Grass Skirt combines speakeasy vibe with tiki bar fun


Catlan Nguyen

Pina colada and bao buns

by Catlan Nguyen, Contributor

People passing by may think the Grass Skirt is just a small poke restaurant, but those who venture further will find out that there’s more than meets the eye.

When the Grass Skirt opened three years ago, it combined the tiki bar theme with a secret speakeasy illusion.

First-time customers follow the hostess through a freezer door in the “Poke shop” and find themselves transported to an alluring, island getaway. It’s most known for its creative and delicious drinks, but it also serves a variety of Asian fusion dishes.

The Grass Skirt is dimly lit and decorated with island decor such as hula girl lamps, colorful glass lights wrapped in fishnets and even a grand totem pole fireplace. The booths and bar have a dried grass roof, and the whole bar has accent lights sprinkled throughout, which change colors. The lights also flash in sync to the beat of the music.

With its colorful, mysterious ambiance, the Grass Skirt attracted a fairly sizable crowd for a Wednesday night.

Regular customer Kayla Parrish was there celebrating her 35th birthday, and recounts how the Grass Skirt quickly became her and her husband’s favorite bar after first discovering it.

“If there’s any bar I want to be a legend at, it’s this one,” Parrish said. “We just love the vibe. I’ve never liked the whole bar or club scene, and I think that’s why I love tiki bars because they’re so relaxed and fun. I’ve come here now for two birthdays.”

Parrish also notes how the staff is always friendly and greets customers like they’ve known them for awhile. Favorites of hers from the menu include the porkbelly sliders, the fries and the Painkiller: an old traditional drink commonly associated with Tiki bars and has a rum blend, lime, pineapple, passionfruit and coconut.

“If they had a little more variety (on the menu) and a little more house favorites, that’d be really cool,” Parrish said. “Their drinks are dialed in. They’re on point, so adding more food would be the icing on this place.”

Prices are moderately expensive but are definitely worth it for some of their more unique, exclusive drinks. One drink, called Professor Feathers, has a unique parrot glass with leaves sticking out the top of it to resemble feathers. It mixes jamaican rum, overproof rum, pimento dram, lime, pineapple, coconut, banana, cinamon and mango together. I tried a virgin Pina Colada, because I’m not of age yet, and pork belly and short-rib bao buns. The pork belly bao bun will melt in your mouth due to the softness and tenderness of the meat. Both were seasoned fairly well. However, the overall flavor was a bit overpowering and salty.

The Pina Colada was the perfect amount of sweetness and was blended evenly. The garnishes included a tall leaf and Hawaiin flower on top, which made the drink aesthetically pleasing. It was $8 while the bao buns were $5 each.

Bar Manager Tony Coxum believes what sets the Grass Skirt apart from other places is the focus on ingredients, the creativity of each drink or dish and the fun environment.

“My favorite part of working is doing the creative parts for events,” Coxum said. “My least favorite part is babysitting other employees.”

Coxum has been working at the Grass Skirt for about three years and helped with the concept of the Tiki bar and speakeasy theme combo before it opened. Must tries on the menu for him include all of the bao buns, the bao bun burger, the poke bowl, wontons and the fried rice. For drinks, he recommends the Painkiller and the Mai Tai.

Bartender Jonathan Vila said his favorite part about working at the bar is how its helped him improve his bartending skills and learn more about craft cocktails and rum.

“I met all these guys and we have a great chemistry,” Vila said. “It’s awesome to work here and the crowd is pretty cool. I work at a different bar too and it’s more of a younger club and it gets kind of crazy. I enjoy the atmosphere here and what I’ve learned so far.”

On Oct. 20, they will be hosting their Third Annual Tiki Luau to celebrate the anniversary of their opening. The event will have a band, hula dancers, prizes, roasted pig, drinks and an outside bar and stage.

The Grass Skirt is located at 910 Grand Ave. and is open Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.