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Yuseff Cherney Shares His 8 Favorite Tiki Drink Spots

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This Cocktail Week 2013-themed edition of Eater Guides takes us into the world of tiki, which is having its moment in San Diego. The city has played host to the Tiki Oasis, the annual tiki extravaganza, since 2006 and traditional bars all over town have been getting in on the tiki action with weekly events dedicated to tropical cocktails.

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits' co-founder and COO Yuseff Cherney, who is the company's head brewer and distiller, is also an avowed tiki devotee who tells Eater that he likes the "non-pretentious" nature of tiki culture. Twenty years ago, Cherney tasted his first tiki drink at a now-shuttered bar near Pizza Port in Solana Beach; today, he owns a collection of over 120 tiki mugs and a hand-crafted tiki bar in the backyard of his Mission Hills home. His love of tiki has even spilled into his day job; earlier this year, Ballast Point released its own tropical Mai Tai mix, which blends well with their white rum. The company will soon released a spiced rum and a Tiki Farm-designed tiki mug to celebrate the rebirth of whiskey-based tiki cocktails.

Eater asked Cherney to curate his ultimate tiki crawl; read on for the drinkable list, in his own words and in no particular oder.


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· All Cocktail Week 2013 Coverage [~ESD~] Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Bali Hai Restaurant

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2230 Shelter Island Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222-1181
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This is San Diego’s oldest and most famous Tiki bar. The newly remodeled bar showcases the Mai Tai and a running count on the tote board proves that Bali Hai sells more Mai Tais than any other bar in San Diego. That being said, these are not the fruity, cloyingly sweet models; with no fruit juice and three types of rum, these puppies pack a punch so be warned. There are a wide range of Tiki cocktails which come in custom ceramic mugs that pay homage to the Goof on the Roof and Mr. Bali Hai and are yours to take home to add to your Tiki mug collection.

2. Polite Provisions

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4693 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116
(619) 677-3784
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Every Tuesday, this popular bar becomes Tiki-friendly with a variety of crafty cocktails that push the envelope of highbrow Tiki culture. Guest bartenders from hot spots such as Smuggler’s Cove have been known to make special appearances just to whip up some classic and not-so-classic libations. Although the decor is far from a Polynesian-inspired paradise, the occasional touch of Tiki trinkets on Tuesday act as a subtle hint to the yet-uninitiated.

3. Mandarin House

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2604 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 232-1101
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Sadly, the urban sprawl will soon render the Mandarin House obsolete; the restaurant closes on Halloween to make way for condos. Try to get there one more time for a burrito-sized egg roll, some Moo Shu Pork and a flaming Volcano bowl, Mai Tai or Navy Grog. File this under “I remember when…”

4. Bar Pink

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3829 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104
(619) 564-7194
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Nestled among the craft beer taverns that dot North Park's 30th Street, Bar Pink offers up Tiki Tuesdays and is one of the few venues that has live music to go with your Sneaky Tiki cocktail. It's a haven for those searching for something a bit stronger than a brew.

5. High Dive Bar And Grill

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1801 Morena Blvd
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 275-0460
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This Bay Park bar recently installed a vintage root ball Tiki sculpture by Tiki Dan, giving them instant “tikicred”. The Dive is currently working on their custom designed Tiki mug from Tiki Farm. Tiki Tuesday means drink specials, but Tiki fans rejoice in the fact that the tropical cocktail menu is available every day of the week. Look out for the Armada Bowl, a giant ceramic "ship" filled with local spirits and served up with plenty of straws for sharing.

6. Cat Eye Club

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370 7th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 330-9509
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Tucked around the corner from the Blind Burro is this “Mad Men”-meets-prohibition era speakeasy. Although you will not need a password or a reservation, Cat Eye has a dress code which may upset the traditional casual Tikiphile, however, once inside the feel is welcoming and hip without being pretentious. The cocktails are a mix of traditional Tiki and new-Tiki, and the custom ceramic Tiki mugs add authenticity.

7. The Islands Sushi and Pupu Bar

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2270 Hotel Cir N
San Diego, CA 92108
(619) 297-1101
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Formerly known as the Hanalei, the Crowne Plaza is home to the infamous “Tiki Oasis”, San Diego’s claim to fame as far as Tiki culture is concerned. Although they remodeled the hotel, there are still trace elements of Tiki to be found at the lobby bar. A variety of ceramic mugs are offered, each with a signature drink and there's a critically acclaimed sushi bar that serves up specialty rolls to pair with your cocktails.

