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Tiki Central Forums Locating Tiki Trader Vic's/Polinesio, Havana, Cuba (restaurant)
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Trader Vic's/Polinesio, Havana, Cuba (restaurant)
bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11137
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-07-25 6:58 pm   Permalink

Name:Trader Vic's/Polinesio
Type:restaurant
Street:Between Calle 23 and 25, Vedado
City:Havana
State:
Zip:
country:Cuba
Phone:
Status:operational

Description:
Now that the Beverly Hills (1955) and the Chicago Trader Vic's (1957) are gone, this the oldest intact Trader Vic's in existence (1958). It was barely finished when Castro took over, and only open for a few months as Trader Vic's. Curiously, it's decor was used for the amazing 1964 Russian propaganda film \"I am Cuba\"-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUINE6CrrDc

I am not sure when it re-opened as the Polinesio, but other than the name (and the Tapa wall paper) little changed. Yet I am worried about it's fate. The fact that it has remained untouched is thanks to any communist country's habit of not fixing anything, but for the same reason, the lobby entrance from the Hotel it is situated in has remained closed for some years now. Some plaster fell off the ceiling of the stairwell or something, and instead of fixing it, they just closed the access. This means that one has to walk outside the Havana Libre Hotel and around it now to get to the restaurant, so there is little or no tourist business in there, it stays empty. I hope that, just with the rest of Havana's mid-century gems, any new owners will realize what a rarety they have and restore it to its authentic glory.



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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11137
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-07-25 7:41 pm   Permalink

The Polinesio is located in the basement of the Habana Libre Hotel, which used to be the Havana Hilton. There is a whole chapter dedicated to this mid-century modern gem in Peter Moruzzi's "Havana before Castro" book (see Tiki Marketplace).



As stated above, the restaurant can now only be reached from the outside, and the entrance is so far back that this sign is the only thing visible from the street:



The fact that hotel bars must be supported by the guests makes its situation dicey. Once you see the entrance, it is quite impressive:



As you enter you first see the bar:



...which has the classic circular hut ceiling the Chicago Trader Vic's used to have:



The dining rooms are quite large. Funnily, since there was no Tapa available in Communist Cuba, the solution to replace it was to paint Tap patterns on the wall:



On the ceiling, we can make out the classic "birdcage" lamps Trader Vic's used in all his early franchises:



...which were borrowed from here to decorate the nightclub set in I am Cuba:




In return for having sent over my Book of Tiki some years ago, I received some gifts from the manager:

The old Polinesio menu, basically the classic Vic's design, with slight alterations :



A previously unseen skull mug:



...and a Starboard Light glass, here filled with the appropriate libation, in my glamour shot from Pete Moruzzi's new book!:









 
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KreepyTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 18, 2007
Posts: 193
Posted: 2008-07-25 10:57 pm   Permalink

What great shots, Sven!

Major Mahalos for posting!

The place -- even in it's present state -- has a definite magic to it. I DO hope the "Polinesio" doesn't go the way of Chicago and BH!

Cheers!


 
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TabooDan
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2004
Posts: 641
From: BC, Canada
Posted: 2008-07-27 9:55 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the awesome post with great pictures! What a spectacular place!!
Here's a postcard from this Vic's when it first opened:



It's so cool that it is pretty much unchanged! Hopefully it will remain that way!


 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2008-07-29 4:24 pm   Permalink

Those pictures are, once again, SO alluring. Can't wait for the book to arrive in my mail.

 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4272
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2008-07-29 11:00 pm   Permalink

WOW! Amazing! Bigbro those are some great images. Taboo Dan, where did you find that postcard?? Never seen it before. Time for a trip to Cuba!

 
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Ojaitimo
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 04, 2006
Posts: 1317
Posted: 2008-07-30 08:06 am   Permalink

Great photos Sven!
Maybe the Valencia group patterns the new LA Trader Vic's this way?


 
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TabooDan
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2004
Posts: 641
From: BC, Canada
Posted: 2008-07-30 4:07 pm   Permalink

Hey DustyCajun,
The postcard was just on ebay. I lost out on it.
This is only the second time I have seen it.

I believe there is a picture of it in one of "The" Tiki Books but can't remember which one.



 
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TabooDan
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 18, 2004
Posts: 641
From: BC, Canada
Posted: 2008-07-31 12:46 pm   Permalink

Okay found the picture. It is in "Sippin Safari" by Beachbum Berry on page 162. Cool shot!! What an awesome book that is with great pictures, receipes and ton's of cool information.

TabooDan


 
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Tikinomad
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 20, 2005
Posts: 365
From: Outerspace
Posted: 2008-08-01 06:46 am   Permalink

What a great post, I love the pictures!
Ma halo Big Bro!


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4272
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2008-10-21 6:39 pm   Permalink

I had originally posted these on the new Havana book thread but they seemed more suited for this one.

