So yesterday, I was tweetering about a story from the annual food show on CBS Sunday Morning that had to do with the (totally untrue) “Return of the Tiki Bar.” It was a trend story, which made it highly suspect right from the start. It was a trend story hooked to a pre-holiday broadcast, which made it doubly-suspect. And finally, the entire “Return” portion of the tiki bar “Trend” was hooked to just two joints in NYC–Otto’s Shrunken Head (which actually opened 9 years ago) and PKNY (which has been having problems of its own lately).
The worst part about the whole thing? I love tiki bars and wished like hell that Sunday Morning was actually onto something. Of all the dead trends that I wouldn’t mind seeing resurrected (see Potato Skins below, courtesy of Art), tiki bars–along with tiki drinks served by tiki girls–are near the top of the list. I will trade you a thousand cupcakes, bacon martinis and high-end cheeseburgers for one decent place to get sloshed on Mai Tais and scorpion bowls, is what I’m saying. Basically, one can not say that there is a tiki bar trend happening until there are as many tiki bars on the streets as there are shitty “Prohibition Speakeasies” clogging up the cocktail scene. And here in Philadelphia? We got nothin’.
This was not always the way. Once upon a time, Philly had Pub Tiki (which was discussed in loving detail here, back in 2010, and was once a favorite of GQ’s Alan Richman). But really? Since then (it closed in 1977), we haven’t had much of anything. Sure, there are some places to get tiki drinks–and even some places where you can get little umbrellas in ’em–but as for the full-fledged tiki experience, we’re SOL.
This should change. Immediately. In this month’s Bars issue of Philadelphia magazine, Victor pissed off virtually everyone in the city by demanding a return to drinking the way our grandparents drank–meaning simple, everyday cocktails made with recognizable ingredients–but I say that we should also take a turn toward the rum-and-fruit-heavy concoctions that were made for celebrating: the Zombies, Suffering Bastards, Fog Cutters and coladas of history. What’s more, we need appropriate places to drink them.
Fishtown would be a great place to start. This neighborhood needs a tiki bar bad, and it would fit right into the booming Barcade and Loco Pez landscape–with a vibe just retro enough to be cool and drinks so strong that, after two, you won’t care that you’re drinking something with more fruit on top than Carmen Miranda’s hat.
You know what else would make a great tiki bar? Swanky Bubbles. There are rumors going around right now that this recent Bar Rescue target went thoroughly un-rescued after the show split town and is currently dark, so maybe someone with a few bucks and a taste for rum could re-make this failure into something awesome–in a neighborhood that could really use some awesomeness. Also, the name “Swanky Bubbles” was just about the worst name I’ve ever heard of for a bar, so calling it anything else couldn’t possibly hurt.
The former Tweed space? That would’ve made a great tiki bar–the interior is just about perfect and just need some bamboo and palm fronds. And maybe a new bar. Plus, being right in the middle of Center City would mean being close to my office, which I would not mind one little bit. The old L’Oca space would work, too–and a tiki bar there might be just what Fairmount needs to push it into the “when did this neighborhood become hot?” category.
So what do you guys think? Is it time for a tiki revival in Philly? And, more to the point, where would you like to see the first one open?
Return of the Tiki Bar [CBS Sunday Morning]
Has Swanky Bubbles Gone Flat? [Insider]
Tiki Drinks In Philly [slideshow]