There is a nascent Tiki revival going on right now in Dallas, TX. By now, many of you have probably already heard of 4 Kahunas in Arlington, TX and its many accolades since its grand opening a year ago. That was just the beginning. The Swizzle Luau Lounge, a Tiki pop-up spearheaded by California transplant Jen Ann Tonic and her husband Marty Reyes, recently hosted Dallas Tiki Week in mid-June of 2019. And to say it was a rousing success is a gross understatement.
The History of Dallas Tiki Week
Dallas Tiki Week didn’t exactly start off as an event for all. In 2017, the Dallas chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild (USBG) planned and hosted the festivities, and many of the events throughout the week were largely targeted to bartenders.
In 2018, Dallas Tiki Week was back, this time with a few more events that locals could attend, but once again still mainly for industry professionals. Jen and Marty, though grateful to be consultants for the entire event in 2017 and 2018, wanted more. They wanted to bring Tiki to the general population, not just industry people.
Taking Charge in 2019
For Jen and Marty, the chance to make Dallas Tiki Week a truly inclusive and extraordinary experience for the public came in 2019. The powers that be at USBG gave them free rein to plan and execute the events as they saw fit. This proved to be a golden opportunity for Jen and Marty to bring in artists and personalities from out of state to participate in Dallas Tiki Week.
Mark Hooper and Jeanie Grant, both finalists in 2018’s Iron Tikitender competition at Tiki Kon, were tapped to be special guest bartenders. Linda Lou of Lucky Lou Shoes helped bring in artists and new vendors to participate in a very special Tiki flea market. Newcomers from California like Tahiti Gil and Tony Canepa, as well as Kymm Bang from Chicago, signed on.
Probably the most exciting addition to Dallas Tiki Week was Charles Phoenix. Yes, THAT Charles Phoenix. When a friend of hers suggested trying to get him for Dallas Tiki Week, Jen initially thought it was too lofty a goal. But she was happy to learn he was not only glad to come out, but was excited about it!
A Week of Tiki Fun, Drinks and Good Times
With all the preparations complete and the players lined up, Dallas Tiki Week officially began on June 9th. It was a rather ominous start thanks to a frightening thunderstorm that blew through Dallas shortly before the opening party started. Nonetheless, those who attended brought their aloha spirit, and the festivities were underway.
The first few days featured events like volleyball games at a bar with a sand court, a poolside luau, and a swizzle competition where some of Dallas’s best female bartenders could show their stuff. Toward the middle of the week, Jen and Marty hosted Swizzle Luau Lounge’s Hula Humpday, which featured Jeanie Grant bartending alongside Swizzle’s awesome bar staff. The following day, she led a symposium about her travels and experiences as a world-class Tiki bartender.
The first annual Tiki Home Bartender competition made waves, as participants from Dallas and beyond went head to head to showcase their best bartending chops.
Friday, the celebration continued with a rum class hosted by Don Q Rum and a special party hosted by 4 Kahunas. The party featured a hula contest, where a few brave souls shimmied and shook for a chance at boozy goodies from Plantation Rum. When one of those contestants is Tiki bartending celebrity Mark Hooper, you know you’re in for some comedy gold.
On Saturday afternoon, the Waipuna Tiki Flea dazzled new and veteran Tikiphiles alike with some truly amazing local and out of state vendors. The event also featured Mark Hooper as a special guest bartender, and he was as sharp with his drinks as with his wit. The flea was a big success, drawing a large crowd and exposing many more people to the art that makes Tiki so special.
Saturday night, vintage fanatics and Tikiphiles alike gathered at the Texas Theater to watch Charles Phoenix’s Addicted to Americana slideshow. Here’s a bit of historical trivia for you – The Texas Theater is famous for being the place where Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was apprehended. So it was the perfect place a fun, vintage-focused presentation.
This was the first time I got to experience Charles Phoenix, and he is definitely larger than life. His amazing slideshow was equal parts fascinating and hilarious. He even touched on some of our own vintage architectural treasures here in Dallas, clearly wanting the crowd to appreciate and preserve what little we have left. Audience members got to meet and take pictures with him after the show too, which was fun!
Dallas Tiki Week finally came to a close the next day with a relaxing pool party at the mid-century Belmont Hotel. Guests enjoyed beverages courtesy of Dallas Mexican spirits hotspot Las Almas Rotas and got some cool Wray & Nephew swag (I can’t wait to wear my track jacket later this year.)
I couldn’t be happier to see such a positive response to Dallas Tiki Week. The fact it was a labor of love showed in the details. Jen and Marty continue to make the Dallas Tiki flame burn brighter, and they deserve the support of the community. I encourage you to follow their Swizzle Luau Lounge and Dallas Tiki Week social media pages, and if you’re able to drive in for one of their events (I’m looking at you, Austin and Houston Tiki peeps), please do. Let’s keep Texas Tiki going strong!