Tiki Palooza Seattle

Still catching up on the backlog of posts from mid-March but didn’t want to go without mentioning Tiki Palooza that was held a few weeks back in Seattle.

Tiki Palooza Mai Tais with Jason Craig

This event was hosted at Tim’s Tavern and started with a small tiki marketplace under the tavern’s covered patio area and some tiki drinks were served out of the adjacent trailer bar. The Tikipalooza Mai Tai was what it was, though I really enjoyed the Singapore Fling. We got to hang out in the marketplace with Andy Nazzal of Tiki Joe’s Ocean fame and bought the new CD single “Two Voyages.” Great exotica music if you haven’t heard. There was also a vendor selling Tiki Palooza swizzles.

Stephen Curran

The event transitioned indoors where Stephen Curran did a presentation about his travels to Papua New Guinea. This allowed attendees to order food or more drinks from inside the tavern, and Stephen’s presentation was top-notch with some great cultural details. With so much PNG artwork in so many tiki bars, it really was a treat to learn more about the people of the region.

The event then transitioned back to the patio for a paid/wristband entry for some live music from Tropical Itch and the Tikigraphs. The patio was in full swing, despite the cold and rainy weather, thanks to some heaters and the crowd that was filled with aloha. The bands sounded great and were very entertaining.

I lucked into being in town for this event, and it was modest in scale but was a really nice event for the Seattle crowd and a few interlopers like me.

Andy from Tiki Joe’s Ocean

Midcentury Charm at West Seattle’s Three 9 Lounge

Three 9 Lounge is located in West Seattle and connected to West Seattle Bowl, offering an entrance off the street as well as from within the bowling alley. The lounge offers vintage decor and booth and lounge seating. The venue offers a variety of Polynesian inspired bar bites and a healthy number of classic and signature cocktails. The outside world is well camouflaged but this lounge does lean towards midcentury modern rather than classic dark tiki.

The Mai Tai is done a little differently, despite leading off the “Classics” menu, featuring aged rums, lime, almond, and a dash of coconut cream. The use of coconut cream is controversial, even in a small amount, though as a finished product thankfully this isn’t a Colada wannabe. The Mai Tai was pretty good, though weirdly not as bad as I expected given the use of coconut cream, but also not quite as good as I expected given the other ingredients and what I’ve heard about cocktails here.

I don’t hear tiki people talking much about Three 9 Lounge but I thought it was a nice destination and our service was pretty good even though it was Saturday night and fairly busy. The decor and seating do offer opportunities for a relaxing time with friends, and I’ll be happy to visit again the next time I’m in Seattle.

Devil’s Reef Remains one of the Best Tiki Bars in America

Last year I was scheduled to do a Tiki with Ray Live interview at Devil’s Reef in Tacoma. That event was cancelled when I got COVID, so I made sure to visit on my recent trip. We arrived at opening on a Friday.

The venue remains largely the same as my last visit several years back. This is a dark immersive space, with nautical elements combined with tiki and horror. There’s a large bar along with several large booths and tables in the rear. Dark mood lighting and exotic mood music are in full effect. It is very relaxing inside and you’ll totally forget the rain or whatever is happening outside in downtown Tacoma.

Fun times in Tacoma

The bar program is led by co-owner Jason Alexander, and incredibly leans on just a few Planteray rum expressions for nearly every cocktail. We were considering our order when Jason popped in unexpectedly, as he wasn’t scheduled for that shift. We caught up for a bit and when I asked about the relatively new Ferrand Dry Curacao Yuzu he immediately whipped up an incredible Yuzu Daiquiri that totally blew me away.

After Jason departed we were left in the capable hands of Gamaliel Giron who prepped great cocktails for our party. I thought that the Devil’s Reef’s Officer’s Mai Tai was fine but it didn’t blow me away. This cocktail isn’t beloved by Jason Alexander and I guess they’ve bowed to pressure to include it on the menu, but I give a wide berth considering how fantastic all the original cocktails I’ve had here are. I truly loved the Special Dry Planter’s Punch featuring Jamaica rum, falernum, and grenadine.

We didn’t try the food but we’ve heard good things, and there’s a set of non-alcoholic cocktail options on the menu as well. The Friday crowd was going pretty good by the time that we left around 7:00, so its great to see that one of the best tiki bars in America is still doing everything right. This place is a gem and to paraphrase the old Herb Caen line about Trader Vic’s (“the best restaurant in San Francisco is in Oakland”) we agree that the best tiki bar in Seattle is Devil’s Reef in Tacoma.

