Our Visit To Tiki Tatsu-Ya – Austin, TX

by joeheg

You might have noticed that we like to visit tiki bars during our travels. They aren’t the reason we go places, but if we happen to be in the area, we’ll try to check them out. Here are some of the places we’ve visited over the last few years:

There have been others that we didn’t mention in a post, like Trader Vic’s in London, because all we did was stop in to have a drink and look around.

So when Sharon asked if we could stop to visit a tiki bar in Austin, I agreed (P.S. She thinks that I only go to them because I know she likes them. But the truth is that I like them too.) (Note from Sharon: Duly note. Therefore, we shall soon be upping our tiki game). In retrospect, I wish I would have paid more attention to where we were going. I had no idea she was taking me to Tiki Tatsu-ya.

Tiki Tatsu-Ya
1300 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because this tiki bar is owned by Tatsu Aikawa, the chef responsible for Ramen Tatsu-Ya and the award-winning Texas Izakaya, Kemuri Tatsu-Ya. There are now three outposts around Austin, dishing out bowls of ramen, but only one of them has a tiki bar located around the back.

Keeping with the tiki bar tradition of being hard to find, you enter Tiki Tatsu-Ya through an unmarked door. OK, this one isn’t really super hard to find because there’s a stand located nearby to check in guests. We hadn’t made reservations in advance (we went as the tail end of a long day of driving and weren’t sure when we’d arrive), so we showed up around 4:30. Reservations start at 5 PM but they accept walk-ins for the bar starting at 4 PM.

As I mentioned, I had no idea what to expect when I walked in. In the past, we’ve visited every type of tiki bar out there, from dive bars to lounges to over-the-top extravaganzas (Note from Sharon: The latter style, as seen in Tonga Room and, when it re-opens, The Mai Kai, is my favorite).

It was almost 5 PM when we were brought to our seats at the bar. Walking in from the bright Texas sunshine, it was hard to see anything around and I was mostly worried about falling down the stairs.

a stairs leading up to a doorway

Photo credit: Nicolai McCrary

After sitting at the bar for a few minutes, my eyes adjusted and I started to take in the amazing theming.

a room with tables and chairs and lamps

Photo Credit: Nicolai McCrary

There are two levels. According to their story, the downstairs is a cave that the owners “discovered” and turned into a bar. The upstairs level is decorated as their “home.” There’s a 17-minute origin story that plays on a loop in the bathrooms, but you can also listen to it on the website.

We had a seat at the downstairs bar.  The kitchen wasn’t open yet so we ordered a round of drinks, a Painkiller and a Zombie.

a menu and drinks on a table

While the drinks are based on their classic iterations, Tiki Tatsu-Ya takes some liberties, such as making the Painkiller with shiro-miso coconut cream.

Shortly thereafter, we were able to order food. Sharon ordered the Maguro Poke.

a plate of food on a leaf

I went for the Crab Lagoon. I loved the presentation of this dish, with the wontons held up by a crab.

a crab shaped food on a wooden surface

All of the food and drinks were wonderful, but they also aren’t inexpensive. Both of our food selections were close to $20 each and we weren’t even close to being full. You can order several items, like the Foie Gras Musubi, but it was still early and we had plans for dinner later that evening.

We stuck around for a while, taking in the scenery. Every nook and cranny of the area was themed.

A focal point downstairs was the large fountain, which was part of the show when some guests ordered a Pu Pu Platter.

a stone sculpture with a face and a green light

Photo Credit: Chase Daniel

While we never went upstairs, I wish we did because the bar looks amazing!

a bar with a wooden bar and chairs

Photo Credit: Chase Daniel

Visits are limited to 2 hours, and while we didn’t stay nearly that long, we didn’t want to hold up the seats for the next guests waiting outside in the 100-degree heat.

Reservations for Tiki Tatsu-Ya are available on Resy starting 30 days out, and they book up fast. If you miss out, you can go early and try for a walk-in spot like we did or rumors say you can also get in later in the evening. Parking is limited (and the drinks are strong) so it’s a good idea to use ridesharing, if possible.

We’ve added this to our “want to go back” list for Austin and I’d also love to get to check out Kemuri.

Cover Photo: Nicolai McCrary

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