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Smuggler's Cove - "It's Beyond Tiki"
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-02-24 10:57 am   Permalink


On 2010-02-24 10:32, Hakalugi wrote:

So like I said earlier, why not go ahead and post your review in the SC thread...

Obviously posting it here under the "Tiki or Not Tiki" moniker doesn't do anybody any good.

Very good point. I'll do that once the dust settles here.

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Beach Bum Scott
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 28, 2008
Posts: 307
From: The Ranch in CO
Posted: 2010-02-24 11:14 am   Permalink

Warning thread derail!!!!!!


when in Denver I always drive down to Manatou Springs to visit the Castaway and it's odd mixture of decor, including a strong Pirate theme and good Chinese food.

Bohemiann, Next time your out Denver way drop in for a cocktail or 2 at my "Tiki Bar"


[ This Message was edited by: Beach Bum Scott 2010-02-24 11:16 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 29, 2004
Posts: 446
From: Sarasota, Fla.
Posted: 2010-02-24 4:55 pm   Permalink

Hakalugi...... Huh? I'm not quite sure of what exception you are taking.

Maybe I did confuse the statement as I was referring to the term "Tiki Bar" in general By watered down versions. I meant the Type of tiki bars that are not tiki bars but are calling themselves Tiki Bars and this includes Margarita-ville BTW. We have at least 12 tiki bars in Sarasota County NOT counting the new TV IB&G and non of them are worth mentioning but ALL of them are making good money and are calling themselves tiki bars and playing jimmy buffet and reggae serving shitty drinks with lousy service and did I mention they are making truckloads of money, worthy or not they are popular or perhaps I should refer to them as "More Prolific" as to avoid exception, and there are more of those kinds of tiki bars than our kind of tiki bars and that is a fact. All along just Florida's EXTENSIVE East & West coastline not to mention the other states with coastlines and the Caribbean... and my point was they economically sustainable and viable serve the masses of tourists but don't really count....I also believe they are the "tiki Bars" most of the general population is familiar with and think about when you say "Tiki Bar" these days, they are the ones I was referring to. Hope that helped clarify.

well.....self censorship is sill a form of censorship BUT I am a smart-ass at times and it's does not translate all that well in posts every so often. I was speaking "off the Cuff" with that.. that's why I threw a question mark behind it and went on to explain that I thought I understood the reasoning behind the choice to re-package the discussion. I certainly understood from you earlier post that, of course, you were not being censored....

Beach Bum Scott - Since this topic is "Re-Railed" to another thread....I am SO looking forward to getting back out there! I am in Denver every so often and I get a few jobs In Co. Springs at the Broadmoor every year and it is one of my favorite places on the planet! I have been stung at "The Bee" more often than I care to remember! Here is a friend of mine feeling the sting of a yard at the Golden Bee.

I'm still gonna visit the Castaways but next time I'm out I would love to visit your bar. Danka!

I'm pretty much exhausted on this one but... will bounce all future comments over to the other thread... Peace !


[ This Message was edited by: Bohemiann 2010-02-24 17:22 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-02-26 5:42 pm   Permalink


On 2010-02-24 10:32, Hakalugi wrote:

So like I said earlier, why not go ahead and post your review in the SC thread...

Obviously posting it here under the "Tiki or Not Tiki" moniker doesn't do anybody any good.

Or I can simply change the title of this thread.

I know that was a key point of irritation here. Per your suggestion, I was going to post this review in “Locating Tiki” but now if this blows up in my face I don’t have to worry about adding baggage to those other threads.

OK, so I know I’ve been questioning Smuggler’s Cove style for some time now (too long for a lot of you). What is Smuggler’s Cove? Is it Tiki, nautical, pirate? What kind of bar is it? Well I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s begin with SC’s primary inspiration and what really makes it special and unique….

Smuggler’s Cove is, first and foremost, a celebration of RUM.

It’s rum through the ages. It’s rum cocktails from centuries ago. It’s rum drinks from prohibition-era Havana. It’s original rum concoctions. And yes it’s Tiki rum libations too. There’s over 80 drinks on the menu and over 200 premium rums available to enjoy !! Hands down, without a doubt, this has got to be the most significant rum bar in the world. Even if Martin kept the décor of the original Jade Bar but offered this kind of variety and selection, this would still be true.

OK, so how about those drinks?

Well, the biggest dilemma for me was the vast and mind boggling drink menu. Where do I begin? Do I start with my usual go-to Tropical drinks for comparison purposes? Do I sample the Havana-style cocktails that I usually don’t drink? How about a rediscovered classic that hasn’t been available for decades (centuries?). Maybe an original Martiki invention? I was paralyzed with indecision. Here’s what I wound up having:

1. The Chadburn –Reminded me of a rum Manhattan. Familiar, yet sublime and distinct. As recommended, a great drink to start out with.
2. Navy Grog – Wow, I think this is the stiffest tasting NG I’ve ever had. Order this one for the person who thinks these are “sissy” drinks.
3. Jet Pilot – Complex and dry, two thumbs up.
4. Smuggler’s Rum Barrel – Their signature Tiki drink? It was a little bit on the sweet side for me (I’m weird that way), but I think most Tikiphiles will LOVE it. It even comes with its own signature mug.

