It's a new year and I've decided to revive the popular Taste Trippin' series where I take readers on culinary journeys around Chicago. The polar vortex has returned and there's no place cozier than the tropical confines of a tiki bar. Filled with all of the kitsch and fun that's required for an authentic tiki experience, Three Dots And A Dash is the city's best tiki bar since Trader Vic's. With a nod to Chicago's speakeasy past, the bar is hard to spot if you don't know where to look. Despite a respectable Clark Street address, you can only access the lounge through a dark alley that provides little assurance that you're not headed down to a den of debauchery and crime. You're required to make your way down a staircase adorned with a collection of eerie skulls, shown above.
Pushing through a door and a velvet curtain, the lounge is finally revealed, complete with ukuleles, thatched roof bar and tikis from the original Trader Vic's. Although it didn't actually remind me of Hawaii, the atmosphere was warm and inviting enough to make me forget the arctic air outside
It's a small space that fills up quickly and after one sip of my drink, aptly named Painkiller No.3, I realized why. Getting past the cool glass and garden of flowers, foliage and cinnamon sticks floating in my cocktail, I discovered that two kinds of rum (Bajan and Jamaican, oh my!) makes for a very strong drink.
In fact, some drinks were so lethal that skulls decorated their names on the menu to warn of their potency.
The only way to soak up so much liquid fire is with food and the lounge served up a selection of small bites, including Thai chicken, shown above, which supplied a sweet and spicy pairing for the rum.
Other dishes included pork sliders and guacamole topped with pineapple and served with puffy rice crackers that were bland and unnecessary.
Holed up with my friends and surrounded by the high spirits and tipsy offerings of Three Dots And A Dash, I understood the appeal of tiki bars. I even learned a little about tiki culture. Three Dots And A Dash is a classic tiki drink created by Don the Beachcomber to commemorate the end of WWII. Three Dots And A Dash is Morse code for V, as in victory. I certainly felt victorious as I settled in, pretending to be swept by tropical trade winds instead of frigid blasts from Lake Michigan. Have you ever visited a tiki bar?