Burbank, a tranquil studio town on the outskirts of the San Fernando Valley, has a hidden gem that attracts Jimmy Buffet fans and fanatical tiki culture enthusiasts. Broken Compass Tiki is a five-month-old bar on Burbank Boulevard with little street presence other than an illuminated nylon sign hanging in front of the building. Once inside, though, you are transported to a rum- and falernum-infused paradise filled with ropes, thatched roofs, and pupu platters.
Broken Compass Tiki is the idea of three lifelong friends and co-owners, Erica Abell, Walker Roach, and Frank Howell, who all spent years working at Boneyard Cafe in various positions. Their ambition of opening their own tiki bar was finally realized when they took over the old tavern Buchanan Arms, which had been shuttered since 1977. They renovated the ancient Buchanan Arms in a hurry, giving it a maritime motif and adding cuisine under the name Burbank Pub. The pandemic arrived six months later, but it did not damper the dream. With financial aid, the pub was able to avoid closing, and the staff continued to pursue their tiki ambitions.
The renovation of the former tavern into Broken Compass Tiki is remarkable. Broken Compass is a world unto itself in Burbank, a colorful tapestry of luxuriant plant life and shipwrecked artifacts. The bar offers Navy grog, painkillers, zombies, and other rum-forward cocktails, while Abell’s food menu includes poke nachos, jalapeo poppers, and other pub classics such as burgers and club sandwiches.
There are seashells filled with alcohol and towering mounds of onion rings, all of which are served by individuals wearing floral-patterned blouses as intentionally cheesy music plays from concealed speakers. The collection of wicker lanterns, vintage pirate helmets, and parrot iconography creates a different universe, an eclectic and ever-changing blend of wooden ships, pirate adventure, and tropical beauty.
The co-owners are also aware of the several significant discussions surrounding tiki culture and its colonization and appropriation history. The group’s history for the bar is not centered on ancient Pacific Islander societies, but rather on a forgotten shipwreck and a band of lost warriors attempting to transform an uninhabited island into a habitable paradise.
Broken Compass Tiki exudes the co-owners’ enthusiasm for tiki culture and their goal to provide guests with a one-of-a-kind experience in every aspect. They have successfully converted an ancient tavern into a fantastic retreat that takes guests to a fictitious island paradise. Their attention to detail is remarkable, from the thatched rooftops to the alcoholic seashells.
In addition, the co-owners’ approach to tiki culture is novel. Instead of stealing old Pacific Islander customs, they have devised a history for the bar involving pirates and a shipwreck that
has been forgotten. Also, they have avoided the overproduced appearance of other tiki bars by omitting false fire and tiki torches.
Broken Compass Tiki is a place that compels one to grin. It’s like visiting Disneyland without the lineups. Broken Compass Tiki is more than simply a tiki bar; it exemplifies what can be created when passion and opportunity come together.