Although we’re a little late to the table compared to cocktail meccas like Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco and New York, the tiki bar boom has finally come to Nashville. Focused around Polynesian decor and exotic cocktails, often made using rum and fruity sweet mixers, tiki bars are fun places to lose yourself in the ambiance and discover new drinks made from classic ingredients.
With several new tiki-related options in town and another one rumored to be on the way soon, Music City has finally jumped in the tiki pool, albeit 85 years after Earnest Gantt opened the first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber, in Los Angeles in 1934. Here are a few places to check out so you can get your boat drink on!
Pearl Diver in East Nashville is the project of Treehouse restaurant owners Corey Ladd and Matt Spicher along with No. 308 owner Ben Clemons and longtime 308 bartender Jamie White. It represents probably the most straightforward example of the tiki lounge experience in town with a decor dominated by Polynesian elements like bamboo, palm tree wallpaper and cabanas plus a cocktail menu featuring classic drinks like mai tais, daiquiris and the underappreciated Hotel Nacional. The kitchen also offers up island cuisine such as yucca fries, Pu Pu platters and pineapple fried rice. They don’t accept reservations at Pearl Diver, so get there early unless you want to wait in line to enjoy the fun.
Chopper is a fun mashup of – wait for it- tiki and robots courtesy of local letterpress printing expert Bryce McCloud, Barista Parlor’s Andy Mumma and longtime Husk Nashville bar manager Mike Wolf. The trio has created a backstory for their East Nashville lounge revolving around “Island X,” a mythical South Seas locale with futuristic robot technology and Polynesian drinks. McCloud is responsible for all sorts of fun and funky robot-inspired art to decorate the space, including a huge golden automaton hanging above the bar staring down at the talented mixologists as they prepare cocktails for thirsty patrons. The drinks menu features playful goofs on tiki classics like the Singapore Sling and the Zombie plus a large format scorpion bowl that can serve up to four guests for a quick trip to Island X. For a truly unique Nashville bar experience, jump on that Chopper!
Keep your eyes peeled for Hubba Hubba, a “beach hut bar” from the folks behind the popular laid back East Nashville bar, The Crying Wolf. Kyle Lamoureux and Dave Young have been hard at work converting a small warehouse on Main St. into the island destination of their dreams. They intend for the space to have an open-air vibe with an outdoor patio, and hope to be open in time to enjoy the weather before it gets too chilly.
Flamingo Cocktail Club & Coffee Bar in Wedgewood-Houston doesn’t bill themselves as a tiki bar, per se, but there are certainly lots of tropical elements in the decor and drink menu at this trendy emporium. The selection of cocktails changes seasonally, but there are always at least a couple options that harken back to the days of Polynesian drinks made with exotic syrups and fresh fruits. The decor is flashy and the dress code urges patrons to look their best while also limiting cell phone usage so you can concentrate on the drinks and the company. Flamingo also hosts frequent arts events and live music, so you can expect the party to be pumping just about any night they are open.