Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Escape From Douchery, Part 3: Frankie's Tiki Room

As you might have noticed, a lot of the places I'm recommending in my ongoing (and award winning) Escape from Douchery series are off The Strip. And yes, Vegas douchery is concentrated most fully under the glaring lights and blaring Kesha jams on The Strip, but there I promis that there are a few places in the thick of the action that I plan on recommending in future installments. But the point of these articles is to explore some of the more offbeat corners of Sin City, which is why I'm recommending the so un-hip it's hip, kitschy, and thoroughly awesome Frankie's Tiki Room in downtown.

This great Vegas Tiki bar is an homage to a dying breed of watering hole that was once prominent. After World War 2, Tiki culture spread like a wildfire. Hollywood's Don The Beachcomber started the trend, spreading the gospel of thatched roofs, Tiki-god statues and tropical drinks all over the country. Vegas was not immune to the trend, as Tiki Bars took hold in many major hotels throughout the 60s, including Sin City's own version of Don the Beachcomber at The Sahara. But the run of rum and juice infused drinks had to come to an end eventually, as most of the old Tiki bars either shuttered their doors or have become half empty watering holes for old drunks in Hawaiian shirts to gather at and sip on extremely strong drinks with names like Uga Buga, Lapu Lapu and the Zombie.

Not to be discouraged by the fact that the Tiki Bar trend had long since gone the way of the Dodo, Double Down Saloon owner P Moss decided that Vegas needed a place to enjoy super strong cocktails surrounded by kitschy takes on Polynesian culture, and thus Frankie's Tiki Room was born in Downtown.

Frankie's gets its distinct decor "Bamboo Ben," who is probably the best known Tiki bar designer in the world (not to mention the grandson of Eli Hedley, who used actual driftwood he found washed up on beaches to create the decorations for Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room, among other iconic designs). The place is filled with perfectly tuned kitsch, including hand-carved Tiki god statues and a "vice-tester" carnival-game designed by Shag (a world famous graphic artist who made his reputation exploring a swinging 60's influenced aesthetic that fits right in at the bar). 

The ridiculously strong cocktails are all served in different, whimsical mugs that fit into the tropical island theme. Frankie's serves some of the best Zombies I've ever tasted, but be warned... they're so strong that you're only allowed to drink two per visit (unless you ask nicely).

This tropical paradise in the middle of the desert is open 24/7, so you can enjoy their Polynesian infused, alcohol rich drinks late into the night. Good news too, because the bar is definitely off the beaten path,north of The Strip and a few blocks west of Las Vegas Boulevard at 1712 West Charleston. Sure, it's a bit of a trek, but it's worth the journey if only to check out the crowd.

Like The Double Down, the best thing about Frankie's is the people it attracts. This is not a bar that most tourists seek out, which means you'll have a chance to hang out with local artists, musicians and hard drinkers. And the Vegas visitors you do meet there are clearly cool since they got away from the crowds to check out this perfectly executed ode to Polynesian culture.

If you're looking for strong drinks, controlled kitsch and great crowds, then head into Frankie's for a few drinks. Just be prepared to stumble out significantly more intoxicated than when you entered if you sample any of the places' signature concoctions.

1 comment:

  1. Frankie's looks like such a cool place. I can't wait to get out to Vegas again and check it out. The good news is Tiki is making a revival right now so more and more cool places like Frankie's are popping up every day.