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Trader Vics Chicago to Close, , (restaurant)

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Name:Trader Vics Chicago to Close

This just in from Otto...........

End Of An Era

For those who haven't dined at Trader Vic's in the Palmer House Hilton recently -- you better hurry. The legendary Polynesian-themed eatery is serving its last Singapore Sling and closing its doors forever New Year's Eve. In its heyday, the restaurant was a favorite Loop watering hole frequented by honeymooning newlyweds and Hollywood stars alike. The Chicago outpost of the worldwide chain of South Seas Island eateries -- famed for inventing the mai-tai cocktail -- opened in 1957.

Posted by Bill Zwecker at Nov 29, 2005 6:19 am

...check the chicago tribune this sunday as well as a small blurb in saturdays edition.....my worst suspicions have been confirmed.....my sources tell me that trader vics is being franchized out to a notoriously lame sports bar called harry carry's here in chicago...how this happened I don't quite know...the details will be revealed this sunday. apparently they will be opening on the magnificent mile or the river north area.....I shudder to think what the final result will be.....It sounds terrible and the positive side of me says wait and see what the final result will be once it's open but based on past experiences I am very skeptical at this time......stay tuned...i'll chime back in after I pick up the sunday paper.

there should also be some info about the new three level trader vics opening across from the belagio in vegas, in the same article....

[ Edited by: Tipsy McStagger 2005-12-02 22:12 ]


Well, for a while, there was talk that it was going to be a gym- apparently Reebok is rolling out a chain of huge gyms in the US next year. But a chain sports bar instead, eh?

Hmm...which is worse? Tough call, but I'm going to have to say the sports bar is the better fate- at least you can get drunk to numb the pain.

you misunderstood me martiki.....I'm not talking about the fate of the old location of traders vics...this is far more sinister...I'm talking about a new trader vics opening in chicago at an entirely new location..the owners of said sports bar are the financial backers and running the show from what I gather... I don't believe trader vics will be involved on any level save the name itself......and what's worse is that the new owners are modeling the place after a succesful formula for upscale bowling alley/cocktail lounges which is the current trend now......(i.e lucky strike and the 10 pin, which was formerly called lucky strike) which is not to say that the new traders will have a bowling alley...i doubt it, but the crowd they seem to be seeking are the ones who usually spoil a good time for most clubs and bars....those people might as well walk around with a huge dollar sign printed on them whereever they go cause it seems that's all they are good for...making other people money. ....an endless herd of cash generating zombies.....outside of that they seem to contribute little in the way of aesthetic or cultural appreciation for anything. .....i'll get the details on sunday from the paper....


Ah, I see. Interesting. I'll see if I can get any dirt on this as well.


alright, I checked today's trib inside and out and found no such article on trader vics'...there was a small blurb in saturday's but mentioned nothing more than I already put down in this thread......the author of the article claimed it would be in today's paper, so either I didn't see it or they never printed it...i checked online and turned up nothing as well...if anyone hears of anything more on this, please clue us in....

Swanky posted on Mon, Dec 5, 2005 6:28 AM

Well, Trader Vic's is a franchise. They do, however, keep a fair amount of control. Their managers are trained by TVs. So, certain things will not change with TV, no matter who is running the franchise. I'm sure recipes and barware are going to be standard anywhere.

The Article from the Tribune:

Trader Vic's closing--for now

Phil Vettel
Published December 3, 2005

The bad new is that Trader Vic's, a fixture in the Palmer House Hilton hotel since 1957, will close at the end of the year.

The good news is that it may not stay closed for long.

Trader Vic's canceled its management contract with the Palmer House, effective Jan. 1. But according to Trader Vic's President and CEO Hans Richter, the company is about to sign a deal with a Chicago developer to build and operate a new Trader Vic's.

"We're committed to a new party, and are very much looking forward to finding a new location," Richter said, adding that two locations are being considered. "I'm optimistic that we're moving forward, and it makes me extremely happy to know there's a future for Trader Vic's in Chicago."

