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Trader Vic's, Washington, DC (restaurant)

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Name:Trader Vic's
Street:Statler Hilton Hotel

Somewhat surprised that the Trader Vic's in Washington DC is not on Locating Tiki yet.

One of my favorite exterior scenes is on this postcard showing the entrance

The two big Barney West Tikis with the top knots.

Looks like a Barney West mask on the wall as well.

Here is the back of the card with a cool description of the entrance.

Another card I have showing the interior.

Look at all of the swag on the table.

Some nice lamps, never seen the Kava Bowl style before.

The description on the back of the card.

I also have the postcard from Barney West's Tiki Junction in Sausalito that shows one of the Washington DC Tikis.

The Tiki was also shown in the recent article that John Paul wrote about Barney West in Tiki Magazine.

Bigbro also posted this catalog cover showing Barney West sitting on top of the Tiki in the Barney West thread.

A matchbook.

And, the great photo of President Nixon and family leaving the restaurant that was posted by ikitnrev.

Would be nice to see some more photos of this place.


On 2010-09-06 15:33, Dustycajun wrote:

One of my favorite exterior scenes is on this postcard showing the entrance

And, the great photo of President Nixon and family leaving the restaurant that was posted by ikitnrev.

Would be nice to see some more photos of this place.

Absolutley! The Nixon photo gives us a glimpse of the story board paintings in the entrance A-frame, I would love to see the WHOLE thing from the front, too. The sacred "Scarf of Trader Vic A-frames" does not show this location either...

Again a great image compilation, DC!

i suspect that the entrance might have been to the left of the port-cochere of what is now the capitol hilton.

can anyone who actually visited corroborate this? there appears to be a smoked glass enclosure there now, going down to a lower level that would have been the entrace to the resturant.

image courtesy bing maps

here are some national archives images from 1945:

of course, by my research TV DC was open 1961 - 1995

i gut feeling is that since the existing hotel restaurant is at the north side (i.e. to the left of the lobby when looking at the elevation), that is likely where trader vic's was. also, that angular smoked-glassed in patio used to be an open deck with metal guard rails - i think that is what we are seeing in the photo at the very top of this thread. that means the stairs and landings in the photo at the top of this thread come down from near the intersection of 16th street and L Street, and the tikis at the left were next to the retaining wall that goes up to the main drive from the entry.

[ Edited by: Johnny Dollar 2010-09-07 10:27 ]

On the 13th, the Nixons went to a pre-Valentine’s dinner – strolling through Lafayette park, chatting with passersby, and going to Trader Vic’s in the Statler-Hilton Hotel. Pat had a cigarette after dinner, something she almost never did in public.

Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full By Conrad Black

aquarj posted on Tue, Sep 7, 2010 2:47 PM

Thanks for the great collection of images for the DC Vics! One thing caught my eye though...

On 2010-09-06 15:33, Dustycajun wrote:
I also have the postcard from Barney West's Tiki Junction in Sausalito that shows one of the Washington DC Tikis.

Definitely those are all Barney West moai, but maybeeee that's not exactly THEE same one in the Sausalito postcard as in the DC location. Take a look...

When we teleport Barney out to DC in this pic, it looks like there's a few differences. The DC ones look more smiley, while the Sausalito one looks more frowny. Also different chins, noses, eyes, etc. Don't you think?

Anyway, not meant as a wet blanket. Thanks for posting this stuff!


Ha ha, what a wonderful collage! Makes the carver look just like a native gawked at by well-to-do tourists...


Nice photo shop job, that cracked me up! The postcard moai could still be the one in the back at DC. We'll just call that a fuzzy historical reference to the Barney Moai at the Trader Vic's in DC. Must have been quite a sight when those bad boys were installed.

Went through my menus and found that I have a standard dinner and drink menu set from the Washington DC Trader Vic's.


Hey Dusty,

I think you are right about the entrance and all that. This is the one other local Tiki place I have some experience with. Its a Fran O'Brien's Restaurant now and the layout is much the same, with the decor obviously changed in total. Now as then, the Hilton is upstairs.

It is very close to the White House. Maybe that is why Nixon liked it. It was also 1 block from what was then the Embassy of the USSR.

I picked up an unusual menu from the Trader Vic's in DC. It features Chinese symbols on the cover.

And a nice portrait of Trader Vic himself on the back.

The fold up menu was made to advertise the group party options for luncheons

and dinners.

A nice little piece of Trader Vic's history.


