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Tiki Central Forums Locating Tiki The Lanai, San Mateo, CA (restaurant)
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The Lanai, San Mateo, CA (restaurant)
aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-10-14 11:37 pm   Permalink

Name:The Lanai
Type:restaurant
Street:4070 El Camino Real
City:San Mateo
State:CA
Zip:94403
country:USA
Phone:415-345-1242
Status:defunct

Description:
The Lanai restaurant in San Mateo was built in 1950 adjacent to the Villa Chartier restaurant which had been in place since 1925. The two restaurants were situated in a plaza that later became know as Villa Square with the addition of the Villa Hotel, which opened in August 1956.

From a 1957 magazine interview with the owner Mr. Emerson Murfee...
"The Villa Chartier, with a seating capacity of 90, was purchased by me in 1944. Since then we have continuously enlarged the restaurant until it now seats more than 750 persons. For a long time I had planned an authentic Hawaiian restaurant. Consequently, in 1950, The Lanai was built adjoining the Villa Chartier. Several years ago a group of us discussed the need for a beautiful, first-class hotel to serve the rapidly-growing peninsula area. Shortly after we purchased the five acres adjacent to the Villa Chartier and The Lanai. We toured the U.S., looking at new hotels, searching for new ideas to serve guests better. We finally opened the Villa Hotel in August 1956 with 225 rooms, all air-conditioned, with radio, television and music."

The Lanai became an icon for residents of the mid-peninsula south of San Francisco, many having fond memories highlighted by several unique features:

  • A constantly changing 3-dimensional mural that would gradually shift from night to day and back
  • The Side Winder's Fang cocktail
  • A collection of Barney West tikis both inside and outside
  • An utterly unique "signature" tiki that appeared on the drink menu, a custom mug, swizzles, and the front entry doors
  • Private party rooms, the Moongate Room and the Sky Room
  • An iconic palm tree neon sign that was echoed in the adjacent Lanai Liquors that was added to the Villa Square

When The Lanai was originally built in 1950, the area in San Mateo was largely undeveloped. In approximately the same mid-50s era, several neighboring features were developed in the area, which became major draws for this part of the peninsula, including the Villa Square with the restaurants and hotel, the Hillsdale Mall, and the Bel-Mateo Bowl.

The Lanai underwent several remodels to increase capacity and also repair roof problems, so in some cases it's difficult to reconcile different photos with stages in its history.

Emerson Murfee quoted again, from the back of the dinner menu, 1960 or later...
"Since that day more than ten years ago when the hand-carved door of The Lanai opened for the first time, we had dreamed of an even more luxurious setting for you to enjoy. And now this dream has come true. The colorful waterfall wall... the exotic orchid plants in full bloom... the authentic luau pit where the suckling pig is prepared for the festive occasion... all have been inspired by the lovely island of Lanai in the fabled Hawaiian group. As you enjoy the food of the Indies, the Orient and Hawaii... as you sip your tropical drink... we wish you well. May you return soon and often to the gentle pleasures of the Lanai."

Unfortunately The Lanai closed in the late 80s (date?). The Villa Chartier restaurant was closed as well, and the Villa Square was broken up into a Walgreens and other stores, with the Villa Hotel and Lanai Liquors remaining. In the intervening time, a second location for The Lanai was opened for a short period (anyone have facts to contribute?) at another location in San Mateo, about 3 miles away on Norfolk Street. Also, the Lanai Liquors has since changed owners and operates under a different name, and the Villa Hotel has been converted to senior assisted living.



 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-10-14 11:46 pm   Permalink

There is actually a decent amount of material to post about The Lanai, so I thought (with a little nudge from abstractiki, thanks) that it's about time to finally give it its own thread. I wish I had seen the place myself. My own fascination with The Lanai began when I moved to the area in 2000. We can literally see its former location from our home. The Lanai Liquors tiki was in the BOT, and I used to drive by it every day to and from work. That tiki was created by Barney West, and ultimately when the liquor store changed owners, I acquired the tiki. More on that story later, but first I wanted to post a batch of materials that's already handy from a website I made a few years ago.

