Skull & Crown Trading Co. is not just Hawaii’s newest tiki bar; it’s also its most creative and dramatic

Words and video by Shawn “Speedy” Lopes

 

Browse any list of the nation’s best tiki bars and you’ll find Hawaii woefully underrepresented. Tragic, I know. 

Sure, torch-lit rooms that serve brightly-colored umbrella drinks abound in Waikiki, but when it comes to true tiki-style taverns, America’s exotic and enchanted playground, it seems, is more desert than oasis. 

To tiki bar aficionados visiting our fair isles, many of our offerings can feel underdeveloped and touristy, and often fall short of the authentic tiki bar experience; that unique junction where nostalgia meets over-the-top kitsch and outright fantasy.

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It’s clear from the moment one sets foot in Skull & Crown Trading Co., however, that Hawaii’s newest tiki bar is also its most creative and dramatic. It’s distinguished by its unusual confluence of old Honolulu and the arcane and macabre. Vintage maritime relics and the former art deco-era doors of the historic Hawaii Theater are packed in with an assortment of skulls and display jars of unsettlingly realistic shrunken heads. 

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No doubt owners Angelina Khan and Noa Laporga’s horror-themed one-offs and pop-up ventures (Ghost Bar, Haunted Plantation, etc.) have paved the way for something quite unlike anything the Honolulu nightlife has seen before.

Skull & Crown Trading Co.’s attention to detail also shows in its carefully drafted menus, highlighted by an artful and international array of platters (lamb kofta, char siu pork and lemongrass chicken skewers served banh mi-style or with fresh tortillas or pita) and exotic cocktails featuring the Chinatown Zombie, Trader Noa’s Kiawe-Smoked Old Fashioned and the signature flaming Skull & Crown, among other delights.

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Brush aside the beaded curtains and amble past the kitchen and you’re transported to a hidden courtyard, which features a waterfall, koi pond and fire pit, though you’d never know it from standing on the street outside. “If you go back there, it doesn’t even feel like Chinatown,” states B-Side HNL TV host Kat Guzman (who, incidentally, also bartends at Skull & Crown Trading Co.). “It’s an escape from the ordinary Chinatown dive bar experience. You can come to Skull & Crown and get something totally different.”

 

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Written by Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

I am a lifelong Honoluluan whose true calling is to tell the stories of others, whether through photos, film, video, audio or the written word. Here is a collection of my works – some previously published in periodicals like Billboard, the Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Weekly, though most of what you read or view here has never been seen before.

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