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Tiki Central / Locating Tiki

Hawaiian Gardens, San Jose, CA (restaurant)

Pages: 1 15 replies

Name:Hawaiian Gardens
City:San Jose


I came across this postcard of the exterior of the Hawaiian Gardens restaurant in San Jose which is where I lived as a kid.

I started doing some research and found quite a bit of information on-line:

In 1933, rancher John Lo Curto opened an Italian restaurant in San Jose called Lo Curto Gardens. Around 1938, S. “Baron” Long became the restaurant’s owner/manager and the name was changed to the Hawaiian Gardens. The highly popular Polynesian-themed restaurant/night club was rebranded as the “Show Palace of the West” and featured nightly floor shows, dancing with the Hawaiian Gardens Orchestra, and unique performances by trained bullfrogs… yes, FROGS.

Here is a menu from Mimi Payne's website showing the frogs!

At some point in the 1950s, the restaurant fell back into the hands of the Lo Curto family and became Lo Curto’s Hawaiian Gardens. Following the restaurant’s unsuccessful reincarnation as a go-go club in the 1960s, the venue was sold, renamed the Italian Gardens, and stayed as such until its closure in the 1990s. Today, what was once the locale of the largest supper club between San Francisco and Los Angeles is now home to what else?... high-density housing. It is said that some of the original landscaping still remains.

Here are images of the feature matchbook from the Hawaiian Gardens.

The original Hawaiian Gardens building fell victim to a fire in 1952 and had to be rebuilt. The picture below is the rendering of the new modern restaurant, courtesy architect Donnell Jaekle (who, by the way, was quite prolific at the time in the SF Bay Area). The arched porte cochere looks much like the entrance to the old Hyatt House in Burlingame (which also no longer exists). I've yet to figure out if the two buildings were both designed by Jaekle.

Some images of the newer building:

And a modern menu from Mimi Payne's website.

I also saw this matchbook on-line which featured the Hawaiiann Gardens AND the Club Royal Hawaiian located in San Francisco. Obviously sister restaurant.



Cool! I've always wondered about this place. I've only seen one matchbook so far...

DC, I also lived in the San Jose/South Bay Area as a kid, and went to High School in San Jose. One of my classmates even had the last name of LoCurto! He must be connected... I'll soon know because I just added him on LinkedIn

You're right, DC - there is a lot of info out there.

"Photo is of actual wooden tikis that graced the walls of Hawaiian Gardens (courtesy of Don Feurbacher)."

Nice artifacts DC!

Trad'r Bill,

Nice find on the photo, good to see there was a Tiki period at the Hawaiian Gardens. Here is the link to the Metro article that talks about the history of the place.


There were a few Tiki mugs used there as well, from Ooga Mooga:

The skinny three-faced mug

And the Surfer Girl/Princess mug.


Here's a brochure I found at the Oakland Library:

-Trad'r Bill


I would like to credit myself for the Hawaiian Gardens research, text, and a number of the images posted above.
The large sized matchcover image came from a matchbook I purchased on eBay (I paid $15 for it) http://www.flickr.com/photos/14696209@N02/3648152192/
The architectural rendering surfaced after hours of research conducted at San Jose's MLK Library
The vintage ad came from a San Jose Mercury News insert I picked up at an estate sale
Not trying to be snotty here... would just like my efforts acknowledged. Thanks! :)

[ Edited by: hmdTiki 2011-08-29 22:14 ]

Absolutely! Your contributions here are very much appreciated.

Thanks hmdTiki.

A nice napkin style with the classic uke player under the palm tree/Hawaiian hula girl theme from the Hawaiian Gardens.


Great classic graphics there - thanks DC


Over the weekend I was visiting my mother and came across some old boxes of pictures.

Included was a picture of my mom on a date when she was 18 years old at the Hawaiian Gardens in San Jose California.

Here is the cover on the jacket that contained the photograph.

The date on the picture is December 4, 1948. (My mother is the woman to the right).

Not the best picture due to its age but you can get a little sense of the interior.

My parents used to frequent the Hawaiian Gardens in the 1950s as they were avid dencers. As stated, the name was changed to Italian Gardens and was open for many years for banquets, weddings, etc. I had never been inside, but I attended a seminar there in the 1990s which included lunch. The place, although rundown, was right out of the 1940s and the food was great. After lunch I wandered around the ruins of the gardens, etc. which was kind of sad. The old Lo Curto residence, a magnificent Italianate large home, was behind the gardens but appeared to be occupied as a rental and run down. The site was converted to condominiums. My favorite country & western bar, "Cowtown" was near the Italian Gardens.

Thanks for posting your Mom's picture Rum Dog. I've seen many such pictures posted on Tiki Central but most were purchased on eBay so one can only wonder about the circumstances. Knowing a little about the back story helps to bring them to life.

And thanks MarkLongshore for your recollections. I live in the bay area but it sounds like nothing is left if I try to visit now!

Just can't stop without just one more. Dan had the red shirt mug from here. Wendy

Going through some old photos with my parents I found this souvenir from the Hawaiian Gardens. The photo is dated April 15, 1945 and my grandmother is sitting second from the left.

[ Edited by: Zombieki 2014-12-29 12:33 ]

[ Edited by: Zombieki 2014-12-29 16:48 ]

Another cocktail napkin-


Pages: 1 15 replies