Appetizers

Three things to know about the new Jungle Bird tiki bar on J Street

Jungle Bird bartenders mix a batch of tiki drinks for its grand opening on Wednesday, Oct. 26
Jungle Bird bartenders mix a batch of tiki drinks for its grand opening on Wednesday, Oct. 26 Chris Macias

Like a scene from TV’s “Fantasy Island” with a cast of Sacramento midtowners, Jungle Bird tiki bar opened to a packed house on Wednesday, Oct. 26. This watering hole, located at 2516 J St., takes over the former spot of Kru, which recently moved to 3135 Folsom Blvd. in East Sacramento.

As the night unfolded, Jungle Bird was a festive lair of pineapple garnishes, Hawaiian shirts and banana daiquiris. Initial crowd reaction suggested the concept of a new-school tiki bar might finally stick for Sacramento, a good thing considering Rum Rok at 15th and H streets lasted just a few months.

Here’s what you can expect at Jungle Bird:

1. The transformation from restaurant to tiki bar looks terrific.

Step inside, where pictures of tropical birds adorn the walls and the bar is fashioned like a palm frond hut, and it’s hard to believe this was once a sushi spot.

The metamorphosis into a tiki oasis took just a couple of months, which is especially remarkable given all the attention to detail with its Polynesian decor. Better yet, Jungle Bird has that kind of transformative effect that’s a signature of the best tiki bars.

It’s dimly lit and the windows are obscured in a way that makes it seem like J Street is a whole other world away. Owners Tyler and Melissa Williams, who also run the nearby Tank House BBQ & Bar, and their crew definitely did a proper amount of tiki homework. It’s the perfect island-themed enclave for leaving the office-cubicle doldrums behind.

2. Jungle Bird has some of the best drinkware in Sacramento.

Parrot shaped cups, ornate zombie glasses, proper mugs from Pusser’s Rum to drink a Painkiller ... Jungle Bird is well stocked with essential tiki drinking devices. But beyond the festive touch adding to the decor and overall drinking experience, these well constructed drinking vessels also retain the chill of your cocktail especially well.

Some of these mugs even were sourced locally. Wendy Cevola of Elk Grove constructed the coconut mugs, which are used for the Spooky’s Lagoon and other drinks. They can also be found at the new Kru as well.

3. Jungle Bird’s drinks aren’t overly sweet.

So much for the stereotype of tiki drinks tasting like alcohol-laden sugar bombs that are colored like Jolly Rancher candies.

Jungle Bird takes a much more traditionalist approach to its cocktails with an emphasis on the dryer side of tiki. Order a banana daiquiri, the drink of choice from Fredo in “The Godfather II,” and you won’t get a Slurpee-like experience. Served in a classic coupe glass, this drink highlights its rum and citrus ingredients with banana elements providing a tropical overtone instead of overkill.

The Headhunter’s Grog also casts aside any cloying elements for a complex and refreshing drinking experience that mixes spiced rum, grapefruit and lime juices, passion fruit syrup and other elements. For a final bit of pageantry and flavor, a large stick of cinnamon is placed in the drink with the top lighted on fire just before serving. The flame unleashes some especially tantalizing aromatics and adds a spicy essence to the cocktail.

Welcome to the jungle, folks.

There are plenty of places within walking distance to get a beer or something harder before or after an event at Sacramento's Golden 1 Center. Bee reporter Ed Fletcher breaks down a few in October 2016.

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

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