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Tiki Bar

Royal Hawaiian - From 2006 to 2022

Laguna Beach, California, United States

The Royal Hawaiian opened in 1947. It was owned by the Cabang family. The Cabangs were originally from the Phillipines and were friends with both of the Fillipino Tiki carvers in L.A. at the time, Milan Guanko and Andres Bumatay. These talented artists both supplied Tikis for the restaurant. The prominent Andres Bumatay tikis outside the restaurant became weathered and destroyed and were later replaced by modern carvings.

The Royal Hawaiian also had a sister location located in Anaheim in the 1950s.

The Royal Hawaiian has been through several iterations. It originally had several small dining rooms with glass-walled dioramas filled with tikis and plants, great lamps, bamboo, thatch and sea grass matting, and a bar with a fireplace and pufferfish. There were lovely oil paintings throughout, including a large piece hung directly above the hostess stand.

In spring 2006, the restaurant was sold to a new owner, who gutted it. The newer, tiki-stripped version closed for good in 2012. In 2016, the space reopened, again with the name Royal Hawaiian, this time by people who wanted to bring back its rich tiki history. The new owners, Mo Honarkar and daughters Hasty and Nikisa, worked to bring back a fully-decorated Royal Hawaiian with the help of Bamboo Ben.

However in January-February 2019, the restaurant was closed for yet another remodel and then re-opened on April 3rd, 2019 under the auspices of chef Mariano Maro Molteni. Honarkars company remained as landlords, while Molteni owned and operated the restaurant which he rebranded as the "Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill". Molteni's remodel (which came as a surprise to the landlords) removed much of Bamboo Ben's decor, especially natural materials like lauhala matting and thatching in favor of dark blue painted walls and a "cleaner" and "less cluttered" look. There were still tikis and accent pieces, but the interior was much reduced from its former full tiki glory.

On July 15th, 2022, Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill announced its closure for the end of that same month, on July 31st, 2022.

Following the 2022 closure of the last iteration of the Royal Hawaiian, the space was turned over to Boulevard Hospitality for a complete transformation and a grand re-opening in May 2023. The new build-out was completed by Ignacio “Notch” Gonzales, famous for building spaces like Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco and Inside Passage in Seattle.

To round out the new experience, the Royal Hawaiian’s owners have brought on famed barman Dushan Zaric of Employees Only to build a bespoke cocktail menu that riffs, weaves, and rethinks the rum-forward staples of tiki lore.

*NOTE: For photos of original location prior to 2006, or newly opened version from 2023 onward, see separate listings.