We met up with some friends and they suggested Damon’s in Glendale. Who were we to argue as we’ve been coming here for years and enjoy the old school ambiance and bamboo laden decor that date back to 1937. The Hawaiian theme is present in every corner and while the bar can get a little rowdy with locals, the dining room is more relaxing. Look for monkeys on the menu and with appearances in the restaurant, even in the large outrigger suspended from the ceiling.
Their cocktails aren’t really craft – but I did enjoy the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai. Mrs. Mai Tai loved the All Skrewed Up Daiquiri, with Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey, banana, banana liqueur, lime, and pineapple. Served blended and frozen.
The dining experience is a throwback. Everyone gets a Damon’s salad with their meal, even if (like me) you ordered an entree salad for dinner. They still serve thick steaks that are beloved and we also liked their classic garlic toast. Service was friendly and prompt as always. Glassware and shirts are available for purchase.
We visited for dinner on a Wednesday and by the time we left the entire restaurant floor was packed. It warms the heart to see that the diners of Glendale are supporting the institution rather than just the new hotness. Long live Damon’s.
This iconic Chinese restaurant has been on our radar ever since it was remodeled and relaunched as a brand a few years back. We made a reservation for opening last Saturday.
There are nods to classic and even newer Hollywood stars with the photos lining the ceiling, with a large bar right as your enter and a second one in the back room. We were seated in the section that’s an actual Red Trolley Car dating to 1904. So unique!
The Formosa is leaning into their merchandise program, offering stickers, glassware, shirts, and more. We took advantage of the bundle of a cocktail and a Dragon Mug, quite the deal for just $30. I had the Mai Tai, which is made with light and black Bacardi rum, and a bit of pineapple juice. The pineapple ratio was modest, so this was actually a pretty good Mai Tai. There’s a Tia Mia on the menu, which is a Mai Tai with Mezcal and spiced rum, so I ordered one using only Appleton Signature rum and found it to be closer to a true Mai Tai though I think I preferred the one with pineapple juice.
We loved the Passion and Paradox cocktail that includes Rye and Blood Orange Liqueur and Mrs. Mai Tai liked the Nay Nay Rosé Martini.
The food at Formosa leans expensive and is decadent. We loved the Walnut Shrimp, XLB Soup Dumplings, and Pot Stickers. We took a chance on the Chinese BBQ Pork which is basically an entire pork loin and served with foldable bao buns. This actually gave less meat than you might think, unless you love crispy pork skin.
The interior of the Formosa Cafe is total eye candy and everyone needs to visit this iconic location at least once. We had great service and loved the ambiance of the entire restaurant.
We met up with some of Mrs Mai Tai’s friends at this downtown Long Beach speakeasy-style tiki bar. Located in the basement under Shannon’s Corner, Secret Island Tiki Lounge has a fantastic entrance experience that has to be witnessed to be fully understood.
Inside there’s a long bar with tables and booths just behind. Intimate but not too small. The decor of the bar is modern, with black light, and the music is modern tropical. Not too clubby but not vintage either. Decor in the back is pretty traditional with some nice bamboo and tikis throughout.
Food was was mostly good Pu-Pu style apps, with the pineapple fried rice being a highlight and the spam misubi being the only lowlight. We had prompt and friendly service.
Cocktails overall were pretty good. The Mai Tai (and perhaps others) was batched but at least was competent and plenty boozy. Their signature drink Pele’s Fire was on the spicy side but really good and is plenty large. This fire bowl could easily be shared. Be sure to sit in Pele’s throne for a photo.
Straddling modern and traditional, party time and relaxing lounge, Secret Island is a sort of jack of all trades, master of none. If you don’t have a good time you’re not trying hard enough.
We had a nice lunch at the world famous Warehouse in Marina Del Rey. We enjoy the grand spectacle of this elaborately themed restaurant. We keep hearing this place will close sometime soon, so we made sure to have at least one more visit.
The waterfront views weren’t stellar thanks to overcast skies, though a few brave souls did eat out on the patio.
