Don the Beachcomber. It's a name that falls sweet and resonates on the lips of any true rum-lover. He was, after all, the sailor who inspired an entire era of Polynesian-style restaurants and a whole menu of rum-based cocktails to boot. While Don's popular tiki lounges have phased out over the years, the drinks that were once served in them continue to live on. In fact, there are still a handful of topical spots to be found in Chicagoland and we've got 'em. And if there's one thing we've learned on our tiki hunt, it's that suburbanites just can't get enough.
We get that tiki can often mean kitschy, but Hala Kahiki takes it to the extreme. And that's a good thing if you're looking for a truly authentic tropical experience. This place doesn't even bother with food; the entire menu is devoted to what the bar refers to as "combinations of liquid and fire water." You'll find over 20 tropical drinks including classics like hurricanes, mai tais, navy grogs and planter's punch. There are a slew of daiquiris and rum-based milkshakes, too. Hala Kahiki also offers libations for sharing including the Volcano, the Beachcomber and the Tiki Bowl. Drinks are served in ceramic coconuts and they're so potent that one or two will do the trick.
If you're into tiki for the knock-you-off-your-feet drink factor, look no further than Chef Shangri-La's Dr. Fong. This strong signature drink is so good it's birthed a whole new generation of tiki-lovers (you know you're devoted when you're willing to make the trek out to the 'burbs). And if the Doctor doesn't cure what ails you, this Riverside restaurant's well-executed Mai Tai's are always a safe bet.
This Hawaiian-inspired spot makes the most of its tropical decor with numerous tiki posts, hand-crafted rock formations and plenty of greenery, including palm trees. Even the waitresses here, clad in coconut bras and leis, double as hula dancers. In addition to its classic rum drinks, Tiki Terrace offers a full menu of Hawaiian and Asian cuisine including taro chips with homemade pineapple salsa, udon noodles and Honolulu coconut chicken. For something slightly American, try the restaurant's half pound Kahuna burger or the shredded pork sandwich, each served on a toasted bun. Stop in on a Friday or Saturday night when you can see traditional dance styles from the South Pacific.
Volcano Room Rum Bar
Worldly rums are to the Volcano Room what Belgian brews are to Chicago's beloved Hopleaf. Located on the second floor of Chicago's Bottom Lounge, this lofty space isn't as tiki'd out as its suburban competitors, but it's great for rum-junkies living in the city. Aside from showcasing bottles and bottles of rum, the bar makes way for a few festive wooden tiki posts. Volcano Room's bartenders hold the recipe to all the classic tiki tipples and are more than happy to serve any of their selections on the rocks. Attached to the bar is a 2,000 square-foot deck overlooking Chicago's skyline. Try finding a view like that in say, Schaumburg.
Uncle Fatty's Rum Resort
Tiki meets fraternity at this Lakeview rum bar. With sandboxes, bag tournaments and table-side coolers brimming with domestic brews, Uncle Fatty's is a little taste of Cancun in the city. The drink list features over 15 signature cocktails including frozen specialties like the Caribbean Slide with Cruzan rum cream, Kahlua and chocolate and the Rum Walker with spiced rum, blackberry brandy, banana, pomegranate and citrus ice cream. Uncle Fatty's also offers 60-ounce fish-tank cocktails, made for sharing.