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02 November 2009

San Francisco Treats

I have returned from my West Coast adventure with some pretty heavy-duty exciting things to share with you.

In the meantime, while I pull it all together, enjoy this photo of the Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel majestically situated atop San Francisco's posh Nob Hill.


Friends recommended I check out this Tiki Bar whose interior dates back to 1945 and let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Simulated rainstorms? Check. A lagoon in the center of the room complete with a band performing on a barge? Check. Killer Mai Tais served in ceramic coconut shells? Check.

Better yet, go yourself and give this Pan-Pacific snapshot of history your support as the rumor mill says it's in danger of closing.

7 comments:

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I can just picture a stage rising up out of the water with Fred Astaire dancing atop it to the orchestra playing Begin the Beguine!

An Aesthete's Lament said...

This is bliss. And what did you wear to fit into this spot perfectly?

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Pamela, that would have been much better than the 80s cover songs the barge band were strumming....

Aesthete - alas, it was an impromptu visit - my gold lamé gown with matching turban will have to wait for an airing....

home before dark said...

On my Imac, the pool looks like a swath of TD malachite material.My word verification is glissess. Sounds like it fits this scene.

magnaverde said...

Welocome back, EEE. You were missed.
I hate it when anything this old closes--and for a restaurant, 60+ years is a really long run--even when it's something hokey like this, because even though the Tiki bit is patently, goofily fake, the sense of history in a place like this is very real. It just depends on what the definition of 'history' is.
Trader Vic's here in Chicago--the old one in the basement of the Palmer House, not the re-animated version up north--had the same sense of time-stood-still, right down to the Sailor Jerry-style graphics that decorated the menus. Of course, changing sensibilities over the decades meant that, in later years, the formerly topless island girls on the menus' covers had individually-drawn polka dot bikini tops over their formerly bare breasts (the faded blue ball-point-pen ink wardrobe additions to the menus' black-&-red printed artwork was a dead giveaway) but the overall feel hadn't changed since the Ford administration, when I first saw it. Even the slightly musty smell (the subterranean location place was, I'm sure, below the level of Lake Michigan) lent the cozy, straw-roofed booths an air of damp authenticity. But damp or no, the place was an institution and I used to drag anybody who came to town to the place. Some people got it, others didn't, but it didn't matter. Yes it was fake, but it was also real, and real in a way that the new replicant version will never be.

I remember a Talk of the Town column a few years ago, lamenting the then-recent loss of Le Pavilion or La Grenouille or something similar: a straight-faced 1950s attempt at creating, in Midtown Manhattan, the feel of an authentic French boite of fifty years before, complete with impressionistic hand-painted murals of the French countryside.

Looking back from 2000 or so, what the writer of the New Yorker piece missed most about the shuttered restaurant was the wonderful way that the place perfectly evoked not a rural French cafe of 1900--despite the menu & the 'French' murals on the walls--but, instead, a tony Midtown Manhattan restaurant of 1950. Louis Sullivan said "Our architecture reflects us as truly as a mirror" and although joints like the Tonga Room & Trader Vic's may not say much about the South Pacific, they say a lot about the giddy (if occasionally forced) optimism of our own the Postwar period. At any rate, I'm glad you got an opportunity to check this place out while it's still there.

Mark said...

Reminds me of the "Trader Vic's" in the basement of the Park Lane Hilton in London. I really hope it doesn't close.
Tiki bars seem to undergoing a bit of a revival in the UK, with "Mahiki" recently opening on Park Lane. No live bands though sadly.

Janet said...

Am just imagining you there, flushed by your day of touring, stylishly sipping a cocktail. Gosh, I wish I could have been there with you. I think I would have had to have had a sidecar.