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Huli Huli Tiki Lounge & Bar Opening Soon in Powell

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Huli Huli Tiki Lounge & Bar Opening Soon in PowellPhoto by Lauren Sega.
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Tiki’s in the midst of a comeback, one of many its had since its first appearance in the 1930s. Huli Huli will be the latest bar to enter the central Ohio tiki scene, opening in Powell at 26 W. Olentangy St. next weekend.

Huli Huli General Manager Nate Howe says their goal is to recreate the cocktail menu, decor and energy from tiki’s debut, and they’ve consulted the ultimate tiki guidebook, Sippin’ Safari by “tiki anthropologist” Jeff Berry. For the book, Berry interviewed retired bartenders from the 40s and 50s and got them to divulge the secret ingredients and recipes for the classic cocktails invented by tiki founding fathers Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic.

Howe said Huli Huli owner Dustin Sun was originally going for a general beach theme for the bar, but as Howe informed him of the tradition and history of tiki, the concept was adjusted.

“The amount of history that goes into it — the tikiphiles out there take it very seriously,” Howe says. “There’s a lot of history and tradition, and we’re trying to bring that back to them. It’s truly an American craft cocktail creation.”

While Huli Huli will open with a food menu, to start the focus will be on the cocktails, which use house-made juices and syrups. Classic cocktails from the rise of tiki include the Jungle Bird, Painkiller, Mai Tai, and the Zombie, created by Don the Beachcomber in 1934. At first, Huli Huli’s food menu will be limited, offering spring rolls, dumplings, and sliders. Howe says the plan is to later add rice bowls and a Hawaiian barbecue chicken.

As far as decor, Howe, who buys, sells and produces custom tiki items, has had a hand in that as well. Bamboo, tiki masks, and vibrant colored lighting are all a given, but the rest will be an evolution, he says.

“We don’t want to bring in a bunch of cheesy stuff, because we’re trying to collect authentic pieces from artists and some historic pieces as well,” Howe says. “I know we’re going to have tikiphiles come out here and go, ‘Well this isn’t a real tiki bar becaures there’s not enough decor.’ We’re hoping they’ll look at our cocktail program first and realize we’re taking it seriously.”

Ultimately, Howe says they’re aiming for an aesthetic that hovers somewhere between the kitsch of early tiki and more streamlined modernity. 

Huli Huli will get its liquor license this week, before opening next weekend. Once open, it’ll operate four or five days per week to start, later expanding to seven days. 

For more information, visit their Facebook page.

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