At 10 p.m. on Saturday, I found myself still in loungewear. An old high school classmate of mine was in town, and we’d spent the day watching basketball, getting tattoos in NoDa and eating everything in sight. After a nap that lasted at least two hours on the couch, the last thing on my mind was leaving the house. But on the last night with one of my best friends, I knew staying in wasn’t an option.
After throwing together a relatively cute outfit, we had a beer and decided to go on an adventure to a new spot. We grabbed a Lyft and made our way to Myers Park. Tucked underneath Jason’s Deli on Woodlawn after crossing over Park Road is an island getaway, a bar unlike any other in the Queen City. Open for little over a month, the Tiki Hideaway is a one-of-a-kind experience.
When I checked out their Facebook page, I surmised a sign had yet to be installed, so I was surprised to see “Tiki Hideaway: Classic Cocktails and Small Plates” in electric purple above the door’s entrance. In front, a stone tiki mask and on each side of the door, metal tiki faces illuminated by bright orange, reminiscent of glowing island torches.
As soon as we walked through the door I felt like I should’ve had on a grass skirt and coconuts with a flower in my hair and a lei around my neck. The back wall was etched with tribal carvings, lit blowfish hung from the ceiling, a thatch roof hung over the bar and a humongous tiki head with a gaping mouth was at the center of the bar holding bottles of liquor. It was like being in an upscale island hut. The TVs showed clips of island beaches, ocean waves and an Elvis movie.
After taking in the intimate ambience, we asked for a drink menu. In it we found specialty handcrafted cocktails ranging from an $8 Rum Punch of the Month to a $65 Scorpion Bowl that is perfect for sharing. We settled on the Zombie and the Cradle of Life. The bartender mixed each drink with care — and then lit them on fire! To top mine off, he placed a small tiki mask ice cube on top. I began to feel like Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. The Cradle of Life was smooth and not overpowered by fruit juice. (Later, I found out they mix their own syrups — impressive!)
As we sipped, I watched a man in a Hawaiian shirt mixing drinks behind the bar, cleaning tables and conversing with other guests. I soon discovered this was Tiki Hideaway owner, Mike Barrea, and snagged a few minutes with him to chat.
Barrea and his wife moved to Charlotte from Fairfax, Virginia. When finding a job became challenging, he decided to look into opening a bar. After conducting background research and visiting many tiki bars across the U.S., he collaborated with Brent Baronofsky — an award-winning restaurant designer who is familiar to the Charlotte restaurant scene, including Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar — to create Barrea’s tiki-themed bar.
I asked him to explain what a tiki bar is exactly. He pulled out a huge book called Tiki Pop that looked like it held all of life’s secrets, and talked about a popular American subculture that re-imagines a Polynesian paradise. Largely influenced by two gentleman, Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron, the founding fathers of tiki restaurants, bars and nightclubs, the concept and food and drink recipes have been passed down for over 70 years.
What separates the Tiki Hideaway from the hundreds of other bars in the area? Besides the unique theme, “When you come here, we want you to go back in time, escape and not realize you’re in Charlotte,” he said. And trust me, if you manage to make your way through the drink menu, you will definitely forget you’re still in the Queen City.
And although I didn’t get a chance to try any, I can’t forget to mention the small plates. Executive chef Allen Evans comes from Global, a favorite Ballantyne restaurant. If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day spot, the Tiki Hideaway is putting on a special holiday five-course meal for $50 a meal. Even if you’re celebrating anti-Valentine’s Day like me, the menu, complete with lobster and crab cakes, seared scallops, pork loins, New York strip and beignets, looks pretty tempting.
Make sure you get out to this island paradise, the Tiki Hideaway, and be on the lookout for summertime fun as they share a huge patio with hookah spot Barreled at the Lift. The energy is going to be insane out there once it warms up!