A new bar from the Horsefeather team has crash-landed at 718 14th Street in Duboce Triangle. At least that’s the effect conjured by the decor at Last Rites, where the back bar is built from an actual airplane fuselage and bar stools are made from airplane seats (they’re surprisingly comfortable).
Crawling with dense, tropical foliage, the scene calls to mind an unexpected detour to a Gilligan’s Island of drinking — but the bar’s more ominous details, like back booths flanked by nine-foot skulls, hint the trip was as final as the bar’s name suggests.
Partners Justin Lew and Ian Scalzo, who spun off from the Future Bars group (Bourbon & Branch, Tradition, and many more) are pegging their new spot as “Polynesian Noir” rather than Tiki, the style of escapist fantasy made famous at Bay Area institutions like Trader Vic’s and the Tonga Room. Compared to the classics, Last Rites’ moodier version of paradise steers away from kitsch (and the more problematic appropriations for which Tiki is sometimes criticized).
“What we really wanted to do was make sure we were staying away from Margaritaville type shit,” says Lew. “That’s one reason we went darker.”
Speaking of Margaritaville, on one visit to that establishment, Lew remembers seeing a band play the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm” by request. It was great — until management asked them to stop (and presumably return to Jimmy Buffet). Last Rites, for its part, has a playlist of “beach goth” music.
James Lagoc (of Nopa, Bi-Rite, and Horsefeather), designer/builder Brian Sullivan, and Lew himself designed the interiors: He’s got a background in graphic design and helped create immersive bars like Whitechapel. Something of a perfectionist, Lew emphasizes that he’s still tinkering with final design details.
Behind the bar, Susan Eggette (previously of Alameda Tiki oasis Forbidden Island) and Sevan Araneda (Horsefeather, Tupper and Reed) are thoughtfully updating classic Tiki cocktails. The Last Rites Mai Tai (aged agricole rhum, Jaimaican rum, dry curacao, lime cashew orgeat), for example, blends two rums to recreate what “Trader” Vic Bergeron would likely have used when he invented the drink, while cashew orgeat replaces almond for a new twist.
Another drink, the Kali MA’s Doom (gin, pisco, melon/sauvignon blanc syrup, grapefruit, lime, vanilla cream, and toasted marshmallow) references one inspiration for the adventurous spirit of the bar: Indiana Jones. And rather than classic Tiki mugs, Lew painstakingly sanded down bottles into glasses to create the effect of found sea glass (so don’t drop them or steal them).
The rum list is 150 bottles long, and bowls — one of them flammable — are available for groups. But be warned: Some overproof drinks on the menu are limited to two per person — lest they really become a customer’s last.
Last Rites is softly open for drinks Monday to Sunday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., with a grand opening of July 1.