A green parakeet clutching a bottle of Corona greets you upon entering the strategically placed Tiki Tom's, a sports-bar-meets-family-restaurant that turns into a steamy dance party one night a week.
But more on that later. What's important to note early on in a discussion about the Walnut Creek watering hole is its location. Across the street from Free People, Urban Outfitters and Diva, a boutique where flip-flops can run you $200, the spot is a dangerous one for people who have a weakness for high-end shopping. Whether you blow the $200 before or after you drink is up to you.
Inside, bamboo walls and four bamboo pillars provide most of the tiki in Tiki Tom's. Tribal masks are scattered here and there, and a full menu offers a broad range of island-themed cuisine, from ahi poke to coconut prawns. Julie and I ordered the latter around 7 on a recent Thursday night. We took a seat at one of more than a dozen small tables for two and began studying the drink menu.
With 24 specialty cocktails and more than 10 martinis and margaritas, there's a lot of multi-liquor-and-fruit-juice medleys to be had. I was feeling it, but Jules wasn't, so I went with a Key Lime Pie (vanilla vodka, pineapple and lime juice, pie "crust" rim), and she chose from one of five beers on tap. The prawns were good — crispy and oily — while the Hawaiian seasoning on the Sweet Potato Fries we ordered was a bit sugary. Yams almost beg for chile powder or some other spice to cover the cloy.
Speaking of sweet, a young mother plus baby was sitting next to us and made it quite difficult for Julie and I to hear each other speak. The baby didn't make much noise, but the young mother and her pals in their early 20s sure did. So ignore Yelp's listing that Tiki Tom's isn't good for kids. We saw more than one on our sojourn there.
As for the rest of the crowd, we saw it all: seniors chowing down on happy-hour hamburgers, firefighters enjoying a cool one after their shift, a few couples nibbling on a pre-movie dinner. The seniors disappeared and the 50-and-younger crowd filled the place after 9 p.m., when Tiki Tom's becomes the best place in Walnut Creek to get your groove on.
Musician brothers Kurt and Todd Derita work the dance floor — 5-by-5 at most — somehow getting people to move for Oasis and Tears for Fears covers. They may not know Social Distortion songs (Julie's request), but by 10 p.m., the bar was three-deep and the dance floor was packed. There was bumping, there was grinding, there was shot-slamming.
Yet there was still civility. And that is what's cool about Tiki Tom's. Even in its wild bar moments, it maintains the vibe of a family spot. A friend took off around midnight and left her camera on a corner table. She realized this nearly half an hour later, after she had walked to her car and driven to Highway 24. When she went back to the bar, the camera was still sitting on the table. She'll be back.
Got a Night Writer suggestion? Send it to Jessica Yadegaran at 925-943-8155 or jyadegaran@ bayareanewsgroup.com.