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Clark's Islander Restaurant, Tacoma, WA (Restaurant)

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Name:Clark's Islander Restaurant
Street:11th at "A" Street

Couldn't find any information about this place here at all. I thought I would post it in case anybody has additional information.

Saw an old mathcbook on Ebay and was interested in it as it didn't seem to be too far away, once being in Tacoma, Washington.

Information on matchbook was "Clark's Islander. Tacoma's Charcoal Broiler Restaurant". Drawings on the cover feature an Island with Palmtree, Outrigger, Mask and Spear.

The matchbooks themed Tiki Mask also reminded me of another place down in Washington called The Lanai Room which was at The Polynesian Motel/Apartments in Ocean Shores, Wa.

Quite a close resemblence and not too far from each other.

Mahalo, TabooDan

[ Edited by: TabooDan 2008-09-06 12:54 ]

I picked up this matchbook recently. I'm wondering if this locale was called The Islander before it became Clark's Islander, since I've also seen it referred to as Clark's New Islander.

And just for the heck of it, I thought I'd tack on some images of their menu from Arkiva Tropika.

Tiki Kate,

Looks like you hit the jackpot on matchbooks.

Here is the ashtray with the same logo.



Hey TikiKate, Cool post! I would say you're bang on with that matchbook!!
It's cool to see something else finally pop up about this place even though it is the earlier version of what I had posted about.

Great ashtray Dusty!!


Dug these gems up for ya Taboo!

Tacoma Public Library has this information listed in its archives:

Islander Restaurant Exterior, Tacoma Washington 1957

"Date: 12-04-1957 Exterior of Islander Restaurant with neon palm tree. The Islander, located in the Perkins Bldg. at S. 11th & A St., advertised itself as "Tacoma's Smart Charcoal Broiler Restaurant" where people could enjoy "######### and Dining in a Tropical Atmosphere." In May, 1957, the restaurant changed hands when Walter F. Clark returned to Tacoma after an absence of 30 years to include the Islander in his chain of Northwest restaurants. Mr. Clark had first opened Manning's Coffee Shop on 11th & Broadway in 1925. His chain of dining establishments included Clark's Red Apple in Bellevue, the Red Carpet in downtown Seattle and Clark's Village Chef in the University District, and were well-known for their delicious food. Clark's Islander would have a warm, exotic Polynesian atmosphere with special dishes in agreement with the motif, and other tasty meals ranging from 80 cents and onward for lunches and $1.75 and above for dinners. Plenty of free parking was available."

Islander Restaurant Interior, Tacoma Washington 1957

"Date: 12-04-1957 Interior of Clark's Islander Restaurant. Keeping with the Polynesian motif, Clark's Islander restaurant was noted for its casual, tropical atmosphere complete with anthuriums, "Hawaiian" decor, and even "stars" in the ceiling. Returning to Tacoma after an absence of 30 years, Walter Clark took control of the Islander and included it in his chain of fine Seattle and Bellevue restaurants. Diners could order Polynesian specialties as well as the traditional menu, including roast beef carved by a chef. Clark pledged to bring to Tacoma the same high quality cuisine, service and hospitality enjoyed by those in his other dining establishments."

Happy Hunting!


Now we're talking Abstractiki!! Awesome finds!! Not the most decorated of exteriors but it looks cool and what a great photo! Nice inside shot as well.
Thanks for hunting em out!


Abstract, nice finds on those photos, always cool to see the inside and outside of these old places!

Sabu posted this Covarrubius map from a 1949 Life Magazine that shows the Tiki Shield logo that was used for the matchbook.

Here is another matchbook I saw on ebay with a different look.


Some more pictures of Tapuanu masks from the Mortlock islands (part of the Caroline Islands):

From a 1946 issue of LIFE magazine:

The Bishop Museum in Hawaii had one, as shown in this early catalog:

(Even though it's on the Hawaiian Hall page, it appears to be a holdover from the Polynesian Hall on the previous page)

Bigbro's pics from the Museum fuer Voelkerkunde in Hamburg:

I picked up this old menu from the Islander several years ago and I have always wondered if it was from the Tacoma restaurant. It does not have an address on it.

