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Transportive Experience

The Tiki bar inside the home of Christie White and Bill Langley takes visitors to paradise

Strangers passing by Christie White and Bill Langley’s Irondale home wouldn’t suspect what’s waiting inside — unless, that is, they noticed the Moai figure next to the front door. Built in 1953, the minimalist, modern abode is home to Birmingham’s only immersive Tiki bar. 

White, whose insider name is Tiki Kiliki, first encountered Tiki culture as a child in Anniston, Alabama. “When I was a little girl, my mother could not afford daycare, so I went to an antique store,” she says. White and her sister spent afternoons at Dishman’s Antiques while her mother finished work. Mrs. Dishman’s collection of Hawaiian records enthralled White and became her escape. “I literally ran to the school bus because I knew it was taking me to paradise.”

Some years later, White found a Tiki mug in a thrift store and bought it with her allowance. She kept it a secret from her mother, who called it the ugliest thing she’d ever seen. It was the first piece in White’s collection, and is still on display, green and grimacing. “At the time, I didn’t put two and two together as to why I wanted it,” she says. 

Over time, White’s collection became a lifestyle. The Tapa Room’s origin lies in the sheer volume of White’s collection — instead of storing or selling it, the couple spent nine months transforming their spare bedroom on their own. 

The vast majority of the decor — the archival menus and photos hung on walls, the Tiki mugs and statuettes on shelves, the Tongan tapa cloth softening the ceiling — came from White’s cache. The bar and light fixtures came later. 

To reach The Tapa Room, you must travel to the home’s core. Hints are scattered throughout the house like a transitional journey. The aroma of pork greets you at the entrance, and your eyes place its source: a teak platter offering teriyaki pineapple wrapped in prosciutto and salted macadamia nuts. 

Langley squeezes limes for mai tais in the kitchen, addressing assumptions about the home bar owners: “We all go out and imbibe and have these wonderful drinks, but there’s a desire to make them at home,” he says. The couple sources their ingredients locally. The syrups are samples from Josh and Shelton Carnley’s Bayshark Beverage Company, and most of the libations come from LeNell’s — the exception is spirits acquired while traveling. 
 
The Tapa Room is White’s third incarnation of a home Tiki bar and the most transportive experience. A soundtrack of Les Baxter, Martin Denny, Yma Sumac and Tikiyaki Orchestra instantly puts you at ease. The room is completely barricaded from the sun and the outside world. Time stops, and your eyes adjust to the crepuscular light. It’s like a realized vision of White’s childhood yearning. 

 “I would daydream listening to those records and hope that one day I would have friends all over the world,” White says. “Thanks to Tiki, I do.” 

Follow @taparoombham on Instagram for bar inquiries and more information. 
 

  • Bill Langley and Christie White