Potent Rum Drinks & Polynesian Decor In The South Bay
One would think that Los Angeles – with its miles of beaches, endless sunshine and plethora of palm trees – would be full of tiki bars.
That there would be one on practically every streetcorner, as common at McDonald’s restaurants (or, alas, Starbucks coffee shops).
But surprisingly, that’s hardly the case.
In fact, there are only a few of them scattered about this sprawling city, particularly with the demise of the original Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills. (There’s a substitute version at LA Live which is pretty good, but the original had those male Pacific-heritage bartenders who wore white jackets that brought to mind lab coats and mad scientists mixing up wicked concoctions.)
A Polynesian Paradise In An Unlikely Location
One tho, is in somewhat of an unlikely place – El Segundo. Mostly the home of Chevron and butt of many Johnny Carson jokes back in his Tonite Show times, “Gundo” as locals call it is the Mayberry RFD of Los Angeles.
Yet it has one of the city’s best tiki bars, the Purple Orchid.
Located in the small downtown on Richmond Street, the Purple Orchid has Polynesian decor down to a blowfish for a light and postcards from Pacific islands lacquered into the bar, lively tropical wallpaper on the bathroom walls (including a very interesting explanation of the origin of the word “tiki!”) and a full menu of potent tropical drinks.
One of those is served in a big bowl with a flame in the center and is shared by people sucking rum out of long straws.
It doesn’t take long for the rum in the drinks to take affect and with the surroundings you’re soon mentally transported to a tropical paradise.
Like a true tiki bar, the place is also dark; so dark, in fact, that it takes a couple of moments to adjust the eyes when you walk inside, even at night. PubClub.com is not sure why this is a trait of tiki bars, but it is, and the Purple Orchid certainly adheres to this tiki tradition.
The tiki gods and bamboo on the walls look as if the owners searched the far reaches of the Pacific to find them but in reality, Rebecca and David Fernandez made them themselves.
There are also bands on weekends and it’s often a surf band. There is no cover charge. With a pool table and a few “heads on the bar” regulars, it also serves as somewhat of a dive bar for locals.
Purple Orchid Tiki Bar
Address: 221 Richmond Street, El Segundo, CA
Phone: (310) 322-5829