It might not be easy to find, but about 4 Flight upstairs of the Pod Hotel in Times Square in Manhattan, there is a rooftop oasis called The Polynesian Tiki Bar. It is a modern interpretation of Polynesian pop culture complete with artwork, palm trees, appetizers, pupu platers, and of course probably the best Polynesian Cocktails you will ever have that you never heard of. The Mai Tai or Zombie might not be on the menu, but they can make one, but you are far better off trying something from an elaborate line up of incredible new drinks.
You can sit at the bar, in the dining room, a private booth, or even outside overlooking Times Square. As far as bars and lounges, go, this one is quite large. It has all the feel of a hip modern hotel lounge, but definitely has the kitsch and the tiki decor and vibe to bring you to as close to the Polynesian Pop culture scene as you are going to find in Manhattan.
The music is not Martin Denny, Hawaiian or even exotica, but you will hear some reggae and a bunch of older hits from the 60s, 70s and even 80s. I even heard some Motown while I was there.
I am going to warn you right up front. Eat first, the drinks are strong, and the food here is small, expensive and not all that great judging from my visit. I ate beforehand but decided to order the bar snacks which included very spicy fries, which I liked, and the ribs which had a tasty sauce but were expensive (4 for $20) and not so tender, you can do better at a Chinese take out.
As long as you are aware of this, you will have a great time, maybe too good of a time, especially if you have more than a couple of these drinks. I am no lightweight and I felt the effect of just 2-3 cocktails. Granted I had to finish the drink’s my wife did not like, but I’ve had twice as many at other tiki bars and know a potent cocktail when I drink one. The problem is, they are so delicious you don’t realize the alcohol is there. You taste it, but its layered in and woven into perfect balance to the other ingredients so that the spirits are not as pronounced and can be very unassuming.
Keeping true to tiki culture, they have flaming drinks but also an array of mezcal and tequila based cocktails.
There is some serious mixology going on here. But do not be intimidated, they do have non alcoholic drinks as well, and of course you can stick to wine or beers that also have Polynesian influences like Kona Longboard Lager, Coney Island Mermaid IPA, Maui Big Swell IPA, Passionfruit Cider, etc.
While the drinks might seem expensive starting at $16, have just one and you will learn these cocktails are more like two drinks in one, both in potency, presentation and complexity. Here is my assessment from the drinks I did taste:
Mistaken Identity: You taste the absinthe here, its a very big drink, mostly pebble ice, but it is strong and it is tasty.
Fiddler’s Green: One of their frozen drinks, this is heavy on the juice as is typical of frozen drinks. All that ice freezes out the other flavors, so they have to bump up the juice, in this case, mango.
Smokin’ Sarong: I liked this one and it delivers all the things it claims to be including coconut tea infused scotch, cinnamon, chipotle honey and tropical juices. It is spicy, interesting and amusing, just like a sarong.
Kamehameha: While it claims to have rums, coconut coffee infused vermouth, orgeat and bitters, for me it tasted like nothing more than a weak watery Black Russian. I got no taste of the coconut, vermouth, nor orgeat. Pass on this one.
Potions of Polynesia: This one was excellent and was a bit more expensive than the others at $22, but all the flavor is there.
They have a series of “Large Format” drinks that are the size of a punch bowl (complete with fog flowing from the shell dish from dry ice) and serves 6 or more. At $85 I would hope so.
It would take a lot of money and several visits to get through this cocktail menu. I hope to return soon.
The Polynesian is walk in only – no reservations. Their website states they can accommodate large parties of up to 14 seated in a private room or up to 150 for cocktail receptions in our Lounge and adjacent terrace and up to 300 on the full outdoor terrace. The full space can be booked for up to 400 for cocktails with a full buyout.