Less than three months after opening at 401 Westport Road, HopCat has launched its first tiki bar: TikiCat, described as a 1960s-era Hawaiian living room.
To get to the basement bar, patrons have to locate a nearly hidden doorbell and a door knob shaped like a Polynesian statue along a dark hallway lined with bamboo. Lanterns to the left of the door glow green when seating is available, bright red when it is at full capacity. Reservations are strongly recommended.
The cave-like space is windowless, with a low-slung ceiling, but it’s as lively as a tourist stop in the islands.
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The host stand sits atop a vintage TV set playing such shows as “Hawaii Five-0,” “Gilligan’s Island” and “Quincy, M.E.” In a trophy case along the wall are more than 100 vintage ceramic tiki mugs and glasses in various shapes — skulls, pineapples, totem poles and Easter Island moai statues.
Customers lounge in little “cabana huts” with thatched roofs and 1960s-era seating — from leopard print to bright orange. An octopus-shaped lamp has colorful mermaids floating around the lampshade. Some of the huts feature glowing pufferfish hanging lamps. There’s also a poster from the “Creature From the Black Lagoon” horror movie next to a tropical waterfall.
“It’s a little gaudy, a little in your face, a little orange. Or maybe a lot orange,” said Joe Prate, general manager.
A backlit glass painting on the back wall portrays the ultimate 1960s party with Capt. James T. Kirk and Spock from “Star Trek,” black-clad beatniks, men in purple tuxedo jackets, women wearing leis, sea monsters sipping tiki drinks and spotted blue mushrooms sprouting from an orange lava flow.
Vintage tiki postcards are displayed under a long glass-topped bar.
Ben “Bamboo Ben” Bassham, a California-based professional tiki bar designer, designed and built the space, which seats 47 people.
Martin Cate, a rum and exotic cocktail expert, trained the TikiCat bartenders, schooling them in tiki history and the history of rum drinks. Cate is owner and creator of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, which features one of the largest rum selections in the U.S., along with cocktails “from over three centuries of rum history.”
TikiCat offers nearly two dozen tiki drinks, including The Luau, which is made with various rums, gin and brandy, fresh orange and lime juice, demerara and orgeat syrups. It is meant to serve two to four people.
A sign at the entrance lists the rules, including: 21+ only; be nice, unfriendly people will be asked to leave; please use “indoor voices. No yelling or woo-hooing”; no flash photography; and “Have fun!”
“This isn’t your typical shot-and-beer joint. You can immerse yourself in an authentic tiki bar. It’s an escape,” Prate said.
TikiCat is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday and Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. It is closed Sunday through Tuesday. Call HopCat at 816-656-3439 to make reservations.
Michigan-based HopCat opened the Westport location in late February in a new $2.5 million, 10,000-square-foot building at the corner of Westport Road and Broadway. It seats 300 people in bar and dining rooms and on a rooftop deck. The company has a dozen HopCat locations, with another opening in a few weeks in Royal Oak, Mich.
Also new in Westport
▪ Westport Ice Cream Bakery has opened at 4120 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 14, former longtime home of Murray’s Homemade Ice Cream. Murray’s didn’t announce a closing but quietly auctioned its equipment in late 2016.
Steve Engravalle of New Jersey often stopped at Murray’s when visiting his brother and sister-in-law, Dan and Debra Engravalle. He relocated and the family partnered to buy some of the Murray’s equipment and reopen an ice cream shop in the space. It sells handcrafted ice cream, their Vito’s Famous Shalolly & Sorbetto, and baked goods such as cookies, brownies and ice cream pies, along with shakes and floats.
▪ Snow & Co., frozen cocktails and more, has relocated its Crossroads location to 421 Westport Road. It is on two levels, with both a bar and patio on the bottom level.
Its frozen cocktails include the Lovely Rita with Herradura tequila, Gran Gala and agave simple syrup. Under hot cocktails, it offers such drinks as the Luck of the Chai-Rish with Bailey’s Irish Cream, Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine, hot chai and cinnamon. Other menu items include wine, beer, salads, flatbread pizzas, hot sandwiches, dessert pizzas and “tipsy nibbles,” including Scimeca’s meatball sliders with Tito’s vodka sauce.
▪ Mid Coast Modern opened in late January at 314 Westport Road. Graphic designer Matt Bramlette’s shop offers “modern, handmade home goods, apparel, prints, jewelry and gift items,” many from local makers.