For those of you looking for a few gifts for the Tikiphile in your life (even if it’s just yourself), Trader Vic’s Online Store is now offering $10.00 off Orders $50.00 or more (excluding shipping). Just enter promo code “MaiTai” at checkout.
I’m not too hip on the drink mixes anymore, but the spices and condiment offerings are always great. What I really like (and have around a dozen of) are the Trader Vic Mai Tai Glasses. They’re 15 oz. biggies, and you’ll see them all over my site here. Sadly, two have already made their way with Trader Vic, but the survivors live on to hold my Mai Tais, Aku Akus, and Navy Grogs.
And of course, if you’re looking for a gift for your favorite internet Tiki Aficianado (*A-hem*), a set of Tiki Cufflinks or a Rum Barrel or two could get you free admission for life to the Galley, all the Nui Nuis you can suck down.
Trader Vics Emeryville, it’s not quite where it all started, but this is certainly the epicenter of the Trader Vic’s Tiki empire.
Seated at the bar or dining in the restaurant, the emphasis is on scintillating suppers and delightful drinks. Walking in between large Tiki statues, the diner is immediately greeted with a picture of Trader Vic himself, as well as a Mosaic portrait of the Trader. The decor is festooned with true classics of PolyPop decor, a signed sea turtle shell from World War II, fish traps and glass floats. The real prizes on the wall though are the original Leetegs, paintings from the premier tropical velvet painter, Ed Leeteg of Tahiti.
The drinks are all quite lovely, and virtually unchanged (well, a formula here and there) since the initial opening. If you want a real treat though, be sure to ask for a San Francisco Style Mai Tai. That’ll get you a Mai Tai made fresh, with no mix, though a little extra on the tip might be in order for the extra busy bartender. A true Mai Tai at a Trader vic’s is a thing of beauty, and worth the trip.
If you’re looking to recreate the feel of Trader vic’s Emeryville, well, don’t bet on it, unless you happen to have the Oakland bay conveniently handy. But you can get a glimpse of the drinks and food in Trader Vic’s Tiki Party!, a book authored with the support and coordination of the Trader Vic’s staff.
If you do get down there, a fun thing to do is scavenger hunt for a few items scattered here and there. Some of the trasures include the pot belly stove from Hinky Dink’s (what Trader Vics was prior to the great South Seas movement), the chair Queen Elizabeth II sat in during her visit (her first to a commercial restaurant!), and a few bottles of some very, very old booze that Vic used to play around with.
So next time you’re looking for another notch off of your book of tiki travels, be sure to think of Trader Vic’s Emeryville.
This is the last entry in the tour of the Bay Area for the Tiki Central Tiki Crawl. You can check out more pictures at this Photo Thread on Tiki Central. See you next crawl!
The Third stop on our crawl through the East Bay was the Kona Club on Piedmont Ave.
A few good hours were spent in this place, soaking in some of the most awesome decor I’ve seen in the “new wave” of tiki bars opened in the past decade. From the Tapa print entrance to the smoking volcano behind the bar, and even the signature Tiki mugs, this place spells tiki bar all the way from front to back.
The Kona Club was opened in 2005, just about a mile from the final resting place of Trader Vic. The owner, Doug Miller, has a few other places in his East Bay empire, each with at least a hint of tiki in the theme, such as the Club Mallard in Albany and Thalassa in Berkeley.
The decor is amazing, the drinks, not so much, but they do come in a signature mug that, if asked nicely, can become a part of your collection. The decor was an effort between Bamboo Ben (who also built Forbidden Island), and Crazy Al Evans, and features some of the most unique items I’ve ever seen, including a Volcano that erupts with smoke periodically, a lifesize hula lamp, and some great south seas shell art near the back.
And of course, being in Oakland, we were subject to a familiar local attraction, the Drive by! Thanks to whatever that it was just an airsoft gun, I understand real bullets hurt a helluva lot more.
The next and final stop, Trader Vic’s Emeryville, is coming up! Wish I were still there!
Sunday brought us into the East Bay, home of the Original Trader Vic’s, now an empty parking lot at 6500 San Pablo Ave in Oakland, CA. This was where the Magic happened, transforming a little rib shack called Hinky Dinks into the international Marvel it was then, and still is today.
There’s plenty of time to chat about Vic’s later though, for right now, we’re at a place I think I’ve chatted a time or two, Forbidden Island.
Opened in 2006 by Martin Cate and the folks behind the Conga Lounge, Forbidden Island is a vision to the tikiphile. Envisioned by Martin and built by Bamboo Ben, this is a PolyPop connoisseur’s delight of tropical drinks in tride and true fashion, with boundless decor and enthusiastic staff. Of course, if you drop in and miss out on the big lug what started it all, you’ll have to come back again to pick his rather impressive brain. Forbidden Island now features the Kill-Devil club, with a list of over 90 rums to sample. Have them all and your name goes on a bronze plaque on the wall, and no, you can’t play catch up at home.
Forbidden Island regularly holds fun events inside and in the parking lot, home of the giant Ku Bar. Whether it is a classic car show, the grand unveiling of a new Tiki Mug, or the Forbidden Island parking lot sale, chances are you’ll be dropping in on something exciting happening.
I know the first thing on my mind when I stopped in was the signature Forbidden Island. Probably the only recipe that hasn’t been printed in the San Francisco Chronicle, this is a Spicy and mysterious that keeps you coming back for more. It also is available in the Forbidden Island signature mug, based on the big Forbidden Island Tiki carved by Tiki Diablo.
Down to the music in the jukebox, every detail is down pat. My hat’s off to Martin, for opening the place I wish I would have but probably never could pull off, you magnificent bastard.
Once again, time is marching on and another Tiki Central San Francisco Tiki Crawl is upon us! Coming up October 9th through 12th, this will be a doozy of a trip, as no decent Tiki Bar in the San Francisco Bay Area, East Bay and even South Bay will go untouched by the love of the Tiki Bus.
That’s right. 50 some-odd (and some very odd) Tikiphiles, packed on a bus, hitting the Tiki hot spots in the Bay Area. Drinks on the bus, drinks off the bus, and more often than not, a few drinks hosed out of the bus the morning after. Thanks to the fine folks at Mount Gay Rum, I’ll be headed down to cover the event on Friday and Saturday evening. Because drinking vicariously is still slightly better than drinking alone.
Thursday Oct. 9th starts off the show in the south bay with Smoke Tiki in San Jose (my old home town), and Trader Vic’s Palo Alto. Unfortunately, Martini Monkey in the San Jose airport will not be part of the crawl, as it is now behind security gates. But, if you’re flying in to SJ and have a moment, I’ve been and recommend it highly as the best Airport bar I’ve been to!
Friday I’ll be flying in and joining the foray as we crawl out into San Francisco proper, hitting up Trad’r Sams, the Bamboo Hut, and the fabulous Tonga Room at the Fairmont.
East Bay Saturday will be an evening to remember. I’ll be riding the bus all the way from Forbidden Island to Oakland’s Conga Lounge, the Kona Club, and finally settle in for an exotica event at Trader Vic’s Emeryville with The Mai Kai Gents!
Slowdown Sunday will be a relaxing pot luck feast at Forbidden Island, before everyone heads back home to their respective haunts.
Hope to see you there, just look for the guy in the Hawaiian shirt… (see, this is why I wear the Pith Helmet)!