Los Angeles, California, United States
This famous little bar is a Los Angeles institution opened in 1961 by Ray Buhen, it is now owned and operated by Ray's son Mike Buhen and grandson Mike Buhen, Jr.
The Tiki-Ti drink menu has over 80 drinks, but picking one can feel a little bit like picking a race horse. The menu is divided into sections for the base alcohols, but beyond that, it's just a list of colorful names. These recipes are closely guarded family secrets. There are plenty of classic cocktails on the menu, but many of the drinks are the creation of Ray or his son or grandson. One of Ray's creations, Blood & Sand, is named for the Tyrone Power bullfighting film by the same name, and as it is being mixed the bar's patrons call out "Toro, Toro!" Mike or Mike will happily take the time to ask you a few questions and guide you to a drink you're sure to like.
On Wednesdays, a tribute is made to Ray -- a bell is rung five times, and the whole bar stops what they're doing to toast to Ray.
For decades, Tiki-Ti was owner-operated, with no employees, making it one of the very few places in California that could allow smoking. In June 2015, the Buhens hired their very first employee, longtime regular Greg Bansuelo, to help behind the bar. Smoking is no longer permitted at Tiki-Ti.
The Buhens close the bar when they go on vacation; be sure to check the Tiki-Ti website's calendar to make sure they are open before you stop by. Tiki-Ti is extremely small (just 12 barstools and a small handful of tables), and is incredibly popular so if you don't like crowds, be sure to get there right as it opens, preferably on a Wednesday. Be sure to bring plenty cash as they don't accept credit cards. There is an ATM in the back, but it charges a hefty fee and is sometimes hard to reach when the place is packed.
In 2021, during the downtime from the Covid closure, the front of the interior bar was given a facelift by Anders Anderson (A-Frame) with bamboo fronting and diamond-shaped panels decorated with tapa cloth and carved tiki masks. Anders previously had donated a traditional swag lamp or two as well.