Spaceship-themed tiki bars have landed in San Diego County just in the past four months. The first, the Space Panel, is a small, hidden speaker that landed in May at Killowatt Brewing’s taproom in Oceanside. And in August, Mothership’s largest and most ambitious restaurant made its South Park debut. Here’s a peek inside these planet-hopping spots, their legendary origins, the best cocktails and dishes, and how to get a table.
the legend: While exploring tropical space, the mother ship of the ancient space shuttle crew is disabled by cosmic rays, so they are forced to land on a fertile but uninhabited planet. Unable to repair their ship, the crew members went on permanent vacation and converted their ship into base camp, where they enjoy a vegetarian diet and cocktails made with local spirits and tropical fruits.
Drama: Six years ago, Cory Stetina, founder of Kindred Restaurant, launched a weekly sci-fi-themed tropical beverage night called “Permanent Vacation.” Now this pop-up has its own home, Mothership, which Stetina opened August 2 in South Park with business partner Arsalun Tafazoli of CH Projects. The stunning interior design of this cocktail bar and vegan snack destination was created by Top Notch Kustoms founder Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez, best known for designing Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. The immersive interior décor resembles an Earth-tall spaceship filled with exotic plants, glowing fruit pods, gushing water light effects, glowing crystal table lanterns, and cave-like cave walls. Sometimes the starry sky at night is crossed by shooting stars, and custom space music plays in the background. Don’t miss the endless red-walled bathrooms.
what do you drink: The Mothership cocktail list was created by the Kindred Bar team of David Kinsey and Juan Castañeda, who have added a Hungarian twist to some of their traditional Tiki drinks. The #1 selling cocktail is the Mindkiller, a painkiller-style double rum and coconut drink poured over crushed ice with a pinch of Tang. This drink is very strong, being limited to a maximum of two people. Another popular drink is Homing Beacon, a less energetic frozen drink made with two rums, apricot brandy, and a fruity cascara. I also recommend Saturn, inspired by Galsini’s famous 1967 “Popo” Martini, with Palernum and orgeat syrups, and passionfruit and lime juices. Drinks range from $14 to $17. There’s a $40, smoky bowl-like drink for two called the Time Capsule, and pristine cocktails, beer, and canned wine are also available.
what are you going to eatThere are five Asian-inspired vegetarian tapas, plus a sixth seasonal dish that rotates every quarter. Portions are small, so order two or three plates for the table. The best is the potato dish, which features gourmet fingers on a bed of creamy kimchi cheese and sprinkled with furikake seasoning and sliced black radish. Also delicious is the rice dish, which features tteok (Korean rolled rice cakes) in a delicious aji verde sauce with Japanese cucumber slices.
How to get a table: At 10 a.m. every Tuesday, reservations open for the following week on the Mothership website. But usually they are all pounced within 90 seconds. Not kidding. Most visitors stand in line outside the bar and wait for a table. Insider tip: Bring 30 minutes before opening to get in more quickly. Sundays and weekdays are your best bet. At busy times, waits can be up to 2 hours, but you can leave your mobile number and they will text you when a table is available. Guests can stay for a maximum of 90 minutes.
details: Opening hours are from 4:30 pm to midnight on weekdays; 2:30 pm to midnight on weekends. 2310 30th Street, San Diego. (619) 630-2187, motherhiptrip.com
the legend: The Space Pad is an interplanetary cocktail lounge based on Rillispore, a small planet hidden from Earth behind the dark side of the Moon. Its interior is Earth-styled circa 1950, when the first Rillisporan spaceships visited the planet and took with them new ideas about American architecture and technology, not to mention the concept of Tiki-inspired cocktails. In fact, visitors who enter the rainbow colored lobby into the space palette are magically transported via a cosmic elevator to Rellisbourne.
DramaThe Space Pad is the second concealed speaker to open inside a pallet compartment for Kilowatt Brewing Co. The first, a tiki bar, opened three years ago at Kearney Mesa’s home in Kilawat. The theme of the space painting was inspired by the late Ocean Beach Clinton artist Bving Carey, better known as “The O.B. Spaceman,” who died in 1993. In 1957, Carey began writing and drawing about his personal encounters with extraterrestrials from a planet he called Rellispur. Inspired by Carrie’s stories, Killwatt founders Steve Cusick and Rachel Fisher created a 500-square-foot bar in the back room of their Oceanside sitting room. With seating for just 18 to 20 guests plus three standing belly tables, the Space Pad features a colorful 1950s vibe with glossy walls, space lamps and stars, a disco ball, video boards, miniature cloud views of the space city, and tiny glowing floor lights. A tramway, a Disneyland-like aerial walkway runs through the back wall. Sound and Light Shows, with the “Jetsons” theme song and NASA countdown audio tapes, are offered periodically, but can also be released on demand.
what do you drink: The Space Pad’s beverage menu was developed by Tiki mixologist Christian Diaz, who has been head bartender at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland hotel for more than a decade. Its tropical cocktails feature elements of molecular blends. Space Pad’s drinks menu features nine Relaisseur cocktails and seven traditional tiki drinks. They all range from $15 to $18. Kilowatt beer is also available for $10 to $12. Rillisporan’s best-selling drink is Blast Off, served on a raised “launch platform” with a complimentary light home show ride. It’s made with rum, almond syrup, and citrus juice. Also fun is the Beam Me Up, a green Jell-O shot with a citrus-and-frozen coconut cocktail poured over it and a candy spaceship for garnish. The Space Pad also has a Saturn Gin cocktail inspired by Popo Galsini.
what are you going to eat: A handful of Poke and ceviche tapas are available for $9 to $17. The halibut ceviche is especially nice, with mango, lemon, passion fruit, sliced jalapenos, and a side of tortilla chips. It’s big enough for a nice and light dinner for one. There’s also a delicious vegetarian option, the pineapple umeboshi salad, with fresh cilantro, mint, plum sauce, and togarashi seasoning.
How to get a table: Given the small size of the Space Pad, reservations are a must. Fortunately, they are not as difficult to obtain as in Mothership. Don’t show up late or your table will be given to customers on standby 10 minutes after your scheduled arrival time. Reservations can be made on the Space Pad website.
details: Hours of Operation: 5 pm to midnight from Thursday to Saturday; 5 to 11 pm on Wednesdays and Sundays; Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. 406 Mission Avenue, Oceanside. (760) 231-1997, thespacepad.com