One of the more disappointing Vegas trends, besides the added fees, is the lack of theme development in new properties and the stripping of thematic elements in older resorts. Sometimes, kitschy works. I, for one, enjoy exploring the heavily themed hotels on the Strip, trying to find new, often subtle nods to the time period they are meant to represent. I’m not alone in this hobby, nor is it limited to Vegas obsessives. Avid Disney fans scour the parks looking for easter eggs and “secret” locations. If you’re cut from the same cloth and the contemporary architecture of your hotel just isn’t doing it for you, two Vegas bars can give you a taste of the South Pacific.
On my recent trip, I asked others if they cared to follow on a tiki bar run. I was joined by some absolutely lovely people on the Polynesian journey. Our first stop was Frankie’s Tiki Room, which had been remodeled in 2008 after owner P Moss purchased Frankie’s Bar and Cocktail Lounge. He kept the “Frankie’s” monicker to pay homage to the original business. Just a couple blocks west of LV BLVD on Charleston, Frankie’s is a quick ride from Downtown and the northernmost resorts on the Strip.
It had been a while since I visited Frankie’s Tiki Room, but it’s a place that seemed unchanged. This may have been because it was so dark I could barely see anything. I, in the style of generations much older, had to go go gadget my phone’s camera light to read the menu. When your eyes finally adjust to the dark interior, you get a full appreciation for the intricate carvings and interesting artwork.
If architecture isn’t your forte, and you’re more into drinking, you won’t be disappointed. Those bad boys are strong and appropriately named. You won’t find any “Three Rum Scums”, “Tangerine Speedos”, or “Polynesian Pile Drivers” on the Strip. If you’re a rum fan, Frankie’s is a paradise.
The bar is cozy, much smaller than you may expect, but heading there during off hours like we did will guarantee you a comfortable spot and quick service. All tiki aficionados know Frankie’s. It’s quintessential cool with island flare and should definitely be on your list if you have yet to take the trip.
What Frankie’s has in cool, Golden Tiki matches in whimsy. GT is a much bigger, slightly brighter space. I heard it described once, and forgive me for not being able to properly cite this, as a walk through a ride line in Disney World. There’s a lot to take in. Booths flank the large thatched bar which opens up to a semi-private room, complete with a skeleton-manned ship. Large clamshells and skeleton heads are scattered around, along with some quirky paintings.
Not far from the Strip in Vegas’ Chinatown district, Golden Tiki is a fun, approachable bar. It, like Frankie’s, was uncrowded in the afternoon, but it picks up in the evening hours and will feature a DJ from time to time. The drinks were, as the theme would dictate, strong and fruity. GT will even play around with whiskey, for you brown liquor lovers. Their “Monkey Business” concoction features one of my favorite blended whiskeys, Monkey Shoulder.
Both bars are open 24/7, so if you’re looking to make a rum run at 3am, you’ll have a place to go. You can also take a piece of Vegas tiki back with you, as souvenir mugs are available for purchase at each location. With limited space in my luggage, I simply held onto my Golden Tiki stirrer. Mixing drinks back home in the cold now brings me back to a warm Vegas day with new friends.
If you’re a frequent Vegas visitor looking to break away from your usual grind or a newbie wanting to try something different, take a quick ride out to one of these two exotic bars. Just don’t plan on driving yourself- those drinks will do you in!