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Tiki Central Forums Tiki Travel Help a tiki novice make the most of San Francisco - April 14-18
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Help a tiki novice make the most of San Francisco - April 14-18
Banana Bill
Member

Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 4
From: Michigan
Posted: 2012-04-09 08:04 am   Permalink

Business is bringing me to the Tiki Mecca of San Francisco soon and I hope to jump right in Saturday night before the work swallows me up.

I plan to dine at the Tonga Room and end up at Smuggler's Cove with maybe a stop at Bamboo Hut. Maybe I'll get out to Forbidden Island some other night.

Any recommendations from the experts and locals? What to eat? What to drink? Where to be when? What not to miss?

Appreciate any tips ... and apologies if this is the wrong place to post this. I'm new here.

Thanks!


 
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TropicDrinkBoy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 27, 2011
Posts: 277
Posted: 2012-04-09 6:19 pm   Permalink

Don't forget to visit Trader Vic's in Emeryville, preferably in the evening. And be sure to snoop around while you're there. The place is loaded with tiki goodness, history and heart. Don't be put off by the valet parking, it is free. Without it their lot would be filled by residents of the Watergate complex next door. Besides, don't be a cheapskate. Just throw the guys a dollar or two. It will make you feel good!

 
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Banana Bill
Member

Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 4
From: Michigan
Posted: 2012-04-13 8:06 pm   Permalink

Thanks, TropicDrinkBoy! If I had to choose between dinner at Trader Vic's or the Tonga Room, what would you suggest? I hear the Tonga Room ain't so great in terms of service, drinks or the culinary arts (still true?), but the decor is killer and the place is on the endangered tiki list. On the other hand, I've heard TV's is dee-lish. I'm torn!

 
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JenTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 1853
From: Wandering the eastern shores
Posted: 2012-04-16 11:03 am   Permalink

Trader Vic's has better food, drinks, prices, and service. However, the Tonga Room is still an awesome room and is hosting a Luau on Thursday, the 19th. Maybe their luau fare is better than their usual, and the $55 pricetag includes dinner, entertainment, and a lei. Drinks are extra, but are rumored to be at happy hour prices for the luau. Menu and RSVP info are at the link below.

http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=3140fe64d754747f497a9fe55&id=337e154683

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TropicDrinkBoy
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Joined: Feb 27, 2011
Posts: 277
Posted: 2012-04-17 11:56 pm   Permalink

That's a tough call. Both the Tonga Room and Trader Vic's have expensive and inexpensive options for food. The Tonga Room's inexpensive option is their $10 buffet (see below for days and times). It is O.K. but you get what you pay for. When I eat too much of it I get a metallic taste in my mouth! Trader Vic's inexpensive option is their bar menu and it is far better. I recommend Beef Cho Cho (served with a cool flaming mini grill) and Cheese Bings. They have sandwiches/hamburgers and sweet potato frys for $15. For inexpensive dining Trader Vic's is the place to go if you want to eat in the bar area. Dining in the restaurant in both places is significantly more expensive, $25-$35 entrees. I think they both have great restaurant food although the Tonga Room is slightly more expensive, being in the swanky Fairmont Hotel. Restaurant dining in both places has more ambiance than dining in the bar, especially if it is crowded.

The Tonga Room has a cover charge & band after 8:00 PM and the band is usually too loud for my tastes. They play 70's and 80's pop music which doesn't fit the venue. When I dine at the Tonga Room I go for the ambiance. I like to get there at 6:00 PM when they start restaurant service and be out by 8:00 PM. Before the band starts they typically play soft Hawaiian background music and I like sitting next to the pool towards the rear of the restaurant for the best view.

Trader Vic's drinks are better and cheaper. Some of my favorites are the Tiki Puka Puka, 1944 Mai Tai and Trader Vic's Stinker. There are lots of good ones though. Unfortunately they removed about 2/3 of the strong cocktails from the Trader Vic's Emeryville cocktail menu when they did the remodel in 2010. Palo Alto has kept the full menu though. If you know what you want they can make "off menu" Trader Vic drinks in Emeryville.

At the Tonga Room I like the Pineapple Royale, Lava Bowl and Scorpion Bowl.

