Starboard Tack: the Best Mai Tai in Las Vegas!

Starboard Tack is an off-strip restaurant and bar featuring a nautical theme with 1970s leanings, which we found to be delightful. There’s a long bar and some tables in the bar area, plus a nicely appointed lounge area. There’s even a shuffleboard area and some fabulous stained glass windows. Music on our visit was mellow 1970s which seemed utterly perfect.

We had lunch here and found the food and drinks to be superb. We ended up doing the all-seafood thing since we started with the incredible Crab Rangoon Dip and also the very good $5 Shrimp Cocktail from the Pu Pus menu. Both Mrs. Mai Tai and I ended up having the Poke Bowl that also was outstanding. We really liked the food options and all our items were prepared well.

There isn’t a Mai Tai on the menu, but the vast rum collection and an entry for “Mai Tai Ribs” on the food menu made me think that ordering one off-menu might work. For all those times when this scenario didn’t work out, I’ll always remember the amazing off-menu Mai Tai at Starboard Tack. Made with Jamaica rum, this was truly an outstanding classic 1944 Mai Tai – by far the best I’ve had in Las Vegas.

The best Mai Tai in Las Vegas

The rest of our cocktails weren’t too shabby either. I ordered a Port Light, asking for Wild Turkey 101 rather than the lower proof Jim Beam listed on the menu. This excellent cocktail was served up rather than on ice per usual, using Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur, Grenadine, Lemon, and Ango. Mrs. Mai Tai enjoyed the Fu Manchu with rum, orange liqueur, lime, sugar, and a hint of Creme de Menthe. The mint was just subtle enough to be a supporting player rather than the usual role of featured spirit. The Fu Manchu was delightful. Similarly, the Brimstone and Treacle with rums, coconut treacle, and Ango also had a really crisp taste and had subtle flavors that worked well.

We were truly blown away by the quality of cocktails from this venue that isn’t much to look at on the outside and gives off “dusty dive bar” vibes on the inside. Our bartender Christopher really made some great drinks! Plus, two apps, two entrees, and four cocktails came out less than $100! Starboard Tack is open 24 hrs and definitely going into regular rotation for future trips.

Jammyland: Best Mai Tai in Las Vegas?

We’d been told by numerous people that the the best Mai Tai in Vegas is at Jammyland, a craft cocktail bar and restaurant located in the Arts District and featuring a Jamaica/Reggae theme. We finally made time to check it out on our trip, visiting at opening on Saturday.

We didn’t do food, apart from the delightful Fat Boy ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut flakes. It’s really good. Music was a very bass heavy set of mostly reggae leaning songs. Pretty loud inside, not really to my taste. There’s a large patio outside that’s not shaded but I’m sure is a blast after dark.

The Mai Tai here is pretty good, a 50/50 blend of Appleton 12 Jamaica Rum and Clement VSOP. I normally like this combo, though Jammyland’s struck me as too heavy on grassy Rhum Agricole notes (though your mileage might vary). Orgeat is house-made. I was told some premium Mai Tais may make an appearance in the future, and for sure would be worth seeking out.

The craft cocktail menu is pretty large and nicely varied. I also tried the refreshing Anaconda Punch featuring Appleton Signature Jamaica rum, Drake’s Spiced Rum, fresh pineapple and lime, mango/hibiscus syrup, and Ango. I liked this light and subtle cocktail that leans more into the mango than hibiscus. Mrs. Mai Tai had the Hocus Pocus with Tequila, watermelon and lime, rosé cordial, and lavender bitters that we both felt was really great.

Anaconda Punch

There is a large spirits collection at Jammyland, though direct sunlight is a concern of mine. The service here was quite friendly and efficient. There are a few art pieces and some fine mural work outside, but the rest of the inside is “warehouse aesthetic” in a mostly good way. Not really transportive, but fits in very well with the eclectic Arts District neighborhood. Check out Jammyland on your next Vegas visit.

Rum Sub Mai Tai at Rhumbar at The Mirage

Rhumbar Ultra Lounge is a cocktail bar and patio on the southern side of The Mirage. We’d been walking for a while and decided to relax with a drink. Our bartender Ezequiel was super friendly and since it was kind of slow I decided to ask for some rum substitutions from their normal “Mai Tai Or Die” cocktail. I asked for Appleton 12 and Smith & Cross, a couple of fine rums from their well-stocked back bar of rum selections. Ezequiel encouraged me to also have some Clement Blanc in the mix and I trusted him with the recommendation. The Mai Tai here does use a little pineapple juice but it is not overly heavy and adds a nice tough of sweetness to the cocktail.

My Rum Sub Mai Tai was really great, better than the very good standard Rhumbar Mai Tai we had here on our last visit. The blend of flavors was truly balanced and the orgeat and pineapple did work well together to add sweetness to the cocktail. The skull mug is pretty cool, too.

The retro theme of Rhumbar is really nice, including heavy use of breeze blocks on the patio. Mrs. Mai Tai’s Save the Bees cocktail with bourbon and honey was also very good. I’m sure the Ultra Lounge vibe is different in the later evening on a weekend, but for Saturday afternoon it was totally chill with a relaxed vibe and friendly staff.

Our New Vegas Tradition: Brunch at Red Dwarf

The Sunday Surf Brunch at Red Dwarf is our new tradition. We enjoyed this on our last trip and made sure to do this again. Red Dwarf is a dive-leaning tiki bar that’s off strip in Vegas. They serve Detroit-style pizza (crust, toppings, cheese, sauce) that is fantastic, along with a small cocktail menu and a large beer selection. Don’t overlook the light Dwarf Piss beer for only $4.

