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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki Smuggler's Cove - "It's Beyond Tiki"
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Smuggler's Cove - "It's Beyond Tiki"
JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-02-02 3:01 pm   Permalink

All of this recent discussion about the new Trader Vic's Island Bar & Grill (Tiki or Not Tiki ?) has got me thinking about the following again....

Do any of you view Smuggler's Cove as a form of "Buffet-ization" ? It's introduction of pirate theme elements has people calling it both a pirate bar and a Tiki bar (as well as a nautical bar). Don't believe me, just check out the Yelp reviews. Could this fall into the category of "the introduction of a generic tropical island theme with no definite identity".

Now I know that Martiki never intended SC to be a classic Tiki-style bar but the general public and the media are viewing it that way. I've even seen major articles refer to it as "The World's Greatest Tiki Bar".

Is this a form of devolution or is it an positive evolution as part of the Tiki Revival? I personally view it as the latter since I'm probably a bigger fan of well-executed "Exotica" than I am a 100% classic Tiki-style purist. Martin and Notch may very well be the first people to push Tiki-style to the next level. You might also argue that SC shouldn't be classified as Tiki in the first place but represents something new and different. If so, as Tikiphiles do you consider that good or bad?

I've had this same informal discussion with some local So CA Tikiphiles who agreed that I had a good point, but warned me not to post this. They said I would be crucified by the No CA contingent who would view his as a flame against Martin (which this isn't, I'm a big fan).

I just wanted to have a thoughful discussion of what constitutes true Tiki-style.

We have a lot of opinions regarding faceless corporations like Trader Vic's but how about when it involves one of our own?

Be nice.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-02-26 17:27 ]


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11130
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-02 3:20 pm   Permalink

In it's theme, it is an artful elaboration of one particular facet of Tiki style. In it's cocktails, it upholds the highest standards of the Tiki mixology tradition.

 
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tikiskip
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 26, 2005
Posts: 2816
Posted: 2010-02-02 3:39 pm   Permalink

When I saw pictures of Smuggler's Cove I wanted to go to Smuggler's Cove.
But the photos of the new Vics does not make me want to go to the new Vics.
I can't blame Trader Vics for changing, I think a lot of the world wants
all new bars, restaurants, heck everything to look like Starbucks.
But to me cool is cool and it does not have to be tiki to be cool.
I would say that at the very least Smuggler's Cove is a throw back to
the old theme restaurants and all that old theme stuff is very cool to me.

So I say go to that wacky old store or restaurant that has been there forever.
Cuz forever is not as long as it used to be.


 
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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Central Poet Laureate

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-02-02 3:55 pm   Permalink

When we refer to the "Buffett-ization of Tiki" we mean the watering-down of tiki. If Buffett's "Cheeseburger In Paradise" joints were dense in classic decor and details I don't think we'd be complaining so much. It's when a palapa hut with sand on the floor and a surfboard on the wall gets grouped under the same "tiki" umbrella as a Trader Vic's that we feel the term "tiki" has gotten watered down.

Smuggler's Cove is saturated in the details that make a good Tiki Bar, so I don't think the term "Buffett-ization" applies in this case. But is it Tiki? Looking through my vintage paper, I can find plenty of examples of old tiki joints that had pirate and nautical elements. I would still call them Tiki.

There were also restaurants that were completely Pirate or Nautical themed. These places I wouldn't consider Tiki.

Same with Chinese Restaurants that added a Polynesian theme and tiki decor - I'd call them tiki as well, even though their food was majority Chinese.


_________________


[ This Message was edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2010-02-02 15:56 ]


 
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Humuhumu
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3616
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2010-02-02 4:03 pm   Permalink

I'd say listen to people you know, whose thoughts about how "pirate" and "tiki" are defined match your own, before you read too much into commentary on Yelp. These nutty folks up here think anything that might have once touched saltwater is "pirate" themed. It's weird. Endearing, but weird.

In my opinion, Smuggler's Cove is exactly as much a pirate bar as the Molokai Bar at the Mai-Kai. Which is to say: not very piratey. Very, very nautical, though. But that's just my opinion. There are lots of people who will tell you that an outdoor stand on a sandy beach with thatch on the top is a tiki bar. Everyone has their own semantics.

Now the real question: JOHN-O, its sounds like it's gotten to the point where your questions about Smuggler's Cove are keeping you up at night. When are you going to let yourself have a good night's sleep by coming to take a gander at it yourself?

