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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)
nui 'umi 'umi
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 2655
From: La Mirada Atoll
Posted: 2015-11-13 12:45 am   Permalink

Mike, our recent trip to Cuba was organized by Kkjz radio out of Cal-State Long Beach here in California.Our tour was a jazz music appreciation visit. Hotels,Visa’s, Itinary all taken care of by the station and Havana Tours (offices in L A and Miami). We already had passports which you of course gotta have.
Flying to CanCun and then to Havana will save you a ton of moolah. Staying at private residences you’ll pay as little as 25 bucks a night as opposed to several hundred a night at for example the Hotel National. The govt. run Hotel National is the “flagship “ in Havana. There was a minor water leak in our room the first night and we were forced (upgraded) from a basic room to a luxury suite. I checked the rate chart and the basic room goes for about 200 dollars-The suite is upwards of 400 a night. It was a true suite and so big that we never used the separate sitting room. THe hotel has several bars (lotsa rum) and dining rooms and chock full of history. Plus you are only a couple of blocks from Polinesio in the Havana Libre Hotel, formerly The Havana Hilton. Polinesio is a must-see. If you can , Pack a couple of your duplicate mugs as gift’s for Osvaldo the manager/barkeep at Polinesio. He’s a gent and a tiki frteak. Small flashlights with extra batteries,nail polish etc. are much appreciated by the hardworking Cuban people.You’ll get a wonderful warm feeling when you slip these little gift’s in their hands.
Don’t worry you will know exactly when and who to give em to.
Not a big selection but absolutely the best prices on rum and cigars at the duty free shop at Havana’s Jos’e Marti Airport.They put it in a tamper proof bag and you take it on the plane in your carryall. If you have a connecting flight in the U S you’ll have to move the rum to your under the plane baggage. Caution though, some friends returning from Cuba Via Mexico had their rum and cigars confiscated by a custom agent who told them he was unclear on the rules so he was taking them just in case. We had no problem in Miami although the agent was puzzled why "anyone would want to go to Cuba”.
Good luck and please keep us posted.
Btw, feel free to P M me with any questions.


[ This Message was edited by: nui 'umi 'umi 2015-11-13 00:46 ]


 
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cheekytiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 09, 2004
Posts: 1096
From: The Haole Hut, London, UK
Posted: 2015-11-18 02:52 am   Permalink

Remember, there is a lot more to Cuba than Havana! It is like going to New York and claiming you have seen America.
Cuba, outside of Havana, is incredibly safe and friendly. Although so is Havana, just a few Jineteros looking for a quick buck.
Hire a car, get off the beaten track, drive for hours without seeing another car down 8 lane highways and country roads.
Stay in the "Casa Particulaires" with local families who will treat you like their own. The food will be fresh and way better than anything you will find in Hotels.
The Cayos are nice to visit, but mainly Western Hotels. Make sure you book with a travel agent (usually at a desk in the Hotel) rather than at the desk, it will be a fraction of the price.





 
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (7 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2471
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2015-11-18 06:16 am   Permalink

cheekytiki, great advice, thanks so much for sharing. You're bringing me (and probably others) closer to making a visit to Cuba a reality.

 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11605
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2015-11-21 1:17 pm   Permalink

Anybody who is thinking to go, but not with an organized tour: I know a great local guide who knows the city and all the vintage time warp places. She speaks English, and can show you the sites that we love.

Hit me up on Facebook if you want the info.


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 1002
From: Austin
Posted: 2015-11-25 1:52 pm   Permalink

Thanks everyone for your feedback! I don't want to derail this thread from it's focus so I'll message people privately for extra info as needed.

 
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TQTQTQ
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jun 17, 2011
Posts: 20
Posted: 2018-02-13 2:12 pm   Permalink

Went to an estate sale this past weekend in Foster City. A lot of the items belonged to a previous general manager of Trader Vic's. Among the items was this binder:



It's food recipes (not drinks). They were asking $195 for it, which was too rich for me. They did however let me photograph every page. So I have a record of the whole thing! I have it saved it as a 20M PDF. If anyone is interested in a copy, PM me.


 
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howlinowl
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 20, 2008
Posts: 321
From: Port Saint Lucie, FL
Posted: 2018-02-13 5:58 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2018-02-13 14:12, TQTQTQ wrote:
Went to an estate sale this past weekend in Foster City. A lot of the items belonged to a previous general manager of Trader Vic's. Among the items was this binder:



It's food recipes (not drinks). They were asking $195 for it, which was too rich for me. They did however let me photograph every page. So I have a record of the whole thing! I have it saved it as a 20M PDF. If anyone is interested in a copy, PM me.



PM sent, thank you for your generosity. Hope yahoo lets me receive that large of a file.

Thanks again,
howlinowl


 
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croe67
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 05, 2003
Posts: 1201
From: Texas Tikiland
Posted: 2018-02-14 08:33 am   Permalink

PM also sent.

Hell of a find! I wonder if they still have it??

I have seen photos of the Cocktail companion book to this one from the Havana Trader Vic's, which is in possession of Trader Vic's corporate


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 1002
From: Austin
Posted: 2018-02-14 10:27 am   Permalink

What a find. Odd they would ask so much for it at an estate sale with such a limited audience and time table to sell. But super cool they would allow you to photograph the entire thing free of charge. I expect they'll list it on ebay after the sale is over and it remains unsold. PM sent.