Trader Vic's: Delectable Barbecued Pork and South Pacific Ambiance
by Donald Dresden
The Washington Post; Jul 20, 1975;

Deluxe Chinese/Polynesian/American cuisine.
Lunch main courses $2.95 to $6.50; Dinner, $3.25 to $10.75.

In the Statler Hilton Hotel, 16th and K Streets NW. EX 3-1000.
Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 to 2:30, none Saturday or Sunday. Dinner Monday through Saturday. Dinner Monday through Saturday 5 to 10:30, Sunday, 4:30 to 9:30. Reservations, major credit cards.

Food: [smileyface] [smileyface] [smileyface]
Style: [whisk] [whisk] [whisk]
Value: $ $ $

Restaurants are rated on an ascending zero-to-four scale compared with similar places; thus the food in a modest restaurant would rate four smiles and that of a sophisticated establishment, zero. Whisks indicate ambiance, again with emphasis on how the restaurant compares with those in its general class; service is also a part of this classification. Dollar signs appraise value received; this a poor $10 lunch would get a zero, but a superb one, at $2, a four.

Victor Jules Bergeron changed the name of his first restaurant (in Oakland, California) from Hinky Dinks to Trader Vic's for several reasons, not the least of which was that he had a trading operation going in the South Pacific, and in his eatery he traded exotic artifacts such as a carved figure of Buddha with a secret compartment -- he once was offered three shrunken heads.

Bergeron, now a feisty 73-year-old who describes his speech as ribald, has taken up art seriously but adds that "food is just as artistic as painting." He still keeps his hand in the business that comprises 21 Trader Vic's in the United States and abroad. (No connection with Trader Vic's in Hawaii.) He chose the South Pacific decor for his restaurants because it suggests "beaches and moonlight and pretty girls without any clothes on." In the early days of his restaurant career, Bergeron went to any length to please his customers ("I even let them stick an ice pick in my wooden leg"). Despite the uniformity of menus, marinades and other things in the restaurants, Bergeron insists that "they are not like a chain where a guy has to look on page X for his instructions." He says managers are given a chance to exercise some individuality, but adds that since many of them are Orientals "they understand that they were hired to do things the way the boss wants them done."

The Federal City Trader Vic's has lots of decorations indigenous to the South Pacific area, including Hong Kong chairs with their flaring ratan backs. The lighting is Stygian, doubled in spades, but the tables are well spaced. Two enormous Chinese ovens dominate a glassed-in area and lend an Oriental note.

The lunch menu has an aloha accent, but with sufficient variety to satisfy diverse tastes, including those that opt for steak, sandwiches, salads and such fare. For instance, the standing menu offers eight fish entrees that include three plain filet of sole items, scallops in two forms, and dolphin (called mahi mahi) from Hawaii. Fourteen salads range from fruit to crab with many other ingredients.

In addition to the set luncheon menu, specials change with the day, and include items such as a mushroom omelette, $2.95 and sweet and sour spare ribs with steamed rice at $3.35. Also, calf's liver, $3.95, sometimes is offered, which is thinly sliced and cooked tableside. It came off well when I had it last, and the serving included potato and green vegetable.

Also, the special on Thursday always includes barbecued pork tenderloin, which is a refinement of conventional barbecuing since it is cooked in the Chinese oven. The ceramic oven resembles a huge barrel. Its removable metal cover has hooks on the inside from which meat and fowl are suspended for cooking. The heat comes from burning hardwood in front of an aperture at the base of the oven, the hot and slightly smoky air rising into the oven. The merit of this kind of cooking is that nothing drips into the fire, which generates smoke, especially from fat, that permeates food. With the Chinese oven, all drippings fall into a receptacle below the oven. The result is a piece of finely cooked meat or fowl with a subtle taste of smoke. The pork tenderloin done this way is $4.25; beef tenderloin, on the menu daily, is $5.25. Both are delectable dishes, served with a brown sauce that I think is unnecessary.

Another standing lunch dish is Malagasy pepper steak, $6.50. I've had it twice, and found it disappointing because of gristle and sparse taste.

Mandarin Kau Kau, $4.50 was better: breast of chicken in a sweet and sour sauce and nicely cooked shrimp in a mild Cantonese sauce. Good fried rice and broccoli came with the dish. Almond duck, $3.95, was another winner. Oversimplified, this is cooked, boned and pressed and pressed duck. When cooled, pieces of it are deep fried until quite crisp. It was a tasty rendition of this Chinese dish, better than versions of it I have had elsewhere.

Over the years I have had several soups at the restaurant, most recently a moderately thick chicken curry one with bits of fresh tomato, and a cream of asparagus, both of which were tasty. Bongo bongo, which is cream of oysters, was not bad, but I have had it better elsewhere.

