There are many great reasons to visit the Tonga Hut. I'll get to those a bit later, but want to first focus on one of the bar's greatest assets: Kelly.
Kelly is a mixologist/bartender that only (seems) to work the weekend ""happy hour"" shifts of 4p - 8p. But, in those few hours, she makes some of the **best cocktails I've had in Los Angeles.**
This is not something I say lightly. I won't throw just any swill down my throat and can make a wide range of cocktails for myself at home... without the bother or cost of heading out to a bar.
If I'm going out, I expect something amazing and Kelly delivers. She uses high-quality spirits and ingredients, scientifically-accurate ratios and she taste-tests her drinks before sending them out (just like any proper bartender should).
But all of that just means that she's a solid bartender. Her real magic comes from her original cocktails.
There's a special menu at the bar, only when she is bartending, that has about 20+ of Kelly's drinks. It's difficult to put into words just what makes her drinks so spectacular -- but those of us who have had them cannot stop talking about them with our other imbibing friends.
The drinks have exotic flavors and some of them can be quite potent. But, you never get the sense that you're having an overly-boozey drink nor do you get that ""syrupy"" taste that usually gives tiki drinks a bad name.
There's simply something very unique & deliciously amazing with Kelly's cocktails. I cannot recommend them enough.
As for the Tonga Hut itself...
I've been visiting the Tonga Hut since the mid-90's and it's a bar that has seen its share of ups & downs. About 8-10 years ago though, it had a bit of a revival as it went from general ""dive bar"" back to its roots as a tiki (polynesian/tropical drink) bar.
It's kind of tucked away in a less congested part of North Hollywood; but its semi-remoteness makes it that much better.
Their cocktail menu includes some drinks that are house specialties, a selection of well-made classic tiki/tropical drinks and, of course, all the regular stuff you'd find at a bar.
The bar itself is decked out with some pretty cool (and entertainingly kitchsy) tiki design. There are a couple massive tiki statues (inside and out) that you need to have your photo taken next to. You just do. Don't ask why. You'll just be very happy to have a photo of yourself with a giant tiki at some point in your life.
The space is on the small-side, but has a number of booths, stools at the bar and space for standing. On occasion, I've seen them squeeze live bands into what looks to have once been a dance floor. So, the place is not overly-tiny -- it would just be nice if it was bigger.
There's usually a great mix of people at the Tonga Hut; a pretty diverse & interesting crowd and I can only recall having solidly enjoyable times here.
It's a kickback bar that you should visit sometime soon -- either for Kelly's great cocktails or just a great place to come & do some drinking any night of the week.
Pros: Kelly the bartender; amazing, properly made cocktails
Cons: Small-ish space