Bottom line: Martiki has raised the bar again for master mixology. Think of these drinks as works of art, lovingly researched, planned, and prepared. This is the real soul of SC, everything else is icing on the cake (but what an icing it is).

Ok so let’s explore that atmosphere. Now a place like Forbidden Island has a blueprint. It’s based on classic mid-century Tiki-style. I think author James Tietelbaum expressed it best – “What happens when someone decides to make a wish list of everything that was cool about classic Tiki bars, and then goes on to implement every single item on the list into a new bar? Forbidden Island happens, that’s what.”

But how do you decorate a place like Smuggler’s Cove? It has more ambition than just Tiki. It wouldn’t be appropriate to go the 100% Poly-Pop route, rum cocktails existed long before Trader Vic created the Mai Tai and rum was never distilled in Polynesia.

How do you recognize all of the cultures and decades that are represented at SC? Well how about going back to the historical beginning when rum first gained popularity? You go back to the 18th Century West Indies and you base it on an iconography that calls out rum, that specific time period, and the geographic location.

People refer to SC as a nautical bar. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Now I know and love my nautical bars. Here in LA, 3 of my favorite bars are nautical. There’s the Galley, HMS Bounty, and Chez Jay. All of these are authentic mid-century bars that just ooze character. But you know what, they don’t take me back to the 1700’s and they don’t take me back specifically to the Caribbean.

The nautical décor at SC is different. It’s more over-the-top, it’s more playful. What it really reminds me of, what it really vibes is….

Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean!!

There, I said it.

I’ll agree there is no explicit pirate iconography, we don’t see any Jolly Rodger flags or stuffed parrots or treasure chests filled with gold doubloons. But I’ll be honest, the giant anchor, the skull, the ship’s “wench” bow, the large rum barrels, the streaming rock waterfall, the funky mood lighting, the multi-tiered design all made me feel like I was inside that Disney attraction.

Now I’m not saying that SC is like a hokey amusement ride, but think back to when you were 6-years old and rode PoC for the first time. Remember that sense of anticipation, the exotic mood, that feeling of mystery and danger, being transported to a different place and time? That’s the atmosphere that SC evokes for me.

So isn’t this more Smuggler-style rather than Pirate-style? Maybe. Probably. But I really don’t think that matters because whatever it is, it’s a unique iconography that transports us to square one, back to rum’s beginning. Smuggler’s Cove is an alcoholic time machine.

So when we read on Yelp or hear non-Tikiphiles exclaim “What a cool pirate bar !!”, we shouldn’t cringe. If that’s their initial impression then the décor is a success. They haven’t been transported back to the deck of the Titanic or some non-descript nautical environment. They recognize they’re in the 18th Century West Indies and that’s where the popularity of rum originated. Now their rum journey can really begin.

Now I know a lot of people here might want to deny the “pirate” vibe. Maybe because from a historic standpoint, nautical was part of Tiki-style and pirate never was. That to me however is a moot point.

Smuggler’s Cove is NOT a Tiki bar.

We shouldn’t expect it to be, we shouldn’t consider it to be. To do so is a disservice to the classic Tiki-style of authentic mid-century and Tiki Revival bars. Yes, I know that might run contrary to what a lot of other people here think, but that is my humble opinion.

To me Smuggler’s Cove is BEYOND Tiki and given its ambition, that’s a very good thing. That’s not to say SC doesn’t pay tribute to Tiki. The Tropical cocktails as noted are top-notch and there is a small “shrine” to Trader Vic. And yes, there is that 3rd-level “Tiki lounge” but OVERALL to me, SC vibes 18th century Caribbean seafaring and not Polynesian Pop.

OK, so let’s talk about that 3rd-level. It’s decorated with tapa paper, bamboo, and houses a single Tiki. My non-Tikiphile friend commented that the Poly-Pop décor seemed out of place or forced in relation to the lower levels. I have to admit, I agreed. That Tiki in the corner seemed awfully lonely up there. I could hear him cry out “JOHN-O, take me. Take me back with you to the Tonga Hut.”

But… even though the Poly-Pop décor kind of “stuck out” (IMHO), I like to think of it as Martin’s “wink wink nudge nudge” to his Tiki Revival roots. Sorry, little Tiki you need to stay here to provide comfort and solace for visiting Tikiphiles lost in the 18th Century. (This is the obvious place for TC’ers to hang out even though you have to walk downstairs to get your drinks.)

