EXCLUSIVE: Take a sneak peek at Tiki Iniki, Atlanta’s newest tiki bar

Shaping a tiki bar is a multifaceted process. It is not only about opening a new restaurant, it is about transforming a space into the kitschy cultural fantasy of ersatz Polynesia. Yesterday, the players behind Supper Club Restaurant Group gave The Atlanta Journal-Constitution an early look at Tiki Iniki, opening this month at 1044 Greenwood Ave., in Virginia Highland.

The scene at Tiki Iniki is a sultry one. Not beach sultry, but more like parking-lot-in- July-with-beer-delivery-trucks sultry. Workers sweat away as they fasten bamboo mats to the exterior of the former Illegal Food space. Inside, Brett Holtclaw takes a break from burnishing wood tables destined for the large patio. Surf and luau tunes play in the background.

Holtclaw and his business partner, Bill Chapman, are the owner-operators of this first Tiki Iniki franchise. It was Michele Rundgren and her musician husband Todd who opened the original in Kauai, Hawaii, in 2013. The place is named for Hurricane Iniki, which destroyed Coco Palms, the Rundgren’s favorite place to soak in aloha spirit on the island that they call home.

Tiki Iniki is meant to be a place where patrons can “leave their world behind,” says Holtzclaw.

He points to a hand-painted bark cloth that will drape from the ceiling, and to puffer fish lanterns ready to be hung. A faux rock wall and a pile of swings are ready to be added to the patio. He tests a theatrical burst of smoke that will occasionally greet guests as the entrance.

A tiki bar isn’t worth its torches without equally matched food and drink. The Atlanta Tiki Iniki outpost has some overlap with the original, but this one is crafted for a Southern palate. Holtclaw and Chapman will strive for authentic Hawaiian dishes, but many ingredients will be locally sourced and mostly organic, according to Holtclaw. Menu items will include Spam musubi, poke bowls made tableside, ahi tuna, macadamia roasted pork loin and smoked duck. Some dishes will be served family- style, including meat skewers served over coconut coals.

The cocktail menu will include expected drinks like Mai Tais, Zombies and frozen concoctions, all made with fresh juices. Holtzclaw also intends to make fruit caviar. Instagrammers will be all over Buddha’s Hand, made with Chareau aloe liqueur, and that will involve smoked incense. Also available will be sipping rums that can be imbibed over coconut ice cubes. A local designer is even creating tiki mugs, which patrons can purchase and take home.

When Tiki Iniki debuts in late July, it will be open for dinner and late-night service Tuesdays through Fridays. It will offer brunch and dinner Saturdays and Sundays.

1044 Greenwood Ave., Atlanta. tikiinikiatl.com


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