosen for myself but I'm happy where I am

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