First off, the most recognizable postcard for The Lanai


And close-ups...




There's the changing 3D mural


A promotional envelope


And closeup (same mural, different era)


The beautiful dinner menu cover, illustrated by San Franciscan, Don Clever


Side note, as I mentioned over on this thread about the Hawaiian Village in Tampa, this illustrator Don Clever is the same person who did some beautiful images for American President Lines menus. Those images were reused by the HV.

Sample page inside the dinner menu


Note the similarity between these illos inside the Lanai menu, and a Don the Beachcomber menu (BOT p.73)

Here's the drink menu, featuring the bizarre theme tiki


Inside the drink menu


Full-size scans of these menu images are on my website. But here's a closeup of the Side Winder's Fang, since it was their signature drink


The recipe is available in Jeff Beachbum Berry's books, and you can still get an authentic preparation at both Forbidden Island and Smuggler's Cove, here in the bay area. Some years ago a group of us TCers visited a bartender at the Villa Hotel bar, while it still existed as such. His name was Ali, and he had been a bartender at the Lanai. He told us stories about how a crew would come early every day to prepare all the specialty garnishes and ice shells and stuff for the signature drinks. Unfortunately I am a total loser who dropped the ball, and never went back to talk to Ali for more stories, and now he and the bar are both no longer there.

Swizzles, posted on Bora Boris' "Big Ten" thread



The Lanai "page" on a foldout brochure for the Villa Square


There's lots more to come, please stay tuned for some neat stuff. But that's a start!

-Randy


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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4275
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-10-15 12:00 am   Permalink

Randy,

I have been waiting for you to finally post this thread, look forward to seeing more of your amazing stuff on the Lanai.


DC


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4275
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-10-15 08:19 am   Permalink

Here are some items from the Lanai that I have seen on ebay and the internet over the last few years.

Some swizzles with the signature Tiki.



A few different ash tray styles.





This Tiki sold on ebay and was said to be from the Lanai.



A really old matchbook.



Salt and pepper shakers.






Photo album




The mug with the signature Tiki



And the bowl.






DC




 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4275
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-10-15 6:46 pm   Permalink

I have a few different varieties of matchbooks from the Lanai, all of which feature the signature Tiki.





DC


 
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abstractiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 604
From: Lodi, CA
Posted: 2010-10-15 9:46 pm   Permalink

This temple is killer, Aquari, absolutely wonderful job on this much needed thread. Dusty, great contribution as usual, Mahalo to both of you.

 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-10-16 11:28 pm   Permalink

Thanks DC for posting those!
Quote:
On 2010-10-15 08:19, Dustycajun wrote:
A really old matchbook.



I've never seen that one, and it's definitely old, as suggested by two things. First, earlier materials for The Lanai do not even have a specific numbered street address, other than 40th and El Camino. Second, there's no mention whatsoever of Villa Square, which in all likelihood puts this in the earliest days of the The Lanai, between the opening of the restaurant in 1950 and the opening of the Villa Hotel (and Villa Square concept) in 1957.

One interesting thing I've wondered about is when the palm tree neon sign was added. Namely, was it there with The Lanai from the beginning in 1950? This matchbook suggests that the curving palm tree icon would have been part of The Lanai identity from the beginning. It also appeared on some of their plates. We can see the neon sign in question in the brochure image above, but more on that coming up in my next post...

-Randy


 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-10-17 12:28 am   Permalink

Next I'd like to post some incredible vintage photos of the exterior of The Lanai. Before proceeding, I want to pause and acknowledge the source for much of what I'm posting. A few years ago I met with a manager at the Villa Hotel who happened to have a scrapbook from the whole Villa Square, including The Lanai. This included menus, the envelope and postcard and brochure above, and some photos. He generously trusted me to borrow these (with some collateral) and take them home for some fast and furious scanning. Unfortunately the Villa changed owners and management, first with the Radisson chain and now the senior living, so the contact is lost. But all the same I'd like to acknowledge the guy for letting me capture his materials. And now maybe I can finally make up for sitting on the scans all this time.

