Ming Dynasty has been huddled away in the Kmart shopping center in Goleta for a good quarter-century, serving up everything from orange chicken and dim sum to fresh Mongolian barbecue. But it’s also had a small bar hidden inside, a reminder that Chinese food and cocktails used to go hand in hand.
Take a look at the cocktail menu and you’re back in mid-century America, when tropical drinks took over the national consciousness.
General Manager Steve Nogavich has been at the Ming since he joined as a college student. He spun many tales for us about the old days when Delco’s engineers would crowd the bar, the benefits of being so hidden away, and the entrance, which used to be a heavy door, adds to the surreptitious quality. We could almost hear the phone ringing with calls from wives looking for their errant husbands.
So why not start off with a Mai Tai? The Ming’s Mai Tai comes in a hurricane glass and is devilishly red. Nogavich’s recipe goes back some years, passed down from other bartenders: silver rum, Antigua 151 rum and Myers’ Rum, along with lime cordial, triple sec, pineapple and orange juice and grenadine. It’s a strong, sweet kick in the pants.
And what other bar offers a Coco Loco? We’ve never been offered one, and it put us in mind of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s.
The Coco Loco comes in a cute coconut cup made out of porcelain and is a smooth blend of Myers’ Rum, gin, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and milk, all blended into a smoothie with ice. The greatest hazard for this drink is brain freeze. Both we mixologists suffered from this, and we slapped the table to try to make it stop. Ooh, that’s some good Coco Loco!
The bar also offers a happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. with half-price appetizers.
We had to end the evening with the only appropriate finisher at a retro-bar: a Zombie.
The Zombie is the original “raid the parents’ liquor cabinet” cocktail, throwing in three rums, curaÁao and sweet vermouth. Still, most parents’ liquor cabinets don’t have the totally awesome Fu Manchu mug to serve it in; the Ming does. There is even a giant Scorpion bowl option when you want to share a drink for two.
The Zombie didn’t exactly make us walk like the living dead, but it did aim for our heads. Current mixology trends may not have caught up to Ming, and there’s a lot of no-name syrups in the well. For instance, the lime juice isn’t juice. But the bar made up for it with its menu, prices and kitschy cups. We’ll definitely come back. For now, the Zombie is our Drink of the Week.
1 ounce Castillo Light rum
1 ounce Antigua 151 rum
1 ounce Myers rum
1 ounce DeKuyper’s CuraÁao
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Sweet Vermouth
1 ounce Port O’ Call Lime Juice
5 ounces Orange Juice
5 ounces Pineapple Juice
Combine liquors and lime juice over ice, top with two juices. Serve in tiki mug of your choice.
THE MING DYNASTY
290 Storke Road, Goleta