Frankie’s Tiki Room
It's 7:48AM. Is your local bar open?
Probably not. Yet in Las Vegas, you'd be hard pressed to find a bar that's closed right now. In fact, most bars here are open 24 hours a day, and Las Vegas is also home to the world's only 24 hour tiki bar, Frankie's Tiki Room.
A "tiki bar," for the uninitiated, is a bar where 1950's style Hawaiiana meets carefully crafted exotic cocktails. Hawaiian shirts are the norm, and tribal masks and vintage style artwork adorn walls covered in woven bamboo. It's a little bit kitsch and a little bit irreverent but the overall vibe is definitely laid back and almost surfer-like. Drinks often contain adornments such as pineapple and cherries, but you won't find little umbrellas or machines pouring out pre-made sugary ice. Bartenders take pride in creating concoctions with ingredients like rums, honey, and guava juice along with secret spices. A drink can easily have seven different components, and the resulting beverage may be anywhere from super sweet and fruity to tart with a hint of nutmeg. While you can order a beer or a rum & coke, it's certainly the exception rather than the norm.
Walking into Frankie's Tiki Room in Las Vegas, you're instantly transported back in time to a magical place with a strong Polynesian feel. Before your journey fully begins, though, your eyes will have to adjust to the startling darkness of the room. When you're able to clearly see again a few moments later, to your front, you'll first notice a large tiki carving with dice for eyes : it's head goes up to the ceiling. With a closer look, you may even notice it has another tiki in its mouth. And looking even closer, you may notice that it is definitely a he. Yes, it's anatomically correct.
Turning to your left, you'll find a jukebox playing retro tikiphile classics from exotica legends like Martin Denny and Les Baxter, and you'll soon notice blowfish lights hanging from the ceiling beside Japanese glass fishing float lights as well. A thatch roof covers the bar area and to the right of the single room, you'll find a more secluded spot with a wraparound couch and numerous pieces of tiki artwork on the walls. It's got its own thatch roof, a step up, and a wooden railing to create a sort of virtual nook to separate it from the main floor.
The entire Frankie's Tiki Room space has been carefully crafted to be an enclave of tiki immersion. A collection of tiki mugs sits along the far wall while two TV's behind the bar play clips from old movies and shows. Glancing at the often black and white screens, you'll find yourself mesmerized at just how odd things could once be : talking dolls, topless hula dancers, and scenes from long forgotten, politically incorrect cartoons play above the numerous bottles of libations.
The bar area itself is covered with bottles of rum of nuanced difference. — A typical "speed rack" from which a bartender quickly pulls items like well vodka and scotch has about ten items. At Frankie's Tiki Room, the same area encompasses multiple levels and contains dozens of oft used ingredients, including mysterious liquids in glass bottles with medicine droppers.
Classic tiki drinks like a Zombie or a Navy Grog are served alongside Frankie's originals such as the "Thurston Howl" which comes in its own mug with red dice eyes or the "Tiki Bandit" which is served in a ceramic container that looks like the product of an illicit love affair between a tiki mask and a slot machine. A "Bearded Clam" is a little edgier with an elaborately painted mug of a topless, four armed gal whose hula skirt is a little too parted in the front. And the "Malekula" comes in a mug that looks like an Easter Island head. Eight different custom mugs are available at any one time, and true to tiki mug tradition, new ones are brought in while old ones are retired. — You can still get the "Green Gasser," but it won't come in the zombie looking mug like it once did.
You can, of course, take the mugs home with you as a souvenir of your visit. That's part of the tiki culture, and you'll find that all the mugs have "Frankie's Tiki Room Las Vegas" on the back to remind you of your time in Vegas. You'll likely snag Frankie's stir sticks and the cocktail picks, too, as they're both custom made as well. Attention to detail permeates ever surface and aspect of this hideaway which time has seemingly forgot.
And speaking of time, that's one of the great things about Frankie's Tiki Room : when you're there, time seemingly doesn't exist. There is no last call. There is no "time to go." You can stay and drink as long as you want, and the only indication of time passing is the amount of light coming in as the front door opens.
I've had many an afternoon or evening relieving the stresses of the day while drinking a "Ninth Island" or a "Fink Bomb." The calm music and dimly lit room perfectly compliment conversation with friends about life's grand adventures. A modified vintage strength test machine will even reveal your "secret vice" for a quarter, giving you a new conversation topic, too. Frankie's is a one-of-a-kind place and certainly shouldn't be missed during your next visit to Las Vegas.
Of course, wanting to make sure I wasn't overlooking anything for this review, I went to Frankie's Tiki Room this morning and had the "Tiki Bandit" you see here. Sure, it was a little early for a cocktail, but that's the great thing about Vegas. You can do what you want, when you want. I thought I might have inadvertently skipped some detail about the place, too, but I think I covered it here pretty thoroughly. About the only thing I forgot to mention is that the men's room is on the left. It's a little hard to tell which tiki head is "wearing lipstick" when you've had a cocktail or two.
At 1712 West Charleston Blvd
Between The Strip & Downtown (A Short Cab Ride Away From Anything Else)
24 Hours A Day