BEST TIKI BARS – Original vs New


Dinner House San Francisco Bay



LUCKY TO RESIDE IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, where we have a little or a lot of everything it seems, including most enjoyable Restaurants, Cocktail Lounges and , more specifically, Tiki Bars or better, Tiki Palaces – both original Polynesian edifaces and newer configurations paying tribute tothe calmer, idyllic, post-war era of the late 40s-50s.

I thought I’d been to the best , particularly Forbidden Island in Alameda, CA but , I have to say, I think I’ve found a new Top Two, one original, Trader Sam’s one  updated , Smuggler’s Cove, both in San Francisco.

I honored my recent birthday by visiting both on successive nights,  April 6 and April 7, 2011, both equally great experiences. Hard to choose one over the other.

Trader Sam’s , in all its 1937 original glory, at 6150 Geary, features  a great, round, bamboo bar and bamboo chairs/ love seats.   One may say the place is ‘worn’ looking, but for me this is the charm. I would not want to see it any other way. I know of no other tiki bar that comes close to being this original. Looking at the old pictures on the wall it would appear that NOTHING has changed in its almost 80 years!

Tiki Road Trip: A Guide to Tiki Culture in North America

Drinks : The guys at Smuggler’s Cove downplayed the drinks but, they’ve got a great selection of rum drinks, large bowl drinks, specialty drinks and ice cream drinks. I had the ‘Yellow Bird,’ which is difficult to find elsewhere – a Caribbean drink with rum, Galliano, pineapple juice. The featured drink is the Banana Split, though they have about as many original and newer ones as Smuggler’s – not just beer as I was told (a little tiki bar competition)

Trader Sam’s circa 1940s The place gets crowded, too. Though its out in the Avenues , the bar tender told me they’re packed by 10 pm and stay open to 1:45 am, just like in the old days., The crowd is a mix of locals, mostly younger  Asians and other ethnic groups.  I doubt that many of them appreciate the historic aspect of this place but I’m sure ome do, as they do get people from all over the world.  One problem for me – which could be easily changed – is the music; a heavy dose of rap music does not fit with the ambience. The bar is currently owned by an older military man, who we thank for keeping it  as he has, sans music.

Smuggler’s Cove, to be detailed below,  is unlike  any tiki bar I’ve seen. I will have to give it a slight edge over Trader Sam’s , though its very close. Smuggler’s makes a science out of their drinks – and they charge for it too, nearly twice the price of Trader’s and they’re smaller.  But I base my ranking on ‘feel’ and wanting to be in a place and , based on these single visits, I found I enjoyed being in Smuggler’s Cover slightly more than Trader Sam’s. The feel was calmer, though with better music Trader’s could probably  reach a tie with Smugglers.  Also met some interesting folks , perhaps a little more erudite, than I found at Traders, not that that matters all that much…

Tiki Drinks


Best Tiki Bars , Original dinner house, original restaurant


WESTLAKE JOE’S , Daly city, CA – I made a first stop at the legendary restaurant and lounge. It’s one of the few big remaining dinner houses and part of the old ‘Joe’s’ chain (but not really sure if this was really a chain, but restaurants are similar from city to city , with only Marin Joe’s , Westlake and perhaps Original Joe’s  in SF still around…

Last time I came here I couldn’t get into the place it was so crowded, despite having over 300  seats and two large dining rooms. There’s a huge lounge featuring  live music – and that is one of the main reasons I went.  The music this night was a three piece band with a flutist sitting in. Playing mostly similar-sounding 60s/70s  pop-jazz I wasn’t overly impressed, though I must give it another chance another night or two. But the setting was wonderful, with it’s big angled ceilings, fireplace and wood walls giving a very warm feeling

.Retro Diner: Comfort Food from the American Roadside

One of the dining rooms is appropriately names the ‘Cascade Room,’ certainly a holdover from the early days, as is most everything. Looks pretty orginal , including a circular drive-up and parking where I’m sure a lot of folks drove up in in their old caddies and lincolns.

Didn’t try the food as I’d already eaten at the dissappointing(?)  Bucca DeBeppos’s chain – I think other locations are better than San Franciscoc. Will have to try the food next time. Judging by the crowd on this Thursday night-including a long waiting list- I’ll bet the foods very good and probably similar to what it was 50 years ago (not sure as to the exact vintage of the place but will report back next time…  But the place is definitely worth coming to just to see a huge  old time dinner house you might remember having gone to as a kid.


Diners: American Retro

MORE Best Tiki Bars and more oldies

Best Tiki Bars

PILLOW TALK (Day,Hudson , 1959) – Best Piano Bar – 1 Nostalgic Night

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1 Nostalgic Night

Kicking off my ‘Deal A Day’ in the new vernacular, that is …Doing /Experience Something of Note Each Day… and what a way to kick things off seeing one great, fun, nostalgic movie from the 50s , PILLOW TALK with Doris Day and Rock Hudson at the great deco movie palace in Oakland, the Paramount and then checking out my favorite and THE BEST Piano Bar, the Alley with Rod Dibble at the Keyboard Pillow Talk has everything going for it, in this writers opinion… a fun story line, as described below, great visuals form the Fabulous fifties – the 50s ‘Googie’ architecture, the cars, the fashions. Hudson is good and Tony Randall adds a colorful element as Day steals the

show, acting and singing at her best, or one of her best. Some suprisingly off-color material for its time (but nothing compared to today)


Just a fun, fun techincolor blockbuster from 1959 for which the mixed audience gave several ovations . And what a place to see it at… Oakland’s own restored Paramount theater, which shows retro movies once a month along with wurlitzer organ playing before and after show. If you live int he the Bay Area what a fun nostalgic night one can have for $5 – not much more than you would have paid back then – and see it on the same big screen you may have seen it on in 1959!!! What a difference from today’s movies, when , if the audience even applauds you can’t hear it with all the noice… Synopsis PILLOW TALK Jan Morrow (Doris Day) is a successful, content, self-reliant interior decorator who lives in New York City. She lives alone and claims to be quite happy, when More Pillow Talk and oldies


questioned on that subject by her drunken housekeeper, Alma (Thelma Ritter). Due to the state of the telephone company’s development, she has to use a party line, which she shares with Brad Allen (Rock Hudson), a talented, creative Broadway composer and playboy.   Continue reading “PILLOW TALK (Day,Hudson , 1959) – Best Piano Bar – 1 Nostalgic Night”