The first two of the following images were from the manager guy's scrapbook. I believe he told me these were some early photos around the time of one of the first remodels - I think there was a problem with the roof or termites or something like that. And I think these were also around the time of a major launch event at the new Villa Hotel, for which a photographer had come and taken a bunch of photos.

View of the Lanai looking from 40th. El Camino would be parallel on the right.


During the roofwork, looking at the "first" turret thing from the last pic.


OK, now a little analysis and closeups. First, we can play "spot-the-tiki". In some of these I tried to sharpen the heck out of the closeups, in an attempt to reveal more detail, but you can only do so much without making it worse rather than better. Apologies if I made it worse.

From the far left of the first pic, these tikis have their own little deck. They don't really have that Barney West look in the legs, but it's hard to tell. If those were there from the beginning in 1950, that would be pretty neat because it's relatively early in the scheme of things, in terms of overtly tiki-oriented restaurants.


A look at the two tiki poles on the turrets


Here we see those tile things that are used in many of these temples, and also a little more detail on the poles under the turret


This closeup is from that construction / remodel photo, looking at those poles again, and also the door. The front door famously had the logo tiki carved into it, but this probably is not the "front" door since the main entrance would appear to be under the next turret.


This closeup is for comparison with the image from the brochure posted earlier, showing what looked like a Barney West moai next to the neon sign with The Lanai and the curving palm tree. I squinted and stared, and stuck my nose to the monitor, but I can't make out any tiki kind of object in that little garden where the sign is nestled. MAYBE it's that kind of straight-ish object going up near the right edge, which looks a little too smooth to be a tree trunk.


Here, for reference, is a closeup of that image from the brochure posted earlier


Next, a little analysis comparing the postcard image posted earlier, with the view from the B&W image. Here's the postcard image again...


And here's the B&W closeup


The color postcard shot appears to be later. They've removed the thatch on the entry hut / turret thing. There's some extra little doohickey on the top of the torch coming out of the tiki pole. The palm trees look taller. Also, this closeup helps confirm that the two B&W images were 1957 or later, because it becomes more clear that the Villa Hotel sign appears behind the Villa Chartier sign and marquee.

This brings us to our next photo, from a different source (the "San Mateo" volume from the Images of America series, which is a nice affordable edition if you're into these kinds of things). This is a view from El Camino, giving an alternate angle on the view from the last two shots.


Now if Luigi Troga and his darn janitorial service trucks hadn't been there, we might get a better view! Especially of that large object that has a Barney West tiki kind of ring to it! Anyway, you can cross-reference this with the preceding two pics, to see where the Villa Chartier restaurant and the Villa Hotel were situated. Here's my last shot for now, trying to sharpen the heck out of that tiki...


Still more to come!

-Randy


 
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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11139
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2010-10-17 06:29 am   Permalink

Great job Randy!....now where is that slide I took of that carved door....it's gotta be somewhere...mumble mumble...

 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 4275
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2010-10-17 09:09 am   Permalink

Randy,

Awesome job, those old photos are priceless.

Here is an article on the Lanai that I had clipped images of some time ago. Some great photos of the interior and info on the restaurant operations.





I also have a postcard of the Villa Hotel, no Tiki but some pretty cool 1960's mod architecture - dig the design of the wall by the pool.



Wasn't there some kind of Tiki liquor store at the Lanai??


DC


 
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-10-20 11:36 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the images again DC. There absolutely was a liquor store, fittingly called Lanai Liquors. Later I'll add more on the Barney West tiki that used to reside there, and now sits in front of some weirdo's house.

Here are some more vintage images - these are all from the interior.

Great shot of the mural adorning one of the walls. Note the peanut mug style lamp, coconut mug, and recognizable Lanai ashtray.


Great color image of the dining area, and I think the waterfall


Now for some more closeups. This is the back wall there, again I think that might be a waterfall there with the big shell...


Tiki


For comparison again, note the same scene with the foreground tiki and the background one in the waterfall area, from the postcard posted earlier.


