The Bar Tab 

The Tiki Bar at  El Tropicano
110 Lexington
4-11pm daily
Zombie: $6
El Tropicano, just up the river from the Havana Hotel, also evokes nostalgia for Cuba’s romantic, mythologized past. But where the latter seems like a place in Old Havana where Ernest Hemingway would relax with the locals while drinking rum, smoking a cigar, and quietly contemplating the lack of characterization in one of his novels, El Tropicano is bright, mid-century modern and seems like a place where Desi Arnaz would hang with an entourage of musicians after playing a show.

I can only assume El Tropicano is named after the original Tropicana Club, which was popular in Havana in the 1940s and ’50s and famous for its flamboyant showgirls and conga music. The renovation of our El Tropicano is almost complete. Though I didn’t notice any showgirls, the place is still fairly spectacular.

I first wanted to go there to have a drink and watch a Spurs game on their huge, inflatable outdoor video screen by the pool, but due to the threat of rain, the video screen was down for the evening. I went instead on a Tuesday at 6 p.m. and had a drink at the tiki lounge.

The tiki lounge is tucked away in the corner of the lobby, hidden behind a coffee and smoothie bar. Sadly, the place was completely empty, but this is probably because 1) we live in San Antonio, 2) it was a Tuesday, and 3) people don’t know about the place yet. That said, the bar’s location within the hotel seems less than perfect — it’s too much a part of the lobby and not its own space, although there is a view of the River Walk through a huge wall of windows that helps create a bright, cheerful atmosphere, and a few patio tables overlook the riverbank. Once the planned River North extension is completed, the tiki bar will offer a great view and easy access.

I ordered a Zombie and my friend requested a Bloody Mary. Fruity drinks can seem embarrassing to me, but the tiki lounge at El Tropicano is a place where these sort of concoctions are not only appropriate, but appealing. I’m not very adept at distinguishing one tiki drink from another, but there is usually some mixture of pineapple, papaya, coconut, and/or lime juice with rum and/or vodka, and possibly a liqueur to give it distinction.  My Zombie initially served as my dinner and had me rolling. It cost around $6, which wasn’t super cheap, but for an occasional change of pace it was worth it.

— Mark Jones



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