The cover art is somewhat unique. Does anybody know the origins of the figure on the cover?

A great drink menu page.

Some nice little graphics on the food pages.

The Moai is my favorite.

They also had a Luau combo.

Can anybody confirm that this is from the Tacoma location?


[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2010-04-11 11:00 ]

This feature matchbook from the Tacoma Islander recently sold for $81.00 on ebay .
Anything from this restaurant is extremely hard to find .This is the same matchbook
cover that DC posted prior .Very very cool feature matchbook.
I will let you guess who won the auction.
Note:Owners Bill Mead and Bob Trent

[ Edited by: 1961surf 2010-09-15 12:26 ]


From the Tacoma newspaper microfilm, 4/25/1951 "Visit to Islander is South Sea Isles Trip" ad for the opening of the Islander restaurant.

There is a very good article about the opening of the restaurant (by Bill Mead and Bob Trent) and it's atmosphere but it will take me awhile for to post it without making it look like a scrambled jigsaw puzzle. aloha, tikicoma


O.K this is the article from 4/25/1951,

Now that lounge and restaurant sounds much more exotic than the 1957 Clarks Islander version looked, I'd like to hang out there!
aloha, tikicoma

tikicoma - thanks for finding and posting that article. It gives all the tiny details that are important for building an accurate view of the pre-tiki era.

We learn that owner's time spent in New Guinea and the Philippines during WWII was at least partly the inspiration for this night club. We all generally accept this hypothesis: that one of the roots of the Tiki movement was WWII servicemen returning from South Seas duty, trying to recreate the atmosphere here in the states, but to have some more non-anecdotal evidence to back it up is satisfying.

Even better for me is the description of the music played in the bar. It adds to the pattern I've seen with the pre-tiki South-Seas clubs. They tended to play soft Hawaiian and exotic music to add to the atmosphere of the restaurant. By the 1960s, Hawaiian music was still there in some clubs, but not necessarily. You were just as likely to see any of a melange of popular music styles that were more suitable for dancing, including Latin, jazz, polka, go-go, and rock.

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2011-07-05 17:57 ]

Great finds, Tikicoma! Those cartoons! And the article indeed brings up some interesting points:

First of all it makes me wonder if when Walter Clark took over in 1957, he went more "generic steak house" in the style. The above interior photo, with its white table linens and no leopard print upholstery in sight, just doesn't seem to match the elaborate decor described in the 1951 article. But then again, one photo alone might be misleading. The bar sounds like it was the most interesting part of the room.

Second, what Sabu said about the music is right. "South Seas Music is being played by versatile Doris Hill at her quiet organ..." supports my Pre-Tiki/Tiki observations: That there was a nowadays hard to perceive generation gap between the Pre-Tiki and the Tiki era: SCA designer Florian Gabriel once put it in words like this:"The South Seas theme had become tired, and then Tiki came along and gave it a new lease on life."

The "Quiet organ music" described in the article clearly was part of the Lawrence Welk generation, the Swing generation of the pre- and post-WWII decade. But beginning in the mid-50s, this somewhat sedate style was rejuvenated by the loungey Jazz of Exotica and the edgier imagery of primitive art. Maybe Walter Clark perceived the original concepts of Bill Mead and Bob Trent as dated, but was not hip enough to go full "Stephen Crane Kon Tiki style" when he took over, rather relying on the experience with his other, "safer" restaurants.

