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One of the last Tiki Bars in America still thriving in Tucson

Posted at 1:36 PM, Oct 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 14:08:48-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Kon Tiki on E. Broadway is easy to spot.

"I think every desert has its oasis," Kon Tiki General Manager George Shaar tells KGUN 9.

Shaar's oasis in the Sonoran Desert is the Kon Tiki Restaurant and Lounge.

You will recognize Kon Tiki from the road, with it's Polynesian sign complete with a tiki head at the top.

It opened on Broadway back in 1963.

Kon Tiki now bills itself as one of the last remaining, operational temples from American's mid-century tiki past.

To truly appreciate the island theme, you have to go back to the event that inspired its name the Voyage of the Kon-Tiki.

In 1947, a Norwegian explorer sailed a raft from Peru to Polynesia.

That inspired a wave of tiki bars across the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, including here in Tucson.

"We're one of the few survivors from that time to make it that far and still hold the name," said Shaar. "And we're still able to deliver I think on the lifestyle expectation."

That lifestyle expectation is like going on vacation to the islands without all the travel.

"People come in here, they love the expectation of the whole tiki vibe," said Shaar. "The getaway, they call it escapism. So now they're like I don't have to leave town to get away."

The Kon Tiki has a very loyal clientele and the same owner for more than 25 years.

For the second straight year, Kon Tiki has been recognized as one of the 150 best bars in America.

The Daily Meal ranking Kon Tiki this year at number 83!

I found out why on my tour. The island vibe hits you from the moment you walk in.

The atmosphere is all Polynesia, complete with several Tiki Heads throughout.

They have over 25 signature island-themed cocktails, including their most popular: the Scorpion. It is definitely a drink for two.

After 56 years, the Kon Tiki has recently freshened up the decor.

Shaar says the future is bright for one of the last remaining Tiki Bars in the country.