First Look: Tiki Tango brings Tiki drinks and food to Midtown

Tiki Tango Crispy Sesame Wings, Aloha Sliders, Tiki Tango Tacos, El Diablo cocktail and Mai Tai cocktail. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

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Tiki Tango Crispy Sesame Wings, Aloha Sliders, Tiki Tango Tacos, El Diablo cocktail and Mai Tai cocktail. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

Long-running Trader Vic's downtownhip S.O.S. Tiki Bar in Decatur and newish Tiki Iniki in Virginia-Highland all prove Tiki culture is alive and thriving in Atlanta.

But Tiki Tango, a new trilevel Tiki-chic oasis located in the former Lava space in Midtown, is poised to become a destination for all sorts of entertainment, including live music, dancing and even burlesque.

The grand opening on Friday will not only attempt to set a world record for the world's largest Mai Tai with a 55-gallon cocktail, it will kick off the first annual Inuhele, a weekender (Feb. 15-17) of Tiki bar-hopping, panels, vendors, bands, demos and more.

Scott McCray of LEAD Hospitality Group (McCray's Tavern; the Mill Kitchen and Bar) teamed up with Roswell-based artist and designer Frank Simotics, aka Tiki Rancher, to launch Tiki Tango.

Inspired by his time in Southern California, and a three-week honeymoon trip to Tahiti, Simotics specializes in hospitality interior design, branding and marketing for Tiki bars. He also builds bamboo Tiki huts, and hand-carves Tiki idols from palm, cedar and cherry wood.

All of those skills are on display at Tiki Tango, where atmospheric lighting, original art and vintage decor combine to create three distinctive Tiki experiences, with a bar and DJ booth on each level.

On the top floor, the “Flamingo Room” is a cozy, attic-like escape with bamboo and thatch outlining skylight views of the Midtown skyline. The clubby basement “Tango Room” features a full dance floor and a 30-foot custom bar. The main floor’s “Main Deck” bar is highlighted by two of Simotics’ imposing 8-foot cedar Tiki carvings, a lighted lava wall, and the VIP “Tiger’s Den” lounge with a skull in the fireplace.

The beverage menu from bar manager Gary “Boatz” Campus, who like Simotics got the Tiki bug living in California, includes takes on traditional and modern Tiki drinks, served in both custom mugs and classic barware.

The traditional Mai Tai is described as “tart and citrusy with the rums being highlighted by the Curacao and orgeat while adding body to this classic cocktail.” The Tiki Tango is “a robust creation of Martinique rum, fresh juices and harmonious syrups.”

Bar food with a Tiki touch is prepared next door in the kitchen of another of McCray’s places, Foxtrot Liquor Bar. Look for the likes of Aloha Sliders with white American cheese, fresh jalapenos and pineapple, and Tiki Tango Tacos with coconut- and panko-crusted shrimp topped with sesame slaw and a cucumber wasabi aioli.

Last week, Simotics and Campus were at work at Tiki Tango putting together the finishing touches for the grand opening.

“I’ve been into Tiki for a long time,” Simotics said. “Living in Southern California, and going to the South Pacific. Just the vibe and ease of it, there was something about it that captured my imagination. When I came back, I built that big, two-story thatched hut you see on my website.

“That’s where it came from. And then when I started carving, all of the Tiki freaks in Atlanta came out of the woodwork and I met the community. It turns out there’s a huge Tiki community here. And this is just my passion. This is the biggest Tiki bar I’ve done, and it’s one of the biggest in the country. Every room was a major transformation, that’s for sure.”

Mixing drinks at the bar, Campus talked about his Tiki beginnings: “I needed a job one day, and they were doing a Tiki bar in my general area, and I got sucked into it,” he said. “I’d never been into Tiki. I’d only had a couple Tiki drinks here and there, but I got the job and fell in love with it.

“One of the cool things about an actual working Tiki bar is that it always keeps on moving and evolving. It’s always the new generation staying true or bringing some of their stuff to the table. And it becomes a mix of modern cocktails and Tiki drinks evolving together.”

“Scott and I really wanted to create something that was classic, and something that people who aren’t 100 percent into Tiki could come and enjoy,” Simotics said. “It’s a place they’ve never been before. It’s escapism. Come in, have a drink, and have fun.”

57 13th St. NE, Atlanta. 404-873-6189,

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