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!
Over on College, just above Rustica sits the Conga Room, a real urban paradise. They offer porch seating, lovely punchy libations, and some of the best bar bites, including Rustica’s famous pizza.
The Conga Room has been around for about for years now, having opened in 2003. The owners had some tiki dreams, and seeing the excitement of the crowds and heavy concentration of Tikiphiles on Tikicentral, decided to move forward in developing a new watering hole for the thirsty of the East Bay.
The decor is as packed with paraphernalia as a tiki bar should be, though a few sombreros on the walls can distract from the PolyPop. Some may be appalled, blaming the influence of the Tijuana Brass on stealing the limelight of paradise away from Tiki. However, kept in cultural kitsch these kooky collectibles are quite the classic.
At the Conga Lounge, Exotica plays over the loudspeakers, and a TV shows constant clips of tropical locales, and tiki or Hawaiiana based shorts and films. There’s even room (well, not really, but don’t tell Mike) for a DJ to mix up a few beats from Martin Denny and Les baxter.
It’s a lovely place I look forward to going back to every year.
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)!