Thank you, Tiki with Ray

Wanted to thank you to Ray for driving us from Portland to Seattle and then meeting up with us on Tuesday for a night to remember (at least for the portions that we can actually remember). Such a pleasure to catch up and also to hear about what’s happening in the Seattle area and to give us some suggestions for things to do and such.

Without Ray, we probably wouldn’t have inquired about the orgeat-heavy Mai Tais at Rumba, nor would we have checked out the Tiki Tuesday at The Diller Room. He opened some doors and did some introductions for us at Tiki Kon, too.

Cheers to you, Ray Wyland.

Ray at Inside Passage

 

Be sure to visit Ray’s blog and YouTube channel:

Tiki Tuesday at the Diller Room

They say that alcohol reduces your inhibitions, which can lead to bad decisions. Or great ones. Sometimes, it’s a little of both and that was our experience at The Diller Room on Tuesday.

Justin Wojslaw

Having already done drinks at Rumba and Inside Passage, we were encouraged by our friend Tiki with Ray to visit the Diller Room just a short drive away to see Justin Wojslaw who slings tiki drinks on Tuesdays. Ray promised Pearl Divers, which was just up Mrs. Mai Tai’s alley, so against our better judgement we headed over.

Pearl Diver at The Diller Room

When we arrived we saw Justin hard at work, but welcomed us with his special tiki menu that featured some tropical classics, as well as some originals. Ray and Julie ordered Pearl Divers and I ordered the Golden Era Mai Tai, Justin’s house variation. Special Diller Room tall glasses are also available for sale.

All the cocktails were really great, especially the Pearl Diver, and the mood in the room was happy but mellow. Justin is a true artist behind the bar, confirming his well-deserved reputation for quality cocktails and hospitality. The neon sign provides a great backdrop.

But, all the booze was catching up with us and it was time for head back to the hotel, so we didn’t stay long.

Inside Passage – The Best Non-Tiki Tiki Bar in Seattle

We had a reservation for Rumba’s sister bar Inside Passage, and coordinated the move between the two with our server. So very helpful. The entrance is via the host station inside Rumba.

Inside Passage, as many of you know, is a nautical themed bar that borrows many traditional elements of tiki bars, including the tropical cocktails, dark decor, and exotic lighting and music. But there aren’t any idols and the business has gone to great pain to distance themselves from “tiki.” So, fine, not a tiki bar. Except it basically is.

We were seated in a booth that featured decor from Notch Gonzalez and is laid out quite similarly to the booths at Dr Funk that Notch also designed. The bamboo and jade tiles really look great here. The interior feels like the inside of a ship, with a kraken named “Kiki” breaking through the ceiling. It’s very impressive.

There are several original cocktails that have over-the-top vessels, garnish, and effects with dry ice. These are pretty clever with nods to local icons Amazon and Rainer Beer. And the cocktails sure were tasty. I followed up with a Saturn that was well-balanced.

With a small capacity and higher prices for cocktails, Inside Passage feels like a special occasion destination rather than a place where you’ll become a regular. Which isn’t bad at all, and the implementation is quite grand.

Rumba: ¼ oz of Orgeat Makes a Difference

We’re in Seattle for a few days and the priority for me was to get up to Rumba and re-try their Mai Tai that I found to be truly amazing on a previous visit a couple years ago. So, Mrs. Mai Tai and I met up with Tiki with Ray for dinner.

Ray and I both ordered the Rumba Mai Tai, featuring Rumba’s House barrel aged Wray & Nephew, Rhum JM Gold, fresh lime, curaçao, and orgeat. But when we took a sip we could barely taste the funky rums. In fact, we couldn’t really taste anything except orgeat. Ray is local and said they must have changed their recipe, so he asked the waiter about it. He said that the Mai Tai only uses ¼ oz of orgeat, but we assured him there had to be far more than that.

As it turns out, our suspicions were confirmed. Rumba recently switched to a different orgeat that’s sweeter, and they dropped it from ½ oz to ¼ oz. But the bartender forgot and used the old measurement. These things can happen during a recipe transition.

We were offered new, correctly made Mai Tais and that small drop in orgeat made a huge difference as the cocktail became correctly balanced. And that Rumba Mai Tai is fantastic, with the funky rums offering savory notes alongside the tart lime and sweet orgeat.

The rest of the visit was great, with all of our drinks being truly high quality and our food coming out quite well. Service was outstanding, and they even helped us transition to our reservation at the connected sister bar Inside Passage.

Rumba has a huge collection of rums, and we got to see the wall for the members of their rum club. The postcards that line the walls and fun painted signs work well with the library-style furniture and shelving. It’s a seminal destination in Seattle.