The Tonga Hut North Hollywood location is a neighborhood bar that holds the distinction of being L.A.’s oldest Tiki bar still in operation. The Tonga Hut first opened its doors in 1958 by brothers Ace & Ed Libby. Today much of the original decor still remains, including bamboo, pecky cedar walls, a kidney-shaped drop ceiling, fountains, and Tikis. Enter the dimly-lit Tonga Hut, settle into a booth or sidle up to the bar and enjoy an exotic cocktail that will bring you back to an era long gone. The Tiki craze in America was at its height in the 1950’s and 60’s. People reveled in all things Polynesian: Tiki Gods replaced pink flamingos. Backyard luaus were a regular occurrence as people donned Hawaiian-print shirts and leis. They packed into restaurants serving exotic Cantonese cuisine and stiff rum cocktails. Martin Denny played on turntables, filling households with the tropical sounds of the far away places, replete with birdcalls. The Tiki was a symbol of the times. In the midst of this American Tiki craze, the Tonga Hut opened its doors and quickly became a favorite escape for the locals of the newly created suburbs of the San Fernando Valley. In the 70’s and 80’s, when the Tiki aesthetic fell out of fashion, the Tonga Hut continued to prosper as a neighborhood watering hole. However, over time, the fountains stopped working and the Polynesian heyday faded into the past.
The Tonga Hut has changed hands over the years but in November of 2005, it was reborn. Its current owner has taken great pains to restore the Tonga Hut back to its former mid-century glory: The Tikis are back; the fountains are running again. Gone are the neon beer signs and in their place are custom velvet paintings of beautiful nubile island women by local artist Jasin Sallin. Its relaxed environment is enhanced by the soft dim lighting and red candles throughout the bar, creating a cozy feel that lets the outside world slip away into a distant memory. In 2011 The Tonga Hut North Hollywood again saw an update with mid- century fireplace and more Tiki’s.
Tonga’s talented bartenders conjure up classic drinks of the great Tiki bars of long ago, summoning its recipes of fine spirits, rums and freshly-squeezed lime and fruit juices. Enjoy a classic 1934 Zombie created by the Godfather of Tiki, Don the Beachcomber, or split a flaming scorpion bowl with the person of your choice. Sip on a classic Trader Vic-style Mai Tai made the original way, garnished with fresh pineapple and mint. Additionally, Tonga Hut boasts an original menu of exotic cocktails inspired by these classics and customized for its patrons. Umbrella drinks aren’t for wusses anymore! But don’t fear, the Tonga Hut North Hollywood has still managed to retain its neighborhood feel. Every day, locals gather for one of the best happy hours in the San Fernando Valley. There is no better way to end a long workday than with a $3 Cape Cod or $2 PBR while listening to Martin Denny and chatting with local regulars (aka Hut Dwellers).
Tonga Hut ’s jukebox is an eclectic infusion of music that spans the spectrum: From Vintage Jazz, Lounge, Exotica and Rockabilly to Classic Rock, 80’s Rock, Alternative, and R&B, making it one of the best jukeboxes in the Valley.
Enter through the rear parking lot and pass by the glass mug case where Hut regulars store their personal Tiki mugs for use when they stop by for a cocktail. Bring your own mug if you’d like and they’ll fill it up with your favorite liquid Exotica!
Hanging on the wall over the lava rock fountain (known as the Drooling Bastard) is the plaque honoring The Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard. The LODB is a special group of patrons who have completed every cocktail in the famous Tiki drink book, “The Grog Log,” by Beachbum Berry. Their names are added to the plaque as they finish all of the 80+ exotic cocktail recipes.
With the resurgence of the popularity of Tiki, the Tonga Hut has hosted and continues to host many Tiki art shows and the occasional live performances of some of L.A.’s best known Exotica and Hawaiian bands.
Stop by the Tonga Hut and enjoy a cold beer with friends or an exotic cocktail bowl for two, lit on fire for the ultimate tropical experience. Come imbibe… Escape to the Hut.
— The Tonga Hut Crew
If you’ve every come into the Tonga Hut during happy hour (4pm – 8pm), you may have noticed a “reserved” sign on the bar. That sign is for a very special patron who passed in February of 2010. Dottie and her husband made their first venture to the Tonga Hut in 1961. They patronized the bar 6 days a week taking only Sundays and the occasional rainy day off. Dottie in those days enjoyed Brandy Alexanders and her husband drank Scotch and Soda.
In the early 1980’s her husband passed away and in remembrance of him Dottie continued to come to the Tonga Hut EVERY weekday at 4pm and order her usual: a well Scotch and Soda with a lemon twist and a water back. Dottie could tell you anything about the Tonga Hut and all it’s customers through the years as well as it’s changes. She was a welcome sight to all the regulars and bartenders. In February of 2010 Dottie passed at age 87. In memory of her, the exact bar space that she used to sit at every day for 49 years is reserved in her memory during happy hour.