Dustin Sun is flirting with the tiki gods, something that rarely has been tried in central Ohio since the fall of the great Kahiki Supper Club in 2000.
Sun is the owner of Huli Huli Tiki Lounge & Grill, which opened Feb. 5 at 26 W. Olentangy St. in Powell.
Huli Huli serves several classic drinks, delivered in retro cocktail mugs. Dry-ice vapors waft across the room, adding to the ethereal South Pacific vibe of the bilevel space, which features an abundance of wooden masks, bamboo, custom-made light shades and associated decor.
"We're trying to find the right stuff that fits without being cheesy," manager Nate Howe said.
Sun also owns Espresso 22, a coffee shop at 22 S. Liberty St. in downtown Powell.
"It's a growing community," he said. "After three years, I've developed a relationship with the community. It's where I want to stay."
Sun and Howe said they are paying homage to the great tiki bars, such as Trader Vic's in San Francisco.
The tiki bar is an American construct that has been in and out of favor since its debut in the 1930s. A few in Columbus recently have attempted to recreate the idea, including Tai Tiki Polynesian Bar and Grill, which has closed in the Short North, and the Grass Skirt Tiki Room, still in business downtown.
"A lot of people don't understand the true meaning behind tiki," Howe said. "People take it very seriously now. It's not a kitschy concept."
It starts with the classic drink menu.
The traditional daiquiri at Huli Huli has rum, lime and sugar -- but you won't find any strawberries.
Some also might remember drinks of yore, usually on the back of a Chinese restaurant menu, such as the mai tai, the Painkiller and the Zombie.
In addition to cocktails, Huli Huli serves frozen drinks and a few beers on draft.
Stu Yates is chef of the restaurant, which gets its name from huli huli chicken, a staple dish of Hawaii and one of eight items on the menu, all priced less than $10.
The huli huli chicken wings are brushed with a Hawaiian barbecue sauce containing brown sugar, soy, ketchup, pineapple and other ingredients.
The menu also includes the pua'a pua'a bao, which is shredded kalua pork, slaw and crispy onions on a bun that is steamed or fried, and the Big Island sliders, which get a slab of Spam, pineapple, Swiss cheese and wasabi mayo.
"It's the best drinking food on the planet," Howe said.
Hours are 4:30 p.m. to midnight Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call 614-396-8437.
Charmy's Persian Cuisine is serving fresh, homemade food from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Hills Market Downtown, 95 N. Grant Ave. in Columbus.
Although the menu will change slightly each week, Charmy's always will offer a soup of the day, several pita sandwiches, rice bowls and lettuce bowls.
An early customer favorite is the Persian meatball, which is stuffed with yellow lentils, organic ground lamb and fresh herbs and spices, and then covered in a tomato sauce.
Charmy's hopes to add Wednesday hours but has not committed, a Hills spokeswoman said.
Central Ohio's sixth Hibachi Express Japanese Steakhouse has opened, replacing Mezze Mediterranean Grill at 2051 Henderson Road in northwest Columbus.
At the express restaurant, the food is prepared behind the counter, meaning there is no "show," such as flaming onions, flying shrimp and furious filleting, co-owner Visca Imelda said.
Nevertheless, Hibachi Express offers a menu similar to those of other Japanese steakhouses, ranging from vegetables to shrimp, with prices starting at $6.99 and topping out at $24.99 for the lobster and shrimp combo.
Yogi's Bar & Grill will replace Average Joe's Pub & Grill at 1126 W. Henderson Road in northwest Columbus. A sign on the door said Yogi's would open this spring.