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Celebrating classic and modern Polynesian Pop

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Name:Trader Vic's
Type:restaurant
Street: 4th & Washington (333 Washington Avenue)
City: St. Louis
State:MO
Zip: 63101
country:USA
Phone:314-621-7900
Status:defunct

Description:
This Trader Vic's closed in 1985. Located in the Bel Air East Motor Hotel. It's now a Hampton Inn, the phone number for the hotel is still current.


Barney West Tiki’s flank the entrance.


I’m not really crazy about the hotel before or after. :roll:
In the before picture you can see the Trader Vic’s entrance peeking over the fence.

Let’s say it’s 1973 and we’re planning a St. Louis crawl, I suggest we start at The Mainlander and then proceed 9.1 miles to Eddy Song's Polynesian Village.

From Eddy Song’s we head just 0.3 miles to our third and final stop Trader Vic’s in the Bel Air East Hotel.

_

Followed by a room crawl before passing out. The next morning I’ll be in that roof top pool.

T

Hey Bora Boris, Cool post! I would be up for that Tiki Crawl!!

I assumed this location was already on here although I had never looked for it before. It is one of the few Trader Vic locations where you can actually find a pretty cool exterior shot (like the first card posted by Bora above). I love the way you have this sort of modern, concrete jungle, meeting the savage and authentic South Pacific. Just enter the Hut if you dare!
Very cool exterior and great Tikis!

Here is a nice one of the interior that I have:

I find the St.Louis memorabilia to be some of the hardest Trader Vic items to find. Lot's of the usual great Trader Vic decor and plenty of eye candy!!

Here's the reverse of the card:

I also have a old matchbook from here that the original owner had written the dates of "3/17-20/68" on the inside. I guess they liked it there so much they either went back there every night or never left for three days!!

I find this following picture of the inside to be much harder to find than the one I posted above:

This card is a differnt veiw of the same room above. It gives a good idea of the very cool ceiling that they did in a few of the classic early Trader Vic's. Also a good shot of the lamps from the ceiling, table decor and some more carved poles.

I'm pretty sure BigBroTiki has a small Ad or Brochure from this location. He has it featured on page 24 and 25 of his book, Tiki Modern. That would be cool to add to this thread as well.

Mahalo, TabooDan

Here is a table top menu showing the two tikis at the entrance.

DC

T

Thanks DC!
That's the other item that I had seen from here and it's a cool one!

So, what else is out there??

Thanks for photos of the St. Louis Trader Vic's. That was my first exposure to Tiki. My Uncle took my sister and I there for dinner when I was about 4 years old. That was in 1972. I was in absolute awe of the large Tikis outside, my sister had to pull me away from them. We saw the fire dancers and ate "Polynesian" Chinese food. It is one of my favorite childhood memories. On another note, I may have a piece of the TV's. I was junk shopping on Cherokee Street in St. Louis when I found a two sided Tiki. It is the same Tiki carved on TV's wooden door. It looks like some kind of decorative piece for a railing or the like. I will have to post a picture at some point because I would like to know more about it. Any way thanks for bringing back some great memories.

Cheers!
Scott

Here is another postcard I have with a slightly different view of the hotel exterior and a peek at the Trader Vic's entrance. It just kills me that the photographer focused on the building and not Trader Vics

Here is a close up of the two tikis on the left side of the entrance.

DC

T

Hey Scott, thanks for the post and I am glad Bora Boris posted this one!! Also glad that it struck a nerve with you and that you had visited what looks to have been a great location!!
That's another thing I love about TC is that people like you come on here and share their memories. We would not have a lot of information about these places or even know about some of them if people didn't do these posts.

Great photos DC!! Can I sign up for one of your library cards so I can withdrawl some of your items?? Although, it may be like high school and you may get them back in a different condition (like missing pieces) then they were signed out to me!! :)

TabooDan

I hit the paper jackpot from the Trader Vic's in St. Louis. All of these items came together from an estate sale. Here is the story.

It seems that Mr. Robert Saul from New Jersey was planning a trip to St. Louis in 1965 and sent a letter to the Trader Vic's restaurant asking for menu information. Here is the letter that was sent back to Mr. Saul.

As you can see in the letter, Mr. C. Chu, the manager of Trader Vic's, sent Mr. Saul a dinner menu, a luncheon menu, a cocktail menu, an appetizer menu and a postcard in response to his request. That is amazing!

The standard dinner menu.

The standard drink menu.

The very nice Luncheon menu.

One of my favorite Trader Vic's pieces of all time, the hard to find appetizer menu featuring the front of the restaurant.

The inside of the appetizer menu.

The postcard.

But wait, there's more! Also included was a specialty menu featuring Hawaiian and Tahitian foods that I have NEVER seen before (and I have seen a lot of menus).

Here is the cover with a story on the food. Interesting that the menu was advertising recipes that would be in Trader Vic's upcoming book "Trader Vic's Pacific Cookery".

I can't remember another item from Trader Vic's that used the Easter Island style moai images?

The interior of the menu with some very nice illustrations and the Hawaiian and Tahitian selections.

What a great little slice of Trader Vic's history from 1965. I bet Mr. Saul had a good time!

DC

[ Edited by: Dustycajun 2011-01-24 15:15 ]

i have quite a few photos of that entrance canopy from the late 90s, before the hotel was covered in EIFS.

the location of the hotel is great, only about four blocks from the waterfront (laclede's landing) and the gateway arch (designed by eero saarinen).

both my grandparents and parents dined there while it was operational. i inherited a matchbook from there from my grandfather, who was a matchbook collector.

i'll try to find the photos (old school photographic PRINTS) and scan and post them this weekend.

S

I am adding the name Elsie Woo here from the letter in hopes some day her family go searching for her and find us here to share...

