A Tiki Watering Hole in Sin City
Frankie’s Tiki Room – Las Vegas, Nevada
By Darin Mecher
Mahalo Tiki’s Las Vegas Correspondent
Greetings from Sin City dear Mahalo Tiki denizens! I have taken a hiatus from writing for a few months due to my relocation to the one and only Las Vegas, Nevada! I have arrived with my lovely wahine, Dharma and my son Brendan and we have acclimated well to the desert lifestyle. Fortunately for us, we have been here many times before and are enjoying it even better as locals. One place that we always made a point to visit whenever on the Ninth Island, was one Frankie’s Tiki Room – a wonderful original Tiki oasis right in the heart of Las Vegas. Just a few blocks west from the north end of the famous Strip on Charleston, this unassuming bar sits nestled just west of the I-15 interchanged referred to by locals as “The Spaghetti Bowl”, due to the crazy intertwining of highways 15, 93, 95 and a few other numbers thrown in and around for good measure. Fortunately, the bar is easy to find once you head west from the I-15 at Charleston, just look to your right for the nice pink neon sign inviting you to come on into Frankie’s Tiki Room.
I could give you all the normal details and information, but you could just Google “Frankie’s Tiki Room” and get all the info you needed. Some highlights from the factual electronic blacktop include:
The inside of Frankie’s was designed by Bamboo Ben, a world class tiki bar designer and grandson of Eli Hedly, the original “beachcomber” that searched the world high and low for décor to help design Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and the Aku Aku, once famous as part of the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas.
Great Tiki artwork abounds, with works by Shag (a cool carnival game and “vice tester”), Doug Horne and Tom “Big Toe” Laura – one of my personal favorite tiki paintings called “Ruby’s Delimma”.
Great original tiki carvings by Tiki Bosko, Tiki Ray, Leroy Schmaltz, and Crazy Al Evans.
There are around ten tiki mugs for the collecting with everyday drinks and sometimes there are tiki mug events and launches.
So there are some facts, now for the rantings of a local and regular Frankie’s bar goer – me. A typical night will find you sitting in the dimly lit wondrous tiki wonderland that is the inside of Frankie’s. Where the outside of the building is sparse, the inside is so chock full of tiki and lowbrow items that you are basically overwhelmed and have to adjust not only to the low atmospheric light, but also to the plethora of wonderful pieces of art and vintage brick a brack. The bar area is well lit and is well stocked with the essentials, menus, stir sticks with little “Frankies” on them wearing shades (I believe one of the bar tenders once told me this was a likeness of the owner, P. Moss, but I’m not sure on that account), and a variety of little sticks with which to put any number of tropical fruit pieces on the drinks. The drinks are a wonder to behold. The regular menu has around 20 full blown over the top tiki tropicals along with normal cocktail line ups. The newest thing going on at the bar is that on specific Wednesdays of the month, they are unveiling around 6 or more new drinks for the tribe to try. These do not appear on the menu and you have to pay attention to social media or the word of mouth from the bar’s faithful to know what is going on and what to order. It lends a bit of mystery and is really enticing to someone who can go the bar any time he or she wants to!
My drink of choice at the moment is The Scurvy. This was unveiled a few months ago and to be honest with you, I’m not really sure what is in it. I see them throw aromatic bitters and some kind of syrup into what appears to be about five different rums, but I really don’t pay close attention since my history with this bar has proven to me that all the drinks are great, and POTENT.
Two of their normal cocktails, on an empty stomach, will definitely having you wanting to join the love fest. For those who don’t care so much for the really tropical sweet things, be aware that some of the drinks are bitter and some are even “flat” or neutral – a nice taste and a quick get to where you want to go. If you aren’t even the cocktail type, you can enjoy a variety of beers. There is also much in the merchandise department. You can get a T-shirt, of which there are choices or even a tank top.
My wife Dharma and I generally like to sit at the kidney shaped bar table on the restrooms side of the bar. For one thing, you are close to the always pumped in vintage surf and rockabilly music and for another thing, you can direct those Frankie’s virgins who can’t really tell which restroom is which. Here’ a clue – the door on your left is the Men’s and the door on the right is the Women’s. We usually direct an average of ten people to the proper door during any given hour at the bar. You can people watch and you can definitely sort the locals from the visitors and tourists rather quickly, but one thing we like is that everyone is welcome at Frankie’s and everyone mixes and mingles. We often end up sitting with a few local friends and then have people from out of town join us. The out of towners usually have already gotten an early start via the Strip, so they are tons of fun!
The bar is 24 hours strong and the bartenders and bouncers are friendly, empathetic and dress the part in great Hawaiian shirts and all the trimmings. I hesitate to call the main door guy / bouncer a bouncer at all since he normally just looks at I.D.s and then tells you to enjoy your stay while using your first name which he took from glancing at your I.D. I know it is simple, but it is a nice touch. I often remember that when we were visiting, how he would say “Have a great time, Darin.” I remember being drunk a few times after my own early start on the Strip and wondering by what magic he learned my name when I didn’t even tell him. I believe Dharma set me straight. “He looked at your license, dummy!”
Well now he smiles and greets me before I show my license, my Nevada license, and he still tells us to have a great time. We always do and I can safely say that you will too if you ever have the luck to be in Las Vegas at this particular Tiki Bar.
One great story is a Tuesday night I spent at Frankie’s last October when I had flown into the city on the job interview that paved the way for me moving and living in Las Vegas. It was a slow night with only the bartender, an exotic dancer relaxing after work and a member of Las Vegas Metro’s finest the only company for me to keep. We had some great conversations and not only did the bartender wish me luck, but a month later when I walked in as a local, he exclaimed, “You got the job!” Now, how is that for Nevada hospitality?
Frankie’s is located at 1712 West Charleston Boulevard, north side of Charleston, and the phone number is 702-385-3110. Open 24 hours a day. Light to fair traffic Monday thru Thursday, heavy traffic Friday and Sunday, and packed to the puffer gills on Saturday.