Houston is finally set to get a true 21st century tiki bar next month, when Lei Low finally opens. Though it won't be the city's first tiki bar. The long-gone Shamrock Hilton was once the site of a Trader Vic's. There was a tiki bar out on the west side when I first moved to town. And who could forget Hula Mama's? (Answer: a lot of people could forget it. It closed without fanfare.) There's even a HAIF thread about tiki in Houston over the years.
But you don't have to wait until Lei Low opens to get a taste of the Polynesian/Caribbean fusion that is tiki cocktails. Here are five places in Houston that pass for decent tiki bars *until we get a dedicated one.
5. Grand Prize There's a reason Lei Low chose Grand Prize as the spot for its two pop-up nights earlier this summer. The bar has an excellent selection of rums and a few classic and tiki drinks on the menu, and often sports frozen and on-tap cocktails with a tiki flair. Plus, while there's no carvings or bamboo, the dark, divey atmosphere does feel a bit like a getaway.
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4. Beaver's Bobby Heugel cut his teeth here with weekly tiki night long before Anvil ever opened. Beaver's still offers the occasional tiki cocktail -- the Lanai Luau and Whorechata are both favorites. They also regularly feature a house punch and spins on the frozen daiquiri.
3. Anvil The original home of Tiki Tuesday. Each week Anvil's bartenders dress in Aloha wear and conspire to create a cocktail menu based off different specifics themes, like flaming drinks or "summer harvest." But if weeknights don't work for you, never fear. Anvil can still make a mean modern daiquiri, and their new menu even includes a play on the Dark and Stormy.
2. Under the Volcano For years, the Volcano was the only place in town to get cocktails made with fresh-squeezed juice. And they're still the only place to get those frozen rum and Cokes, or more sophisticated, unusual fare like a lychee cocktail. And when it comes to décor, Volcano has it down. Wood everywhere, those papier mache masks, the little Mictecacihuatl statue inside the little niche. Okay, so that's not exactly Polynesia, but it's South American, which when it comes to atmosphere, is close enough.
1. Double Trouble Try a $1,500 and Two Weeks Off, Double Trouble's play on the Mai Tai, and bask in the glow of a large Witco lamp (he's the artist who decorated Elvis's Jungle Room at Graceland). There are few other rum drinks on the menu, and Double Trouble usually has a Jamaican punch settling in the cooler, but the real action here happens on Tiki night, the last Monday of every month. On those night's, Double Trouble teams up with Sig's Lagoon owner (purveyor of fine tiki mugs) to provide music and more to add to the Polynesia atmosphere.