Here's two articles from December Third & the Fourth from the Sun-Times:

Harry Caray's to bail out Trader Vic's

December 3, 2005

Holy Mai Tai!

Harry Caray's Restaurant Group is stepping in to own and operate a new Trader Vic's Restaurant Boathouse and Bar after the current location closes Dec. 31 in the basement of the Palmer House Hilton.

"We want to move as quickly as we can," Harry Caray's president, Grant DePorter, said Friday. "The time frame could be six months to a year. We're looking at one current restaurant we would convert, which would speed things up." Trader Vic's will stay in Chicago. The Magnificent Mile and River North are likely locations.

The late "Trader" Vic Bergeron and Caray were kindred spirits. Bergeron invented the rum-laced Mai Tai. Caray never liked to wear a tie. "We've always loved the Trader Vic's concept," DePorter said. "It seemed like a no-brainer for us. It's been undermarketed, and we'll update it a little bit." As part of the franchise agreement, Harry Caray's will bring along the current restaurant's bamboo, dimly lit shell lamps and original tree-carved tables.

Did DePorter ever see Caray hoist a Mai Tai?

"I have to ask Dutchie [Caray, his wife] on that one," he answered. "Remember, he had 300,000 alcoholic drinks in his lifetime, so the odds of him not having a Mai Tai would be pretty low."

[email protected]

**Trader Vic's still seaworthy **

December 4, 2005
BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter*

South Side resident John Gabrysiak finds a South Seas respite at Trader Vic's Restaurant and Boathouse Bar, 17 E. Monroe.

Gabrysiak, a marketing consultant, has been going to Trader Vic's in the basement of the Palmer House Hotel for 15 years. He had his 30th birthday party there. Guests included Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Neilsen. "He walked out of here feeling no pain," says Gabrysiak, 42, sipping on a Scorpion with a fresh red flower. "I keep coming back because of the atmosphere, the bartenders and the fact they make a truly great drink."

The sands of time have washed over this outpost on the Trader Vic's island chain -- the famed Chicago restaurant will close Dec. 31.

But Harry Caray's Restaurant Group is rescuing the islanders.

On Friday, group president Grant DePorter said Harry Caray's will own and operate Trader Vic's as part of a franchise agreement. The new Trader Vic's will be relocated within six months to a year. The Magnificent Mile and River North are likely locations.

Trader Vic's was started in 1937 by Victor J. Bergeron. The late Bergeron and Caray are kindred spirits. Bergeron invented the rum-laced Mai Tai. Caray didn't like to wear a tie. The Chicago Trader Vic's opened in 1957 -- and it prospered in a simpler time. Eyes were wider and appetites were bigger in the 1950s. "South Pacific" was a hit on Broadway. People were reading Thor Heyerdahl's The Kon-Tiki Expedition. Since-defunct spots such as Kon Tiki Ports restaurant on North Michigan Avenue and the Kona Kai Restaurant at the O'Hare Marriott were extravagant affairs. Detailed tiki totems were imported from the islands. Sometimes diners were greeted by miniature waterfalls. The finest rum cost up to $125 a case.

But it takes a lot of money to keep a good Polynesian restaurant afloat. "It is not an inexpensive restaurant to build," says Hans Richter, CEO and president of Trader Vic's, in a conversation from Marabella, Spain, where he was opening another Trader Vic's. "However, it has a very long life. [The one in] Beverly Hills is 55 years old and still going strong."

This is not a news flash for waiter Benny Moi. He has worked at the Palmer House Trader Vic's for 38 years. He guesses he has worked under 15 different owners.

"It is like I was born here," says Moi, 64. "I love the place."

But Moi no longer will be able to wear one of his 20 Hawaiian shirts. That's more than one for every management team.

Moi began his career as a chef and became known for his Volcano Shrimp, which was just taken off the menu in July.

