Resuming the more tiki-riffic goals of our California road trip, Kemey and I said farvel to Solvang and hit the highway for LA.
There’s way more to the LA tiki scene than the TIki-Ti. But if you only had one night (such as our schedule permitted) to experience the best of Los Angeles tiki, you’d be wise to spend it at this classic Hollywood watering hole. I’d been to the Ti years before (had a blast) and knew any tour of California tiki bars that didn’t include it would be remiss.
Hardly bigger than the actual bar from which its cocktails are served, the teeny tiny Tiki-Ti on Sunset Boulevard has made an immeasurable impact on not just the tiki scene but cocktail culture across the globe.
Open since 1961, and still in the hands of the son and grandson of the original owner, Tiki-Ti ranks as a top contender for the ultimate representative of California tiki culture. The tropical décor is chock-a-block; wherever you rest your eyes there’s something kooky or fascinating to ponder. The atmosphere is welcoming, chatty and ready to party. And the drinks are out of this world.
Must-drink libation is Ray’s Mistake (named for original owner Ray Buhen with “our own super secret flavor, botanic liqueurs, passion fruit and floated with dark Corub rum”). And if you want to see the place go wild, order the tequila-based Blood and Sand!
Tiki-Ti also turned out to be a top spot for meeting up with some of my favourite Angelinos. I’d never really given much thought before planning this trip, but I actually know a lot of folks in LA (and a good number of friends who pass through there on a regular basis). The downside to agreeing on the Tiki-Ti for our rendezvous was that this diminutive dive is super popular. The place was packed during our visit. Once we (finally) snagged a table though, we were set for the night.
More than the tiki and the sightseeing (and there was a hefty load of sightseeing jammed into our couple of days in LA), having some quality time with old acquaintances made our LA pit stop a highlight of our trip.
La Luz de Jesus Gallery
A short walk from the Tiki-Ti (yes, you can actually walk between interest points in much of Los Angeles) is the legendary La Luz de Jesus Gallery. With a good rummy buzz and a gaggle of compadres in tow (including La Luz exhibiting artist Michael Murphy), a snoop through this lowbrow wonderland was a perfect end to our outing. On show while we were there was the gallery’s annual coaster show, further imbuing the evening with drink-y bliss.
The gallery is housed inside Soap Plant / Wacko, a pop culture bazaar that’s a LA’s smartest one-stop shop for all sorts of offbeat books, unusual art, odd gifts and cheap distractions. Fun!
DusitD2 Hotel Constance
We stayed at the DusitD2 Hotel Constance in Pasadena. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest choice for our Hollywood tiki doings, but Ubers were cheap and plentiful. Besides, drive time to/from Hollywood/Pasadena was only about 20 minutes.
A grand old hotel with a new lease on life, the Constance offered a balanced mix of historic elegance and 21st century convenience. It proved a convenient location for much of the rest of our LA visit as well. Having been on the road for a week, proximity to a Target for provisions and a Veggiegrill restaurant for a healthful non-road-food meal were appreciated comforts.
From LA, we drove to Anaheim for a day at Disneyland. We were able to get out of town and back on the highway without any hassle from Pasadena. But that’s a story for a future post!
Go to visitcalifornia.co.uk for ideas about designing your own tour of California.
Stay tuned for more in my series of posts about my California tiki tour.