Longitude, which closed after three years this spring, is passing the tiki torch to a new crew at its former Downtown Oakland location. But where that bar was somewhat restrained in its decor, The Kon-Tiki will be anything but, says Christ Aivaliotis, who is opening the bar with partner Matthew Reagan.
“They did a lot of great stuff [at Longitude], so it was a good canvas that was already primed,” the new owner says. “There’s a lot of old decor we’re going to keep, but we’re going to fill the space up... Our intention is to kinda overdo it, as best as we can.”
To make that happen, the team recently took a pilgrimage to Oceanic Arts, a Tiki depot outside of Los Angeles. And with a big new haul of decorations, The Kon-Tiki has scheduled its grand opening for November 11th.
Aivaliotis, who wrote the drinks menu, developed his cocktail skills at Oakland’s Flora, a seminal East Bay cocktail bar where he worked with the likes of Thad Vogler (Bar Agricole). He partnered up with Troy Bayless to form the Wizard Oil Co., consulting on drinks for top restaurants like Mourad and Duende. For Hawker Fare’s San Francisco location, the duo developed a flight of tiki cocktails strong enough to stand up to chef James Syhabout’s flavorful Thai Issan food. And upstairs, they created Holy Mountain, a popular tucked-away cocktail bar.
The Kon-Tiki also has a full kitchen, helmed by former Hawker Fare Oakland chef Manuel Bonilla. Food can be a bit of a challenge for tiki bars, Aivaliotis admits, but he and Bonilla want to have fun with it.
“What’s funny about tiki places is it’s such a bizarre lack of uniform vision.” The decor is Polynesian, the rum is Caribbean, and, as at spots like The Tonga Room in the Fairmont Hotel, the food is Chinese and/or Hawaiian. Tiki guru Trad’r Vic invented the crab rangoon out of whole cloth, Aivaliotis points out — so naturally, he insisted that Bonilla put it on the menu. The chef acquiesced, but he’s deconstructed it as crab rangoon dip. The whole cheeky menu is below.
When The Kon-Tiki opens at 347 14th Street, hours will be Tuesday to Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday to Sunday until 1 a.m., with the kitchen open until last call