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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Travel » » Visiting San Francisco
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Visiting San Francisco
FredsTugboat
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 25, 2015
Posts: 14
Posted: 2016-07-13 10:08 am   Permalink

I highly recommend looking into getting the citypass, worked awesome for my wife and I on our last trip:

1 - 7-day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport
2 - California Academy of Sciences
3 - Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure (replaced this w/ Alcatraz in our case)
4 - Exploratorium or de Young Museum
5 - Aquarium of the Bay or Monterey Bay Aquarium

Also, I believe it was Thursday night, but the exploratorium does an adults only with a bar, it's an interactive science museum, so mix a few drinks with that and it's a great time.

I also highly recommend spending some time in North Beach, dinner, bakery visit for cannoli, it'll be delicious. If you like Art Deco style, amazing views, and walking up a big ass hill, definitely go up to Coit Tower, the WPA murals are fantastic, give them a look before you go up to the observation deck.

I would also say you should go out to Golden Gate park, which is the location of the California Academy of Science (great combo museum, natural history, planetarium, aquarium - good stuff), anyway, go to the Japanese Tea Garden in the park, it's amazing. Just wonder that park, there's always cool stuff to find!

So far I've only been to Tonga Room (my list for next time matches yours). The decor was fantastic, my drink (Zombie) was pretty good, but it was very crowded, the band was playing top 40 covers, and we had to pay a cover charge (I think $7 each), and there was a line to get in. I think the cover starts later in the evening when the band starts so maybe get there beforehand for a smaller crowd, probably better music, and more of an ability to look around.

Have fun!!


 
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FredsTugboat
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 25, 2015
Posts: 14
Posted: 2016-07-13 10:13 am   Permalink

Also, in terms of lodging my wife loves the cable cars so we've stayed right on the line both times. The Sir Francis Drake and the Stanford Court. Stanford court is VERY centrally located. Literally across the street from Tonga Room and would be right up the hill on the California line cable car (less busy one) from Pagan Idol.

 
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mcmtiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Aug 12, 2011
Posts: 25
Posted: 2016-07-28 08:05 am   Permalink

I have a short trip to San Francisco coming up with family. Would love to hit all of the tiki spots, but that would be much too much drinking for this mixed group. If I can hit one tiki spot only, which should I go for? I know Trader Vic's would be a pain to get to but it seems like the most fun. The Tonga Room looks great, but I hear it is hard to get in and the food is bad. We are staying in Fisherman's Wharf.

Any advice please? thanks.

[ This Message was edited by: mcmtiki 2016-07-28 09:01 ]


 
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finky099
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 505
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2016-07-28 08:57 am   Permalink

Mcmtiki, if you can do only one tiki bar, and you can get to Alameda, make it Forbidden Island.
If you can't get to Alameda, his Smuggler's Cove when they open (line up 20-30 mins before on a weekday to make sure you get a spot at the bar to watch the action, or seats above in the loft.)

And if you have time for non-drinking tiki, I highly recommend getting over to the deYoung museum to spend some quality time with their rooms of South Pacific art and artifacts. As an art aficionado, there's more than enough to see there to make it worth going, but their Pacific Islander cultural collection is amazing. Probably one of the best, if not the best, in the country.

Have a blast!


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-07-28 09:22 am   Permalink

It really depends on what you're looking for:

Best drinks and awesome decor: Smuggler's Cove
History: Tonga Room or Trader Vic's
Food: Tonga Room or Trader Vic's. Tonga Room's dining room food really isn't bad, but Trader Vic's is better. Smuggler's Cove and Pagan Idol don't have food.
Kid friendly: Tonga Room or Trader Vic's. Smuggler's Cove, Pagan Idol, and Forbidden Island are 21+ only.

None of these are within walking distance of Fisherman's Wharf, but you can get on the F-Line historic streetcar at Fisherman's Wharf and take it all the way to Market & 11th St and walk a few blocks from there to Smuggler's Cove. Or for a truly fun touristy experience, you can ride the Cable Car from Fisherman's Wharf directly to the Powell & California stop where the Tonga Room is located. Also, the 47 Muni Bus will get you from Fisherman's Wharf to Van Ness & McAllister, just two blocks from Smuggler's Cove, but the streetcar and cable car are much cooler, and the bus clientele can be a bit sketchy.

Your experience at these places will also vary by the day and time of your visit. If you tell us that much, we can give even better advice.


