There are two things Beer Belly has never been lighthearted on: its food and its drinks—the latter of which are perhaps its most underrated aspect thanks to a spectacular bar program headed by James Squire and Sherwood Souzankari.
The Downtown business can now add a hidden tiki bar to its list of accomplishments.
Every Thursday through Saturday, beginning at 6 p.m. until midnight, one has to simply venture toward the western wall inside Beer Belly, push on it, and enter Tikitiki, a dark, red-and-blue tinged, pufferfish lantern-lit space offering up classics like Frozen Birds to Souzankari’s more creative creations. (Like the Desert Daiquiri, a blend of rum and aloe liqueur with hints of pineapple-and-sugar and lime-and-salt.)
With flexibility in terms of management—maintaining a permanent tiki bar could be financial ruin in some cases, but with an offshoot attached to a restaurant, stability remains viable—and a genuine cool factor in terms of vibes—the room is devoid of any outside light and creates a sense of total escape—Tikitiki is the type of space needed in what was becoming a monotonous bar scene.
“We [Squire and I] wanted something cool—we wanted to build something that was like a hidden tiki bar but wasn’t completely held down to being a traditional tiki,” Souzankari said. “We wanted something we would both visit if we were a patron. We decided to approach the menu in the same way, building out drinks that people could be familiar with but with a more modern tiki twist, like an old fashioned, but with a rum base instead of whiskey base.”
Rum is where Tikitki shines thanks to the liqueur-centric talents of Souzankari.
His approach is far more reflective of the L.A. cocktail scene as a whole than it is Long Beach-specific: sometimes challenging, oftentimes rewarding. This also goes for his approach to the rum selection, where you’ll find everything from a Oaxacan rum that leans toward the savory—I am being quite serious; it tastes similar to Spaghetti-Os and it’s strangely satisfying—to Haitian rum aged for 8 years.
Add onto this punch bowls (complete with a mini-fire spectacular), music that serenades while you intoxicate, and an overall sense of escape and you have little wonder that is Tikitiki.