I was introduced to Dragon 88 years ago by friends. Dragon was a good gathering spot during college and has, to my knowledge, been around for years. Legend has it that the restaurant opened in 1988, which also happens to be the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar. There used to be a Chinese restaurant called Honolulu in neighboring Westboro, MA. Dragon 88 started when a handful of Honolulu employees decided they wanted to start their own restaurant. They left the Honolulu and started the Dragon.
A Chinese man named Dave (yes, that’s right, Dave) is the owner/bartender and is the creator of the legendary Dragon 88 Mai Tai. This is probably one of the strongest, if not the strongest, alcoholic beverages that you can buy in a bar. A Chinese man by the name of Sanford (yes, Sanford) used to work as the host of Dragon 88 several years ago. One night after consuming several Mai Tais, I asked Sanford “What exactly does Dave put in these things?” His answer: “Rum, rum, and more rum!”
To gauge the strength of a Dragon 88 Mai Tai requires comparisons to flammable liquids. When the Mai Tai is on the weak side – still about 10x stronger than a normal drink from any other restaurant – one might say it tastes like lighter fluid, with a hint of pineapple. On a night when Dave makes the Mai Tais particularly strong, one might compare it to kerosene, gasoline, or even rubbing alcohol. Of course, this comparison would only occur after wiping away tears, coughing for a few minutes, and then wincing as one tries to formulate a coherent thought. However – the Dragon 88 Mai Tai is a bargain at $5.25. Dangerous.
Traditionally served in a Lowball/Rocks glass with minimal crushed ice, Dragon Mai Tais come garnished with a pineapple/cherry spear, which I find is most helpful for taking your mind off the pain of the drink itself. There are other quality beverages on the menu as well such as the Scorpion Bowl (comes in two sizes- large which serves 2-4 people, and a small which serves one), the Pina Colada, the Zombie, and the Blue Hawaii. All of these drinks are mostly liquor with varying types of juices, guaranteed to leave you with an old fashioned, New England Hangover.
Dragon 88 also serves a nice array of Chinese/Polynesian food. Although the food is fairly standard, greasy Chinese/Polynesian, I will say that it gets exponentially with each Mai Tai consumed. Especially when you order WAY too much food for any small group of human people:
The bottom line is if you are looking for bang-for-the-buck in terms of drinks, and you happen to be in the Worcester County area, you need to make a point to stop by Dragon 88. It is a dive like, hole-in-the-wall type of place, but the staff is always friendly and the drinks are second to none. The food, however, may take years off your life. But honestly, you don’t need those years when you’ve got Mai Tais!
Dragon 88 Restaurant
260 Shrewsbury St
Boylston, MA 01505