Great score DC-
I've never seen that "Truly Polynesian" menu before either.

I really like the Trader's explanation of how his dishes are "interpretations" of original recipes. I always thought he played them off as 100% authentic, because people just didn't know better back then. The story of how Crab Rangoon originated in Burma comes to mind...

I'm also wondering if Vic did sell his dishes as authentic Polynesian/Chinese fare in the early days, but then changed his tune as customers became more informed about authenticity. Certainly nowadays Vic's is seen more as a "fusion" restaurant, rather than authentic Polynesian/Chinese. I wonder if your menu may mark the turning point in this change in marketing.

-Trad'r Bill

ok as promised, here are my photos - i figure these as from 1999 / 2000.


at the time it was a ramada inn, but it must have been purchased by hampton inn shortly thereafter. you can see that the original pool was enclosed by this point as well.


detail of the panels at the side of the entrance lobby


"CLUB MISSISSIPPI COVE" on the entry doors lintel - don't know if that was contemporary with the original restaurant.

p.s. old thread from 2004 - http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=7987&forum=1&17

[ Edited by: Johnny Dollar 2011-01-01 11:26 ]

Wonderful pics- but the three huge Barney West Tikis are not there anymore....
What happened to those, they were too big to just have decayed!?

cross-posted from this thread: http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=7987&forum=1&17

On 2004-03-05 11:29, bigbrotiki wrote:
Wwwwhaaa! That place still stands!? Why didn't anybody TELL me! It's one of the better examples of midcentury modern and Tiki in one. That postcard kills me the way one can see the Barney West Tikis but the A-frame is cut off. I'm dieing to find a full shot of the entrance AND the building, with all Tikis, and 60s cars...

I have an interior postcard of the Trader Vic's there, it had a great circular hut ceiling, it closed in 1985. Otherwise it didn't seem to be too decked out. TV usually takes their stuff back, it's probably all gutted inside.

Bosko gave me a brochure from it when it was a BEL AIR Motor Hotel:
"Bel Air Motor Hotels proudly display hundreds of America's finest, original contemporary art AND ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST IMPORTANT NEW GUINEA PRIMITIVE ART COLLECTIONS" (!?)

The owner must have been an art collector, WHO built the two BEL AIRs in St. Louis, and what happened later?

Please go an take lots of pictures of the remains, wide and close up. And J$, what do you know about it?

Oh, and while we are in St. Louis, why are there no images, Exterior or Interior, to be found of "The Mainlander" (BOT p.179)

Found a few photos of the great entrance to the Trader Vic's at the Bel Air East.

This one really gives you some perspective on the scale of the massive A-Frame entrance.

And a photo of the entrance from the street with the Barney West Tikis.

DC

Man those Tikis were huge. What ever happened to them !? And that A-frame on that building - classic example of the meeting of modern and primitive.

On 2014-09-11 17:55, Dustycajun wrote:

On 2011-01-01 11:20, Johnny Dollar wrote:
ok as promised, here are my photos - i figure these as from 1999 / 2000.

"CLUB MISSISSIPPI COVE" on the entry doors lintel - don't know if that was contemporary with the original restaurant.

hm... i am now really curious about the story behind the "CLUB MISSISSIPPI COVE" signage... :D

On 2014-09-11 21:20, bigbrotiki wrote:
Man those Tikis were huge.

i asked my dad if he remembered the tikis and if he remembered them being carved wood, and he said

I remember the tikis but did not look at them closely for materials.

Ads

scroll past the Mainlander for article about Trader Vic's St. Louis:

http://www.losttables.com/tiki/tiki.htm

the author claims the opening was on December 5, 1963.

Another photo of the Barney West entrance Tikis.

DC

Good find! Now...take a couple of steps back, go a little to the right, and you got the perfect shot of ALL three Tikis, and the A-frame between them! :)

Why does that not exist? Probably because that ideal position is in the middle of the street, and no one wanted to get hit by a car. But it's doable, I've done it: Wait for a lull in traffic walk out, get the shot, and jump back on the curb. Repeat till you got it.

I would say it is pretty certain that the Ku in the back is the same one that Barney is proudly posing with in this photo in my new tome The Art of Tiki:

awesome find, DC! thanks!!!

I recently came across a brochure for the Bel Air Hilton. The hotel ownership franchised operations to the Hilton Brand in Dec. 1974. This brochure was probably from 1977 as they reference the new convention center, which was built that year.

It has several photos of the Trader Vic's located there that I have never seen before including one of the entryway flanked by two of the three Barney West tikis.

There's another photo on the back of the brochure which is small, but it appears as if the far left tiki has been removed to me, or perhaps it's hding behind the greenery.

There's some interior dining room photos that I have never seen along with a nice color photo of award winning executive chef DuBouis Chen.


Also, two photos of the Mayan Room, which was a banquet hall room serviced by the restaurant, frequently rented out for special events.


One last photo is that of a stairwell with a good view of the New Guinea deer sculpture wall. The hotel was always advertised as having a large selection of South Seas/Primitive art, which has a lot to do with the involvement of co-owner, Morton May, a St. Louis businessman and philanthropist who donated a sizable collection of primitive and south seas art to the St. Louis Art Museum.

Thank you to all who've contributed your photos and material, prior to me, of a treasured Tiki locale from my hometown.

[ Edited by: mokan-tiki 2019-02-21 15:26 ]

AWESOME!!! :D

this is a bit of a stretch, but a YouTube video recently posted from the top of the Gateway Arch in July of 1969 has a glimpse of the Bel Air East Hotel with the Trader Vic's canopy. kind of Trader Vic by way of Zapruder film. it's at 3:30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuRRLkCZoI8

Pages: 1 27 replies