"You use spicy garlic sauce, chili powder and mix six large shrimp with cream sauce," says Moi, born in China and reared in Hong Kong. Volcano Shrimp was served on a ceramic skull over fire.

Moi smiles and says, "It's pretty simple."

In August, Joseph Sitt, chairman of Thor Equities in New York, purchased the Palmer House from Hilton Hotels Corp. The new owners will use the 240-seat restaurant for retail space. "The Palmer House was one of the most beautiful restaurants we ever built," Richter says. "When a restaurant with a long history leaves a city, the city dies a little bit with it."

Gabrysiak nods toward head bartender Muhammad Elias. The bartender is Muslim and has never had a drop of alcohol. Gabrysiak then looks around the half-empty bar and says, "We are in the basement of the Palmer House. Not exactly a destination. But people go out of their way to look for something different."

Bergeron went to the big tiki bar in the sky in 1984. Before his death, he admitted he not only copied Don the Beachcomber's South Pacific decor when he opened his first restaurant in Oakland, Calif., but he borrowed the recipe for the Mai Tai. The Chicago Trader Vic's was Bergeron's third -- and the first one outside of California.

Moi met Bergeron when he visited here in the 1960s and '70s. Bergeron was married to a former Chicago model. He liked to be called a "saloonkeeper."

"He was a tough guy," Moi says. "I was kind of nervous. He drank wine. He liked Mai Tais."

When Moi started working at Trader Vic's in 1967, a Mai Tai cost $1.25. "There were lines out the door," he says. "We ran like a no-head chicken. That's how good it was."

[email protected]

And a sidebar from the above article on the Empire Room:

Empire Room made Vic's the place for stars

Trader Vic's was home to the stars until the mid-1970s. Many acts who appeared at the Palmer House's Empire Room would adjourn to the basement bar. (The Empire Room closed in January 1976 after a 43-year run.)

Yow Low was the most famous bartender in the history of the Chicago Trader Vic's, holding court between 1970 and 2001. He's now retired and living in China. In a 1995 interview, he told me that his favorite customer was Johnny Weissmuller.

"He was like Tarzan," Low said. "But he drank straight bourbon. Old Blue Eyes [Frank Sinatra] was here. Sometimes he drank a Mai Tai, other times scotch. Debbie Reynolds was here. So was Don Ho."

When Trader Vic's celebrated its first Palmer House anniversary in 1958, Carol Channing gave the restaurant a diamond-studded coconut. She was appearing in the Empire Room. Well, hello, Bali!

In 1983, Queen Elizabeth ate at the (still standing) Trader Vic's in San Francisco. That was her first dining experience in a commercial restaurant.

Longtime Trader Vic's employee Benny Moi has waited on Channing, Jimmy Durante and Dick Clark.

"Frank Gorshin was real nice," he said earlier this week during a break. "He would always shake hands with you. One time Liza Minnelli was here. After she left the next table asked for her [empty] pack of cigarettes. I said, 'Why do you want her cigarette box for?' They said, 'Because she touched it.'"

Trader Vic's has touched a lot of people.

Dave Hoekstra

Rev. Dr. Frederick J. Freelance, Ph.D., D.F.S

[ Edited by: freddiefreelance 2005-12-05 07:51 ]

Thanks for all the great info. Kind of makes it even harder to accept the ignorance of the new hotel owners.

Bete posted on Mon, Jan 2, 2006 4:38 PM

I've been there, it's so sad it's closing.


we gave a toast on New Years to the passing of the Chicago Trader Vics. :(

A new article from Dave Hoekstra @ the Chicago Sun Times:

Trader Vic's rich history

*December 28, 2005

BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Staff Reporter*

People tend to talk about Trader Vic's restaurants with waves of nostalgia, and that was the case earlier this month when the restaurant announced it was leaving the Palmer House after a 48-year-run. The Harry Caray's restaurant group will reopen Trader Vic's next year on the North Side as part of a franchise agreement.

