UPDATE 4/2018 – Don’s closed its doors in April 2018. Their instagram feed promises that they are searching for a new location after they were pushed out by high rent from a developer looking to build condos.
One of the first Tiki Bars I went to and certainly one of the best if not the biggest, Don The Beachcomber in Sunset Beach is named after the iconic Tiki Legend, Donn Beach. Donn (born Ernest Gantt), was the first to bring us Tiki restaurants and bars. One of his first and most legendary beverages is the Zombie, created all the way back in 1934! Over several decades he and his wife opened 16 restaurants and at one point there were over 20 locations. Eventually all of them closed down when the Tiki fad had passed by the 80’s. Now there are three places bearing the name but none of them are original. The name was bought by a holding company and is licensed to the three restaurants, one of them happily located here in California.
Previously a restaurant called Sam’s Seafood, Don’s opened in 2009. It is an odd collection of various sized rooms and bars which are used for both dining and live entertainment. All of them have their own theming and the vibe is unparalleled. My favorite place to go however is the Dagger Bar. Quickly changing from chill to vibrant – the Dagger Bar is comprised of several booths off to the side, tables in the middle, and a long bar against the other side. Entertainment comes in the form of live bands at the front of the room as well as Karaoke (check the online calendar for an always updated schedule). My favorite time to
visit is right after Karaoke; The first group of the day will have just left and you have a chance to experience a quiet relaxing/chill time enjoying Pu-Pu’s and the great selection of drinks on the menu. If you are a regular, you’re invited to bring your own Tiki mug to store at the bar and they’ll dispense your beverage into it for you.
The drinks, with the exception of a few, are all original Don The Beachcomber concoctions and for how fast they are made and delivered they are still quite good. Some of the Absinthe laced ones usually have a bit too much of it in it and so they end up dominating the drink. As with all the tiki bars I go to, I always try the Zombie and Mai Tai first as they are very good indications of how the rest of the drinks will be made. These both do not disappoint. The Mai Tai is made in the Beachcomber style, which is to say there isn’t Orgeat in this one, and is not as sweet as the Trader Vic style of Mai Tai (remember, if there is Pineapple juice in your Mai Tai, it’s not one – in fact it’s more of a ‘Hawaii-Tai’). Beachcomber style Mai Tai’s are my preferred and they are great here. The Zombie is pretty good but not the best I have ever had. It doesn’t have quite all the nuanced flavors that I would expect in a classic Zombie. Of note, they have a Nui Nui on the menu and this is one of my favorite tiki beverages – don’t pass it up.
Overall this place is fantastic and we are lucky to have it so close, or not so close for me anyway. The worst part about Don’s is that it is quite an expensive Lyft out there for me, so I don’t go out there as often as I’d like to. Maybe that’s for the better.
Update 8/16/17: Happy Hour Menus and times
Don The Beachcomber - Huntington Beach, California
A legendary bar with great drinks and friendly service. Wide range of food available. Start with a Nui Nui and get the Hawaiian Nachos with Kalua Pork. The Dagger Bar is quiet between Karaoke and Live Bands.
Don The Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92649