There was a mixup from the cocktail menu, where if you order the Barrel of Rum you keep the mug, and the Loaded Cargo where you keep a mug too. I ordered the latter but it came without a mug, since they’re out. The waiter apologized for not mentioning it after I asked about the mug, but noted the price is lower. It was just okay on a sliding scale.
As I left the venue I noticed they had a bunch of the barrel mugs, which of course I would have ordered had I known the situation. But I did walk away with a mug, thanks to the waiter and understanding bar staff.
We went outside to feed the fish and turtles, and review the tropical ambiance outside. Sure wish this place would continue to stay in business.
Broken Compass Tikiis a bar and restaurant in Burbank recently reopened with a tiki theme, replacing the previous pirate-theme when it was known as the Burbank Pub.
We dropped in on our way into L.A. at around 2:30 on a Saturday and found the place was packed. Like, having to wait 20 mins for a table packed. But it is easy to see why when there’s a very nice stone and bamboo decor thing happening, with lots of nautical elements and a few idols/tikis sprinkled in. Music was a nice mix of exotica, surf, and 60s lounge.
We were seated at a table in the lounge area next to the bar, which meant you had to order at the bar. This honestly took a long time as it looked like maybe they were one bartender short given the venue being at total capacity. Service was friendly once we got to the station, though it does seem that maybe the bar’s ship-hull layout is leading to inefficiencies for the bar staff to move around when needed.
We only had time for one round. Mrs. Mai Tai had the “Wake Me Up Before You Coco” which combined cold brew liqueur with coconut cream and cinnamon to a nice effect. My Mai Tai was fine, but leaned a little sour (could have used Demerara or rock candy syrup). They’re using good rums, and I even saw a couple bottles of Havana Club from Cuba on the back bar.
Broken Compass’ status as the new hotness seems to have resonated with locals given how packed they were. If you want to check it out, be sure to make a reservation.
We had reservations to go to Tam O’Shanter in January, but those were cancelled at the height of omicron. We were staying nearby in Glendale so this was a perfect opportunity to give the restaurant a second chance for a visit.
We were intrigued in learning more about the history of the Scotch-inspired steakhouse that is celebrating 100 years in business this year. While prime rib isn’t our thing, themed environments are and Tam O’Shanter really delivers. While we were seated outside under a charming tent and nearby an equally tranquil garden, we also got to peek inside at the myriad dining rooms inside. Frequented for many years by Disney animators and Walt Disney himself. Table 31 was Walt’s favorite and there are carvings in the table done by Disney animators.
We went in a turkey direction for our meal, but I decided to test the unfamiliar waters of Tam O’Shanter’s vast Whiskey collection. Walt Disney’s favorite cocktail was a Scotch Mist so I figured this was a good choice for the occasion. I asked for a Scotch that wasn’t so “peaty” and the bartender used Cutty Sark which was just fine with me. Scotch, ice, and a twist of lemon.
The service was great and we enjoyed the food. Being able to score a reservation inside would be a priority for future visits, since the interior is so elaborately themed.
I has been a few years since we last visited Tiki Ti and we made a point to go this time. We arrived 30 mins before opening and after sweating outside in line we finally made it in. Super crowded at opening especially with the long line, but luckily we knew what we wanted to order and so I went to the far end of the bar where bartender Greg Bansuelo was waiting for orders.
Service is at the bar but Greg got our drinks going quickly. I wanted to try a Ray’s Mistake and Mrs Mai Tai had the Lemon Head that had been recommended and one to try. Honestly I didn’t feel either were life changing but a couple cool tropical drinks inside after being out in the hot LA sun for a half hour definitely helped. There was some good energy inside, but also kind of crowded and warm so we only stayed for the one drink.
We congratulated Mike Buhen Sr on still being able to pull in the crowds after all these years. There are so many things to look at inside, and you can feel the history here. Glad we made it this trip and I hope to visit again soon – maybe later in the evening when it’s dark and cooler.
We ventured to Damon’s Steak House for a family meal. We’ve been going to Damon’s since the 1990s because we love the vintage Polynesian decor and old school service style. And we sort of have a dysfunctional relationship with their signature cocktail: Damon’s Famous Mai Tai. It isn’t really great, but we can’t stop coming to try it. Mrs. Mai Tai doesn’t mind because their other standard cocktail is the Chi Chi.
