For those of you whose tastes for mixed drinks include those of the “exotic” variety, Tiki Ti is essential visiting. Located on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard between Los Feliz Village and Sunset Junction, Tiki Ti has been serving up tasty concoctions since April of 1961. Although this is the year the place opened, the rest of the story goes back a little bit further…
Ray Buhen, a Filipino immigrant who came to Los Angeles in the 1930s, was employed as a behind the scenes bartender at the first Polynesian themed restaurant in history, Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood. Along with three other Filipino co-workers, Ray developed many of the classic tiki drinks (Mai Tai, Zombie, etc.) that places like Trader Vic’s and The Forbidden Island sling to this day.
After honing his craft at other mid-century LA tiki establishments (the Seven Seas and the China Trader among others) Ray set off on his own, opening Tiki Ti in the former workshop of a violin repairman. This small bar has resisted renovation, preferring instead to let the layers of memorabilia accumulate, giving the bar its comfortable, rum-soaked patina.
Although Ray passed away in 2002, the place has stayed in the family, currently run by his son Michael and grandsons Mike and Mark. Since the bar is owner operated, it is one of the few places where patrons can enjoy a smoke INSIDE the bar. Beer and wine are not served (since they are available everywhere else…) but the list of mixed tropical drinks runs to 92 and many of them are not found anywhere but Tiki Ti.
Though the wait can be long on the weekends, the bar is open from 4PM-2AM Wednesday through Saturday with the exception of certain weeks (available on their website) when Michael and his sons take a well-deserved break.
Oh and if you want to see the bar come alive, order an Oooga-Booga or Blood and Sand. Trust me on this one.