So what’s the rest of the layout like? Well, SC is really like two very small bars stacked on top of each other. There’s the street-level bar, the downstairs bar, and the 3rd-level Tiki lounge. This all gives SC a very cozy feeling. This is both good and bad. The basement bar where I was getting my drinks from Reza (aka TC’s “Rear Admiral) really got uncomfortable when the people began to stream in. The low ceiling amplified the noise and what was an intimate setting quickly became a claustrophobic environment. Quickly we retreated to the 3rd-level lounge. (Hey maybe this is symbolic of HMS Bounty crew leaving the bowels of their ship for the Polynesian paradise of Tahiti? Could that explain the design of SC?)

So who were these people? Fellow Tikiphiles? Rum aficionados? Well on that Saturday night they were mostly a young urban San Francisco hipster crowd in search of the next cool thing. While the Rear Admiral was mixing up the rum cocktails like a ninja master, he did have to pause every so often to explain why they didn’t carry Vodka XYZ.

So do all these kids really deserve a place like Smuggler’s Cove? Maybe not. But then neither do us Tikiphiles if all we’re going to order are the same Poly-Pop drinks and view the place with just our Tiki goggles on (I plead guilty here).

Consider this. At Smuggler’s Cove we can travel from Tiki Island to pre-Castro Cuba and back even further in time to when a real Grog contained brackish water.

So why not take that trip? It’s only a $9-$12 “ticket”.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-02-27 14:02 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 12, 2002
Posts: 7917
From: Huntikington Beach
Posted: 2010-02-27 7:35 pm   Permalink

if it has a Tiki in it and a Bar... it's a Tiki Bar!!!

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Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2010-02-27 10:36 pm   Permalink

Just as a note of clarification here... Smuggler's Cove has more than one tiki tucked into the decor. Without being there at the moment to do an actual count, I can recall at least four different tikis on the two upper levels. How many tikis does it take to make it a "tiki bar" in addition to everything else that Smuggler's Cove is? In my opinion, it definitely has enough.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 29, 2006
Posts: 382
From: Maryland (Land of Pleasant Tiki Living)
Posted: 2010-03-03 06:00 am   Permalink


On 2010-02-22 11:08, congawa wrote:
I went to Smugglers Cove the weekend before last, and there was nary a pirate theme to be seen. Big Bro's description of the difference between smugglers and pirates should suffice, but in my mind the "smuggler" aspect even seems to be meant more tongue-in-cheek. Really, the overlying theme I experienced was of the industrial area of a port of call (tropical or not) where cargo is loaded and unloaded from ships--specifically, fine rums being exported to destinations where the wares are eagerly-awaited. And since this is a bar which stands out for the seriousness of its rums, and for presenting rum as a distilled beverage worthy of the same respect as fine scotch and bourbon, the decor seems exactly in line with that concept. And I say the smuggler aspect is tongue-in-cheek (which of course is redundant for me to even say, because almost everything related to the polynesian pop concept is intended on some level of tongue-in-cheekness, hence its beauty) because smugglers don't do their business in the open, with visible barrels in netting. Rather they drop anchor off-shore or seek secluded caves (as seen in Big Bro's illustration).

I wouldn't pay too much attention to what is said on Yelp, based on the crowd I experienced on the day I went--which may or may not be characteristic of a typical night. It was a Sunday, but Valentine's Day with a Monday President's Day holiday the next day. And listening to and observing the other people in line (it was about a 25 minute wait to get in that night, at about 10:30pm) and inside the bar, it was definitely a young "club kids" crowd, who were trying to hook up, were discussing other hipster bars they just came from or were going to next, and didn't sound fully clear on the concept of SC. This bodes well for SC's success in an urban mecca such as SF, as long as the kids don't treat it as a "flavor of the month" thing. However, based on the night I was there, the general ambiance of the crowd made it a little harder to get into the theme, whereas my visit to Forbidden Island two nights earlier put me right in the correct mood with its crowd who was obviously at one with the concept. However, I'm sure if I'd gone there earlier in the day, or on a week night (which unfortunately as a weekend tourist I couldn't do), the mood might have been different. I definitely give Smugglers Cove a big thumbs up, though, and look forward to going again on my next trip north.

[ This Message was edited by: congawa 2010-02-22 11:08 ]

Smuggler's Cove MY Take

We visited SC this past Monday night for the 1st time arriving @ 5:00 PM when the club opened. Located very close to SF City Hall it is easy to find. A compact three level club with a nice Tiki/Nautical decor, we did not see the so called Pirate vibe in the decor. The club controls the exotica music which I much prefer to the juke box over @ FI.

Martin was there to greet the customers, the drinks were TERRIFIC & yes they do take time to make & they are worth the wait. Regarding the drink menu, Martin has created a World of Rum, NOT just limited to Tiki drinks. I thinks this is a smart business move.

