Cadillac Daiquiri

So many times we end up at a bar or restaurant that has a pretty good selection of cocktails but nothing really using rum. Such was the case on our San Diego trip where we ate at the hotel’s restaurant a couple times. The food was nominally Mexican, so of course they had a pretty nice selection of tequila and a variety of Margaritas on the menu.

The problem, of course, is that I don’t always love tequila. And I’ve learned that even if they have lime juice, simple syrup, and rum that asking for a Daiquiri will usually lead to disappointment. So, I asked for a rum-riff on one of the cocktails on their menu.

I ordered a Cadillac Margarita with the tequila replaced with their best rum, Myers’s Dark Jamaican Rum. This “Cadillac Daiquiri” was actually pretty good. The added complexity with Grand Mariner being used did make this into a pretty reasonable tropical cocktail.

Keep this in your back pocket when needed.

A Mixed Bag at San Diego’s Grass Skirt

Finally made visiting The Grass Skirt a priority. We thought that since it is all-ages at dinner time that it would work for our family trip, plus we were interested in experiencing Sippin’ Santa pop-up one more time this season.

Definitely a mixed bag.

Sippin’ Santa Holiday Pop-Up Decor

The decor here is pretty nice, but the music was nothing but reggae covers of pop songs. Which got old very fast and kind of ruined the Christmas vibe too. They also had sound system issues with their special effects. We do really dig their speakeasy entrance and there were some nice Christmas decorations up, though this is not as elaborately themed as some holiday pop-ups we’ve patronized.

Entrance to “Other World Travel”

We enjoyed the Shrimp and Pork Wontons, but overall didn’t think the food was that great here, with small portions and some odd choices (why does the tofu come with ground beef?). Our service was pretty good, and our server had a nice Christmas sweater on.

We ordered cocktails off the Grass Skirt menu rather than Sipping’ Santa, which in retrospect was overall a mistake. We didn’t care at all for the Clarified Painkiller (doesn’t taste like a Painkiller at all) or the Banana Berry Old Fashioned (barely any banana or berry flavors). The Tropical Soda needed more tropical flavoring. Boozing’ Susan’s World Famous Chi Chi did not live up to the hype in the name (like nearly all cocktails claiming to be “world famous” truth be told) and felt a little flat to me. Mrs. Mai Tai didn’t really like it at all and this type of cocktail is right up her alley.

Clarified Painkiller and Chi-Chi

Thankfully, I’m pleased to report that Tropical Tony’s Mai Tai was really good. A very nice rum blend and a nutty orgeat put this on my honorable mention list for best Mai Tai of the year. I would definitely return for this, one of the better Mai Tais in the city.

Nutty Mai Tai at the Grass Skirt

Bali Hai Lunch

We had a nice family lunch at Bali Hai Restaurant. A very relaxed vibe with some great views of San Diego Bay, so this is always a favorite destination. It is a good option when you have underage people in your party, too.

I enjoyed the Goof Punch, with a blend of rums, orgeat, and juices. The thing I like about this is that it has a good rum to juice ratio, so this tastes like a balanced cocktail and not just a punch of random juices with alcohol.

I did not have the Mai Tai but they do have a stock ticker showing how many of the infamous cocktails they’ve sold. 2,910,446 as of Wednesday, with 75,010 this year (around 80,000 in 2021). Which means that they should hit 3 million in early 2024, something I’m sure that will be a big deal for the restaurant and for the greater San Diego community.

They’ve replaced the tables and chairs in the restaurant since our last visit in July. A little tighter for four but with wings to expand.

Still so many tikis and artifacts to look at here, including the Goof on the Roof and Mr. Bali Hai out front.

The Luau San Diego

Had little bit of time on Monday night so I hopped over to check out The Luau, a newish tiki/surf bar in San Diego’s College East neighborhood. I figured it might be kind of slow but it was anything but. A nice mixed crowd of young people and some older ones hanging out on the Monday after Christmas.