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Critiki - Ooga-Mooga - Humu Kon Tiki


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Sabu The Coconut Boy
Tiki Central Poet Laureate

Joined: Aug 20, 2002
Posts: 2792
From: Carson, California
Posted: 2010-02-02 4:10 pm   Permalink

Hear! Hear! Roadtrip!

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-02-02 4:16 pm   Permalink

I wanna come up soon !! I figure I need at least a couple of nights to get a good cross sampling of the drinks.

First, a comparative tasting of the Tiki classics: Mai Tai, Navy Grog, Zombie (or are they pretty much the same as FI?).

Next some of the Cuban classics.

Then the net new drinks.

Do you have recommendations ? I like 'em stiff and dry.

FYI, we met once briefly at FI several years ago.



 
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JONPAUL
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 12, 2010
Posts: 134
From: Venice, California
Posted: 2010-02-02 4:57 pm   Permalink

Contrary to a more systematic and time-sensitive approach to the multitude of posts I would like to make
after returning home from Tikiyaki's very special road trip up north (lots to come!), after reading your post,
I felt passionately inspired to reply.

My first question is....have you personally experienced Smuggler's Cove?
I'm going out on a limb, but my instinct is to speculate that you have not.
If you had, you never would have posted this thread as a skeptical question.

I finally had the chance to experience Smuggler's Cove this past Friday night in the beautiful rain of Downtown
San Francisco as part of our voyage up to perform at the Palo Alto Trader Vic's.
Let me just say that every single aspect of the establishment exceeded my expectations (which were very high!).
Not a single iota of detail was unaddressed when planning this amazing Rum womb.
To put it very simply--those that are expressing negative opinions in their Yelp reviews DO NOT GET IT!!!!

Smuggler's Cove is more Tiki than most bars that set out to be "Tiki," period.
Comparing it to one of those new "Trader Vic's" (and I use the term in quotes because as far as I'm concerned,
they're only TV in name and theory to those who afforded the franchise) is ABSURD to say the very least.
And, to even mention the "B" word in any discussion of the place is absolute TRAVESTY!
I would also say that Smuggler's Cove elaborates on many more than just one aspect of Tiki Style.

Let's examine the evidence.....
First of all at it's most basic level, to follow Bigbro's argument that it has to have Tiki, to be Tiki (as opposed to
"Tiki Style"), it does. While they are not everywhere and overwhelming, they are present and make a definite impact.

Next, the environment is compact and intimate with no windows or any sense of the outside, relaying an incredible
sense of escapism and real-world sensory deprivation.

Next, what sort of elements have stood the test of argument and time as being quintessential aspects of a Tiki bar's decor?
Tapa Cloth--check.
Old, haggard looking wood--check.
Low light lamps of all shapes and sizes (puffer fish, fishing floats, a one-of-a-kind OA crate lamp, fishing floats containing
shrunken heads)--check.
Nautical/Sea Explorer items (while not explicitly "Tiki," have been determined by the majority as contributing to "Tiki Style"...
beat-up shipping crates, a life-sized canon, a giant anchor)--check.
A Frames and Thatched Roofing--check.
Rock and Water Features-check.
Exotica Music in the background--check.

And, very importantly, the Cove visually pays tribute to those forefathers of Tiki establishments that came before.
Paying attention, the patron can find nooks that house artifacts honoring the Matson lines, Skipper Kent, Victor Bergeron,
"Tiki" Bob Bryant, and a special place next to the main bar with a stunningly simple yet powerful altar-like presentation of
photos of Vic and Donn. It's as though they are omnipresent and always watching overhead.

As far as the cocktails go.....in this day and age when Mixology has reached a new level of sophistication and more and more
are becoming aware of and studying (thanks mainly to Jeff Berry and people like Martin that have the cujones to offer these
drinks) the "classic Polynesian cocktails" that just a few years ago, most bars considered a thing of the past, kitch, unpalatable,
too sweet (insert your chosen negative description), to offer such a variety, all executed with the grace and precision of a ninja,
is truly unbelievable.
Where else in the entire world can you go and experience the above mentioned environmental stimulus and order such concoctions,
without which, there would be NO "Tiki" bars, as a Grog, a Bombo, a Daiquiri, an El Floridita Cocktail?
Of course, this is not to mention their follow-through on all of the most quintessential "Tiki" drinks like a Fogcutter, Mai Tai,
Zombie, Navy Grog, Scorpion, etc.

Is that all? Not even close...try adding custom drink ware, swizzle sticks, over 200 premium rums...I could go on.

To summarize, those folks on yelp just DON'T GET IT!!! Watered-down Trader Vic's, the "B" word---absolutely NO comparison!
There is almost no place in existence right now that has the vision and execution that Smuggler's Cove does.
As far as I'm concerned there are many other well established and universally described "Tiki" bars that could take some serious
lessons from Smuggler's Cove.

