Tiki By The Sea Comes to Arverne

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 Sip on a Mai Tai complete with photo-worthy garnishes, munch on some mango habanero wings with just the right amount of kick and don a lei. You’re on vacation. Well, at least it feels that way when you step into Tiki By The Sea. Rockaway’s very own tiki bar is now open.

Tiki By The Sea officially opened its doors on Friday, April 23. The tiki bar and restaurant, located at 67-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard (the former home of Thai Kitchen), is the next best thing to come to the ever-growing Arverne by the Sea area. Tiki By the Sea is the brainchild of some folks who know the area well and know good food and drinks. The partners include bartender extraordinaire and managing partner of the Breezys BBQ concession, Amy Tichenor, Dylan Sirgiovanni and Mike Reen, who got their start with Bythebeach Coconuts and then boardwalk concession, Edible Island, and Joe Herron, who has opened some of the best bars in the country.

Tichenor explains that Tiki By the Sea is a place where they could see themselves hanging at regularly, and they’ve opened their doors for all of Rockaway and its visitors to enjoy that same vibe. “We wanted to open a place we all wanted to hang out at. Something casual, laid back with good drinks, easy food and a place that’s non-pretentious and where we’re not taking ourselves too seriously,” she said. The inspiration to open a tiki bar came from vacation. “All of us love to travel and wherever there’s a tiki bar, we always go to it, especially when in the Caribbean or Puerto Rico,” Tichenor said. And it was something Rockaway was lacking. “We wanted to bring something to the neighborhood. There was a gap missing there. We wanted to bring some flavors that you can’t really get around the neighborhood that are perfect for after the beach and a long day in the sun,” Sirgiovanni said.

Some got a little taste of what was to come at the tail-end of last summer when Edible Island brought their poke bowls from the boardwalk to the future home of Tiki By the Sea as part of a pop-up. Now the space has been decked out with a tiki theme and the menu has grown beyond the popular sushi bowls to include a little something for everyone. From dumplings to fries, to lettuce cups, wings and sliders, small bites make up much of the menu. With meat, vegetarian and even gluten-free options, complete with a gluten-free vegan garlic scallion aioli that goes with everything, everyone can find something to enjoy. In keeping up with technology, all food can be ordered through QR Code menus at each table, but staff will assist those who don’t have smart phones. They also plan to add an on-site digital kiosk for people to walk up to and order.

Even the cocktails are crafted with all in mind. From rum-based tiki favorites like the Mai Tai, Zombie and Dark and Stormy, or the local-inspired Barbadoes Basin named after the nearby body of water on the bayside, to the gin-based Singapore Sling, and the mezcal and gold rum Laka’s Nectar, there’s a good mix of choices to transport you to a tropical island. They even have wine and beer, including Medalla from Puerto Rico, which is perfect in a michelada, and they’ll soon add frozens to the mix. All of the cocktails are made with fresh-pressed juices and homemade syrups. The liquor brands might not sound familiar, but for those who know tiki drinks, they’re some of the best out there. “We have some of the best rum brands from the Caribbean. We did a lot of research and picked up brands we enjoyed using at the bars we used to work at. You might not be familiar with the rums we have, but they all have a good backstory,” Tichenor said. And if she has some down time between slinging drinks, she may even share some of those stories, such as that of Jamaican Pot Still Rum, made by Ed Hamilton, who wrote “The Complete Guide to Rum.” Even the bar itself comes with its own story as the wood used to create it was repurposed from a familiar place—but you’ll have to ask the bartenders about that one.

Tiki By The Sea even offers fun drinks for those who don’t drink alcohol, but want to enjoy the theme. Their drink menu includes “zero-proof” non-alcoholic cocktails such as Liquid Gold, a sparkling spicy ginger lemonade, the Buena Vista, a sparkling limeade with honey syrup, and more. And they’re all complete with the same garnishes that come with the regular cocktails. “We wanted to create drinks that are adult drinks with garnishes that don’t feel like kid drinks. We support people who don’t drink too,” Tichenor said.

All drinks, whether with alcohol or not, can be served in one of the bar’s special tiki mugs on request, but a deposit is taken to prevent the glasses from disappearing. In the future, Tiki By The Sea may give customers the opportunity to take home their own tiki mugs for an additional fee. However, they do encourage tiki fans to bring their own mugs to the bar, as they’ll make drinks in them.

Tiki By the Sea is just getting started. Since Friday, they have been open for a soft opening, but they will be planning a grand opening event in the coming weeks. At some point they hope to add brunch to the mix, with the possibility of themed-brunch events. The space is open for small parties, which are already starting to book up. For now, the owners are happy to finally have their doors open. “We’re so excited to host all of our friends on the peninsula. We want everyone to feel at home here. It’s good vibes all around,” Reen said.

Tiki By The Sea is open seven days a week from noon until 10 p.m., with plans to extend hours over the summer. They offer indoor and outdoor dining, takeout, and will offer delivery in the future. For menus, online ordering and more info, head to rockawaytikibar.com or call 347-619-9369. For photos and updates, make sure to follow @RockawayTikiBar on Instagram.

 By Katie McFadden

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