This might sound like a lead-up to some kind of joke: Landlocked Indianapolis is jumping into the tiki revival’s Polynesian melting pot. We have a new high-end tiki bar (The Inferno Room) filled with collector-quality Papua New Guinea tribal art, and tiki pop-ups have transformed Hoosier bars into temporary island oases, from Irvington’s Black Acre to Mo’s House in Evansville to Kokomo’s Coterie, which hosted a tropical takeover every Saturday night last summer.
Indianapolis has its own chapter of the Fraternal Order of Moai, a semi-secret society of fez-wearing convivial souls who travel to thatched bars around the world, collecting experiences and swizzle sticks for their elaborate home tiki bars. You will find no shortage of working bartenders experimenting with cocktails that fall under the little pink umbrella of nouveau tiki.
Plus, we can lay claim to some tiki history of our own. Crawfordsville native Steve Crane, a B-movie actor who was briefly married to Lana Turner, is considered one of the fathers of the movement. He founded The Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills in the 1950s and went on to open posh Polynesian spots around the country into the late 1970s. Around that time, local tikiphiles might have thrown back a Suffering Bastard or a Rattlesnake at the gloriously peak-roofed and torch-lit Mai Tai restaurant at the corner of 38th Street and Shadeland Avenue, a piece of architectural lore from a bygone era. It adds to the mystique, though. And the fact that you can order a drink poured into a vintage Mai Tai restaurant glass at The Inferno Room shows how, punch line or not, Indianapolis has embraced its own goofy drunk history.
Want more tiki? Click the links below for our full Isle of Tiki feature.
- Swizzle Shtick: Indy’s Tropical Bars
- The Tiki Menu: If You Like Piña Coladas…
- Below Deck: DIY Tiki Room
- Punch Drunk Love
- Welcome To The Jungle: Decor at The Inferno Room
- The Torch Bearers: Pukapuka Social Club