8. Ye Olde Plank Inn

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24 Palm Ave
San Diego, CA 91932
(619) 423-5976
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This could be the most authentic Tiki bar in San Diego that is not a Tiki bar. Oddly enough, it's a pirate bar that doesn’t specialize in Tiki drinks but from the looks of the interior of the Imperial Beach dive, one would expect Martin Denny music and ceramic mugs a-plenty. The Plank made it on the list because of its ambience and proximity to the beach; order a Cuba Libre for some Tiki flavor.

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1. Bali Hai Restaurant

2230 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego, CA 92106
This is San Diego’s oldest and most famous Tiki bar. The newly remodeled bar showcases the Mai Tai and a running count on the tote board proves that Bali Hai sells more Mai Tais than any other bar in San Diego. That being said, these are not the fruity, cloyingly sweet models; with no fruit juice and three types of rum, these puppies pack a punch so be warned. There are a wide range of Tiki cocktails which come in custom ceramic mugs that pay homage to the Goof on the Roof and Mr. Bali Hai and are yours to take home to add to your Tiki mug collection.
2230 Shelter Island Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106

2. Polite Provisions

4693 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
Every Tuesday, this popular bar becomes Tiki-friendly with a variety of crafty cocktails that push the envelope of highbrow Tiki culture. Guest bartenders from hot spots such as Smuggler’s Cove have been known to make special appearances just to whip up some classic and not-so-classic libations. Although the decor is far from a Polynesian-inspired paradise, the occasional touch of Tiki trinkets on Tuesday act as a subtle hint to the yet-uninitiated.
4693 30th St
San Diego, CA 92116

3. Mandarin House

2604 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Sadly, the urban sprawl will soon render the Mandarin House obsolete; the restaurant closes on Halloween to make way for condos. Try to get there one more time for a burrito-sized egg roll, some Moo Shu Pork and a flaming Volcano bowl, Mai Tai or Navy Grog. File this under “I remember when…”
2604 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92103

4. Bar Pink

3829 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Nestled among the craft beer taverns that dot North Park's 30th Street, Bar Pink offers up Tiki Tuesdays and is one of the few venues that has live music to go with your Sneaky Tiki cocktail. It's a haven for those searching for something a bit stronger than a brew.
3829 30th St
San Diego, CA 92104

5. High Dive Bar And Grill

1801 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110
This Bay Park bar recently installed a vintage root ball Tiki sculpture by Tiki Dan, giving them instant “tikicred”. The Dive is currently working on their custom designed Tiki mug from Tiki Farm. Tiki Tuesday means drink specials, but Tiki fans rejoice in the fact that the tropical cocktail menu is available every day of the week. Look out for the Armada Bowl, a giant ceramic "ship" filled with local spirits and served up with plenty of straws for sharing.
1801 Morena Blvd
San Diego, CA 92110

6. Cat Eye Club

370 7th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Tucked around the corner from the Blind Burro is this “Mad Men”-meets-prohibition era speakeasy. Although you will not need a password or a reservation, Cat Eye has a dress code which may upset the traditional casual Tikiphile, however, once inside the feel is welcoming and hip without being pretentious. The cocktails are a mix of traditional Tiki and new-Tiki, and the custom ceramic Tiki mugs add authenticity.
370 7th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101

7. The Islands Sushi and Pupu Bar

2270 Hotel Cir N, San Diego, CA 92108
Formerly known as the Hanalei, the Crowne Plaza is home to the infamous “Tiki Oasis”, San Diego’s claim to fame as far as Tiki culture is concerned. Although they remodeled the hotel, there are still trace elements of Tiki to be found at the lobby bar. A variety of ceramic mugs are offered, each with a signature drink and there's a critically acclaimed sushi bar that serves up specialty rolls to pair with your cocktails.
2270 Hotel Cir N
San Diego, CA 92108

8. Ye Olde Plank Inn

24 Palm Ave, San Diego, CA 91932
This could be the most authentic Tiki bar in San Diego that is not a Tiki bar. Oddly enough, it's a pirate bar that doesn’t specialize in Tiki drinks but from the looks of the interior of the Imperial Beach dive, one would expect Martin Denny music and ceramic mugs a-plenty. The Plank made it on the list because of its ambience and proximity to the beach; order a Cuba Libre for some Tiki flavor.
24 Palm Ave
San Diego, CA 91932

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