Inside, Luau has a lot of painted walls with paintings and carvings, with some cozy seating up near the entrance. The bar is fronted with thatch, and there’s a very well appointed tropical patio out back. Music was a mix of styles, mostly 60s including Beach Boys, Monkees, solo George Harrison, reggae, and The Police. There are several framed prints making reference to the original 1950s Luau in Beverly Hills.

Every customer gets a welcome shooter made with Rum, Curaçao, Orgeat, Pineapple, Lime, and Soda as well as a little bowl of pretzels and goldfish crackers. The menu leans on touristy favorites such as the Blue Hawaii and frozen cocktails and the cocktails are free-poured and built in the glass. There’s a basic Mai Tai, a “skinny” Mai Tai, and the Mana Mai Tai made with “premium rums” and small batch orgeat. But the scant amount of rum bottles on the shelf and Hana Bay rum in the well indicated to me that “premium rum” might have a different meaning here compared to one of San Diego’s myriad craft cocktail bars.

Nonetheless, I did try the Mana Mai Tai and found it to be just fine. Certainly far better than San Diego’s most famous Mai Tai!

The bartender (John, I think) was working alone and given how crowded it was did a good job holding down the fort as bartender, server, barback, and cashier. Definitely a friendly demeanor and told me about the live music they have on the weekends and how they also do karaoke here.

I think if you look at the Luau with a “glass half full” approach you’ll be on the right side. This isn’t a craft bar, but if you come in with the right attitude you should have a lot of fun. There was a party of seven that came into the bar and when their Luau shooters arrived they toasted to Whale’s Vagina (a reference from San Diego’s most famous celebrity news anchor, Ron Burgundy).

It would be great if Luau ownership could continue to invest in the interior decor and maybe after a few years it would really have that true tiki bar feel. As is, it ain’t bad and seems like a great neighborhood bar.

Petco Park Mai Tai

Petco Park is a dream for fans of local favorites Cutwater Spirits and the myriad craft beer breweries. Cutwater is everywhere, with a common menu of cocktails throughout the stadium and their ubiquitous canned cocktails. Since neither is my favorite, I was pleased to see an unexpected option with a Mai Tai at one of the  cocktails bars that had a unique menu. Even better was the presence of Orgeat and Orange Curacao on the back bar.

If you’re so inclined, you can get this served in a tall plastic bat, but we went old school for a SD cup. And this Mai Tai wasn’t bad at all. There’s a little splash of pineapple juice, and so when I returned for our second game of the weekend I ordered it sans-pineapple and it was even a little better. Since this uses Cutwater’s light rum, don’t expect too much rum flavor, but for a ballpark you could do much worse.

Blind Burro

Back in 2017, we were so pleased to see a tiki bar called the Cat Eye Club just steps from Petco Park. It wasn’t an amazing tiki bar per se, but the clientele seemed free of the jocks and frat bros that crush all the other nearby establishments on game day. Food was from the adjacent restaurant The Blind Burro.

Sadly, all that remains of the Cat Eye Club is the “Tiki” neon sign that now says “Tacos”. It’s now simply part of the restaurant. 

Our pregame lunch at the Blind Burro was pretty good nonetheless including some tasty Mexican food and Margaritas from their expansive menu. Mrs Mai Tai liked the Guava Margarita. I loved my Chipotle Chicken Torta.

There is a Mai Tai on the menu that includes “white rum” and a float of Real McCoy 5 yr rum. I ordered this without the pineapple juice that it normally comes with and it was a competent Mai Tai and comes nicely served in a Real McCoy tiki mug.

Humphreys Half Moon Inn

After lunch at Bali Hai we wandered over to take a look at Humphreys Half Moon Inn, a Shelter Island classic.

So pleased to see that the majestic A-frame is now back greeting hotel and concert guests to the venue. The previous one went down in a vehicle accident.

The grounds here still look great and wandering around the gardens and pools is truly relaxing. We saw parrots, koi, turtles, ducklings, and a few tikis. We also saw them setting up for the America concert and even got a new nods for the SF Giants gear we were wearing from the roadies.

We also saw that the Humphreys Restaurant is open again, featuring its own majestic A-Frame entrance. We enjoyed our stay at the Half Moon Inn last year and would come back if we aren’t in town mostly to be by the stadium like this time.