[ This Message was edited by: JenTiki 2016-07-28 09:37 ]


 
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mcmtiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Aug 12, 2011
Posts: 25
Posted: 2016-07-28 09:43 am   Permalink

Thanks finky099 and JenTiki. I think my main aim to go after is "vintage tiki vibe" -- which is why the Trader Vic's location seems enticing. Even with a grain of salt, the Yelp reviews of the Tonga Room make it sound like a supreme hassle just to get in the door, which I am up for but need to keep the group on-board.

This would be an eve visit, and food is likely a good a idea given the potent tiki drinks to be imbibed by occasional drinkers.


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-07-28 11:21 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2016-07-28 09:43, mcmtiki wrote:
the Yelp reviews of the Tonga Room make it sound like a supreme hassle just to get in the door,



I have never found that to be the case, and have been there dozens of times. Perhaps people just didn't know how to find it in the hotel since it's on a lower level, or maybe they tried to go on a weekend in the evening. If you're going for dinner, simply make reservations and you'll have no problem getting in. If you want to go for happy hour, just get there a few minutes before they open. Keep in mind though, that the happy hour buffet is a serious quality drop from the dining room food. The other thing to keep in mind is the cheesy cover band they have playing at night. I think they usually start around 8:00 and a cover charge will be added to your bill if you're there when they start playing. They play the usual wedding band stuff, not exotica or Hawaiian music. Most of us in the tiki scene go early and leave early to avoid the cover charge and the cheesy tunes.


 
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TikiHardBop
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2009
Posts: 525
From: Rockledge, FL
Posted: 2016-07-28 3:36 pm   Permalink

Just got back from a trip to SF and I have to agree with JenTiki and the posters above. The Tonga Room was much cooler than I had expected to be after hearing all the les-than-raving reviews over the years.

Smuggler's Cove is awesome, but much, much smaller than I had expected it to be.

I found that I really liked Pagan Idol, even though I have had very few people talk about it. It's got a very cool vibe, and the drinks are good. It is also pretty small, so go early.

I found that most of my tiki drinking was over by 8 or so when everything filled up and got too loud.


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-07-29 07:30 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2016-07-28 15:36, TikiHardBop wrote:

I found that I really liked Pagan Idol, even though I have had very few people talk about it. It's got a very cool vibe, and the drinks are good. It is also pretty small, so go early.



Here are my thoughts on why you may not have heard as much about Pagan Idol.
1. It's relatively new having just opened earlier this year.
2. It's not run by Tiki Central ohana.
3. The Bay Area tiki people really love Smuggler's Cove and its owners. I really like Pagan Idol, and if I still worked in SF (my office was two blocks from it), I would probably be there at least a couple times a month. But I have a sense of loyalty to Smuggler's Cove that makes it difficult, for me at least, to promote a bar that could be seen as its competition.

All that said, I think Pagan Idol is a very good tiki bar that is doing it right. I enjoyed the drinks I had there, and they've got the beginnings of a very good rum selection. The décor is also very cool! I mean have you seen the lighting fixtures in the front room! Those are crazy!

But when I'm back in San Francisco for a few days in September, I will rack up many more hours on a barstool at Smuggler's Cove than I will at Pagan Idol. Partly due to my sense of loyalty, but also because Pagan Idol wouldn't even exist if Smuggler's Cove hadn't paved the tiki highway for them in San Francisco. Then there's the fact that I can feel the nipping at my heels of about a dozen people trying to beat my rum count at Smuggler's Cove (which currently stands at 543) so I've got some drinking to do!


 
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TikiHardBop
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2009
Posts: 525
From: Rockledge, FL
Posted: 2016-07-29 2:29 pm   Permalink

Yeah, we were only at both places long enough to get two drinks and then we headed out. Both bars became too full for us country mice. I'm glad you gave the back story. We love the Stolen Idol folks as well. If it weren't so crowded, we would have definitely closed the joint!

 
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GoGoFlamingo
Member

Joined: Jul 27, 2016
Posts: 3
Posted: 2016-08-01 06:43 am   Permalink

I was in San Fran last year and had the chance to stop by Tonga Room and Smuggler's Cover.

We stopped at Tonga Room first and I wasn't blown away but it may be that we just stopped by on a bad night. It was packed and we waited for awhile just to get a spot standing by the bar. It was a fight to find a few inches of bar space to hail the bartender. Took forever to get my drink and it was a little too sickly sweet for my taste. The live band wasn't doing it for me either. On top of that I also had the misfortune of standing next to an particularly nasty guy spewing some pretty hateful comments that really brought my whole experience down. If you've got time I'd definitely say pop in the Tonga Room as it's pretty cool inside and I'd likely give it another shot if I was in the area again.

