Summer may be “officially” over, but the vibes are still in full effect at downtown’s latest offering, Kanaloa. Sandwiched between Warren’s Inn and Treebeards at 311 Travis, this fully-fledged tiki bar is unique to the neighborhood.
The former Market Square Bar & Grill got a complete facelift inside and out. Kanaloa is lively and jovial, transporting you from Houston’s hustle-and-bustle to far more laid-back scenery. Colorful globes hang from the ceiling, while a bar close to the entrance has a bamboo backdrop illuminated in blue, green, and teal. Over additional seating on the opposite wall are the four main tiki gods, holding court over whatever antics the night brings.
A nook with a wicker peacock chair framed by bamboo sticks, plus a sign reading “aloha," is a perfect Instagram backdrop. And revelers will be able to chill on the small patio outfitted with overhead string lights, though it's still a work in progress.
Needless to say, the team of Tyler Barrera, Keith Doyle, and Roland Keller nailed the vibe, but the true test will be with the cocktails. As of its soft opening Kanaloa was featuring island favorites such as mai tais, fluffy ruffles, hurricanes, pain killers, piña coladas, and zombies, some coming in a tiki mug. And avid fans of tiki cocktails will know that there’s much more to rum than just Malibu, so it's promising that Kanaloa is carrying at least 90 different rums, while Barrera anticipates several additions.
"My partners and I all love tiki, and we’ve been to tiki bars across the county and we saw a need for a tiki bar downtown," said Barrera. "There are plenty of great cocktail bars around us. We know Lei Low is absolutely crushing it over there on Main and everyone that goes there has a blast. We had the opportunity to take over the former Market Square Grill, and we took the leap.”
Kanaloa has the people of Oh My Gogi! serving up Korean-Mexican fusion favorites like OMG fries, kimchi quesadillas, and the gogi burger. Tiki twists include beef or fried shrimp tacos, and tiki tots, with either shrimp or beef, plus a host of messy ingredients.