The Tonga Room may not be there the next time you visit San Francisco and it definitely is unique. My adult daughter thinks it is an "up scale" Trader Vic's. I guess she thinks that because it has a much bigger room, it has the pool with rain showers, and is in the Fairmont. Trader Vic's has the two Chinese ovens and the marina & bay view. They are both high-end. The service at Trader Vic's is better with several people servicing your table throughout the meal.

Trader Vic's in Emeryville has more tradition and heart. I know of one employee that was hired by Trader Vic himself and has been there over 50 years! Every time I go there I see more things that I didn't notice before, and I've been there a lot. Check out the Captain's Room with all sorts of Trader Vic memorabilia, the Leeteg black velvets and original Hinky Dink lamps in the bar, sneak into the Captain Cook room, finally check out all the Tiki's and masks all over the place.

I suggest you decide based on what best fits your schedule and budget. I'd go to both, and do as often as I can!

Info on the Tonga Room's buffet & happy hour:

Tonga's Award Winning Happy Hour (served Wednesday, Thursday & Friday): 5:00 p.m to 7:00 p.m

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights our Happy Hour includes an extensive buffet of Pacific Rim delicacies with items such as smoked shishito chili edamame, mini vegetable egg rolls, scrumptious chicken wings with sweet chili saurce, tonga fried rice, macaroni salad & seasonal tropical fruit.

The all-you-can-eat buffet is a 'steal' at only $10.00 per person with an additional one drink minimum. To complement this feast fit for kings and queens, the tropical restaurant and bar serves tantalizing cocktails at Happy Hour prices.


[ This Message was edited by: TropicDrinkBoy 2012-04-18 00:01 ]


 
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Banana Bill
Member

Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 4
From: Michigan
Posted: 2012-04-21 11:48 pm   Permalink

Thanks again, TropicDrinkBoy! Wish I'd happened to check in and read your detailed review before I left San Fran. I'm glad to see that what I chose to do was fairly in line with your advice.

My SF adventure was great, though it didn't start out that way. I grabbed a couple of coworkers who were willing to help me get the tiki out of my system as soon as we could escape on Saturday, the 14th. Our plan was to dine at the Tonga room and then hit Smuggler's Cove. Complete FAIL. We couldn't get a reservation at the Tonga, so we went over just to wait in line for the bar. The line stretched down the hall. I think there was a private party as well as a wedding reception afterparty going on, and the place was packed. With all the young, beautiful, stylish people going in, coming out and waiting in line, you'd never know the Tonga was under threat of extinction. It seemed like the hottest new club in town. I barely got to peek through the door and only heard, but didn't witness, the famous rainstorm. Alas, my hungry, thirsty, non-tikiphile colleagues were not up for waiting in line for very long ... so, heartbroken, I turned away and dragged them to Smuggler's. Which, by the way, also had a long line of young, beautiful, stylish people. Being none of those things, we were not up to waiting long in that line, either. Thus ended a tikiless night of despair. Lesson learned: don't even try on Saturday night!

My work friends felt bad for me, so they let their arms be twisted into dining at Trader Vic's a day or two later. I enjoyed the Cheese Bings and had the hugest pork chop I've ever seen, beautifully cooked in the Chinese oven. Even my non-tiki coworkers were blown away by their entrees. As for drinks, the 1944 Mai Tai was very good, as it should be. I also sampled the Navy Grog and a flaming coffee drink for dessert - don't recall the name. Don't suppose I was recalling much at all at that point. I should also mention that we had the sweetest server ever, and when I identified myself as a tiki freak and began asking questions about the place, she rewarded my interest by bringing us a free (and dee-lish) coconut ice cream dessert. As for decor, I was enchanted by the collection of huge tikis arranged like organ pipes in the room we occupied ... the detailed paintwork on the rafters ... and the backlit collection of masks they had covering one full wall. Just wish I'd known to look for those Hinky Dinks lamps in the bar! I'll need another visit and a lot more time to fully appreciate the place.

