So-Cal Tiki Getaway, Part 1: Purple Orchid & Palm Springs

What happens when you end up with a free week of work at the end of the year, with pay? Duh – You find a place to travel to, ASAP! And what better place to visit than SoCal, my home away from home? This trip was a little different than most of my others, where I rented a car and just sort of did my own thing. Instead, my friends talked me out of renting a car altogether, and helped me get around for five glorious days. We went to a ton of places in a relatively short period of time. In fact I went to so many places, that I’ve decided to write about them in a series of posts, rather than one long one.

I arrived on Christmas Day, my awesome friend John-O picked me up from LAX, and we went to one of the only tiki bars that was open – The Purple Orchid Tiki Lounge. It was a welcome sight after being in an airport for an hour and a half, and in a cramped sardine, plane for another three hours. We ordered a Watermelon Mai Tai, and a Vic’s Grog. I preferred the Vic’s Grog, as it was a bit on the sweeter side. We ran into some ohana inside, and chatted a bit, before heading out. Overall, my impression of Purple Orchid was that the vibe was pretty nice and chill, and the drinks were decent. The TV was on, which always sort of annoys me, but I don’t like TVs in any bar – just my preference! It had a slight sports-bar feel to it, but I liked the decor, the bar countertop (which has tons of pictures and other cool things to look at), and the wall art. I didn’t go in, but I am told the restrooms also have pages from Sven Kirsten’s Book Of Tiki as wallpaper. You might want to go get some bathroom selfies next time you’re in there!


The next day, after breakfast, the plan was to go to Long Beach and pick up my good friend Summer, and then the three of us would head out toward Palm Springs, by way of Corona, so we could drop in on Adrian and his incredible home tiki bar, the The Desert Oasis Room. In addition, we were hoping we could record a podcast while there, which was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking for me! After arriving, Adrian graciously made us his signature cocktail, the Blood Punch. It was a revelation – I’d totally pay money for that in any bar. We invited Adrian to come out to Palm Springs with us, and we ended up actually recording for his podcast in the car on the way there. I found it much easier than I anticipated. I’ve done a little voice work for a friend here in Dallas, but I had always refused to listen to the sound of my own speaking voice. I chalk that up to being my own worst critic. However, I listened to it yesterday, and I actually really liked it! If you want to check it out, go here.


Upon arriving in Palm Springs, we decided to hit The Reef first, since it was closing for a private party later that night. We got there in the nick of time, and Summer got her coconut fried shrimp, which she claims is the best she has had anywhere. I don’t eat shrimp, so I couldn’t say either way, but I’ll take her word for it! We were joined later by our friends Rory and Kari, and had a wonderful time chatting over cocktails and bar nibbles.

Our happy group (photo by Kari Hendler)

After the Reef, and a short trip to the magnificent Robolights near Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate (please Google Robolights…I can’t even describe it!), we headed for Bootlegger Tiki, and I was excited to say hello to my friend Chad Austin, who runs the bar. It was busy when we walked in, but we luckily got a table, and ordered a round. I have nothing bad to say about Bootlegger at all…every time I’ve gone in there, the drinks have been solid. I’ve never had a single one I didn’t like. Chad also has a special place in my heart, as he gave me my first cocktail recipe to make at home, and he has been an informative and incredibly gracious host every time I’ve visited. I chose to go with a Demerara Dry Float with the shot of danger (151) – if you dig drinks on the slightly sweeter side, and like passionfruit, this one’s for you! In fact, if you are someone who especially likes craft tiki cocktails, you need to pay Bootlegger a visit, no doubt.


Our last stop was Tonga Hut, because I made up my mind I was not leaving without getting my Tiki Taco Tuesday fix. It’s a great deal – three tiki tacos (served in wonton shells) and a Mai Tai for $12 – who could say no? I wolfed down those tacos – they didn’t even last ten minutes on my plate. I sort of regret not getting a second order, but that would have just been sheer gluttony on my part!


A short while later, Rory and Kari came back to join us for some more drinks. I even got to say hello to one of my favorite people, Lawrence, who has worked at Tonga Hut a very long time, and has always made my visits memorable. It was a fantastic night full of great cocktails, and even better people. John-O was the hero of the day, as he was the designated driver, so I have to add a shout-out to him for that! I’ll post again by the end of the week with Part 2 of my SoCal tiki trip – stay tuned!




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