Now back to the time-sensitive post-show stuff.
_________________
THE TIKIYAKI ORCHESTRA
INSECT SURFERS
TIKI MAGAZINE
FIBERGLASS JUNGLE on Luxuria


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Jungle Trader
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 3736
From: Trader's Jungle Outpost, Turlock, Ca.
Posted: 2010-02-02 5:05 pm   Permalink

blah blah blah, Doesn't it say on the website that it's a Nautical Rum Bar? Nuff said.
_________________

Oki NiKsoKoWa
(Hello all my relatives)
TikiJungle.com

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Humuhumu
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2002
Posts: 3616
From: San Francisco
Posted: 2010-02-02 5:19 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-02-02 16:16, JOHN-O wrote:
Do you have recommendations ? I like 'em stiff and dry.



I'm still working my way through the menu, but of the ones I've tried so far, I'm guessing you'll particularly enjoy the El Draque, Grog, Bombo, and the Wray & Ting. I think you'll really like Martin's latest take on the Fogcutter.

Other big favorites of mine are the Rum Flip, the Suffering Bar Steward and the Port Royal. The Parisian Blonde has been very popular and is delicious, but it's more of an after-dinner sweet drink. I also really love the Port Light, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Straits Sling. And the Mundo Perdido.

Man, I need to finish up this menu so I can start going back for seconds.

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Critiki - Ooga-Mooga - Humu Kon Tiki


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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2689
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-02-02 5:27 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-02-02 16:57, JONPAUL wrote:

My first question is....have you personally experienced Smuggler's Cove?
I'm going out on a limb, but my instinct is to speculate that you have not.
If you had, you never would have posted this thread as a skeptical question.



You are correct, I've never been. Yes I know here on TC we NEVER pass judgment on places we haven't visited. What can I say?

Dude, what a comprehensive and articulate review !!

I'm almost tempted to jump in my car right now and drive the 400 miles. I should be able to make it there before midnight. How's parking in the neighborhood?


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11130
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-02-02 6:22 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-02-02 15:01, JOHN-O wrote:
....It's introduction of pirate theme elements has people calling it both a pirate bar and a Tiki bar...



There seems to be some confusion out there about the (actually quite simple) terminology. LISTEN to what the man called his place!
Allow me to spell it out in my favorite form of communication: imagery

SMUGG - LERS:


PI - RATE:


...and, (sorry to have to hurt your eyes)
BU - FFET- IZATION:


These themes have a very distinct iconography, which might overlap in the first two cases, but the key icons are their own. Smugglers are more closely related to Traders, kinda like the black sheep of that family.

Maybe he should have called it "Rum Runner's Ketch" or simply "The Rum Barrel". It is a Rum Cocktail Bar, inspired by the Tiki forefathers, who created the genre. Or are Skull & Crossbones flags fluttering from the rafters, and parrots perched over the bar?

Pirate Bar, sheesh!




 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1077
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-02-02 6:39 pm   Permalink

Cool, a parrot wearing shades! DOOOD, that's AWESOME! Just like tiki, it's all about the laidback island lifestyle, man!

-Randy


 
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rugbymatt
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Jun 03, 2005
Posts: 1202
From: Sacramento
Posted: 2010-02-02 6:50 pm   Permalink

Okay, my boss screwed me out of a No Cal trip in November but my plan is now to make it there this summer. I am way psyched and know Martin's track record. I just want to say that a lot of the great recipies in the Grog Log, et al came from many nautical/piratical/exotic adventure themed classic bars from back in the day. A new genre perhaps, expanding on the classic old school themes perhaps, great drinkas and decor....definitely!

See you at SC in the summer kiddies.

RM, out!


 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1077
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-02-02 7:11 pm   Permalink

Actually, I was gonna reply tongue-NOT-in-cheek too.

As others said, you can't describe SC strictly based on the decor. Even just in terms of decor, SC **is** tiki, especially on the top floor. But it's other things too.

What makes SC so profoundly TIKI is the fact that its atmosphere so thoroughly embraces the look, sound, taste, and feel of that certain escapist magic that was common to the most celebrated midcentury polynesian palaces. In some ways, the spirit of that mixture of intangibles adds up to more than the presence of any number of things that can be counted on a checklist.

I read some of the yelp reviews soon after it opened. For many of the critical ones, it is self-evident how the writers' tastes and temperament make them literally incapable of enjoying the craft of the Smuggler's Cove.

-Randy


 
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