After taking one night off from tiki, somehow I managed to drag my coworkers back out for a visit to Smuggler's Cove ... at around 6 pm on Tuesday -- a much quieter night! We walked right in. The main floor and second-level tiki hut were already jam-packed, though, so we went downstairs and snagged the last remaining table by the "lagoon." While I think the drinks were generally too sweet for my bourbon- and vodka-loving compadres, I went full-tilt tiki and loved it. I sampled the Puka Punch, Captain's Grog and whatever it is they serve in the barrel you can keep, which a coworker chose for me during his round to buy. I especially loved the Captain's Grog and have since discovered that the recipe in Beachbum Berry Remixed is close, if not the very recipe they're using. There were so many more things on their massive drink menu I wanted to try and didn't get to -- a volcano bowl, a rum flight, their take on the Mai Tai -- ugh! Can't wait to go back.

And that about sums it up ... so thanks for reading ... and I hope some of this will be helpful to other newbies on the SF tiki scene.



 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 970
From: NJ
Posted: 2012-09-03 11:47 am   Permalink

Thanks for your report Bill! I'm headng to SF for the 1st time Oct 31/Nov 1st.

I'm interested in finding out which places in and aqround SF have their own mugs. I'm hoping to add to my collection while I'm there.

thanks!
_________________
:-)
Lori


 
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nui 'umi 'umi
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 1187
From: La Mirada Atoll
Posted: 2012-09-03 11:01 pm   Permalink

Lori, My braddah and I had the pleasure of visiting T V' s Emeryville very recently. Loved the drinks and the decor is beyond words. The service was excellent-amiable and friendly staff. Great tiki "vibe" T V's Palo Alto is closed as of early August. Not sure if you'll have time for the drive to Forbidden Island in Alameda. My new "Favorite" ,and I have a lot of great Tiki palaces to choose from here in socal. It's got Natcho's two story " Ku-Bar parked in their tiny parking lot out back and it just gets better inside. Decor and service are great. Drinks not quite as good as Tikivato and I make at home but still very tasty. The combo of great service, good drinks, and cool decor, in my mind adds up to an outstanding tiki experience.
No way that I could recommend Smugglers Cove to anyone.My braddah and I were not allowed into the cove cuz the gentleman at the door said that he thought we were too drunk. He did let us in to take a few pix but someone inside gave him a signal and we were promply 86'ed.
We had 4 drink's ( 2 were beers) during the previous six hours (started at T V's Emeryville about 3 pm that day( so we were minor league drinkers when we got to the cove. My braddah e-mailed the owner and got what he said was a very "hollow" apology. Tikivato forwarded the e-mail to me and I did not bother to read it-the owner can keep it in his personal vault. I wear the "boot out" of the cove as a badge of honor now. 1rst time in my 67 years booted out of a bar, me , an old Marine who's been in bars from Olongapo to Brooklyn, N Y and never had so much as an argument in one (I must be a happy drunk). I think it was our appearance not being "drunk" that was the culprit. Short's, Aloha shirts,and slippas are cool in socal, maybe not so cool at a hipster bar with a dimwitted bouncer at the door. Wishing you a wonderful time in San Francisco and a safe trip home.
Cheers
P S I started out to let you know that the Emeryville T V sells their rum barrel mug and a real nice fog cutter. I'd been trying forever to get the barrel at L A's Trader for 35-40 bucks but they won't sell em anymore. I got one at Emeryville for $30. Very happy.







[ This Message was edited by: nui 'umi 'umi 2012-09-04 00:37 ]


 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 970
From: NJ
Posted: 2012-09-04 5:47 pm   Permalink

Thanks for the info! I definitely want to get toTV Emeryville and I'll try to get that rum barrel mug when I'm there. I'll have to check the time it will take to get to Forbidden Island, it would be great to see that too. When we go to Monterey I am going to stop at Hula's.

I'm in the process of listing every place I hope to see while we're there. For an East coast gal this is quite an opportunity. I hope to get to So Cal in the next few years to see more tiki places.

I think they were quite mean to you at Smugglers cove! That's just not right. I'm probably not "upscale" enough either!!

Many thanks Num!
_________________
:-)
Lori


 
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nui 'umi 'umi
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 1187
From: La Mirada Atoll
Posted: 2012-09-04 6:05 pm   Permalink

Hi Lori We hit Hula's too. The owner displays a lot off his personal collection and there is always some (new) mugs for sale. This place is family friendly (bar/restaurant). Food is good but unless you're Pele, don't snack on the edamame -hottest thing I ever ate. Excellent decor there, If you sit at the bar you are transported far, far away. Be safe and have a great time.
Cheers
P S check out the thrift store across the street,I snagged an Orchids of Hawaii leilani for 99 cents. Common mug I hear but I leave no mug behind.

