8 Tiki Restaurants for the Winter Blues

Staff Writer
A collection of restaurants celebrating a taste of the islands

The crisp winter air and icy-cool temperatures are enough to make anyone long for an escape to the balmy beaches of Hawaii. While it may be not be totally feasible for everyone to hop on a plane and take a tropical vacation, there are plenty of restaurants in Hawaii and across the rest of the country that offer a taste of the islands every day.

Click for Tiki Restaurants to Warm Up the Winter Blues Slideshow. 

The tiki culture has a long tradition in the U.S., beginning in the early '30s and gaining national popularity in the '50s and '60s. Ernest Beaumont-Gantt is considered to have created the tiki lifestyle when he opened a bar and restaurant in Los Angeles in 1933 called Don the Beachcomber. The fare at Don's combined Chinese flavors and dishes with an American dive-bar sensibility. Gantt, who legally changed his name to Donn Beach, was known for crafting cocktails with rum and exotic fruit juices and is credited with inventing such drinks as the zombie.

Around the same time, a man named Victor J. Bergeron opened a dive bar called Hinky Dinks in Oakland, Calif., which he renamed Trader Vic's in 1937 after visiting Don the Beachcomber and adding a selection of Polynesian-inspired dishes to his menu. Bergeron is known as the inventor of the mai tai, among other punch cocktails.

These days, the tiki genre has expanded to include restaurants and bars in most cities across America. Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been serving up pupu platters and live entertainment for 56 years, while The Hurricane Club infused the swanky New York City lounge scene with exotic tiki cocktails and fare in 2010. So regardless of your distance to an actual tropical paradise, here is a look at the dining opportunities that offer a similar experience across the country.