Why: Southern California is ground zero for the mid-century phenomenon that Tiki became, and the concept is experiencing a serious revival.
What: Hollywood’s Don the Beachcomber inaugurated the Tiki bar concept way back in 1934. The movement inspired generations to wear Hawaiian shirts, decorate in faux-tropical kitsch and order flaming cocktails. Though the original Don the Beachcomber went the way of the Tail O’ the Pup, the Tonga Hut and a few others held on through the dark time of Tiki’s decline in the 1970s. Until a few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find a decent tropical rum drink from anywhere reputable.
But here we are, in a rebirth of Tiki, and if you want to experience a night of tiny umbrellas in a Polynesian paradise, look no further than the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood. Opened in 1958, the Tonga Hut offers an excellent Tiki-themed interior, a jaunty jukebox, devoted regulars, a wide-ranging list of classic tropical drinks and history — it’s Los Angeles’s oldest tiki bar still in operation. Look out for the Loyal Order of Drooling Bastards wall, which lists every person who has mastered the “Grog Log," a list of 78 classic exotic drinks, within a one-year time frame.