This is a nice three card postcard set I picked up with illustrations of the Habana Hilton and Trader Vic's















 
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Trader Tark
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Nov 11, 2007
Posts: 44
From: Sunny Brighton UK
Posted: 2008-11-05 2:24 pm   Permalink

We returned from a trip to Havana Last week.
Visiting this place was something high on the list of intentions whilst there. We stayed at the fantastic Nacional Hotel just a short walk form the Habana Libra (about 5 mins). This restaurant is not in the "old Havana" that is popular with tourists. And i wonder who would even find them selves in such a place if not by accident.



London is the only other Trader Vics i have been in . And i am lead to believe we are quite lucky here in the UK to have such a good example with original decor and atmosphere.

Like Havana in general there is decay , Its like time stopped and at that point nothing much progresses. The evening we went was a Monday and the restaurant had just a hand full of other people dining. The large man who greeted us lead us passed the Chinese Ovens and to a Table.

With his slicked back hair and sports jacket, he reminded me of a character straight from a '60s TV movie.. He handed us a Menu each and proceeded to list all the items that were in fact unavailable.. We had a Daiquiri...

As has been mentioned before this is now a government run resturant. The food was poor and the ridiculous over filled Daiquiri gave me brain freeze...
BUT .. hey this place is in Havana, and i loved it !!! The decor is very similar to TV London. I'm pretty sure the furniture is the same. With deep red carpet, Carved pillars and posts, all i am guessing the original TV layout.







My plate:


It survives within the bubble of Cuba. A time warp. Like most things there, with nothing much new being built or encouraged the old is only seen as functional. We brought our nostalgic eyes to most of this. But i wondered whilst we sat there what the other ,I'm guessing, local customers made of the place.
Interestingly enough as we left and i scouted about the place taking pictures i found 8 framed photos hung togetehr on the wall. They were Before and after shots. 1958 and 1996. This hinted at the fact that for the past decade or so Cuba or at least Havana has become aware of its cultural history with regard to Hotels and iconic buildings that have been destroyed and remoulded in many other parts of the world when such buildings ceased to be profitable.. ( Vegas mainly )

If you like Mid-century modernist archetecture. Art Deco buildings that people actually live in... Hotels like you wish Vegas still had . A 1958 Trader Vics. And you want to be driven around in a convertable 52 Chevy .. Go to Havana if you can.... YOU WILL LOVE IT !!!



 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11137
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-11-05 2:55 pm   Permalink

Indeed! And get this book :
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=29208&forum=12

..because it has maps and photos of many of the remaining 20th Century sites in it.
Soooon all this will be easier to explore for Americans, too...finally!

Thank you for some of the detailed photos. You gotta love how they, in lieu of real Tapa, hand-painted the Tapa patterns on the walls. The fact that this place is so empty and the bar/restaurant is only "so so" is in part due to the sad situation that the main stairs that are leading down from the Havana Libre lobby (where there are signs to the restaurant!) have been closed for some years now, because some plaster fell from the ceiling over them. As things go in communist Havana, if something brakes, it doesn't get repaired soon, but sits there. The entrance from the street level is hard to see, and there is little foot traffic on that street, so no one sees it and it is often empty.



[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-11-06 07:25 ]


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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2008-11-06 06:06 am   Permalink

I think you've discovered the secret (too late) to keeping old Tiki hot spots from closing. Let the government run them and they don't have to turn a profit!

Great pics, thanks for posting them. I would love to visit this place, and Havana in general, sometime. (Let's hope you're right Sven.)

This picture begs a few questions:


Why are those gorgeous shells lying on the floor?!
Those carved poles look unconventional for a Trader Vic's. They look like little Fidels.
Bogart's Bar?


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11137
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2008-11-06 08:28 am   Permalink

Hahaha. Those shells probably used to rest on shelves behind the booths. Maybe they hide some unseemly carpet/column base damage. The Bogart poster proves that, as Trader Tark pointed out, they understand that the place has "nostalgic" value. Nostalgic = Casablanca = Bogart!
(This might be in part due to the fact that I had a friend bring them a copy of the BOT in 2003 or so)

These naive columns are very early Trader Vic style, that style was also used at the FIRST Trader Vic franchise in Seattle, which opened in 1949, two years before San Francisco (which then already had the better Tahitian/Marquesan columns). Here is a pic of the Seattle gift shop, quite pre-Tiki in style:



I am not sure if I posted about his here before (search-checked but could not find), but I recently discovered that, while the bird cage lamps I pointed out above, AND these table lamps:



were both borrowed from the Havana Trader for the set of "I Am Cuba", the huge statues are African:


....and were copied from photos in this book:




...a Czech book which was published here under the title "Exotic Art":


We believe that those idols could have hailed from this club:



...which also could have provided the I Am Cuba "club entrance" location, because its address, and the view below, place it right across from the Hotel Capri:


[ This Message was edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-11-06 08:31 ]


 
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