Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Last week, I came to the Phoenix-Mesa metroplex to write about Waffle House (it's a long story) and, along the way, I thought I'd check about area tiki opportunities. I came across some positive reviews of the (apparently revamped) Drift in Scottsdale with low expectations. Wow, was I delighted to be wrong.
The folks who designed this place - definitely a nouveau tiki place - get a lot right. Dark and exotic interior? Check. Grand tiki idol? Check. Aquarium in the bar? Check. The only disappointment: Hipster music pumped loudly, even on the outside porch. A big fat minus on the island vibe. But not a buzzkill, given the deal on Mai Tais.
I showed up during happy hour and ordered one, getting a second one for free. Uh oh. I decided to find a comfortable place to chill, knowing it'd be a while before I could drive; I don't want to experience Arizona law enforcement in any other manner than a rerun of Cops. The Mai Tai itself was standard bar-fare: nondescript rum in a plastic decanter, not the sublimely sour concoction of Hawaiian memories. No matter. The price was right.
I sat outside on the patio, the chill December air banished by a fireplace and overhead heaters. While I'd spent the day eating Waffle House grub, I somehow found room to down some free Happy Hour pupus. Amy (the manager) dropped by, and we chatted about my trip. She kindly offered another Mai Tai . No thank you, I replied. Driving. But if you're in town, stop by. It's a swell place.
Here's my revised list of top tiki experiences.
10. Castaways in Colorado, CO
9. Drift in Scottsdale, AZ
8. Thatch in Portland, OR
7. Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA
6. Trader Vic's in Chicago, IL (closed)
5. Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles, CA
4. House Without a Key in Oʻahu, HI
3. Hula's in Santa Cruz, CA (ranking skewed by homefield location; ask for the Tiki Room)
2. Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL
1. Kahiki in Columbus, OH (closed)
For 'completists' only: Kon Tiki, in Tucson, AZ, Tonga Room, CA, and Alibi in Portland, OR
Of course, you've got to see the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland (CA) at least once.
Next stop: Hala Kahiki in River Grove, IL
(Photograph by Andrew Wood)