More closeups. Let's look at what they're having at that back table. Looks like he's having something in a peanut mug, blonde #1 is having something in the earring mug, and blonde #2 might be having a Tahitian Rum Punch, containing the red swizzle.


Now the foreground table. One Marlboro guy off to the left is sharing a GIANT Side Winder's Fang with a girl. Another girl is having a Moonkist Pineapple, while Marlboro guy #2 looks at the dinner menu with the waitress. Looking closely at the plates, they seem to have The Lanai's curving palm tree logo right in the middle, but no sign of the logo tiki.


Next a couple more shots from the Images of America San Mateo book, both with the captions as they appear.




Here's that same picture as it appeared on the Villa Square brochure. In color it's easier to see what appears to be a mural on the wall. Maybe it could be the same mural as the first B&W image above.


Next is a postcard. I can't recall, but think this came from Mike tikihula. Since the postcard says 3c postage, that would place it between 1958 and 1963.


The image on the front of that postcard. This is the bar, with the fabulous 3D mural that has the light changing effect.


For reference, here are the other shots of that bar and mural / diorama at different times. Close-up from the Villa Square brochure.


Same image from the envelope.


And once more from the other postcard, which I'm guessing was later.


Last, a couple moire-heavy closeups of the barback diorama.




Still some more to come, but that's most of what I've got for the vintage images.

-Randy


 
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leleliz
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 02, 2008
Posts: 1981
From: NorCal
Posted: 2010-10-20 11:46 pm   Permalink

Psycho Tiki D found these 3 Lanai mugs just recently.....(pics are his)

Peanut mugs :



Three hula girls kneeling bowl:





Thought this thread needed these too


 
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bigbadtikidaddy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 24, 2002
Posts: 441
Posted: 2010-11-05 10:39 pm   Permalink

wow Randy, really outstanding pics!!
love those early exterior shots, fun to see the changes over the years. i remember waking up in that parking lot a few times!
cool to see so many interior shots! fair bit of change over the years as well. i seem to remember a bit more stuff hanging from the ceiling.
man, that sidewinder fang in the fishbowl looks friggin delicious!

thanks for posting all this, i can't wait to see what else you've got up your sleeve!


 
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mrsmiley
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 3172
From: Las Vegas, NV
Posted: 2010-11-07 10:02 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2010-10-20 23:36, aquarj wrote:

Here are some more vintage images - these are all from the interior.
The image on the front of that postcard. This is the bar, with the fabulous 3D mural that has the light changing effect.

Still some more to come, but that's most of what I've got for the vintage images.

-Randy



I was mesmorized by that mural--I thought it was the coolest thing! I still kick myself for not going to the auction!! Oof!
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aquarj
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Apr 02, 2002
Posts: 1078
From: SF bay area, CA
Posted: 2010-11-07 10:14 pm   Permalink

Bigbadtikidaddy! Nice hearing from you - wish I could say I used to visit the Lanai too, but for me it's always just been pure imagination.

Quote:
On 2010-10-15 08:19, Dustycajun wrote:
Salt and pepper shakers.




That's actually the ONLY other pair I've ever seen, besides the pair I have. Not that that really says much - no doubt a bunch of the uber-collectors have doubles. It's one of the few things I got ages ago back when I started looking for Lanai stuff. The funny thing is, I've always wondered if these are actually from THIS Lanai, or another one somewhere. Here's some pics of mine...

Funny thing is, one of these was also broken when I got them, like the ones in DC's pic. I did my best on a crazy glue repair back then.




No discernible marks on the bottom, maybe the remnants of an OMC label?


So the thing is, if you look back at all the Lanai interior pics above, the tables always have just the regular glass S&P, even in the Morse family picture from 1954, which would be the earlier days of the restaurant. Maybe these were made early on and they all broke, or maybe they're really from a different Lanai, who knows. They're not related to the signature Lanai logo tiki on the drink menu, swizzle, and front door. But oddly enough, there's something about these that has an air of Barney West, and THAT ties us in with the bay area and THIS Lanai. Who knows - anybody?

Still some more to come, will put together some stuff about Lanai Liquors later too, but it's really just little bits and pieces.

-Randy


 
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