The Tonga Hut – Los Angeles, California - Gastro Obscura

Gastro Obscura

The Tonga Hut

Though tiki culture has gone in and out of fashion, the Tonga Hut has always been flying the flag in Los Angeles.  

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Tiki culture began in California when Ernest Gannt opened Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood in 1934, and many copycats like Trader Vic’s soon followed in its wake. By the 1950s and 1960s they were hot all over America, and brothers Ace and Ed Libby opened the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood.

Hardcore fans of “exotica” music and kitschy décor, wooden canoes, fountains, rattan furniture, sultry grass-skirted women, and “tikis” like the 10-foot-high, grim-faced “Big Mo” who stands by the door here had found a home, even if fruity rum-based cocktails like the Mai Tai, Painkiller and Zombie sometimes went out of favor.

Dave Berry changed the game in 1998 when he wrote Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log of tropical tipples, and in 2009 the Tonga Hut instituted the “Order of The Drooling Bastard,” a challenge to drink all 78 cocktails from the Log in one calendar year.

Winning Bastards get $1 off every drink for life and their tiki names (like Bora Bora Dog, Morticia Baddams, Swifty, Tiki TV and Dr. G) on the wall. There’s one too for Dottie, who came six days a week for nearly 20 years (despite being a brandy drinker) and is said to haunt her regular seat.

Know Before You Go

There's a sister Tonga Hut in Palm Springs too, but either way Beachcomber’s Gold (French and Italian vermouth, bitters, Pernod and light rum) is the one drink every potential Bastard hates; most hold their nose while chugging it down in one long gulp.

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