Former speakeasy-style Tenderloin bar Tradition has lurched back to life as Zombie Village, revamped by the Future Bars group (Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse, et al.). The new destination at 441 Jones is a follow up to the group’s last Tiki bar, Pagan Idol, which opened in 2016. It’s also spearheaded by Daniel “Doc” Parks, a serious Tiki enthusiast who’s studied the mid-century origins of the rum-fueled escapist fantasy.
Zombie Village — which opened quietly in December and celebrated with a ribbon cutting last week — is indeed village-sized, and divided into three areas. There’s a main, thatched bar under simulated stars, a candlelit cave in the back, and an upstairs loft (ascend past fake banyan trees) with a second bar dubbed “Doc’s Voodoo Lounge.” Back downstairs, eight Tiki huts of various sizes can be reserved online for semi-private drinking.
Zombie Village rides a wave of current enthusiasm for elaborate Tiki bars — “there’s undeniably a Tiki resurgence going on,” says Parks — while referencing the genre’s roots in the Bay Area. The name nods to defunct Oakland Tiki Bar Skipper Kent’s Zombie Village, which rivaled the original Trader Vic’s across the street.
“With Pagan Idol, we’re upholding that classic mid-century Tiki bar aesthetic of Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber — historic figures we’re paying homage to. And so, for Zombie Village, we wanted to do another Tiki hero, [Skipper Kent].”
Zombie Village’s drinks menu is longer than the one at Pagan Idol, with more departures from the classics. “We definitely went a little more progressive here, having some things that are a step outside of Tiki, but still relevant to that tropical vibe,” says Parks.
Yes, there are zombies here — a potent concoction of rums — but new cocktails like the Coco Pandan are already shaping up to be new favorites: That’s white rums from the Caribbean, coconut, and fresh pandan garnished with a lychee and coconut popsicle.
“I think it’s great to see this whole tropical escapist idea resurge, especially post cocktail renaissance,” says parks: At the outset, Tiki bartenders like Don the Beachcomber were squeezing fresh juices and blending their own rums, but over the years, corn syrup and cheaper products diluted the drinks. “That’s why you have folks thinking Tiki is sugary cocktails, which is not the case at all these days.”
It took a village of Tiki artisans — there’s a whole community — to create the new bar. Artist Ivan Mora was Parks’ chief collaborator; Bamboo Ben decorated all the huts; “Crazy Al” Evans, a famous Tiki carver, did the bar’s tallest Tiki sculptures. Bosko, from San Diego, wrapped the front side of the hanging back bar, and added wood carvings in a Papua New Guinea style. Woody Miller, a local artist, contributed the wooden maps of the South Pacific and Caribbean islands, plus the wooden canoes above. Mike “MP” Parton did the menu cover art, Lightform worked on the projection mapping for the large Tiki and map carvings, and LA’s sound brigade designed a soundtrack of exotic sounds for the bars different sections (even the restroom has its own unique island music and chirping birds.)
Zombie Village is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday (closed Sunday)