leisure 12.16.04


Now that the weather has taken a turn, what better way to warm up than thinking Tiki?

What It Is
While a Tiki is a representation of a Polynesian God, the word is also used to describe the style of Polynesian artifacts found in American bars and restaurants up until the 1970s (and in some cases beyond). In New York, Tiki HQ was Hawaii Kai, next to the Winter Garden theatre. These carvings, prints, and holders of rum drinks became interpreted for domestic consumption and have now developed a thriving cult following as a style all its own.

Where to Start
For all things Tiki, konakai.com and tikicentral.com are the places to begin surfing. To learn more about the style, The Book of Tiki by Sven A. Kirsten (Taschen, $19.99) and Tiki Art Now!, by Otto von Stroheim, (Last Gasp, $19.95), are the best places to start. Mr. von Stroheim also publishes the website Tiki News.

Collecting Tiki
eBay is, predictably, a hotspot of Tiki buying and selling. Locally, try Dullsville, 143 E. 13th [3rd/4th] 212.505.2505, which occasionally has vintage items. Exit 9, 64 Ave. A [4th/5th ] 212.228.0145, has some repro stuff, such as a four-piece Tiki drinking glass set for $19.50. Reminiscence, 50 W. 23rd [5th/6th] 212.243.2292, sells vintage Hawaiian shirts and some reproduction mugs and such.

Tiki Food and Drink
Tiki fans give the nod to Otto's Shrunken Head, 538 E. 14th [A/B] 212.228.2240, for the decor, drinks, and music.

Waikiki Wally's, 101 E. 2nd [1st/A] 212.673.8908. From the owners of Lucky Cheng's, the requisite rum drinks, hula dancers, Tiki decor (including waterfall), Polynesian food (sort of), and a private room with live caged parrots.

Zombie Hut, 261 Smith [Degraw/Douglass] Bklyn 718.855.2736. Frozen Zombies, flaming drinks, and cool decor are the draws.

Lei Bar, 112 Ave. A [7th] 212.420.9517. In the basement of Niagara, a raucous tiki bar.

At Jade Island, 2845 Richmond Ave. [K Mart Plaza] SI 718.761.8080, time has stood still since its 1972 opening. All the Polynesian trappings are in place, and you can order Pu-Pu platters to your heart's content.

Further afield, Chan's Dragon Inn, 630 Broad Avenue, Ridgefield NJ, 201.943.1276, has been a must-stop on the Tiki circuit for food and decor since 1961.

Tiki Music
Fisherman's Xylophonic Orchestra sometimes appears as Fishmerman's Vibraphonic Trio, sometimes as Fisherman's Famous Burlesque, but you always get Brian "Fisherman" Lease, and his ultra-cool exotica sounds. Catch him and the Vibraphonic Trio at Otto's on Monday nights. More at the website.

The Tiny Bubble Band also plays occasionally at Waikiki Wally's.

We've written before about Shag, as painter and illustrator Josh Agle has elided his name to, and he's the most popular artist out there with strong Tiki influences. He's represented in New York by the Earl McGrath Gallery, 20 W. 57th [5th/6th] 212.956.3366.
Restaurant owners and reps: Please email us Christmas eve/day and New Year's eve/day plans.

recent entries

Dogs, American Samoa

Brain Food

Hump Day, Every Person in New York

See all articles in LEISURE

Get a daily dose of MUG
right in your Inbox.