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San Diego is now home to a world-class tiki bar

By Troy Johnson | Photography by Robert Benson

False Idol may only be 1, 000 square-feet, but it’s a big deal. It marks the fifth bar for America’s first man of tiki, Martin Cate—a partnership with San Diego’s premier cocktail group, Consortium Holdings. Cate owns and operates Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, considered by many the best tiki bar in America.

Guests step through a walk-in cooler in Craft & Commerce, and emerge into False Idol. The space is a throwback to the golden era of tiki, before canned juice and corporate chains ruined the movement. There are vibrant pieces from tiki artists Bosko Hrnjak and Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez. There are false idols everywhere. The ceiling is covered in glass buoy balls. Maori-style wall carvings. Petrified puffer fish. The whole place is exploding with tiki paraphernalia.

As for the drinks? Cate reportedly has the largest collection of rare rums, and he’s showcasing some of his favorites at False Idol. He and CH beverage director Anthony Schmidt worked with CH designer, Dane Danner, to create custom-designed tiki mugs for their tropical drinks, including a Trader Vic Mai Tai and Eastern Sour. They’re also paying tribute to San Diego’s once-thriving tiki scene, excavating recipes from the former Luau Room and Barefoot Bar.

675 W. Beech St., Little Italy.

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