The calming South Seas effect of Trader Vic's extends to restaurants in Bangkok, Berlin, Tokyo and Beirut. Next year Trader Vic's is slated to open on the Las Vegas strip, China and Amann, Jordan.

Pupus for peace.

And why not?

"You hear bad things about America's standing in the world, particularly in the Middle East," said Hans Wilhelm Richter, president and CEO of Trader Vic's Inc. "It is not true when it comes to Trader Vic's. Not only do we cater to nationals, we cater to anybody from anywhere. We're not just a restaurant. We're sort of a club without membership. And it's friendly American service, not European where they have a hand behind their back when they pour you the wine."

Richter was calling from the patio of the Trader Vic's at the Ritz-Carlton in Berlin. He sounded happy. A band from Havana, Cuba, was playing in the background. After Berlin, he was going to visit the Trader Vic's in Singapore. "Next year we will open in Doha, Qatar," he said. "The per capita income of Qatar is third highest in the world. The average income for a citizen is $40,000. That's where many of our American soldiers moved when there was trouble in Saudi Arabia."

A 65-year-old native of Germany, Richter is the third generation of his family to work in the hospitality industry. He calls himself a "modern gypsy," traveling to the Trader Vic's restaurants worldwide. Richter worked with Trader Vic Bergeron from 1969 until the founder's death in 1984. They also collaborated on food consulting for Chicago-based United Airlines. Bergeron retired from Trader Vic's in 1972. "I had a background in first-class hotels like the Waldorf-Astoria," Richter said. "It was an eye-opener when I met Vic. We were trained in different ways. I was forewarned for the first interview."

In 1969 Richter was catering manager for the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco. Bergeron was looking for a German-speaking manager to open Trader Vic's in Munich. " I sat down and he said, 'You're German, you are too militaristic,' " Bergeron recalled. "I replied, 'Trader' [only his wife called him Vic], I understand you are of French descent. I don't think you are any better. End of interview." But Richter was hired and opened Trader Vic's in Munich a year before the 1972 Winter Olympics.

Bergeron created the Mai Tai, which still gets all the publicity at Trader Vic's. But the dinner menu is more enticing and easier on your brain cells. Another reason Trader Vic's is accepted internationally is its Island cuisine that blends French, Asian and American influences. The Polynesian-style of cooking incorporates more fruits, curries, chutney, raisins and Chinese peanut sauces than its Caribbean counterparts.

Foodies consider Bergeron as a pioneer of fusion cuisine. He was one of the first to serve kiwi fruit (which he called Chinese gooseberries). It's also often overlooked that Trader Vic's still uses Chinese wood-fired ovens.

The most popular items at the Chicago Trader Vic's are duck and lamb, both prepared in the wood (applewood or oak) fired ovens. Preparation time is 10 to 15 minutes, roughly the same as a conventional oven. "The bins are very large and self-contained," said Palmer House (and Trader Vic's ) Executive Sous Chef Michael Campbell. "The cooking technique actually dates back to the Han Dynasty. They used split almond wood as the base. The smoke from that gives the food its flavor."

The food is never exposed to an open flame. It is only exposed to light smoke from the wood in a non-carcinogenic method. Fish and steak also are wood-fired items. Mahi mahi is a popular Trader Vic's item on the West Coast.

Campbell said the duck is marinated in soy sauce and the lamb marinated with crushed onions, lemon juice and a dash of honey in a secret Trader Vic's curry. "I don't even have the recipe," he said with a smile. "It comes from Trader Vic's. And seasoning is very important, especially when you're dealing with curry dishes. A little bit is great, but if you start getting too much then its way too much. There's Chinese Five Spice and overpowering spices. Its imperative you know how to mix them properly."

Campbell, 36, will remain with the Palmer House when the operation is taken over by Thor Equities of New York, which purchased the hotel in August. The new owners will use the 240-seat restaurant for retail space.

