Postcard Panorama

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Hawaiian001

The Hawaiian
4645 E Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, California

The Hawaiian invites you to enjoy an Hawaiian Holiday of Fine Food, Tropical Drink, and Good Hospitality.

Postcard from The Jab’s collection.

CLOSED – Bahooka Ribs ‘n’ Grog, Rosemead, California – 1976-2013

This blog is primarily intended to celebrate classic and historic restaurants that still exist, but occasionally I will be mentioning a restaurant that is gone or recently closed.

As you may have heard, another original Polynesian / Tiki restaurant closed its doors for good last week. Southern California lost three classic Tiki restaurants in the last few years: The Islands in San Diego (gutted by the Crowne Plaza Hotel chain in 2007), the Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach (also gutted in 2007), and Trader Vic’s in Beverly Hills, which was the oldest Trader Vic’s (open since 1955) left in the country when it closed in…you guessed it, 2007. All three carried on in name only as bland “tropical” restaurants. Now the fabulously unique Bahooka in Rosemead has entered the Tiki history books. In case you’re counting (and why wouldn’t you be?) that leaves only three original Polynesian / Tiki restaurants in Southern California (Damon’s, Don The Beachcomber [previously Sam’s], and the Bali Hai).

Why does a place like the Bahooka, that started in 1967 (in a long-gone original location in Covina, California) close after over 45 years in business? Did business decline in the past ten years? Every time I went it didn’t seem very busy. Could it have held on a little longer if the food and drinks were better? I may have gone more often if it wasn’t just the atmosphere that made me want to visit. Apparently the owners needed the money so they put it on the market and it sold quickly. I guess they have every right to sell a place they have kept going for 35+ years.

In the last three weeks since the announcement that they would close was released they have done massive business, with lines forming an hour before they open at noon and waits for a table reaching to 3 and 4 hours. When I was waiting in line to say goodbye on a recent Sunday morning I wondered when was the last time many of the people there had visited. I know my friends who are into Tiki bars went occasionally, but the Tiki crowd isn’t enough to keep a large restaurant in business. I must say the staff was incredibly patient and friendly dealing with the onslaught of customers, but the drinks were worse than I remembered (I always thought they were mediocre) and the food wasn’t very fresh tasting. I’m glad I got to see it one last time but I felt bad that I’ve only been a handful of times since I first ate there in the late 1990s.

In case you have never been, the best way I can describe it is a huge, labyrinthine maze of over 100 fish tanks built into floor-to-ceiling dark wood walls and partitions separating the many intimate tables, with interesting details such as a large jail door, chains anchored to the wooden tables, Tikis here and there, numerous hanging lamps and decorations, signs, and artifacts covering every bit of space. There was a small bar with a large fish tank actually built into the bar counter. Near the hostess stand there was a large tank that contained an ancient (in fish years) pacu named Rufus who liked to eat carrot sticks.

This is what the Bahooka looks like now:

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Visit your local Tiki bar or restaurant now, and seek them out in every town you visit, because they need the business and you never know how long they will remain.

 

CLOSED – Julian’s, Ormond Beach, Florida

This blog is primarily intended to celebrate classic and historic restaurants that still exist, but occasionally I will be mentioning a restaurant that is gone or recently closed.

Le Continental just learned of the closure last year of Julian’s, a Polynesian supper club in Ormond Beach, Florida, north of Daytona Beach. Julian’s opened in 1967 and was still owned by the same family when I visited with some friends on a Florida road trip in 2002. It was sold in 2006 and yet again in 2011, but it closed in the summer of 2012.

Here are some photos I took in 2002.

Julians5

Julians4

The decor was a very unique bold striped pattern on the walls with illuminated colorful masks of stylized Polynesian design, Witco wall hangings (see Sven Kirsten’s book Tiki Modern for info on Witco), and modern teak wood panels separating the sections of the dining room and lounge area.

Julians2

Julians1

Here is a photo of the bar with it’s small stage and the large mural on the back wall of the restaurant. When I visited there was live entertainment provided.

Image posted in 2008 by GatorRob on Tiki Central

The restaurant is up for sale. Hopefully someone will buy it and continue the 45-year-old restaurant that is practically unchanged inside and out since 1967.

