Tiki Bars

582. Mai Tiki Bar – September 30, 2022 – Ferndale, MI

Mai Tiki Bar is a sweet escape!

Tucked away behind an unmarked door inside TigerLily sushi bar (formerly Antihero), the Ferndale-based speakeasy tiki bar is a whimsical kaleidoscope of colors and flavors: the perfect contrast to the muted winter landscape soon to befall Metro Detroit.

Mai offers an array of tropically inspired drinks served in the way characteristic of tiki bars: in visually arresting ceramic tiki mugs bedecked with fun garnishes such as mint leaves, pineapple wedges, and orchid blooms – or half a flaming lime (that’s the garnish for The Zombie!). The bulk of Mai’s specialty cocktails incorporate rum and fruit juices – another trait characteristic of tiki bars. But the drinks are much more nuanced than the ones you’d find at a stereotypical tiki bar (those kinds that cater to tourists in popular vacation spots). Mai’s incorporate interesting ingredients such as orgeat syrup, cinnamon, and pomegranate.

Take one of the drinks I ordered, The Jungle Bird. Its blackstrap rum, Campari, and demerara syrup melded with pineapple and lime juices to make a drink that was one part sweet, one part bitter – and one hundred percent delicious! I especially enjoyed the molasses flavor brought by the blackstrap rum.

But humans can’t live on wonderfully nuanced liquid libations alone. When you’re in need of nourishment after downing a Mai Tai or two, look to Mai’s food menu. The assortment of plates offer something for everyone, from veg lovers to meat-focused folks to seafood fanatics intrigued by the Mai Tiki Shrimp, Aku Roll, and three kinds of fish tacos (salmon, hamachi, and tuna).

I went the veg and meat route, ordering Mai’s Chicken Karage and Shishito Peppers. A flavorful yuzu chili aioli accompanied the tender Chicken Karage. And wonder accompanied the Shishito Peppers! The cooked peppers were topped with bonito flakes, which were moving – writhing all over the peppers.

Apparently, this is a common occurance. Bonito flakes are shaved dried fish; when sprinkled on hot foods, the heat causes them to rehydrate, and they start wiggling as a result. But it was my first time experiencing this phenomenon, and it was hard to shake the feeling that they were alive. Order those Shishito Peppers and play a party trick on your friends!

Party trick or not, visiting Mai Tiki Bar is a shindig in itself. Vibrant ambiance and compelling food and drink make it a escape worth taking.

231 W. 9 Mile Rd.

Ferndale, MI 48220

www.maitikibar.com

466. Mutiny Tiki Bar – February 16, 2020 – Detroit, MI

February2020MutinyBar1 (2)February2020MutinyBar2 (3)It feels massively bittersweet to be writing this post about my mid-February visit to Mutiny Tiki Bar. I had an amazing time at this wonderful, high-vibing bar in Southwest Detroit – but knowing that I couldn’t go there today if I wanted to brings tears to my eyes.

The coronavirus has impacted so many of us globally. For many, it has meant devastatingly life-altering or fatal consequences for themselves and/or their loved ones. My heart goes out to those who have been directly impacted by the virus in terrible ways, and I know my plight – to be stuck inside while we attempt to curb and end this thing in Michigan – is utterly miniscule compared with the suffering and grief those people have experienced. I am living a life of luxury and comfort in comparison, and I acknowledge that and am grateful for the fact that thus far, my family, friends, and I have been able to stay safe.

I acknowledge that, and . . . I miss exploring already. Monday was a bad day for me, when the directive came through from our governor for dine-in restaurants, coffee shops, and bars to close – plus gyms, recreation areas, spas, and the like (a.k.a., the fun stuff). I totally get and respect this decision, I know it’s necessary, and yet, it still SUCKS. Exploring Metro-Detroit has become much, much harder right now; even stepping out at all has become, at the very least, an ethical dilemma – not to mention, what could be a matter of life and death for vulnerable populations . . .  and we don’t know when that’s going to change.

And all of our beloved locally-owned restaurants and bars and shops . . . what is going to happen to them? How many of them will not be able to survive the shutdown, and how many of their employees are financially struggling by being unable to work?

The silver lining around this horrible time for local small businesses and their employees is that there are multiple ways that we as patrons can still support them. We can buy gift cards online to use toward future visits, grab carryout from those that are offering it (should we feel comfortable venturing out), purchase goods from their online shops, and even tip local bartenders for drinks we’ve made at home via a site called Go Tip Em (www.gotipem.com), which I became aware of via cocktaildetroit‘s Instagram account. We can do our part!

Hopefully such seemingly small actions can accumulate and make a big difference in keeping all of the wonderful independently-owned establishments in Detroit and the surrounding tri-county area operating. I, for one, am going to start doing my part by procuring online some of Lake Orion coffee house A Bean to Go‘s delectable beans (LOVE their brews and the vibe of their shop!) and browsing Detroit-based Pages Bookshop‘s internet store for that book club pick I can no longer get from the library.

Enough of the spotlight on this awful virus: it’s time to move on to cheerier topics and the hope of brighter times – times when we can again patronize stellar establishments such as this one, Mutiny Tiki Bar!

