1. The Lucky Tiki atmosphere
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutEvery inch of the Lucky Tiki is covered in island-inspired memorabilia, plus plenty of original art pieces..
  2. The Elvis in Hawaii at the Lucky Tiki
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutThe Elvis in Hawaii
  3. The Lucky Tiki Old Fashioned at the Lucky Tiki
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out
  4. Green considers coconut shrimp (located in the bottom right) to be the culinary equivalent of a tiki bar.
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out Green considers coconut shrimp (located in the bottom right) to be the culinary equivalent of a tiki bar.
  5. The Buried Treasure at the Lucky Tiki
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time OutThe Buried Treasure
  • Bars | Cocktail bars
  • price 2 of 4
  • West Hollywood
  • Recommended

Review

The Lucky Tiki

4 out of 5 stars

Resurrected after 18 years, this speakeasy-style tiki bar in West Hollywood offers killer atmosphere, beautifully presented drinks and a tasty secret food menu.

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Time Out says

Right now, one of L.A.’s hottest reservations isn’t even a restaurant—it’s the Lucky Tiki, a not-so-secret tiki lounge hidden above Tail o’ the Pup in the same space where the Doors recorded L.A. Woman. (Allegedly, Jim Morrison laid down vocals in what is now the bathroom.) Enter by buzzing the intercom inside the pickle barrel on the patio, walk upstairs, push through the beaded curtain and you’ll find a completely decked out space decorated with Japanese fishing float lamps, one-of-a-kind tiki mugs and plenty of memorabilia from the original Lucky Tiki, which the 1933 Group’s Bobby Green first opened in the San Fernando Valley back in the early aughts. It’s a triumphant return for the bar, and a major win for the preservationist-minded hospitality group—who also operate the iconic hot dog stand downstairs as well as nearby Harlowe and the historic Formosa Cafe. 

Since opening at the end of March, the Lucky Tiki has largely remained perpetually booked. Reservations, released on a 30-day rolling basis on Resy, are hard to come by, and walk-ins are few and far in between, though you can try your luck by calling ahead or simply strolling up and buzzing the intercom. This is more likely to be successful, a server told me, if you try earlier on weekday evenings or Sundays, when the bar opens at 2pm and closes around 9pm. Given the fairly intimate quarters, the bar is a fully seated experience, whether you’re hugging the high-top tables, taking one of the handful of intricately carved bar stools or sliding into one of the cozy booths in the far corner. As such, it’s best experienced in groups of four or fewer.

Having a drink here feels like a hybrid between an old-school joint like Tiki Ti and your garden-variety craft cocktail bar in the best way possible. With a menu of cheekily named house drinks, the Lucky Tiki’s expert bartenders have pulled out all the stops in terms of presentation and theatrics, albeit with varying degrees of success. The crushed graham cracker sand that accompanies the bourbon-based Buried Treasure is not only adorable, the cinnamon flavors complement the beverage itself. The mai tai and pina colada options are strong and faithfully executed, and it’s hard to say no to the Elvis in Hawaii, which combines peanut butter whiskey with creme de banana and cabernet and tops the whole situation off with a cocktail pick of bruléed banana slices. The Flying Fish, served in an adorable puffer fish-shaped mug, is one of the more successful house drinks, with an avocado-washed gin base, sweet orange vermouth, pineapple and lime.

There are a few blind spots on the drinks menu, however. Lovers of old-fashioneds will likely scoff at the Lucky Tiki Old Fashioned. The cocktail arrives in a glowing treasure chest, presented with flourish, but the coconut-washed bourbon with vanilla demerara syrup and tiki bitters doesn’t exactly put hair on your chest like an old-fashioned ought to. The Easy Cabreezy Bowl—the Lucky Tiki’s take on the scorpion bowl—offers pyrotechnics and three kinds of hard liquor, but still lacks the sort of hangover-inducing punch one typically associates with the infamously boozy group drink. Most of the bar’s signature creations will get you drunk, but a few of them run on the weaker side, like the coconut-pineapple-flavored Riders on the Storm and the mezcal-based Give Me a Little Head. Still, I can’t deny that almost all of the Lucky Tiki’s cocktails are well-crafted and delicious, aside from the Ghost of Jim Morrison, which is actively bad. The drink pairs rum with blackberry shrub and singed rosemary on top, but the end result tastes like vaguely watered down blackberry smash.

For those arriving well before 10pm, the tropical-inspired secret food menu more than compensates for any shortcomings. In addition to the regular Tail o’ the Pup menu, which you can order directly to your table or bar seat, the Lucky Tiki offers classic tiki dishes like coconut shrimp, deep-fried chicken potstickers and crab rangoon. There are also multiple kinds of fried chicken in various sauces, including orange chicken, and a split hot dog topped with sliced pineapple, a maraschino cherry and teriyaki sauce. These delicious, craveworthy and deeply satisfying bar bites present a compelling reason to plan a visit to the Lucky Tiki well before 10pm, when the kitchen downstairs closes for the night. 

Perhaps my only real gripe with the Lucky Tiki is the slightly flaky service: Unless you’re sitting at the bar, the tropical-shirted servers aren’t likely to pay attention to you or refill your water glasses past your initial order. Multiple times, I had to flag down or walk over to the bar myself to ask one of the bartenders to refill my water glass. While this journey is neither long nor arduous, it’s a little annoying to be locked into a sit-down experience at a bar without the sit-down service to accompany it. If you’re trying to get a second round of cocktails, it can still be difficult at times to get your server’s attention; oftentimes, they’re lighting someone else’s drink on fire or simply nowhere to be found. Still, this new-school tiki experience is charming enough that I’d recommend coming here again anyway—staying hydrated be damned. 

The vibe: Kitschy to the nth degree. The intimate space is decked out in tiki memorabilia, from one-of-a-kind mugs to a carved toucan. 
The food: From 5 to 10pm, everything at Tail o’ the Pup is available to order upstairs, plus a special menu exclusive to the Lucky Tiki. Highlights include the coconut shrimp, chicken potstickers and several styles of saucy chicken (we liked the sweet and spicy variety).
The drink: Mostly rum-based house drinks, plus a few wine and beer options, and a handful of non-alcoholic options. Standouts include the Buried Treasure, the Elvis in Hawaii and the Flying Fish.
Time Out tip: If you’re interested in taking a piece of the Lucky Tiki home, the bar sells two kinds of collectable drink glasses—no mugs yet unfortunately (though they'll likely be available by the end of the year), but you can buy the same glasses that Riders on the Storm and the Mai Tai are served in.

Details

Address
8512 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood
90069
Price:
$$
Opening hours:
Wed–Sat 5pm–midnight; Sun 2–8pm
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