On the fourth floor of Clifton's Republic lies a portal to a mythical south seas adventure. Pacific Seas is more than a tiki bar: it’s a pan-Polynesian spectacle. In November 2016, owner Andrew Meieran (of Edison fame) unveiled his grand tribute to the original Pacific Seas that Clifton's founder Clifford Clinton opened in the 1930s, an attempt to lift Angelenos’ spirits during the Great Depression. More than eighty years later, Pacific Seas’ glitzy reincarnation boasts some of Clinton’s original artifacts along with pieces Meieran found on Ebay and from defunct tiki bars around L.A. (there's a 26-foot outrigger canoe hanging from the ceiling). The result is an island paradise in an urban jungle with tropical cocktails, friendly service and an experience that straddles the line between Hollywood glamour and full-on kitsch.
Good for: A small group of six or less is best for seated conversation. By early evening, seats fill up and a standing room develops. Bring that friend who loves theme bars replete with extravagant decor—he’ll flip at the bamboo, palm fronds and thatched furniture—or consider Pacific Seas to entertain guests from out of town. Sure, they'll have been to tiki bars and Caribbean resorts where the decorations are as cheap as the rum, but they’ve probably never seen a place where patrons are transported straight into the lap of Polynesian luxury. Lines form on weekends and security is oddly ubiquitous. Drinks aren’t cheap, but the bartenders could not be friendlier. If amenable pretension does exist, Pacific Seas hits the mark.
The scene: Climb four flights of stairs and push through a mirrored door into an Art Deco room where a stunning map fills one wall. Then it's on through a maze of palm leaves and rattan furniture before entering the main bar area, where the weight of your surroundings finally hits you. A magnificently polished, full-sized Chris-Craft mahogany speedboat dominates the middle of the room, and a full-wall mural of a South Pacific sunset behind the clean, undulating bar sets the scene.
Sit your party down at one of the quaint wooden tables on the main floor, or lead your date past wooden tiki statues and an army of 10-foot lighthouses to a tiny, low table surrounded by mini ottomans. For more privacy, explore the bar’s alluring variety of nooks, like a private dining room with a long wooden table lit by candles. In the corner of the room is a vaulted private area for reservations (tiki table service), where a hula dancer, DJ or mermaid entertains islanders on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 9:30pm.
Drink this: Pacific Seas offers rum-based classics plus original in-house recipes, wines and hard-to-find rums. The drinks are festive, arrive in fun glasses and boast fresh fruit and coconut flavors garnished with flowers and pastel umbrellas. Start with a mai tai ($13) comprised of house-made orgeat, lime, and Jamaica and Martinique rums. Like most drinks here, it’s not overly sweet nor oppressively alcoholic. The Fog Cutter ($15) is a lesser-known classic with rum, brandy, gin, orange and lemon juice, orgeat syrup and sweet sherry; a more complex, sophisticated island libation. Then again, you can’t go wrong with a Singapore Sling ($14) using gin, cherry heering, Benedictine, orange and Angostura bitters and an umbrella to top it all off.
Our tip: Pacific Seas is big on events, and many are not open to the public. Check the schedule or call ahead to find out if the space has been rented out. Door guards enforce an unspoken dress code, so come dressed to impress.