The Harry Caray's restaurant group hopes to relocate Trader Vic's on The Magnificent Mile or in River North. They also hope to bring back the lunch menu, which was discontinued several years ago at the original Trader Vic's. "Whether we're open for lunch is relocation specific," said group president Grant DePorter. "We've been getting a lot of e-mails from people about the food. Everyone has their own opinion about what items should stay, whether its egg rolls or crab Rangoon. And everyone is excited that we're going to continue the concept."

Bergeron opened his first restaurant at the age of 32 in 1934. Hinky Dinks was a rustic outrigger bar in Oakland, across the bay from Bergeron's native San Francisco. Bergeron liked the World War I refrain "Hinky dinky, parlez-vous." He printed his rum drink menu on thin wood cigar boxes and the bar quickly became popular with sailors. By 1937 Hinky-Dink's morphed into Trader Vic's and Bergeron installed the Chinese wood-fired ovens for the first time.

The current worldwide expansion of Trader Vic's reflects Bergeron's wanderlust muse. I have a 1947 Trader Vic's drink menu as part of my tiki menu collection. The back page of the menu features Bergeron's essay on rum. In part, he wrote, "On our own continent it is best to begin with the Queen's Park Hotel, Trinidad, whose Queen Park's Swizzle is the most delightful form of anesthesia given out at the present time. Olaffson's punch of Haiti has made the Haitian rum famous. Kelly's Bar on the Sugar Wharf, Jamaica is famous for its Planter's Punch and Planter's cocktail, both of which have helped to glorify this spirit." Bergeron also gave props to the Bon Ton Bar on Magazine Street in New Orleans, La Florida Bar in Havana (the site of his earliest rum inspirations), and of course his compatriot Don the Beachcomber.

Richter will miss the original Trader Vic's in Chicago.

"I know it very well," he said. "This is one of the oldest and probably nicest Trader Vic's restaurants ever built. Because on one hand you have outriggers from the island, yet on the other hand you have different tikis. And depending on the island they come from, they change their face. In Chicago, they also used a lot of tapa."

Tapa comes from the skin of a birch tree and is soaked in water for a couple of days. Strips are then laid out on an anvil and hammered with a wooden beater to create a design. "The design also changed from island to island," Richter said. "Samoa is made different than Tahiti. Some are very artistic. They used tapa like wallpaper. Chicago's Trader Vic's also has a lot of artifacts from New Guinea, such as masks." The restaurant also features gods carved from coconut trees." Harry Caray's plans to move most of the artifacts.

"Trader Vic's is not a chain," Richter explained. "It is a group of restaurants and each one is different. Like here in Berlin, I'm sitting on a lagoon with palm trees and flamingos. But you walk into a place like the Palmer House and you're in the basement. The moment you enter, you forget where you are.

"You could be anywhere in the world."

[email protected]


Trader Vic's opened in 1957 in the lower level of the Palmer House in Chicago. It was owner Vic Bergeron's first Trader Vic's outside of California. During 1958 Chicago customers were given a brochure with pictures of Jim Backus doing his Mr. Magoo mug in front of a tiki god and South Seas author James Michener chatting it up with Vic's hostesses.

In the brochure Bergeron told his customers about opening up Trader Vic's in the Savoy-Hilton in New York and the Habana Hilton Hotel in Havana, Cuba. Here's part of his account: "...Havana opened with a bang but, of course, Mr. Castro's little boys chased everyone away so for a short time we were running a restaurant for the local people only ... which made us unhappy. But the fact we are pleasing the Cubans pleases us. I think the Cubans are drinking more rum than they ever have in their lives, which is amazing considering the fact they are confirmed Scotch drinkers."

And a sidebar on the last night:

Dec. 31 is the final night of Trader Vic's at the Palmer House

This is the evening's menu, reservations required, must be at least 21 with I.D.

The send-off includes open bar from 9 p.m. until midnight.

Traditional Trader Vic's tidbits and Pupu buffet until midnight.