 
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (7 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2471
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2018-02-14 12:11 pm   Permalink

With the help of TQTQTQ, I was able to get more information on the book. It did not sell at the estate sale and a son of the deceased family member ended up taking the book with him back to Texas. No additional information, or offers of more information, were made by the person(s) who ran the estate sale. I'm thinking of asking more questions which might lead to the son in Texas, but the way these estate sales often go, the operators just want to move on to the next gig and avoid guys like me who ask questions after the fact.

Fun stuff. Great find though. It's worth some additional effort.


 
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Hakalugi
Site Administrator

Joined: Aug 10, 2004
Posts: 3452
From: Redondo Beach, CA
Posted: 2018-02-14 12:29 pm   Permalink

Thank you TQTQTQ for sharing your laborious PDF.

Those of us that have perused it now know that the food ingredient "Mai Kai" (as if you were wondering!) is a code word for... ________.


I'd share it here but I'll leave it to someone else to divulge. Guesses are welcome.


 
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tikiskip
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 5014
Posted: 2018-02-15 2:39 pm   Permalink

"I'd share it here but I'll leave it to someone else to divulge. Guesses are welcome."

There are many what the heck is that Ings in these recipes.

What is thick Soy sauce, that sweet soy sauce maybe.

This book is so cool I think I would have ended up buying it.
Can you imagine how many hours went into putting it together.

I had to sign wavers saying I would not steal recipes from places I worked at, of course I did anyway.

Thanks for posting this Tanya!!!

_________________


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 1002
From: Austin
Posted: 2018-02-15 8:36 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2018-02-15 14:39, tikiskip wrote:

This book is so cool I think I would have ended up buying it.




I'm with you there, Skip. I didn't realize how dense this thing was til I opened the PDF. Wow! 200 bucks is steep but most estate sale companies go half off on the final day or atleast take offers. I wouldn't have hesitated to own this one of a kind item for 100 bucks. $200 would have me conflicted but ultimately I would have caved.

Ace, I say do your damnedest to track its current whereabouts and try to get it into the community.


 
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AceExplorer
Grand Member (7 years)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2008
Posts: 2471
From: Deep in the Jacksonville Florida jungle.
Posted: 2018-02-16 07:07 am   Permalink

Thanks Mike, I am continuing with my efforts. The sale organizer has not yet replied to my last follow-up message and I'm trying to keep this moving forward.

 
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LaHabana57
Member

Joined: Feb 28, 2018
Posts: 3
From: Anderson, SC
Posted: 2018-02-28 9:02 pm   Permalink

In seven trips to La Habana since August 2016 working on a book project about the cars of Cuba
when they were new, I must have walked past the Polinesio two dozen times, always waiting for
the right moment to stop in. It finally happened last month, and what an experience!



Upon entrance you are transported back to another era, with a mood that can be best described
as ultra-swank, and I felt the urge to see if Fulgencia Batista and Conrad Hilton were seated
in one of the comfy booths in the bar, plotting their next grand project. It's that cool. I was
instantly reminded of my first Trader Vic's experience, in 1973 at the International Marketplace
in Waikiki while we were visiting my brother who was stationed on Oahu.


Batista was all smiles viewing this model, in a photo sourced from a Cuban friend.


Press photo of an architectural model of the Habana Hilton from my collection.

A photographer friend and I arrived at 2:30 for a couple of drinks and a late lunch, and we
had the place all to ourselves. Seated by the large window-walls on the far side past the bar,
the view of bustling Calle 23 was stellar and our server, Ramon suggested we try Mojitos,
"the best in La Habana." Walking around taking in the joint's fabulosity while waiting for
the food, I saw that Ramon was also the bartender and he was correct, the Mojitos he prepared
were killer! (This from one who generally dislikes Mojitos). The Pollo Ahumado a la Barbacoa
Polinesio (roasted half-chicken) was served with brown rice topped with grated cheese and ham,
and rates as the best meal I've had yet, priced at 8CUC ($8US). The chicken was perfectly-cooked,
moist, slightly smokey and even the rice was memorable.



Finally, as a few more diners began to arrive, Ramon explained in his excellent English that he
works 12-hour shifts every other day, and told us about the happy hour from 4-8pm daily, with 1CUC
Mojitos, Cuba Libres, Daiquiris and Rum Collins drinks in shorty glasses (the regular cocktails cost
3CUC). We came back a couple of days later for happy hour (the DJ's boombox music was loud and fun,
and the bar was crowded with locals hanging out), and then once more for dinner in the incredible
time-capsule.



The Polinesio is my "new favorite place" in a city that is becoming more and more familiar with
each visit, and I'll take more pics on my return later this year. Travel to Cuba is still relatively
easy even with the recent restrictions, as long as you have a well-scheduled plan in Support of the
Cuban People, or one of the other 12 official authorized categories. I go there as a free-lance
journalist and photographer, and research keeps me near archives and ephemera vendors in La Habana;
I'll venture out to the rest of the country on future trips. In addition to the book project, two other
photogs and I have a gallery show of our Cuba work this September.

I was well aware of the restaurant's Trader Vic's past before venturing in, but what a thrill to
discover this Tiki Central thread (and others) to learn so much more here. Thanks!


A circa-1959 photo from the Sierra Maestra Panoramic room.

Here are a couple of tips....When you're at the Habana Libre, take the elevator to the
Sierra Maestra Panoramic room on the 25th floor and get a wide shot of the city.
You'll be glad you did!



...And if you don't like Mojitos, Daiquiris or Rum Collins, have a Cuba Libre!


1955 Chrysler Windsor on Calle 23 seen from our table.

Salud!
Tom Gibson


 
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