Don’s Swordfish Lights the Way
It’s hard for me to figure out where to begin this one. Don the Beachcomber (aka Don's) in Huntington Beach (Sunset Beach) was my local tiki bar for many years. Before it was Don’s, it was Sam’s Seafood. I started going there back in the late 70’s, so this place has had a special place in my heart for a long time. Like many tiki fans in Southern California, I was really shattered when it closed on April 15 of this year (2018). To honor this tiki institution, I created this limited edition pin of the Don’s swordfish sign. For many of us, it was like a magical tiki beacon that guided you to this amazing place.
Inside the Dagger Bar
The center of that magic was of course the “Dagger Bar”, but there was also the “Coconut Bar” as well as the “Hidden Village” in the back. The drinks were strong and included many of the potions made famous by the original Donn Beach himself, including the Zombie, Mai Tai, Scorpion and 151 Swizzle.
Inside the Restaurant with Tikis and Waterfalls
You can find reviews and a great photo gallery on Critiki who said of Don's “The owners (were) hoping to honor the name by bringing back traditional Don the Beachcomber cocktails. The decor remains intact, and has been augmented with more work by Bamboo Ben. Notably, the entrance has been redecorated in tribute to the entrance to the original Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood.”
Tiki Makeke Marketplace
One of the best sources of info about Don’s is The Hula Girl’s Blog. Spike has done an awesome job pulling together historical and other interesting photos and more about the place. Noting that the place contains “Two large waterfalls, six different rooms, a tropical gift shop, a Hidden Village, more bamboo, pufferfish lamps, decor, and Milan Guanko carved tikis than you can even believe! The only other tiki palace of this size is the Mai Kai in Ft Lauderdale, FL. Sam's/Don's is truly impressive.” And over the years it impressed a lot of interesting people. “Famous visitors such as Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Duke Kahanamoku, and John Wayne frequented the new tiki palace!”
The Ding Dong Devils at the Gathering of the Ohana
Don’s was also known for their great music. With so many great tiki bands frequenting the place it was hard to not be there on a good night. Some of my favorites were the Ding Dong Devils, The Swank Bastards, The Hula Girls, The Rayford Brothers, Tikiyaki Orchestra and so many more. It’s also notable that Spike from the Hula Girls was also the last person to perform there. In an impromptu performance as the bartenders made the last call, he rushed in with his guitar and amp and played a final version of Miserlou. It was awesome.
Spike Closes it Out
Those who made it to Don’s before they closed understand why so many people in the tiki community were devastated at the loss of this tiki landmark. Those who never made it to this tiki paradise can only imagine what it was like. We all hope they find a new location soon and that it’s half as cool as this was.
2021 Update: The famous Don's Swordfish sign was recently removed. We heard from a good source that the sign is going to be restored and used at a new Tiki bar in the future. Glad to hear that but so sad to see it gone.
Don's Swordfish Pin
I’d like to also take this opportunity to thank all of you who made the first Don’s Sword fish pin sell out so quickly. I’m glad you guys love them so much. We’ve got more Don’s tributes including stickers and shirts so check them out too.