A mellow tiki outpost amidst the colonial atmosphere of Old Town, Hi-Tide Lounge is a nice refuge from the crowds and tourists.
On a recent stroll down King Street, I got a little down. Don’t get me wrong, the quaint, gorgeous historic streets of Old Town have long been a favorite of mine, and I’ll never grow tired of plodding those brick-lined sidewalks. Gourmets are certainly welcome, and so are cocktilians, with strong offerings like Brabo, PX, and Magnolia’s. But on this most recent walk, I couldn’t help but think how….boring Old Town has become. Sure, new bars and eateries sprout up, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen anything new that really excites me. In hope of curing my melancholia, I jumped at the chance to visit the new tiki establishment, the Hi-Tide Lounge, located next door to the Torpedo Factory and waterfront.
The surprisingly small lounge doesn’t fully embrace the retro tiki style ala DC’s Archipelago: just a kiss of kitsch, namely its cozy little lounge which adorned with late 60s ad art. The bar and tables are spacious and comfortable, perfect for an after-dinner nightcap by the water. On my visits the crowd trended a little older, lots of well-dressed folks celebrating a Friday evening and lending a steady hum of conversation to the proceedings. Service was excellent, with Brian the bartender ably juggling tranches of parched customers.
Hi-Tide’s drinks are fairly standard, straight-forward tiki faire. You won’t find some of the wilder or more adventurous variants, although Hi-Tide throws in a few exotic ingredients including white pepper-peach syrup. Overall, if you are looking to relax with some entry-level sweet tropical drinks, Hi-Tide delivers.
I started our visit off with a bang with the “Spicy Hand Grenade” with gin, rum, melon syrup, spicy pineapple syrup, and lemon & lime juices. An intriguing, spicy mix defined by pineapple, this cocktail is slightly off and stringent, with a clash of citrus that doesn’t quite click. A good intentioned drink that’s too busy for its own good. We then ordered the “Jasmine,” a showy, soft cocktail with vodka, jasmine syrup, lemon juice, and lavender bitters. Just good and simple, Jasmine has a smooth heat that trends down as you sip, with a nice sweet resonance that lingers over the taste. Nice.
Then I had the “101 North” with gin, coconut syrup, lemon juice, and soda. An easy and clean sipper, this is light and only the lemon and a hit of the gin spark a little. A drink that’s pleasant but in severe danger of being boring. Next up the “Torpedoes Away” with tequila, passion fruit syrup, and grapefruit and lime juices. A resonant, rich taste, the drink punches up front hard with passion fruit. Ultra tiki, an almost mango-ish sensation. And that’s about it, just a fruit celebration with a subdued tequila sting.
I rounded out my Hi-Tide adventure with”A Bark and a Bite,” with vodka, white pepper peach syrup, grapefruit and lime juice. It’s a compelling taste that you probably haven’t experienced before, a quasi spicy, almost dairy/cheese flavor. It’s a one-note song and ramps up quick. I don’t know if I would put this in my regular rotation, but you should give it a whirl at least once. I ended on a high note with the “King Street” with rum, strawberry syrup, lime juice, and mint. A superb taste with a nice strawberry and mint spine and a clean finish. This was one of the better uses of strawberry I’ve had recently, which can often overwhelm a drink with its sweetness. But not here, it’s nicely measured, and adds just the right amount of fruity spice. And that was was that, another Old Town bar conquered. See you again soon Hi Tide!