Pilikia is so upbeat and celebratory that you’ll have a hard time being unhappy once you’re inside this tiki-flavored wonderland.
Atmosphere: “I’m breathing, so I can’t complain,” one of the bouncers told me when I asked how he was doing. He checked my ID with a smile and sent me into Pilikia. I spent the first few minutes feeling like I’d just entered another world. Tiki faces smiled from every wall. Tiki grass, puffer fish, and ship netting hung overhead. Waitresses clad in skimpy sarongs whirled by. A DJ spun pop music against a back-lit wall of silver skulls, beside shelves filled with tiny treasure chests and ukuleles. Out back I discovered a patio full of low-slung furniture and Chinese lanterns. Pilikia is an experience. And that experience is a little like being part of a dance-tastic, booze-soaked Disney ride.
What to Order: They’ve got a nice selection of island-inspired cocktails: there’s a Banana Old Fashioned, a rum concoction called Riding the Wave, a Cherry Vanilla Daiquiri, and, of course, a Pina Colada. But the “Beach Party” cocktails are where it’s at. These group drinks (like the Volcano Scorpion Bowl—a mix of rum, gin, and vodka) are poured directly into the treasure chest at the center of your table. Then everyone is given a straw.
Who’s There: Pilikia inspires a certain sort of happiness. The novelty of a place like this might be fleeting (though tell that to Mai-Kai, a Ft. Lauderdale tiki bar that’s 50-plus years old), but people love bars that give off a special vibe. Women in halter dresses took the decorative orchids from their drinks and wore them in their hair; men had come in costume—sporting Hawaiian shirts. Everyone bobbed, or all-out danced, to the mix of dance and pop. The clientele was a mostly late-20s to late-30s crowd, but I noticed all types. Some men wore suits, some wore sandals. At one point, a table of pretty women and muscular guys ordered bottle service. Amid sparklers and the snapping of iPhone cameras, waitresses emptied the bottle into a treasure chest at the center of the table. The chest erupted with ghostly white vapor and strangers gathered around to “ooh” and “ahh.”
What I Didn’t Like: I got a little overwhelmed after a while. You might have to go to your most-quiet dive to finish out the night after a few hours spent here.
What I Did Like: It’s the perfect cure for a bad mood.