It's not just the kitsch that makes tiki fun — although what's not to love about coconut-shell bikini tops and crazy glasses that are as big as punch bowls.
For bartenders, "Tiki drinks are really kind of masterful," Tim Quinn of Heritage says. "It's a serious craft concept that went from uncool to surging back." So Quinn and the Roosevelt's bar star T. Leggett are kicking off a tiki pop-up cocktail lounge to show guests that mai tais, scorpions and zombies can taste far better than they might think. The first of a possible summer series is at Ipanema Cafe on July 31 from 10 p.m.-2 a.m.
Quinn and Leggett will deck the place out. They're bringing in Brittanny Anderson to make Polynesian bar bites and Greg Darden to spin vinyl in the exotica style — tiki lounge music that's "cool, almost orchestral and sea breezy," Quinn says. Some call it the midcentury bachelor pad soundtrack.
Mostly, though, it's about the flavors of the drinks — international rums, pineapple, coconut, fresh juices and spices, homemade syrups such as the almondy orja, and falernum, blending almond, ginger, cloves, limes and other flavors. "They're just super fun," Leggett says of the traditional tiki drink recipes, "and this is something totally different from what we usually do. There's some stuff up my sleeve, maybe some smoke, some fire."
Quinn references the Manhattan bar Painkiller, now closed, which rode the tiki trend through the past few years. "That really opened my eyes to the history of tiki," Quinn says, "and just how interesting it is." The scene seems ripe for Richmond summertime. Ipanema Cafe is at 917 W. Grace St.
Fan re-brand: Work is in progress at the newly named Social52 Kitchen & Craft Bar, formerly the Avalon at 2619 W. Main St. James Baldwin and Walied Sanie bought the business in March and hope to reopen in mid-August. Oscar "Mac" McCrowell (Europa, Hill Café) is head chef, fine-tuning a gastropub menu with seafood, chicken and some of the Avalon's classic vegetable dishes, along with six taps for craft beer. "We've opened up the layout," Sanie says of the building's redesign, "and found beautiful natural brick under the drywall and concrete floors that we're polishing," with an enlarged bar, seating for 130 and an area for private parties. Watch this space for details.
Quick change: The Mediterranean Bistro at 2301 W. Main St. has suddenly become Luckie's Bar and Grill.
Craft beer month kickoff: Meet the brewers from about two dozen local craft breweries, sample beer and food, listen to live music and kick off Virginia craft beer month Aug. 2, 5:30-10:30 p.m. at the Richmond Coliseum, 601 E. Leigh St. Tickets at the box office are $22 general admission in advance and include samples. Designated driver and VIP tickets are available. See richmondcoliseum.net/events for details.