The dinner menu is more extensive than lunch. More than two dozen Chinese dishes are listed, along with many specialties that include steak and veal, and lots of seafood. In addition, ten dishes cooked in the Chinese oven are offered daily, except suckling pig for which a week's notice and 20 guests are required. My most recent lamb dish from the oven was overdone, but I have had steak and other offerings that were timed just right. The Indonesian lamb roast, $8.85, is marinated in a mixture of honey, pineapple and onion. Squabs, chickens and rock cornish game hens ($6.50 to $7.85) are dipped in a soy-based sauce before going into the Chinese oven.

Desserts are extensive and include an enticing rum ice cream with praline sauce.

The wine list is adequate and rum drinks are a hallmark of the place.

Service is polite and swift.

Great info, Johnny! See, you're not just a pretty face!

pablus posted on Fri, Mar 4, 2011 3:50 AM

My father and I had lunch with Billy Graham there one afternoon.
Ol' Billy had 5 scorpion bowls.

Well, he had some iced tea... but they had some mint in them.

J$, it was 30 years ago that I was there but I seem to remember that glass thing being a skylight that you could sit under in the restaurant. So the entrance could have been toward the main entrance of the hotel as you're speculating.

i just walked by the capitol hilton and the speculations above are correct. the entry is from the northwest corner of the property, down a flight of mounumental stairs to the entrance. that flight of stairs is chained off at the moment, but i peered down and the serpentine curb with the planting bed is exactly the same. i will try and go there sometime and ask at the main desk if i can take some photos. people are freaky about buildings being photographed around here.

Found another photo of President Nixon at the Washington Trader Vic's.

He was quite a regular there, as well as the Trader Vic's in New York.


great stuff, as always DC, thanks :)

i have found a treasure trove of DC area polynesian restaurant ads and blurbs in an online repository of "Washington Dossier," a "society" mag that ran in DC during the 70s thru 90s - http://www.scribd.com/david_adler_8 - i guess trader vic's and their ilk had the 1% as their target audience :) - anyways, enjoy:

Iscah posted on Fri, May 25, 2012 9:59 AM

It would figure that I got to the DC area several years too late. The outside of the TV here looked awesome.

Found this image on-line from the Trader Vic's in DC with Susan Ford dinning with the Sadat family kids.

The Trader Vic's on the Capitol had to have seen some serious Secret Service action back in the day.


great stuff DC - "sadats go polynesian..." there's a song or a movie in there somewhere :D

OK, I think that the two Tikis in this photo of Barney West are the two from the Trader Vic's in DC.


holy crap, yes!

Nice find. I always was fascinated by the unique placement of these, behind each other facing sideways to the entrance, instead of flanking it frontally. I guess it was a side entrance on a hill, so the architect saw that with their size, the only distant view point to appreciate them from was from the street.

I remember hearing that when the place closed they were cut up.

This thread needs THIS photo from TIKI POP :) :

[ Edited by: bigbrotiki 2015-03-29 08:23 ]

With the recent news that Trader Vic's and the Capital Hilton are bringing a Trader Vic’s pop-up bar to the Historic Washington DC hotel this summer, I thought it a good time to post a few pics I found during the Tiki Central downtime.

2 Nix Leaving TV Adjusted 5

This is a slightly more detailed version of a picture previously posted by ikitnrev, showing more of the storyboard under the entrance A-frame. What’s even more interesting is that we are just barely able to make out a beautifully carved wall panel that used to exist inside the entrance doors, behind the two ladies in the pic.

1 Kennedy1

This picture is from the Trader Vics Worldwide Instagram account.

3 Vic at DC TVs 1971-4

4 Vic Bergeron DC Statler 1961 4

5 Statler Flyer

8 1979 August Trader Vics Doss

9 1979 June Trader Vics Doss Ad

in 2022, "what one would expect" is optional.

this is a good unexpected! \m/

Here are a few more. I believe they are from 1961 editions of the Washington Post and Washington Star:

6 1961 June Trader Vics Ovens

7 1965 TV Business Lunch DC 2

10 1961 TV Ads

[ Edited by Tyber Tiki on 2022-06-09 08:30:33 ]

Thanks, Johnny! I've really enjoyed your posts over the years, especially your efforts to document the Hawaiian Room at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore.

Found an interesting article from 1963 about Trader Vic's DC and how customers, even then, thought it was ok to steal items from the restaurant. Hope this is readable.

1963 trader vics dc

[ Edited by Tyber Tiki on 2022-05-20 12:59:39 ]

Great find for that article.

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