[ This Message was edited by: nui 'umi 'umi 2012-09-04 19:32 ]


 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 970
From: NJ
Posted: 2012-09-05 1:13 pm   Permalink

OOOOOH and athrift store across the street!

Thanks for the tip, Num!


 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 970
From: NJ
Posted: 2013-01-31 3:58 pm   Permalink

I realized that I owed nui 'umi 'umi and others who gave me good advice about SF an update. My apologies! Truth be told, it was kind of a disappointing trip in terms of tiki for me hence my hesitation to post. But it wasn't all sad.

We arrived in SF much later than we were supposed to and my husband didn't want to cab it that night (after 11pm on Halloween, 1pm EST for us)so I didn't get to the Tonga(:::SOB::::), Smugglers Cove, nada. ::::insert big sad face:::::

The next day we did the blitzkrieg SF day, Alcatraz, Fishermans Wharf for lunch walking all around and then we "saw" a very fogged in Golden Gate Bridge as we left SF on the way (eventually) to Big Sur to meet up with my brother. Then my darling husband made it up to me and took me to Trader Vic's Emerville where I bought a TON of swag - coconut mugs, mai-tai glass, a Hawaiian shirt for him etc. The manager gave me a drink menu and a ton of swizzles, coasters and napkins. We ate appetizers and had a couple of drinks. Then it gets better (and worse) when we visit Forbidden Island! I was in heaven! Thanks to a mug swap I actually had their current brown mug so before we left I purchased a blue knot mug, which the bartender gave me in a box and gave me a Zombie in one of their bamboo mugs "for the road!" Double bonus. I wasn't driving. But you do the math, a couple of drinks at TV's, 2 at FI and a really strong one in the car and I don't remember most of our drive to Big Sur. But it was SOOOOOO worth it. My first 2 real tiki bars and tons of swag!!!

However, when we got home I opened my blue mug to find it was a green bowl! I was so disappointed. But the story has a happy ending. I emailed Forbidden Island and Tony let me buy the mug I thought I bought and shipped it to me in NJ. And I kept the bowl. (hee-hee)

Mahalo to those who gave their advice and to anyone who read this far, bless you. Someday I hope to get back to SF and go to the bars in the city that I missed!
_________________
:-)
Lori


 
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nui 'umi 'umi
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 1187
From: La Mirada Atoll
Posted: 2013-02-01 9:07 pm   Permalink

Lori, Seems to me that you had quite a fun trip. It appears that T V's and F I treated you like the Tiki Queen that you are. Can't say i'm sorry you didn't get to the cove but you know that place does not not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with Forbidden Island or Trader Vic's, imho.
Have you convinced the hubby that you need to build your own tiki bar yet?
Mahalo for sharing!
ps I gotta google that "knot mug"-not familiar with it.


 
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Atomic Tiki Punk
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Joined: Jul 19, 2009
Posts: 6298
From: Costa Misery
Posted: 2013-02-01 10:07 pm   Permalink

LLT, I hope you got to meet Mike & his lovely wife (The owners) of Forbidden Island
just great folks!


 
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LoriLovesTiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 970
From: NJ
Posted: 2013-02-02 12:05 pm   Permalink

Hi guys,

Nui 'umi 'umi - I didn't have to convince my husband about a tiki bar, that's kind of what got us started on this wonderful journey! Do a search under my name in Home Tiki bars and you'll see "Lori's Tiki Bar" and our tiki hut (Gator Hut) in all its splendor. (ha-ha, I'm not that full of myself.) We're anxiously counting the weeks until it will be warm enough here and we can expand the back of the bar and add more touches to the yard! And I do remember the horrible treatment you received at the Cove and that makes me feel better about not seeing it!

ATP -I don't know if we unwittingly met Mike's wife. The very nice bartender was a dark haired female but we didn't meet Mike. If I get there again I will surely ask for him to thank him for shipping my mug which should correctly be called the Float mug, sorry for the confusing Nui~! Here's a picture:

(image from Ooga Mooga)

Thanks for your interest in my adventure!


_________________

Lori

[ This Message was edited by: LoriLovesTiki 2013-02-02 12:06 ]


 
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