Damon’s is Still Going Strong in Glendale

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.

Formosa Cafe – Iconic Hollywood Chinese Restaurant

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.

Secret Island Tiki Lounge, Long Beach Speakeasy Tiki Bar

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.

Pele’s Throne

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.

The Warehouse Barrel Mug

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 Tiki is Booming in Burbank

Broken Compass Tiki is 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.

Tam O’Shanter: Celebrating 100 Years

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.

You can learn more about the Tam O’Shanter in this video from our friends Tiki with Ray and Stephen Curran. The embed below is part of a longer video covering historical Disney-connected destinations in Los Angeles and starts in the section covering Tam O’Shanter. 

Tiki Ti: Still Packing in the Crowds

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.