Del Mar: Not Quite a Tiki Bar, Not Quite a Dance Club

Can it work? Yep.

Del Mar. Courtesy photo

Del Mar is quite specific that it’s not a tiki bar. Rather, it’s a tropical bar whose owners also happen to possess Bamboo Hut.

The Marina cocktail bar that used to be HiFi Lounge is pushing a tiki aesthetic pretty hard, but it’s sublimated to the soundsystem and the dance-club vibe. This isn’t the place to get a Fog Cutter with a house-made orgeat or a dash of Hamilton Demerara 151 rum for that extra burst of flames; it’s a place for slushies, mystery shots, and a drink called a “Beachhh Please…”. Things are going to be served in rocks glasses, and the same ingredients tend to pop up.

But that’s OK. No one who’s serving you is dressed like a Trader Joe’s assistant manager, and there’s a big loveseat and plenty of beach chairs to go Hawaiian on. Like Leo’s Oyster Bar, there’s jungly wallpaper. Like the Museum of Ice Cream, there are swings. (Unfortunately, unlike MOIC, you can’t really swing on them, because they’re tethered to the floor beneath — but that’s probably so you don’t whack anybody behind you in the head with your butt.)

There’s always a trade-off between the theatrics of mixology and the practical concerns of making drinks at a high volume. If you batch cocktails ahead of time it reduces the bartenders’ glamor, but if you measure out your life with swizzle spoons it angers the thirsty patrons. Del Mar favors keeping ’em happy, something owners Michael Wilbert and Max Young did for more than a decade-and-a-half at HiFi, and they still do it at Mr. Smith’s in SoMa.

So pull up an unripe pineapple and have a Venezuelan Old Fashioned (dark rum, chocolate bitters, Angostura bitters, simple syrup, and an orange twist, $13) or a Madagascar Sour (vanilla-infused Buffalo Trace, orgeat, lemon juice, simple, and Angostura bitters, $13). Portraits of a macaw and a toucan face each other near the front, and while one of them might be saying, “Hey, maybe let’s rethink the box of Arm & Hammer above the emergency lights in the men’s room,” the other one is chirping out a mating call that sounds a lot like, “Have a slushie, ya big dumb bird.” Even if certain forms of infantilization among today’s young adult cohort drive you bonkers, boozy frozen slushies are next-to-impossible to object to, and the coconuttier the better. Especially in a purple bendy straw.

Happy hour is from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, and while a chill vibe prevails on Sunday evenings, it’s otherwise a melange of tropical house, hip-hop, ’90s, and EDM. So make no mistake: People come to Del Mar to party. If you want mellow, go to Torrey Pines.

Del Mar, 2125 Lombard St., 415-345-8663 or bardelmarsf.com

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