Tiki, an aesthetic based on vague visions of real and imagined Pacific Islands, blossomed in mainland America in the years after World War II. Bars like Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood and the original Trader Vic’s in Oakland created an idealized Polynesian escape for poorly travelled Americans, combining geographically disparate elements like Caribbean rum, Hawaiian art, and Cantonese cuisine. The result: A generalized Pacific paradise that resembled nowhere in particular, a fabulous fantasia of kitsch — with occasionally problematic, racist undertones and conflations that many modern-day Tiki enthusiasts have tried to address, historicize, and stamp out.
While the Tiki craze faded over the years, the Bay Area retained some of its classic examples, including crown jewels like the Tonga Room. Meanwhile, modern bartenders have embraced the careful concoctions of fresh juices and strong rums devised by early Tiki gurus, and new bars like Smuggler’s Cove (from contemporary Tiki nut Martin Cate) have brought about a new wave of Tiki bars and revitalized old ones. Here, 13 bars to escape to right away.Read More