Third, the now repeatedly mentioned idea of the WWII Pacific Theater veterans being a major cause of the Tiki trend, "bringing back images of South Sea maidens and palm huts from the islands" deserves a more differentiated view. As the article states: "Bill Mead IS NOT QUITE CERTAIN whether the idea (for the decor) dates back from the year-and-a-half he served with the Armed Forces in New Guinea and the Philippines..." I think I know why he is not quite certain:

Anybody who has seen HBO's "The Pacific" can tell that palm-studded beaches more often meant carnage, that the sun wasn't something to get a tan but meant sweating under the helmet in the humid heat, and that jungle sounds were not equaled with Martin Denny-esque relaxation but with tense patrols through unknown territory. These guys did not decorate their tents with native art and Hula girl photos, but with American pin up girls - and all they dreamed of was mainland U.S.A., and how the hell to get off that god-forsaken, middle-of-nowhere little piece of coral rock they were stuck on.

Granted, there probably were a lucky few who were stationed behind the lines and carved their little niches somewhere in between some palms, or even were stationed on Hawaii. But the majority of Pacific war G.I.s had different, non-paradisaical experiences. I am not doubting that because of the Pacific war, tens of thousands of Americans experienced the tropics for the first time, and that that broadened their vision - but in much more complex and conflicted ways than the simplification of the "South Pacific" driven cliches let's you believe.

The dream world of the Polynesian paradise already existed BEFORE the Pacific war, and it continued after - with or without the veterans. Their story just fit in well with the trend, and as the memories of the their hardships passed, was assimilated by it, their having been abroad being used for credentials of authenticity. It was the logical thing to do for any entrepreneur, and continued the tradition of embellishing and candy-coating the fabricated ideal of the South Seas Island paradise.

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2011-07-07 03:27 ]


Went to eastern WA to visit family this weekend and found the Islanders original drinks menu at a collectables shop, what a rush! The fishing net looks like it was made from a fine hairnet thats been gilded. It's 6.5x10 inches, a die-cutout for the net and in great shape.

back cover

folds down the center

I seem to remember that the Seattle Outrigger opened in 1949, Mead and Trent seem to have liked Vic's menu quips and may have borrowed the idea.

The quip after the Zombie ending with ...limited to one (dozen), reminds me of the old t-shirt, "Tacoma.. 160,000 alcoholics can't all be wrong!"

Aloha, tikicoma

What wonderful Pre-Tiki Poly Pop! The artist who illustrated the menu might be the same who did those great newspaper cartoons. Glad you found this, the reward for your previous research!


I want to thank Mimi for adding to my little collection of of Tacoma Islander stuff by practically giving me her Islander menu. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

When I feel that I no longer need to possess these items I'll be giving them to the Tacoma Historical Society.

aloha and mahalo, tikicoma

Nice! This is such a great Polynesian Pop thread :)


Hi All
I was doing some pinning and saw all these comments on The Islander!
Well, my dad's, dad's brother with Walter Clark!
He has a book called Mr. Restaurant. I'll check and see if there are any notes on this location - I think I would have noticed as I am a big tikiphile.
This is exciting news and I want to learn more.
Walter had many restaurants in Seattle including the Twin TPs, Round the Clock, Windjammer, Salad Bowl.
Any other info would be greatly appreciated.


I found this in the book about my great uncle-


Hi Kinitiki it's good to hear from you! Of course I know who Walter Clark was, a big time restauranteur in Seattle but before he started opening restaurants there he had worked in (or owned) restaurants in Tacoma. There are a few errors in the book you mention first the Islander opened in early 1951 not 1956. There are newspaper articles and ads supporting this date... so it had been open 6 years before Clark bought it. Clark did only have it for 3 years before he sold it but as for "the only change made... were in the service and in the menu" well all I can say is it took 2 months between his buying it and opening it under his name. I've also seen the redesign blueprints he had made by a well known designer from Seattle... it was a complete redo, fabrics, wall treatments, bar and floor placements. I'd have to say less exotic then the original and more "tasteful". Glad you're here anything more you know we would be glad to here about!


Thank you for that corrected info. I sadly lost out on my ebay bid on a matchbook today for The Islander.
Here’s a photo of my great uncle and his wife I came across in my dad’s photos!

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