Smuggler's Cove was a much better experience. It was busy but actually felt less packed than Tonga Room despite being much smaller inside. Drinks were better here as well which is no surprise, they were just named America's best cocktail bar for 2016 by Tales of the Cocktail. I loved the decor inside and am extremely jealous that the self-styled pirate town of Tampa, FL where I grew up doesn't have a bar half as piratey as Smuggler's Cove.

If I was back in San Fran and only had time to visit either Tonga or Smuggler's Cove I'd go with Smuggler's Cove.


BTW - When I was there I also stayed at Yosemite and did the whole Napa Valley thing (as well as drive a good chunk of the Big Sur coastal highway). It was a great trip so I'm sure you'll have a blast. If you've got an extra day maybe swing by Carmel-by-the-Sea. A really neat little beach town about a two hour drive from San Fran. Totally worth the drive, especially if you swing by the tiny Town Hall and apply for your high heel permit.
_________________


 
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mikehooker
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jul 17, 2014
Posts: 917
From: Austin
Posted: 2016-08-01 11:37 am   Permalink

Thanks everyone for all the great tips. It's awesome that all these tiki bars are so busy all the time and presumably doing very well, but I get crazy anxiety in big crowds and will assuredly not enjoy my time if I have to be in a standing room situation. I much prefer a quiet, relaxing evening where I could shoot the shit with my bartender and not feel rushed cuz someone's waiting for my seat. So I plan to do all my bar visits earlier in the day to try and avoid the congestion. Curious though, since EVERYONE here has said how bad the entertainment is at Tonga Room and how there's a cover after 8 and it's super packed, who are the people going in the later hours to endure that? Tourists or regulars?

 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2345
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2016-08-01 1:00 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2016-08-01 11:37, mikehooker wrote:
Thanks everyone for all the great tips. It's awesome that all these tiki bars are so busy all the time and presumably doing very well, but I get crazy anxiety in big crowds and will assuredly not enjoy my time if I have to be in a standing room situation. I much prefer a quiet, relaxing evening where I could shoot the shit with my bartender and not feel rushed cuz someone's waiting for my seat. So I plan to do all my bar visits earlier in the day to try and avoid the congestion.



I don't know how early in the day you were thinking, but Pagan Idol opens at 4:00pm and Smuggler's Cove at 5:00pm. For Smuggler's Cove, you really do need to be there before they open if you want a seat. And if you really want to chat with the bartender, it should be early in the week, like a Monday or Tuesday. Also, there are a total of about 10 bar seats between the street-level and downstairs bars, so don't dilly dally once you get in the door or you'll end up sitting somewhere that you can't chat with the bartender, and there are no servers, so you'd have to go to the bar each time you want a refill.

Quote:

On 2016-08-01 11:37, mikehooker wrote:
Curious though, since EVERYONE here has said how bad the entertainment is at Tonga Room and how there's a cover after 8 and it's super packed, who are the people going in the later hours to endure that? Tourists or regulars?


Tourists for sure.



 
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mcmtiki
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Aug 12, 2011
Posts: 25
Posted: 2016-08-19 11:03 pm   Permalink

So went to Tonga Room - much cooler than I thought it would be. Had a great time from 5 to 6PM. Also went to Trader Vic's in Emeryville. Sadly, they sat us in the lounge where they have killed the vibe with 4 big screen TVs playing sports. It's a shame because the location is primo and most of the rest of the place is spectacular.

 
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Hamo
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 22, 2016
Posts: 245
From: Colorado (via Iowa)
Posted: 2016-08-22 9:23 pm   Permalink

I needed a little getaway in March and decided on SF because I could combine a few sightseeing desires into one trip. I stayed at La Luna Inn on Lombard, which meant I was within walking distance of the Palace of Fine Arts and the Presidio, and easy bus rides to places like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Wharf. If you're looking for additional ideas for things to do, and somehow your interests are as weird as mine, here are some things I did and suggest (in no particular order):

  • See the Palace of Fine Arts
  • Visit the Walt Disney Family Museum
  • Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Stroll through Chinatown
  • Climb up the hill to Coit Tower
  • Get dinner and drinks at the Tonga Room, then wander through the rest of the Fairmont Hotel
  • Explore the Fisherman's Wharf area, including the Musee Mecanique, Maritime National Historical Park, and Ripley's Believe It or Not
  • Ride a cable car, and stop at the Cable Car Museum
  • Pilgrimage to Mission Dolores
  • Stop and smell the flowers in the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park
  • Watch the sun set below the Pacific Ocean from Cliff House

I'd already been to Alcatraz on a previous trip, and recommend that, too. I didn't make it to Trader Vic's, Smuggler's Cove or Pagan Idol (because I was in the middle of a special diet and couldn't drink the entire trip) so I guess there's still reason to go back.


 
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