A recent menu change is that they are leaning in big time to provide variations of the Mai Tai and Chi Chi. This is probably a good trend, and some of them seemed like inspired options. Though, notably, all of these have ‘Orgeat “secret sauce”‘ which is an unusual label. Once makes you wonder if it is really orgeat or something different.
The Trader Vics’ 1944 Mai Tai wasn’t bad at all, aside from the limp mint. This at least resembled a Mai Tai and wasn’t overly sweet. The same can’t be said of the Royal Mai Tai, which we thought might be good given the more exotic rums from Martinique and Hawaii. We saw the grenadine on the ingredient list, thinking it would be a dash. Instead it seemed to be a heavy splash of grenadine. Definitely not good and way too sticky sweet. Splitting the difference was Damon’s original island-style Mai Tai.
Service was truly excellent, with drink refills and cocktail refreshers coming super quickly. There was a mix-up with our soup, which our waiter fixed right away. There didn’t seem to be much music playing and the bar was filled with revelers, though it was relaxed out on the upper seating area where we were. They give you a lot of food at Damon’s, including soup or salad (the Split Pea Soup was great), and the staff offered some Mac and Cheese for our son who didn’t want either soup or salad. Food was just okay overall.
Damon’s hasn’t changed much in the 25 years we’ve been going. Still very old school for the most part, with some recent attempts to elevate the cocktails. Definitely have to have the right attitude going in, but we enjoyed our experience once again.
Mrs. Mai Tai and I ventured to Tonga Hut on Thursday night, expecting to hang out in their large COVID-era patio. We were greeted and offered inside seating, told that capacity was under 50% and a bit less than that on this particular evening. So we did the indoor thing at LA’s oldest tiki bar.
This was our first time at the North Hollywood Tonga Hut location. The Christmas decor was up and we were seated in one of the nice covered booths. So many nice things to look at, including the Drooling Bastard and all the plaques from the hearty souls who drank all the cocktails from the Grog Log within a year.
Our service was great, totally on the spot to check for additional drinks and super friendly. Music was mostly 90s-2000s modern rock, which wasn’t my preference for a tiki bar but it is a style of music I like and at least wasn’t top 40. Exotica was playing out on the patio.
I liked the Tonga Hut Mai Tai. While not overly challenging, I thought it was balanced well enough and sure was easy to drink (I chose the standard option, foregoing the Martinique rum option). I followed it up with a Tabu Tabu Grog, featuring OFTD, Honey, Grapefruit, Lime, Spices, and Passion Fruit. This was a really great ‘Grog’ variant.
Mrs. Mai Tai did her standard, the Nutty Chi Chi, and then followed up with the Mojave Punch featuring Hibiscus Syrup. I loved that punch at the Tonga Hut location in Palm Springs and thought it was great here, too. But Mrs. Mai Tai thought it leaned too tart.
Glad we finally made it to Tonga Hut. Thanks to Marie King and to the staff for a great time.
People sometimes ask, “aren’t you tired of always getting the Mai Tai?” I answer by saying I love to get the Mai Tai. It is never a burden.
But, some days are harder than others.
Isla Nu-Bar debuted a couple years ago when the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studios Hollywood was rebranded as Jurassic World. As you can see from the menu, there are a variety of tropical drinks available, along with beer.
The Mai Tai is made with Rum, Dark Rum, Pineapple, Orange, and Lime Juice. Firstly, there is rum, but also “dark rum.” So what is this other kind of non-dark rum, exactly? Probably focusing on the wrong sort of details.
It is an easy to drink cocktail that is sweet and fruity with enough rum to pass muster for $15 including souvenir plastic glass and an orchid garnish. But, it isn’t really a Mai Tai. But you already knew that.
I probably should have tried the “Tiki Tai” which actually does contain orgeat. But with pineapple rum from Don Q and passionfruit puree I doubt it would be much different or better.
The cocktail was refreshing and we enjoyed lunch at Jurassic World and watched some cool raptor encounters.