Dwarf Piss

Our pizza was really great, but the cocktails here are pretty good too. Not exactly craft in orientation, nonetheless I’ve felt the Red Dwarf cocktails are better balanced than at Golden Tiki and Frankie’s Tiki Room in my experience. The standard Mai Tai here is quite good with a lighter leaning rum blend that is not assertive and probably really good for the average Vegas resident or tourist. But there are some truly outstanding rums behind the bar that can elevate your Mai Tai experience.

Mai Tai

I also enjoyed the Trinidad, Not Your Dad that has Bourbon, Angostura Amaro, Lime, Lemon, Orgeat, Ginger Beer, Ango, and Absinthe. It leads sweet, in a good way, and is a good example of the kind of complete cocktail you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a dive bar. Similarly, Mrs. Mai Tai loved her I Just Blew Myself with Rumhaven coconut rum, Blue Curacao, cinnamon, coconut, pineapple, and lime. It’s really great.

There’s a TV above the bar that was showing classic Twilight Zone episodes, plus a screen showing surf footage including a surf-oriented episode of The Flintstones and the classic Hawaii Trilogy of Brady Bunch episodes. Music today was from Generic Surf Band, a tight trio of Vegas locals. Locals are friendly here and the staff are super friendly and work hard to serve everyone.

We need to talk about smoking at Frankie’s Tiki Room

Every business can choose to run it how they choose, and customers always have a choice about when to patronize. But it is a bummer when there’s an aspect of the business that puts you off when everything else is great.

Such is the case of the indoor smoking policy at Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas.

We visited on our last trip but would have loved to stay longer or visit more often, but the smoky smell inside is a total turn-off. We visited at 11:00 am with only two other patrons inside and the place still smelled of cigarettes. We do appreciate the years of smoke this building has absorbed and understand that Frankie’s replaces the carpet every couple years, but the smell isn’t ever going away if smoking is still allowed.

The past decades have seen a transformation of smoking policies at restaurants, bars, and airplanes. The practice of allowing smoking indoors continues at most casinos in Las Vegas, likely as way to keep gamblers at the tables. Many people like to let loose and party in Vegas and that can include smoking if it is your thing when you party or simply as your habit.

But it is 2023 now, and outside of Vegas smoking indoors is very rare. The number of people in America who smoke cigarettes is now around 20%, down 10% just in the last twenty years. Why does any business appealing to a broad customer base cater to this 20%? Unlike a casino, there’s no losing customers if they went outside Frankie’s for a smoke.

We do have it on good authority that Frankie’s no longer allows cigars, pipes, or vapes. That’s a good step, but in this customer’s opinion Frankie’s needs to take the final one and prohibit smoking of all types.

One only needs to look at Vegas’ other tiki bars. There’s no smoking allowed a The Golden Tiki or even the dive-bar leaning Red Dwarf. If those venues can attract customers and let a few customers out back for a smoke, I don’t see any reason why Frankie’s can’t also do this.

Ashtrays do make nice coasters though.

Fun Times at Frankie’s Tiki Room in Las Vegas

We skipped Frankie’s Tiki Room on our last trip but made a point of visiting this time. Knowing that it can be crowded and extra smoky during the evenings, we visited right after a late breakfast on Friday morning around 11:00. Only two other people inside and it still smelled like smoke.

The inside of Frankie’s is a delight, with so many pieces of art and some really excellent tikis and decor. I like how there are different sections to hang out in, from the booths to the bar to the tables in between.

Service is from the bar, and obviously with a light crowd was super efficient and friendly. There is a jukebox where you can select some songs, but we sat underneath their loud air purifier so couldn’t hear the exotica very clearly (but, air purifiers are nice). It is super dark inside, one of Frankie’s charms.

Our drinks were… okay. They were prepared via free-pour so your mileage will vary. The Mai Tai is unbalanced and leans sweet, but I ordered the off-menu Rum Rum Rudolf (from the Liquid Vacation book) that was really great. Mrs. Mai Tai thought one of her drinks was okay but the other wasn’t very flavorful.

Being a dark tiki bar where the outside world is completely shut off, it is easy to see why people love this place. It feels surprisingly large inside and there are video poker machines at the bar if that’s your thing. We did have a good time at Frankie’s.

Brunch at Red Dwarf Bar in Las Vegas

Red Dwarf is a newish dive bar with tiki leanings. This differs from Frankie’s which is a tiki bar with dive leanings. We were told to check this place out as friendly bar that also serves Detroit-style pizza (crust, cheese, then sauce). Their Sunday brunch starting at 11:00 am was perfect for us.

Inside, there are quite a few tiki elements, but certainly is not as immersive as Frankie’s or Golden Tiki. We tried to sit in one of the booths but it was super tight so we switched to the bar, which actually worked out for us better. Service was friendly and prompt at the large center bar with two sides. Warsaw Poland Bros played live surf and Slavic American Ska and really were fabulous. They even had groovy ska number about the Red Dwarf bar! Sound was at a perfect level – we could easily hear the music but we could also hear ourselves.

Red Dwarf has a large beer selection, including the option to do the “Dungeon Master Challenge” where you roll a D20 to see what beer and shot you’ll get. We tried the Dwarf Piss, a very nice $4 lager that’s exclusive to this venue.

A small cocktail menu is also available. They are prepared via free pour but overall were pretty decent. The Mai Tai is credible and includes a small portion of Falernum as a little twist, and I enjoyed a second made with Appleton Reserve 8 rum from their collection. Mrs. Mai Tai had the very good Blue Hawaiian riff called “I Just Blew Myself” because it is served flaming.

The pizza is fantastic here, but sometimes sells out by late evening especially on the weekends. Brunch is really an awesome option here – really relaxing and with well-mannered regulars, but be sure to get there early. No smoking, except outside on their small patio.

Plenty of seats at the large two-section bar