Tiki Ti - The Story Behind the Pin
Living in the LA area – the birthplace of the tiki bar, I’m blessed with several really fun classic tiki bars to go to. While the first bars like the original Don the Beachcomber, Trader Vic’s and The Luau have all disappeared, the Tiki Ti is still going strong since 1961. If you’ve never been to the Tiki Ti, it is definitely one to put on your bucket list. It seems like it holds about 50 people, it’s only open Wednesday thru Saturday and there’s almost always a line to get in. Stand in that line – it’s worth it. It was also the inspiration for a great collectible tiki pin.
Tiki Ti - Yes there's a line.
Ray Buhen, who worked at the original Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood as far back as 1937, started the Tiki Ti. According to A short history of the Tiki-Ti by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry ,“With the help of his wife Jerri, Ray turned his father-in-law's tiny violin shop into a tropical paradise of tapa cloth, rattan, fishing floats and puffer-fish lamps. And on April 28, 1961, the Tiki-Ti was born. One by one, the famous places Ray worked disappeared over the years; but the Tiki-Ti not only prospered, it grew famous in its own right. Now Ray has passed on, but his son Mike and grandson Mike continue to practice Ray's art, serving his top-secret potions to an ever-increasing customer base.” Any of those potions are winner’s but of course you have to try the Ray’s Mistake. And if you are there on a Wednesday night you can join in the toast to Ray.
Ray Buhen - The Master
One of the things I love most about the Tiki Ti is the actual building. It’s small enough that you could drive by and miss it. I totally get that it was once a violin shop. In fact, I was talking to Mike Buhen Sr. recently and he told me they were originally planning on turning the violin shop into a bartending school. But once they got the liquor license, they figured they might as well make it a bar instead. Lucky for us, it worked out that way.
Once you walk inside the Tiki Ti you are quickly transported to tropical paradise. They have all elements necessary to put them at the top of the list of classic tiki bars. Critiki rates it a 9.3 and of it’s drinks says “These recipes are closely guarded family secrets. There are plenty of classic cocktails on the menu, but many of the drinks are the creation of Ray or his son or grandson. One of Ray's creations, Blood & Sand, is named for the Tyrone Power bullfighting film by the same name, and as it is being mixed the bar's patrons call out "Toro, Toro!"
Blood and Sand complete with Bull
Something you may notice when looking at the Tiki Ti pin is that the building looks a little different than it does today. Tiki Ti has changed its color scheme over the years and I chose to do one of the “vintage” looks because it reminded me of the amazing Ray’s Mistake tiki mug from Tiki Farm that Thor designed. It’s one of my favorite tiki mugs of all time. Some of the details included on the pin that are still there today are: the float light and tiki head.
Tiki Ti Pin from PinTiki and mug from Tiki Farm
Vintage Tiki Ti Look - photo from Pinterest
The owner, Mike Senior, was nice enough to let me sell a limited run of 100 of these fun tiki pins, (now SOLD OUT) so get one while they are available; once they are gone – they are gone. And please do yourself a favor and visit the Tiki Ti whenever you are in Los Angeles –and bring cash because it’s cash only!
UPDATE: Tiki Ti loved our pin so much they had me design a couple of new pins that are only available from at the Tiki Ti (or their online store). Check it out they are super cool.
Inside the Tiki Ti - where all the magic happens. Mike Jr. doin' his thing.
Tiki Ti is located at: 4427 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles California 90027. Here's a little treat for you if you made it this far. Google Street View actually lets you explore the inside of Tiki Ti - check it out, just go inside.