Joined: Feb 27, 2011
|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 ]