A more than welcome tiki oasis away from Las Vegas insanity.
In a city filled with excess, the Las Vegas tiki bar scene has ebbed and flowed, transitioning from the glory days of Aku Aku in the Stardust to an almost complete desertion of tiki bars in the city a few decades later. Thankfully, the tiki bar Las Vegas inventory is back on the rise, maybe most notably with the high-end, not-so-authentic Golden Monkey Tiki Lounge in Resorts World Las Vegas but more importantly thanks to places like Frankie’s Tiki Room, The Golden Tiki and Red Dwarf.
Red Dwarf is the kind of tiki bar Vegas does not offer in great supply as both smoking and gaming are banned, a stark contrast to Frankie’s Tiki Room and its hazy-but-beautiful smoke-filled interior. Maybe even more foreign to Las Vegas is Red Dwarf’s affordability, pairing a lush tiki-themed environment with dare we say “normal” prices on both drinks and food. After a misguided trek up and down a piece of the Strip, stepping into Red Dwarf will feel like a relief due in no small part to the warmly-lit environment.
Founded by owner and Las Vegas native Russell Gardner, the intent with Red Dwarf was always to create a divey tiki bar mashup, an objective certainly fulfilled by the space. Outside, a stark red wall sits underneath a long, illuminated sign that shouts the Las Vegas dive bar’s chief amenities: booze, music, beer and pizza. The drink selection is robust here to say the least, a high bar in tiki bar Vegas amenities thanks to an inventory of 20-ish rotating craft beers on tap, a dozen or so signature tiki-style cocktails and an impressive collection of over 90 rum varieties.
The vibe inside Red Dwarf provides everything a tiki bar should even if it isn’t necessarily saturated in decorations like some smaller tiki destinations (looking at you Tiki Ti). A row of grass hut-topped booths lines one wall in perhaps the most concentrated burst of tiki ambiance, glowing tiki torches perched along the wooden posts that hold up grass thatching. A center bar is dusted with a bit of steampunk, twisted metal piping serving up the bar’s draft beer selection found on a glowing chalkboard in the rear of the space.
This tiki bar Vegas outpost fills in the rest of its broad space with fish netting holding glowing, multi-colored orbs that provide a nice divey glow to the surroundings. The wraparound bar twists through the space, terminating in a round, communal bar area underneath a low ledge. The bar here is covered in old vinyl record covers underneath epoxy and vintage Las Vegas music posters dating as far back as the 1950s can be found along the Red Dwarf Las Vegas walls.
Red Dwarf’s personality shines through in its drink menu, home to the hard to say but easy to drink Humuhumununkukuapua’a made with gin, orgeat, lemon and pineapple as well as the attractively named I Just Blue Myself and Trinidad Not My Real Dad. Not to be missed is the boozy Dole While, a kind of dense pineapple smoothie that is one of the best things this reviewer has ever tested even before factoring in that the concoction can be prepared with either a rum or vodka finish. Red Dwarf-exclusive mugs are available with all tiki drinks and limited runs have been known to be released by the Las Vegas dive bar.
The drink menu is complemented by a simple pizza menu, offering Detroit-style pizza in a few preset combinations in addition to build-your-own options. For those unfamiliar, a Detroit-style pizza specializes in deliciously crusty corners and sauce piled on top of the pizza, a unique variety of pizza done well at Red Dwarf. A party pack of six pizzas can be had for a reasonable price, another little twist of affordability welcome in a town not necessarily known for its accessible pricing.
As with any neighborhood bar, Red Dwarf offers a set of theme events and live music performances, including a recurring, one-shot Dungeons & Dragons evening. All variety of music can be found atop the Red Dwarf stage, though acts tend to come from the metal, ska, punk and surf rock genres. Plans exist to expand upon the Red Dwarf empire, a jazz & blues-themed sister location named Fat Cat slated for downtown Las Vegas.