Ask any North Shore native about Kowloon (or “Kowloons” as us locals came to perpetually refer to it) and you’re likely to get some variation of “it’s right off Route 1 in Saugus, right theah acrawss from tha mall”, followed by musings on everything from personal menu picks, and, of course, the Polynesian drinks offered en masse there.
It is, after all, a staple of Route 1, and within its so-gaudy-it’s-charming decor, Kowloon has seen many things over the years.
One being embarrassing dinners with my entire family, largely spent screaming with siblings over the last fried shrimp on the table. This is at the heart of the experience here. So with that in mind, I decided to taste-test some of the aforementioned classic Kowloon drinks, not only for you, but to ensure my next inevitable family reunion there is slightly more bearable (note: large sugary libations are the key to softening the blow of family outings).
Seated in the oddly soothing island-themed dining room, I decided to start things off proper, mysteriously listed with a #7042 on the menu: The Coconut Mist (for two). A rum-heavy coconut milk concoction with a consistency that was less “mist” and more “water-gunned into a giant martini glass”, which happened to be the oversized bowl of libation soup I imbibed from.
Sweet and rich, the nearly nineteen dollar price-point felt a tad steep until I was informed the glass itself was a souvenir I could take home, and there were plenty others as well.
Think: 22 ounce insulated soda cups, 15 ounce celebration glasses, hand carved pirate, monkey, or panda coconut bowls, fake pineapples that hold scorpion bowls…you get the idea. Without looking at their balance sheet, one can only imagine the overhead they face with practically every cup being considered a gratis take home gift (the sheer number of people passing through the doorway on a given night presumably balances it out).
The breakdown of cocktails is pretty simple. The made-for-sharing gems (each coming with their own take-home glassware) are listed in big, bold print (presumably for easier reading after a few have already been savored). Be it a house margarita or Mai Tai, to Scorpion Bowls, and yes, even a massive martini. Should you be flying (or just drinking) solo, the small print at the bottom of the menu is for martinis and mojitos. I went for their Bacardi O Mojito, which hit the palate with a nice balance of spearmint leaves, lime, club soda, Bacardi O and sugar. The combined effect lit a Pu Pu Platter-esque fire in my spirit on the way out, and as I passed by illuminated cases of scratch tickets near the Keno desk and the mysterious upstairs venue entrance known for booking fringe stand ups, I started to imagine secret enclaves as yet undiscovered within this legendary Saugus structure (the mind wanders after pickling your liver in monolith-sized libations).
Thus, when it comes to delightfully tacky temples of Pan-Asian bic-a-brac, massive scorpion bowls, and souvenir glassware each offering anecdotes behind their acquisition, Kowloon hasn’t lost a step.