Regarding the patrons, yes there was younger crowd mix, but IMO this is a GOOD thing. This is a business & if your just going to wait around for JUST a Hula shirt wearing customer base I think your going to have a problem.

SC WILL be a repeat visit for us!


PS "YELP" is currently under a lawsuit regarding it sales staff forcing business owners to buy ads or face negative reviews!

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-03-03 12:01 pm   Permalink

You can't discount Yelp. It's representative of what the majority of a business's patrons think. I find it an invaluable resource for discovering new places and for the most part pretty accurate. Yes, there are some negative reviews but overall Smuggler's Cove is rating very highly. Just because someone is calling SC a "pirate bar" doesn't necessarily make it a negative review. If you want to counteract that misunderstanding (and help promote SC) post something like this:


[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-03-03 17:31 ]

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Unga Bunga
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 06, 2003
Posts: 5857
From: CaliTikifornia
Posted: 2010-03-03 12:30 pm   Permalink


On 2010-03-03 12:01, JOHN-O wrote:
You can't discount Yelp.

Believe it or not, there are a couple of scum bag companies out there, that you can hire to submit negative reviews to Yelp,Yahoo Review, etc. against your competitors/rivaling business's.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-03-03 5:27 pm   Permalink

Yes, I've heard that as well. I doubt that's the case here though. I think once the number of reviews gets past 100, the impact of the "shills" get diluted by the honest reviews.

All right !! And who's Jennifer E. ?? Obviously a Tikiphile, lover of rum cocktails, and San Francisco dentistry.

Keep those Yelp reviews coming !!

(And shhh... don't tell anyone. Some Yelp reviewer by the name of "Hanford L." used the dreaded P-word too. Look quick before it gets edited. )

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-03-03 21:55 ]

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-03-13 1:05 pm   Permalink

Hey, check it out. All the answers to my original questions were right under my nose at the public library.

Both the Hardy Boys and Poly-Pop's own Hawaiiannette solved the mystery a long time ago.

(Well, I thought it was funny.....)

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 09, 2004
Posts: 3683
From: The thumb !
Posted: 2010-03-14 07:02 am   Permalink

I'm wondering, do they have bottles of say beer there too.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-03-14 11:53 am   Permalink


On 2010-03-14 07:02, teaKEY wrote:
I'm wondering, do they have bottles of say beer there too.

Smuggler's Cove FAQ #5 - I’m not into rum—do you have other kinds of drinks?

"....We also feature a custom-made beer called Smuggler’s Brew from San Francisco’s own Thirsty Bear Brewery, as well as other draft beer choices...."

Here's some company so you don't feel out of place with that beer in your hand (Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of a Smuggler)....

Also walking around with a knife in your mouth will make any smart-ass Tikiphile think twice about giving you crap for drinking beer in a nautical rum bar.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-03-14 11:54 ]

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Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Mar 30, 2008
Posts: 9021
From: The Anvil of the Sun
Posted: 2010-03-14 1:02 pm   Permalink

SAFETY WARNING - Be sure that the sharp edge of the blade faces out, not in towards your cheeks. Otherwise you'll end up looking like the Joker when you dive into the water.

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Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 22, 2009
Posts: 434
From: Alameda, CA
Posted: 2010-06-16 2:51 pm   Permalink

I finally made my way over the bridge to Smuggler's Cove! I wrote a short and sweet 5 star review for yelp, but after looking over this thread, thought I'd tell you a little more about what it's like.

My impression was that of an elegant library of rums and rum cocktails, with ample opportunities to join a dedicated society of knowledgeable enthusiasts. Are you a Rum Nerd? You will love it. Are you looking for a Post-Modern Urban Savage Party Palace? You might be bored or overwhelmed by the choices. I'd say it's a Rum Bar not a Tiki Bar.

The interior offers a variety of intimate spaces on 3 small levels- tables and chairs, 2 bars, counters, and some standing room. The decor is a beautifully appointed Nautically Themed Wooden Grotto, with strategically placed low lighting and a few tasteful tiki figures tucked in.

I shared a flight of 4 rums (.5 oz pour of each) with a friend in order to be able to drive myself home. (She had 2 more cocktails, but whatevs) It was really nice to compare and contrast, and to be able to carry on a conversation without getting sloppy drunk or having to holler over a din. I'm wishing I wrote down what we had because the website doesn't list the flight selections. (only the cocktails and the rums by country)

I'm sure it's more chaotic on a weekend or happy hour time zone, but all in all, a sincere and dedicated haven for Rum Enthusiasts.

I highly recommend reading:
...And a Bottle of Rum, History of the New World in 10 Cocktails by Wayne Curtis
Under the Black Flag, The Romance and Reality Among the Pirates by David Cordingly

[ This Message was edited by: amybean 2010-06-16 15:11 ]

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