Lei greeting upon arrival and live performance by hula dancers accompanied by musicians.

Champagne toast at midnight along with party favors and noisemakers.


Crab Rangoon, folded in a won ton with cream cheese

Crispy Prawns, fried golden with panko bread crumbs

Cheese Bings, ham wrapped in a crispy golden crepe

Almond Duck Tidbits, pressed duck with a sweet plum sauce

Egg Rolls filled with chicken, ham bean sprouts and snow peas


Bamboo Chicken Skewers with Hawaiian sauce

BBQ Pork Spareribs from Chinese wood fired ovens

Beef Cho Cho seared on bamboo skewers

Vegetable Spring Rolls lightly fried with a sweet chili sauce

Trader Vic's Special Fried Rice, with cha siu pork and chicken


Dessert Buffet with Coffee Bar

French pastries, Petit Fours, truffles and strawberries dipped in chocolate


$85 a person, includes tax and gratuity.

Trader Vic's Restaurant and Boathouse Bar is in the lower level of the Palmer House Hotel, 17 E. Monroe. For information and reservations call (312) 917-7317.


Awesome, thanks for posting that! It's interesting to note that not only is Harry Caray's receiving emails with opinions, but they appear to possibly be taking them into account. I think I'll shoot an email off today myself!

The current worldwide expansion of Trader Vic's reflects Bergeron's wanderlust muse. I have a 1947 Trader Vic's drink menu as part of my tiki menu collection. The back page of the menu features Bergeron's essay on rum. In part, he wrote, "On our own continent it is best to begin with the Queen's Park Hotel, Trinidad, whose Queen Park's Swizzle is the most delightful form of anesthesia given out at the present time. Olaffson's punch of Haiti has made the Haitian rum famous. Kelly's Bar on the Sugar Wharf, Jamaica is famous for its Planter's Punch and Planter's cocktail, both of which have helped to glorify this spirit." Bergeron also gave props to the Bon Ton Bar on Magazine Street in New Orleans, La Florida Bar in Havana (the site of his earliest rum inspirations), and of course his compatriot Don the Beachcomber.

[email protected]

I think people should start inviting Mr. Hoekstra to Tiki Central gatherings!

I've know dave for a few years now....he's been a tiki fan for some time ...he's always interested in what's happening in the tiki world and usually gives whatever is happening alittle press coverage...he covered all 3 exotica events, the opening of rock-a-tiki, and a few other tiki related topics...he's on my mailing list and is always kept current on events around the midwest as well as abroad, including tiki events and bar openings....dave had a book release party a few years back for his book entitled "ticket to anywhere", a collection of roadtrip essays he wrote for the paper over the years...it's a good read, kinda like a tiki road trip book but for more pop culture related places...we threw a tiki themed /book release party at a local bar with about 300 attendees hanging out all night....there was a nice limited edition screened print available too....you may be able to find one still, it has a hula girl drawn on it...

c10 posted on Sat, Jan 7, 2006 4:35 PM

I stopped by there this afternoon, the tiki was still out front, the escalators were shut off, the tikis outside of the bar were still there, and it looked like (through the crack in the locked door) the bar was still like it used to be, for now.



I guess it is good news under the circumstances - that we have confirmation that Richter and TV's upper management were on hand to make sure all the stuff is being saved....

..can't wait for the new one to open, so I can sip mai tais and watch the big game on all the flat screen t.v.'s I'm sure they'll have adorning all the walls...

c10 posted on Thu, Jan 12, 2006 4:41 PM

You mean Miller Lite in a football-shaped mug. Served by someone who says "awesome" and "like", like, a lot.


This news just came off the wire from Otto Von Stroheim:

Trader Vics is reopening in Chicago and they are announcing it live on TV (that’s television) on Feb 7

They are looking for a fire dancer in Chicago to be part of the festivities
Interested parties should email Otto von Stroheim immediately
[email protected]

The new restaurant will inherit most of the décor from the original Chicago location

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