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Freaky for tiki bars

They might be more kitsch than culture, but is there anything more irresistible than spending a lazy Saturday afternoon at the local tiki bar?

It's been decades since the boozerific, Polynesian-themed temples to icy rum drinks spread to nearly every waterfront outpost on the planet, including those on the white sanded beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

So if a frozen zombie or mai tai served among palm fronds, steel drum music and oil-lit torches sounds like a right Labor Day strategy, consider this totally laid-back, unscientifically selected collection of bay area tiki bars.

Shephard's Tiki Bar

601-619 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach, (727) 442-5107;

Shephard's is what every tiki bar would be like if Hugh Hefner ran the world. Every Sunday, a $500 bikini contest brings out packs of rum-fueled, coconut-oiled hard-bodies who party like the world is going to end at sunset.

Crabby Bill's Beach Club

7700 W Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, (813) 281-0566;

You say you crave more half-naked, sizzling skin? Crabby Bill's Rocky Point Island locale is like Spring Break gone amok. Hit them up on for the weekly "South Beach Sunday" for the true apex of guilty debauchery. Today's — sniffle — is the last of this summer's season.

The Hut at Sculley's Boardwalk Restaurant

190 John's Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach, (727) 399-9559;

If you're less breast-and-beer and more of an ice tea-and-fried shrimp kind of person, the Hut is probably more your speed. Plus, the tourist-friendly John's Pass Boardwalk location provides plenty of diversions for your pre- and post-buzz pleasures.

Swigwam Beach Bar

6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-0889;

The "Swiggy" keeps a low profile tucked behind the Travelodge, but that's what keeps locals coming back for more than 20 years. Well, that and the house speciality drink — the bushwhacker. With vodka, rum, Kahlua and a handful of other potent ingredients, it's like a mudslide on steroids.

Green Iguana

9202 Anderson Road, Tampa, (813) 288-9076;

Each of the five Green Iguana locations has its unique charm, but you gotta appreciate the Veterans location if only because it touts itself as the "ultimate and largest climate-controlled tiki hut in Florida." Air conditioning! We think we're in love.

Ka'tiki Sunset Beach

8803 W Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island, (727) 360-2272;

When Jimmy Buffett sang of lost salt shakers and days lost to tequila, he was probably thinking of the Ka'Tiki, where being a beach bum is still considered a respectable profession. Stick to the beer and the hard stuff here, wait your turn at the pool table while noshing on chicken wings, and you'll fit right in.

Jack Willie's Tiki Bar

1013 St Petersburg Drive W, Oldsmar, (813) 854-1972;

No beach, no problem. At the northern tip of Old Tampa Bay sits Jack Willie's, where hard-core sports fans outnumber bathing beauties, and Yankees and baseball memorabilia are scattered above the saltwater-weathered wood bars. Need another reason to visit? Try the "big bamboo" — the bar's heavy-hitting rum drink.

Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion

At Bright House Field: 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater, (727) 467-4457;

A tiki bar at the ball yard? That's what makes Bright House one of the best spring training and minor-league parks around. Anyplace that offers an umbrella drink from behind the outfield fence is our real field of dreams.

Tiki faves

(Okay, this isn't really the former football player's list, but we thought any salute to tikis has gotta include this guy.)

Rule No. 1 when you visit any tiki bar: Ask the bartenders for the house special cocktail. If they give you a funny look — or hand you a Bud Light — consider one of these all-time classics:

ZOMBIE: Considered the grandfather of tiki treats, it usually contains apricot brandy, light rum, dark rum, lemon juice, lime juice along with dashes of grenadine and orange juice. Float some 151 proof rum on top for the full "night of the living dead" experience.

MAI TAI: The specialty of the house at the infamous Trader Vic's has rum, lime juice, orange curacao, rock candy syrup and orgeat syrup

RUM RUNNER: Black rum, 151 proof rum, creme de banane, blackberry brandy, grenadine and lime juice.

GOOMBAY SMASH: Spiced rum, coconut rum and pineapple juice.

THE LACTOSE-INTOLERANT KANGAROO: Jagermeister, vodka and drops of Aftershock liqueur gently floating on the top of a 32-ounce mug of Foster's Lager.

(Ha! We just made that last one up.)

Freaky for tiki bars 08/29/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 3:57pm]
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