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With over the top cocktails and tropical classics, Inside Passage sets sail on Capitol Hill journey to leave ‘tiki’ far behind

As the sea falls back after the tidal waves of the past year, not everything is destruction. There are a few new treasures revealed from the months of pandemic restrictions and social upheaval.

This summer’s reopening means visitors can finally take part in one new treasure deep beneath Pike Street. Inside Passage, a new subterranean counterpart to Capitol Hill’s Rumba rum bar, is now open with submarine-level lighting, giant tentacles, and a wide assortment of kitsch cocktails.

CHS first reported on the project in early March 2020 just as the pandemic hit. On its long journey through construction and opening, the project from Travis Rosenthal also took its own journey of discovery and is doing its best to leave the culturally troubling image of “tiki bars” behind:

Inside Passage is not a “tiki” bar. Inside Passage is a Pacific Northwest, underwater, sunken ship, tropical immersion bar. Oh, yeah…with a tentacled sea monster named Kiki. It is true, a main influence of Inside Passage is Don the Beachcomber which opened in Hollywood in 1933. A true escapist, tropical bar which transported drinkers away from the city streets into a tropical paradise with over-the-top drinks and fantastic garnishes. It is our understanding there were no tiki idol carvings, tiki references, masks, weapons, shields or scantily clad wahine at Don the Beachcomber. There are also no tiki idol carvings, tiki references, masks, weapons, shields or scantily clad wahine at Inside Passage.

“While some elements of Inside Passage are inspired by the less problematic elements of what we have come to associate with tiki bars, we have decided to refrain from calling it that,” the team behind the bar explains.

Instead, Inside Passage hopes to help establish a new tropical concept: an immersion bar, where “drinks are over the top and unexpected in presentation, perhaps even smoking or on fire.”

The result is a bar that counterbalances Rumba’s earnest approach to rum up top with a hidden away corner of sometimes corny drink names, over the top presentations and ingredients, and “layers of flavors all work together to tell a story specific to the drink itself and fitting into the theme of the bar.”

On Capitol Hill, the tiki king, then, remains a transplanted dive bar — the Hula Hula moved to E Olive Way in 2017.

If the Spongebob fonts don’t already give it away, Inside Passage is also not a place to take yourself very seriously as you drink below giant sea monster tentacles in a space designed by tiki bar legend Notch Gonzalez from Top Notch Kustoms.

Inside Passage joins siblings Rumba and Agua Verde, the Mexican joint and paddle club on Portage Bay that Rosenthal’s group acquired in 2018, to form a nautical trio of Seattle food and drink. UPDATE: Correction! Rosenthal owns Agua Verde Cafe but not the Agua Verde Paddle Club! We’re told the businesses were run in an affiliated partnership prior to the acquisition but there is no longer a connection beyond the name. “The Agua Verde Paddle Club still remains a well loved community business serving nearly 25 years with the same ownership,” owner Rey Lopez tells us.

Rosenthal opened Rumba in September 2012 on Pike just around the corner on the same block as his much-loved Tango now home to Indian joint Zaika. The new bar space was built out of the longtime Stussy shop retail space next to Rumba and is accessed by a descent through the rum bar. Think of it, if you dare, like the relationship between two other Pike/Pine booze legends where the Narwhal dances below E Pike’s Unicorn.

In addition to its over the top cocktails and “tropical classics,” Inside Passage features a menu of bar snacks and small bites including the Rumba burger and SPAM sliders. You can find a rundown of some of this summer’s first wave of Inside Passage drinks here from Seattle Eater. Be warned, land lubber, the over the top fancy drinks at Inside Passage are priced accordingly. And, no, we’re not sure how they’ll manage inventory control of some of the more collectible vessels. The bar’s first “signature mug” designed by artist Tony Canepa featuring “the Inside Passage creature, Kiki, dragging a ship to her ocean lair” is available for purchase for $55.

Inside Passage is now open below Rumba at 1112 Pike Wednesdays through Sundays, 5 PM to midnight. You can learn more at insidepassageseattle.com.


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Bbbbb
Bbbbb
20 days ago

Sad that people have to be ashamed of being tiki because it’s “culturally troubling.” Was looking forward to going, but those drinks are more expensive than the top lounges in Hawaii! Maybe if I eat Top Ramen for a week I’ll be able to afford it…

Ariel
19 days ago
Reply to  Bbbbb

HA! I came here to say the opposite: I really appreciate that they the effort to show that they did their homework around the ways culture is shifting. Doesn’t mean you can afford the drinks, but at least you know the owners do their part to pay attention to sociocultural trends… which, if you’re opening a bar, you kinda need to.