Trader Vic’s, Hotel Bayerischer Hof, Munich

The Trader Vic’s in Munich, which opened in 1971 in time for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, has long been on my list of must-see classic Polynesian / tiki temples. Tiki’s heyday was fading in the 1970s but the Oakland-based Trader Vic’s chain was still opening restaurants in the classic Polynesian Pop style – richly decorated with bamboo, tapa cloth, lanterns, and tikis. For example, in 1972 the Emeryville, California, location opened and in 1976 the Atlanta restaurant opened (both still operational). On my recent visit to Germany I finally had my chance to visit this Holy Grail of Trader Vic’s!

Trader Vic’s is a subterranean space in the swanky, historic Hotel Bayerischer Hof (originally opened in 1841). I was excited to see their hours carved in the doorway: 5:00pm until 3:00am every day! In comparison, the Trader Vic’s near me closes at about 10pm.

tikis at the end of the bar

On entering I was awestruck with the stunning decor! The restaurant is packed with beautiful tikis and carved wood panels, lamps of every type (fish floats, fish traps, puffer fish, and many other types), ceilings and walls covered with bamboo, tapa cloth, reed matting and Polynesian artifacts, and lovely rattan chairs with koa wood tables. Having seen most of the Trader Vic’s in the U.S. that existed since the late 90s (plus London) I would say that this easily ranks at the top for decor and atmosphere, with the departed original Chicago and Beverly Hills locations and the still open London and Atlanta rounding out my top five.

I started with their house specialty cocktail, the Munich sour, which is basically a whiskey sour except with the excellent Asbach Uralt German brandy instead of whiskey. I also tried some of my favorite Trader Vic’s cocktails (on repeat visits to the bar) but was not terribly impressed with the drink execution. They tasted OK, but not as good as the drinks when they are made precisely and correctly, as they were at Beverly Hills’ original bar when it was open (or when made at home from the original recipes).

Munich Sour

I did not get a chance to dine at Trader Vic’s Munich on my visit, but they did allow me to explore the restaurants many dining rooms and take some pictures. Every room was impressive but none of my photos of the dining rooms came out very good (the pictures posted here are all from the bar and lounge). They have two of the signature Trader Vic’s Chinese wood burning ovens in the restaurant (usually you are wise to order a meat entree that is prepared in the ovens).

Trader Vic’s
Promenadeplatz 2-6, 80333 Munich, Germany
Tel: 089 2120995
Open Mon-Sun 5pm–12am (or later in the bar)

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Trader Vic’s, Atlanta, Georgia

To continue on Le Continental’s 2005 road trip through Georgia, we come to Trader Vic’s at the Hilton in downtown Atlanta, There are only four Vic’s left in the U.S. since newer locations in Palo Alto and Chicago closed recently:
Emeryville, CA (opened in 1972 and my favorite, of course, because it’s the first one I went to and it’s near my home),
Los Angeles (a beautiful newer location which opened a couple of years ago),
Portland (a brand new location that I visited last May, that has some of the best decor of any recent Vic’s), and
Atlanta
(which opened in 1976 and is the best of all the U.S. locations as far as the decor).

 

photo by stagednormalcy.com

photo by stagednormalcy.com

 

Trader Vic’s Atlanta, photo taken by The Jab in 2005

 

Like many other Trader Vic’s, the bar is fine, but to really experience it you must dine in the dining room. The decor here is classic Vic’s, with lots of Polynesian art and artifacts, tikis, and tons of bamboo and tapa cloth. Every inch is covered except for the large windows which look out on tropical gardens.

 

photo by stagednormalcy.com

photo by stagednormalcy.com

 

Order a Mai Tai or the Trader Vic’s Atlanta specialty drink, the Peachtree Punch, some Cosmo Tid Bits, and soak in the wonderful atmosphere. For an entrée I recommend something from the wood fired oven.

 

Mai Tai - photo by stagednormalcy.com

Mai Tai – photo by stagednormalcy.com

 

photo by stagednormalcy.com

photo by stagednormalcy.com

 

Trader Vic’s
Hilton Atlanta, 255 Courtland St NE, Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 221-6339
Open Mon-Sat 5:30-10:30 (bar closes at midnight)

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