It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tiki bar-cum-office must be in want of plenty of tiki mugs. The classic tiki mug is the area of tiki collecting in which it’s hardest to find bargains. They’re too much in demand, and for good reason: tiki mugs are awesome.

Except for this wooden guy, sold for fifty cents at my personal place of worship, the Ashby Flea Market. This guy is awesome. But he was also cheap.

But my most treasured tiki mugs are souvenirs from bars I’ve personally visited. This surfer-girl mug comes from the Tonga Room in San Francisco.

Frankly, she’s kind of a letdown: she doesn’t even have the name of the bar stamped on her back. But anyone who’s visited the Tonga Room knows the score. The people in charge do a half-assed job, but they can get away with half-assing it because holy crap, they’ve got a genuine 1940s-vintage tiki restaurant/bar with a lagoon in the middle of the room and a raft bandstand that floats out to play music and every twenty minutes it rains into the lagoon. They can even get away with the house band playing awful 1970s covers instead of tiki music because, seriously.

And so it will be until the swanky Fairmont Hotel, which somehow hosts this miracle in its basement, follows through on its ongoing threats to tear the Tonga Room down and kill a little bit more of the magic in this world.

Now I’m sad. Let’s look at this guy instead!

This is a great guy!

As you can see, he comes from the Kowloon Restaurant in Saugus, Massachusetts, where genius cartoonist Dirk Tiede was kind enough to take me this spring. Thanks, Dirk! And thanks for waiting with me for half an hour while the restaurant staff shuffled around looking for the one guy with the key to the cabinet with the mugs in it so they could sell me this mug. And, um, sorry about your car breaking down in the sweltering parking lot outside while we waited. I’m sure you’ll agree it was all worth it, because hey!

Kowloon, founded in 1950, is one of the true unadulterated greats. In addition to full tiki decor and an authentic 1950s menu of questionably authentic Chinese/Japanese/Hawaiian cuisine, it has a boss collection of signed posters and photos from visiting wrestlers from Killer Kowalski onward. It’s down the road from Boston Garden.

Pro wrestling seems to have emerged as the secondary theme of this blog. This was not intentional. Anyway, check out Kowloon’s website, even though it plays music at you, because the “Nostalgia” section has pictures of old menus, place mats, and these amazing moai salt-and-pepper shakers.

Two more mugs from two more tiki spots:

My man on the left proudly represents Hula’s Bar and Grill, locations in Monterey and Santa Cruz (warning: this website plays music at you, too). On the right is a stately ambassador from Forbidden Island in Alameda, which I cannot recommend highly enough, especially if you’re in the mood to do some serious tiki drinking. I mean, check out the giant cocktail menu on their website (no music). The mug comes with their signature drink, the Forbidden Island, which is really, really good.

One time we went to Forbidden Island and my husband Andrew got two of the drinks with five-grog booze ratings, and he was drunk for 24 hours. He went to sleep and woke up still drunk the next morning. I had never seen anything like it. So, um, don’t do that. But try the Forbidden Island.


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One response to “Mugs

  1. I went to the Hula’s Bar and Grill in Monterey when I was there on vacation a couple years ago. It was actually kind of an ordeal since we drove there in pouring rain only to find that the storm had knocked out power to the neighborhood and that it was closed! We had to come back the next day.

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