I enjoyed the heck out of my visit to this bar. Located in an unmarked brick building, it can be challenging to spot, but using the reference points of other landmarks (it’s at the corner of Vernor Highway and Lansing Street; it’s next to Chicago’s Pizza) helps to locate it.

The no-frills ambiance ends outside; Mutiny’s interior is a fun mix of hipster chill and tropical vibes. The interior is paneled in wood and accented with bamboo. Colored twinkle lights, gauzy netting, pretty parasol umbrellas, and voluminous amounts of grassy-looking fibers that appear to be dried palm fronds (or faux stuff constructed to look like them) hang from the ceiling, while flowered leis are draped over the turquoise bar chairs and all manner of other surfaces. Carved masks, colorful buoys, and tropically-themed photos and other goodies decorate the walls. It all melds together to form a visually arresting atmosphere.

It also melds together to form very relaxed, very friendly, ultra-good vibes. Maybe it was the boosted spirits of me and my friend who had come to Mutiny for a Sunday Funday celebration; maybe it was our awesome bartender, who was attentive and welcoming in a very chill way; maybe it was the cool gal sitting near us at the bar who we struck up a conversation with and who my friend brought in on our shot-taking hijinks, but man, the vibes were EXCELLENT at the place!

I had such a good time sampling Mutiny’s wares: its tasty Old Salt cocktail with its Patron tequila, tomatillo syrup, chili salt rim, and flaming lime (shown on the right in the photo of the drinks above) and its Banana Bread Shot – which O.M.G., is phenomenal. Like, WOW-THIS-IS-DEFINITELY-ONE-OF-THE-BEST-DRINKS-I’VE-EVER-CONSUMED phenomenal.

Not gonna lie, my friend and I each had two of those Banana Bread shots; they were so good that we felt compelled to do a take-two on them (and we had an excuse to use: celebrating my procuring of a much-desired new job). The menu description of this delectable little baby says it all: “molasses infused Bacardi Banana, coco nib, cinnamon, cream.” It truly tastes like the most luxurious banana bread you’ve ever eaten and is so, so YUMMMM.

Once we get the all-clear to be out and about again and Mutiny Tiki Bar is reopened, I have a feeling it’s going to be KICKING. It is so worth a visit, and in the great, grand scheme of things, it’ll be reopened again before we know it.

4654 Vernor Hwy.

Detroit, MI 48209

www.mutinybar.com

459. Lost River – January 19, 2020 – Detroit, MI

January2020LostRiver1 (2)January2020LostRiver3 (4)January2020LostRiver2 (3)January2020LostRiver4 (3)I don’t do Sunday-Funday extravaganzas nearly enough – as my visit to Lost River reminded me.

A friend and I sought libations at the tiki-themed bar on the East Side of Detroit after walking through the VERY cool, very-view-worthy Robolights Detroit exhibit at the MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) one Sunday in mid-January.

Walking into Lost River felt like walking into another dimension. The bar had its own atmosphere, one that was dimly lit and strewn with faux flowers and vines, fishing nets, twinkle lights, and island-inspired memorabilia and artwork. This is the kind of place where it feels totally possible to forget the time of day, season, and geographical location.

One wall brandished a striking floral mural, and another held a projector screen showing Gilligan’s Island episodes and vintage cartoons. In front of that screen was a xylophone, on which musician Roland Remington played melodically trippy tunes. The tiny place was jam-packed full of ambiance.

Lost River’s drink menu also wasn’t short on ambiance. It features signature cocktails, an array of intriguing tropical beauties encased in all manner of fancy glassware and bedecked with accessories such as rubber duckies, fresh flowers, fruit and herb garnishes – even a skewer of mini marshmallows and a doll-sized firepit to toast them on for one drink (the Fiery Skeleton).

I seriously considered ordering the Morning Routine, a boozy take on cereal and milk (containing a generous portion of Fruity Pebbles), but opted instead for the Rum Barrel, a drink described on Lost River’s menu as containing Appleton Rare Blend, Plantation Xaymaca, and Angostura 5 Year Old rums, grapefruit and lime juices, grenadine, honey falernum, allspice, and bitters. It was tasty – fruity and refreshing!

Lost River doesn’t have its own food menu, but it often hosts pop-up restaurants. Gajiza Dumplins is a frequent food contributor, and we were fortunate to have them there on the night of our visit. My friend enjoyed some of their vegan dumplings, and I savored a bowl of khao soi. Gajiza Dumplings’ take on one of my favorite Thai dishes was excellent with its richly flavored coconut curry broth, chicken thigh meat, egg noodles, and garnishes of pickled cabbage, fried shallots, crunchy noodles, cilantro, chili paste, and a lime wedge. We shared the Tiki Tots, which were supreme comfort-food deliciousness: perfectly crispy, perfectly grease-saturated tater tots tossed in black garlic oil, peanuts, fried shallots, Parmesan cheese, and various spices, served with spicy mayo. Yum, yum, and YUM!

This evening at Lost River was a Sunday-Funday extravaganza I was not soon to forget: it seriously colored that following Monday – and the rest of my week – in rosy-hued, tropically-infused, xylophone-plinky vibes. Thank you, Lost River, for transporting me to an isle of carefree fun for a couple of hours!

15421 Mack Ave.

Detroit, MI 48224

(Closed Mondays and Tuesdays)

www.lostrivertiki.com