Kon Tiki Lounge
Bar & Restaurant
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Opened in 1961
Defunct tiki not included,
distances are as the crow flies.
picture, 16, 117
Jul 31, 2006
Feb 23, 2006
Repainted vintage sign at Kon Tiki Lounge in Tucson
February 2007, photo by Mata-ki-Te-rani
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The Kon Tiki Lounge (no relation to the Steven Crane Kon-Tiki chain) is a classic original tiki bar. Open since 1961, the Kon Tiki Lounge has seen modern-day Tucson grow up around it on all sides. It is tucked back a bit on its busy street, surrounded by strip malls and small office buildings. The small-looking building feels a bit out-of-place. There is an almost lush little garden area out front, with tikis and a small "water feature" -- Tucson's arid climate wouldn't easily support a pond, so a tiled mosaic pond is in its place, with a small walkable bridge over it. To the left of the building is a great old Milan Guanko tiki.
Inside, the restaurant is dark and mysterious, with no windows, and much of the original decor still in place. A former aviary behind the bar is a jarring flash of light -- it used to house parrots, then a lizard cage, now it is used as an outdoor patio space. Large bamboo, gorgeous light fixtures, and tikis aplenty are throughout. The room is structured with smaller sub-rooms encased by bamboo and thatch dividers, giving a feeling of coziness and mystery.
The menus are standard fare for an old tiki bar -- barbecue ribs & similar items for food, and lots of tropical drinks (though a bit on the sweet & sugary side).
Today, the Kon Tiki's future continues to look very bright. It has been kept open through the years with a never-ending supply of college kids who love the place and keep it packed on weekends. These people are who we have to thank for keeping the place alive, but it's a bit more enjoyable when visited earlier in the day or on a weeknight, when the music is more in keeping with the environs and the place isn't so packed with bodies that the decor can't be seen.
In recent years the management has been working on spiffing up the place, while keeping it classic. The Kon Tiki now has their own tiki mug, designed for the Milan Guanko tiki outside, and has undergone some sprucing up courtesy of Bamboo Ben. A new Bamboo Ben bar looks like it has always been there.
How to find it:
It's easy to miss it, as it is set back from the street a fair bit, and shielded by palm trees. The iconic sign is also set back, but keep your eyes peeled for it.
The Kon Tiki Lounge is fronted by a large shared parking lot.