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Tiki Central / Locating Tiki

Trader Island, San Bernardino, CA (restaurant)

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Name:Trader Island
Street:868 East Highland Avenue
City:San Bernardino

As far as I can tell from my research, Trader Island opened in the mid-1960's. The remains are just South of the 210 freeway. In 1970, it became Edwin Tan's Chinese Gardens. In 1975, it became the Imperial Palace Inn, and in the mid-1980's became the Mandarin Garden.

I got out of work early today and had a notion to head back to the San Bernardino Public Library.

While searching for apartments, motels and restaurants in the old phone books, I came upon a question that had been nagging me for years. I had gone on a double date in the early 90's to a Chinese restaurant in San Bernardino where I drank out of a giant clam shell. The only other thing I remember about that evening was standing outside next to a couple of tikis waiting for my boyfriend to bring the car around.

Here's what I found in the phone books.

After checking out what used to be the Islander Apartments and the Kona-Ki Apartments, I headed over to Highland Avenue to check out the remains.

The place had business hours posted and didn't have a no trespassing sign, so I tried the door. It was unlocked, but there was no one inside.

It was a fun afternoon of research and exploration. But as always, I soon felt the need to get myself the hell out of San Bernardino.


Great job, Kate! Props to you for having the huevos to go inside and photograph.

Great ads Kate, I love the first one with the Island and the outrigger, I tried to sharpen its contrast in I-Photo, but the back begins to shine through:

Wonder if the sign was that great, too. There was a post here not too long ago about some member visiting this place, I remember there is a cool matchbook for it, and I mentioned that I had seen and coveted their Leilani Rum Vacuform Tiki they still had in the place when I was on my way back from Santa's Village in the San Bernadino mountains years ago --but there was certainly no sign left that once several Tikis stood outside of it! We can see them in the rendering. Dang.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2008-05-22 03:01 ]

Whoa !

Man, this place is still intact ! Damn, just sitting there doing nothing, with all that great potential.

Can that place be rented ? TIKI PARTY !

On 2008-05-22 11:25, tikiyaki wrote:
Can that place be rented ? TIKI PARTY !

You've never been to San Bernardino, have you?

Great job Kate, that is/was an amazing building. The last two times we went by it was being "remodeled" into becoming a Mexican restaurant, but judging by your photos nothing has happened since well over a year ago? I notice the banner is down? Had you looked around back you would have seen whats left of the (once) amazing water fall feature thing they had out behind the sunken bar.
People really had made back then, there are still a few really great restaurants out there, but you are right there is quite a "get out of here fast" vibe out there.


On 2008-05-22 12:10, Tiki-Kate wrote:

On 2008-05-22 11:25, tikiyaki wrote:
Can that place be rented ? TIKI PARTY !

You've never been to San Bernardino, have you?

I try not to. I'm not a big fan of the desert, I tend to gravitate towards the ocean. I heard it's pretty bleak out there tho'.

Too bad, such a great example of Tiki Modern, still left relatively intact.

On 2008-05-22 12:28, TIKIBOSKO wrote:
Had you looked around back you would have seen whats left of the (once) amazing water fall feature thing they had out behind the sunken bar.

You mean this one.


What a great building! Door open...come on in!! Thats some good Tiki Investigating!!
I hadn't heard of that place before and those ad's are cool!
Thanks! TabooDan


Aloha John scored the outrigger lamp from here - discussed in this thread:


Yup, that's where I saw the matchbook...wonder if the original menu looked as good. As a folded plate A-frame, with its angles, rock walls, outrigger beams, water features, entrance bridge and Tikis, this building really was a textbook example of Tiki style. Too bad Julius Schulman did not go around photographing Tiki like he did mid-century modern in the day.

Dangit, the doors weren't unlocked when I went.

[ Edited by: lynxwiler 2008-09-21 10:36 ]

This restaurant was my first exposure to TIki. My uncle used to work there and my parents started taking me there in 1975.
The decor was done my Oceanic Arts, I learned this from Leroy himself when he told me that the original owner ripped him off and never paid them for the Tiki's and decor they provided.
In the '70's and '80's this place looked unbelievably cool. It's the coolest Polynesian place I've ever been to yet, and the recent photos don't so it justice at all. It looks completely different.
There were large Tikis outside in the parking lot and you would enter by crossing a bridge leading over a koi pond and waterfall.
Upon entering the large double doors, you would be greeted by a large stone waterfall wall cascading into another koi pond.
To the right was the bar, to the left was the dining area. As you walked into the dining area, you were greeted by Hawaiian music.
The booths were red and each table had a red lantern over it. The booths were all separated by hanging bead curtains.
The interior walls were false lava rock with artificial plants on top leading up to the large wooden A-frame ceiling.
This made it look like you were eating inside of some kind of volcanic garden. There were '60's style satellite lights hanging from the high ceilings,
and large paper lanterns. The food was incredibly good. The best food I've ever had in my life and I hate that I can't get it anymore!
It was a mix of polynesian and chinese cuisine. I would always eat the Pagoda Dinner. They made the BEST egg foo young, the BEST sweet and sour pork,
and had the BEST fried rice and fried shrimp I've ever had. I started going there in '75 when I was 3 and stopped going in '94 in my late 20's because
by then, the restaurant had changed owners and San Bernardino had gone down the drain. It's sad really. It was and still is my favorite place ever.
I tried buying the large TIki from the new owners in 2000, but they refused to sell it even though it didn't fit the present decor of the building.
If only you could have experienced this place in it's hey day like I did, you would all be in TIki heaven. I think of this place often and dream...

RIP Trader Island / Imperial Palace Inn

Trader Island matchbook from San Berdo

Nice little graphic of the A-frame building.



I remember the Imperial Palace, San Bernardino way back in the late 80's and early 90's.
Miss those egg rolls and scorpion cocktails in the huge clam shells. Anyone know how to make either?


Got the Egg Roll part covered.


Did Trader Island have Tikis?

Why yes, and rather large ones at that carved by Kalani!

A few ads from Trader Island.

Trader Island opened in 1964 and was owned by Lulu Herrera.

Lulu retired in 1969.

Edwin Tan bought Trader Island from Lulu and it became the Chinese Garden.

That's it for today's history lesson.



Not only does he carve Tiki Gods he dances and sets himself aflame, what a hard act to follow.

Thanks DC

[ Edited by: TIKIBOSKO 2015-04-06 15:14 ]

Let this serve as inspiration Bosko,


Great articles!

My father in law lives in the surrounding neighborhood. The building is still there and vacant. Anyway, here's a clip:

Pages: 1 21 replies