Chopper Tiki Bar
After a long wait, Chopper is finally open...
...and I'm happy to report it was worth the wait!
Chopper (1100 B Stratton Ave, Nashville) is just down the street from my office so I watched its construction with great anticipation. I was finally able to visit for the first time (despite a few missed attempts during their soft opening) this past week. They don't open until 4pm which is a shame as I do some of my best Nashville bar hoping a bit earlier in the afternoon (especially on Fridays!). Despite being open for a few weeks and grabbing the cover of Nashville Scene's drinking issue this month things aren't quite up to full speed yet. I was told that the food menu (sorry, didn't get a chance to try any) is still in flux and they haven't got a beer permit yet although the menu shows it's on its way.
Chopper is the latest venture from three partners that are no strangers to the Nashville hospitality scene. The location next door to Barista Parlor isn't an accident given that the Parlor's owner and founder Andy Mumma is a partner in Chopper along with Bryce McCloud (Isle of Printing) and Mike Wolf (Husk Nashville). I must admit that I had my doubts that Chopper would ever open given the nearly two years from announcement to opening. However, after going, I see some of what took so long. True to Tiki form, every surface of the place is covered with something interesting in texture, color, and/or design. The level of customization lends to the feeling of being somewhere outside of your normal reality; which is exactly what Tiki bars are supposed to do! I think that most everything in the place from wall decor to booths was custom made and it shows.
I went with a couple of other folks so I was able to taste a few drinks besides my own which was a Robo Zombie. With a menu description that includes a notice of "limited to one per customer" I had to give it a try. I can't be sure of the exact recipe but I think it is their own spin as I didn't taste any cinnamon syrup so that removes a lot of Don Beach's original versions. Don't take that as a bad thing. It adhered to the expected flavor profile and held up well as the ice melted in their custom made Robo Zombie Tiki mug. With three types of rum (Hamilton, if I'm not mistaken) and a spent lime shell full of 151 proof rum that you can either watch burn or dump into the mix, one is certainly all you need.
After a poll of the bartenders I concluded that their Jet Pilot was the staff favorite. Fortunately, I was able to try one as both of my compatriots ordered one. I see why it's a favorite. According to the menu they based this on Steve Crane's Luau Restaurant version from the 1950's. I made one when I got home for comparison and Chopper's is remarkably similar to the recipe used at Smuggler's Cove (which is never a bad comparison). Its a lovely drink that you can have more than one of without regretting it (immediately). The other drinks tried by my group were the Tequila Cooler, and a Piña Colada (it was National Piña Colada Day after all). There wasn't a misfire among them.
As for the aforementioned custom decor, there are two glass garage doors facing the street so it's quite bright during happy hour. However, as the sun sets it's appropriately Tiki dark. The theme is supposedely based upon artifacts from "Isle X" which is apperently a very robot friendly locale that is a South Seas spin on mid-20th century ideals of the future. They've managed to tie into the Tiki feeling of escapism and the sense of disconnection with the outside world without a bit of nautical bric-a-brac, traditional materials (excepting the bamboo beneath the bar), or taxidermy. It's a great reminder that there's more than one way to get there when you lead with the concepts of high Tiki instead of just mimicking the decorations.
Last but not least, I've got to mention the music. It was a nice mix that was quite varied from Exotica to Reggae with a few Yacht Rockers thrown in for good measure. The broader mix fit well with the robo theme and the saturated colors. If you get a chance to drop in, I highly recommend it! The beautifully designed menu is below.