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A tiki mug at Tiki Mirage in LA.
Tiki Mirage.

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Inside the Magical Tiki Mirage, a Box Truck-Turned-Cocktail Bar

A converted delivery truck in Playa Vista is secretly the most invigorating new place to drink in all of Los Angeles right now

Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Right now, there is a box truck sitting in a parking lot in Playa Vista that contains an entire universe. While unmarked and unremarkable from the outside, inside, the truck glows. Its interior life is thanks to an alchemical mix of red and blue stage lighting, a web of knotted ropes and containers, and the passion of a group of friends who enjoy tiki drinks and, with it, a good story. This is Tiki Mirage, the in-the-know tiki bar that lives entirely within a retrofitted moving truck.

“Why do you need to settle in your everyday life for less than truly magical experiences?” asks Max Masuda-Farkas, one-third of the quiet group behind Los Angeles’s most intriguing cocktail experience. Together Masuda-Farkas, Aaron Girard, and Nick Newberg have been running this secretive setup since 2019, first as a one-off pop-up in West LA and now, as of the last month or so, as a bookable cocktail experience for parties, close friends, and the occasional bar collaboration night. All three are obsessive about the storytelling and showmanship aspects of Tiki Mirage, and a tiki bar’s general promise to allow drinkers to leave the real world behind for a bit.

Nick Newberg was working as a Disney Imagineer when he conceptualized the first iteration of Tiki Mirage. “I was just awestruck by the impact and wonder that Disney is able to provide to its guests and the transportive quality of what they do,” Newberg says. Much like Burbank’s Broken Compass — and many other tiki bars across the nation — Newberg envisioned a kind of communal place that felt comfortable and approachable, but with a bit of flair thrown in. Like Masuda-Farkas, he was also intent on making the extraordinary feel commonplace rather than inaccessible.

“Can we bring Disney’s level of magic to people on a more weekly basis?” Newberg asked the team at the time. “Story is a vehicle to bring them there.”

A deep red, dark close up shot of bulb lights in different colors at underground bar Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
Lots of colorful touches inside.

A night inside Tiki Mirage is one that weaves original storytelling with the experiences of the customers in the space. There is collaboration among the group, and the bartenders themselves play an integral role, leading customers from one drink (and one story) to the next. “It’s an all-sensory experience,” says Masuda-Farkas. He hopes to create new and lasting memories for those who have the opportunity to try Tiki Mirage at least once. “When you think to yourself about your closest connections in life,” he says. “By and large, those people are folks who share a sustained, memorable experience with you. That’s what we want.” To help smooth out the cocktail side of the equation, the team brought on star LA bartender Gaby Mlynarczyk to oversee the menu.

Like many before them, the trio believed that tiki culture could be a worthwhile way to explore those connections, despite the genre’s complex and difficult history of appropriation and inequality. The backbone of Tiki Mirage’s storytelling universe centers not on some far-off tropical island, but on the “discovery of the vast collection of sea explorer Daniel T. Coleridge,” says Masuda-Farkas. Per legend, Coleridge items that were found in a sold-off storage locker make up the artifacts and shape the journey of a night inside the box truck. It’s a convenient way to move beyond the sandy beaches and sometimes uncomfortable exoticism of tiki culture’s past.

“Tiki at its best embodies the idea that one shouldn’t have to travel far to be transported,” Masuda-Farkas says. “That of course carries with it what could be the worst version, a highly distorted and fetishized version. We’re highly aware of that, and it has led our design.”

Woven walls and tiki-style accoutrement on a small shelf in a dark, red underground bar named Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
Even the walls are fully wrapped.

Newberg, the former Imagineer, agrees. “Disney, as one of our north stars, should be examined in that same lens,” he says. “It was developed at a particular point in time. That midcentury nostalgia can sit uneasily with some people, and for the right reasons.”

“What tiki sometimes gets wrong is telling us specifically what [being transported] looks like or where it is,” Masuda-Farkas adds.

For those eager to be transported into the Tiki Mirage universe, they need only seek out the truck. An upcoming collaboration with big-deal Los Angeles bar Thunderbolt has already sold out for September, though more are on the way. The Playa Vista rig can also be “chartered” for private events via the company’s website — just be prepared, once inside the tiny world that is Tiki Mirage, for everyone to play along.

A long look down a small wooden bar inside of a box truck with dim lights and tiki touches at underground bar Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
Stools and a ship.
A fake bird inside of a woven pot holder hanging from a ceiling inside of a dark, colorful underground tiki bar named Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
Details everywhere.
A wide shot of a tiny tiki bar with woven walls, red and blue colors, and railings for drinks.
A truck filled with wonder.
A close up shot of the opening of a bottle as it pours liquid over orange globes inside of a seashell at an underground tiki bar named Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
An oyster shell over ice served as a tiki cocktail with a ship build in the background at underground tiki bar Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
A tall ceramic light green glass from underground tiki bar with herbs sticking out at Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
An open door to a blank box truck shows a glowing, colorful tiki bar inside, at night, at underground bar Tiki Mirage in Los Angeles.
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