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Trader Vic's, Palo Alto, CA (restaurant)

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Name:Trader Vic's
Street:4269 El Camino Real
City:Palo Alto
Phone:(650) 849-9800

This Trader Vic's doesn't feel like the other Trader Vic's out there. It's a lot more upscale and bright. I think the colors and architecture feels more Santa Fe than Tiki (although there's no Santa Fe decor).

While it has a lot of artifacts, most of it is not classic tiki. A lot of it feels more African-inspired than Polynesian. There are paintings adorning the walls painted by Trader Vic himself, but again, they don't feel too Tiki. The place does not feel spartan in any way, it just doesn't have the same dark, moody feel of classic Trader Vics.

The place is a genuine Trader Vic's though, and the drinks are top notch, both in taste and in presentation. You won't be unsatisfied by the drinks, food, or service, but you may have Trader Vic's Sticker Shock when you see the prices.

[ Edited by: hanford_lemoore on 2003-10-04 13:15 ]

EDIT: It's now closed. RIP PATV!

[ Edited by: 2012-08-30 04:07 ]

I had dinner at the Palo Alto TVs last month. I thought that both the food (I had the Hawaiian Pork Chop) and the drinks,especially the "Rum Giggle" were great!

I do agree that the decor is not a lavish and traditionally "Tiki" as the Emeryville Trader Vics but I would suspect that it has been done to appeal to more of the mainstream "palo alto" type crowd.
Either way, it's still a very nice place for a dinner. I would also like to go back with a small group and see how it works having Pu-Pu's in the bar...

My Trader Vic's Palo Alto trip report:

I went to Trader Vic's last night (October 3, 2003) and was pleasantly suprised. The lights in the bar were darker than normal and they had Hawaiian music playing. Every seat/table in the bar area was taken, but no one was standing. One of the big New Guinea Tikis was missing from it's usual spot.

The drinks were great, as always. I ordered a Gun Club punch and the bartender said they "used to" serve them in the shotgun shell glass, but not any more. I thought that was odd. However, he was able to find one to serve me the drink in.

The quantity of bar food served has gone up for the price paid. They had changed the menu around a little bit, most notibly adding "Dinah's spicy wings" and "garic, brie, and bread". It's interesting to see the Dinah's wings added to the menu, since this Trader Vic's in on the property of the Dinah's Shack hotel, so there's a little cross-branding going on. We ordered a pizza and the cheese, and both were great. The cheese was 9 dollars, and it came with a clove of garlic and a half circle of brie -- it was a lot! And they brought more bread upon request.

They also had a sign promoting 4 dollar Mai Tais on Wednesday and Thursday nights, and an announcement of reinstating lunch during the weekdays (which had disappeared for a while).

Overall, I'd say this was the best visit to Trader Vic's Palo Alto I've had. The bar was more atmospheric than normal with the music and lights; bigger portions of food; the crowds were down from it's grand-opening days but the place was not dead; and the drink quality was up from my last visit (where they served me a mis-made Hot Buttered Rum).

I'm not sure how long this is going to last, but for the past few weeks in October 2003 Thursday nights have $4.00 Mai Tais until 8:30pm. I've been going and having a couple appetizers and a couple Mai Tais (calimari, and the baked brie). Note that the bar/appetizer menu has MORE appetizers listed than the table/entree menu. Also ask for the drink menu which is a 3rd menu.

The $4 Mai Tais are plain, decent, Trader Vics Mai Tais. But for a bit extra you can ask for the Mai Tai "The Old Way" and you will get a Mai Tai which is noticably more tasty. I'm not entirely sure how much more, as I'd already had a couple Mai Tais :) and the receipt was a bit confusing. The bill had 3 - $4 Mai Tais, then 1 - Open Liquor for $5, then 2 - Open Liquors for $1 each. I think there were only 3 Mai Tais involved though, 2 of which were the Old Way.

Thursday night also has a live quartet which sets up around 7:30-8'ish. The first night I went there was so-so, typical new age jazz, but the this week they seemed to have wised up and were playing Girl From Impanema and other similar songs.

Here are some pics from my visit this week to the Trader Vic's in Palo Alto. It certainly lacks the tikiness of some of the other TV's - the restaurant has a kind of a "country club" feel rather than true tiki, but the drinks are pure tiki, as with all TV's!

I agree with those who have dubbed this place "tiki lite". Still a good choice for dinner and drinks if you're in the area!

Me posing at the sign in front of the Palo Alto TV's - (photo credit "Equiwahine" (my wife, Amy):

The big tiki in front:

Front lanai at TV's, Palo Alto:

Hidden tiki near the front door:

A few cool masks on the wall:

Big tiki:

Big tiki detail:

Peek-a-boo tiki!!:

Colorful Polynesian mural in the main dining room:

Wall tiki:

Dining area:

Palm-wood tiki:

Tiki mask near elevator:

Tiki in the corner:

Big angry tiki:


Thanks for the pic's. father! :)

I often go up to Palo Alto on business trips. Can anybody say 'mai tai' and 'per diem'? Woo hoo!

I too noticed the rather different appearance of the Palo Alto Trader Vic's... it looks more like a mix of African and Asian, rather than Polynesian.

On the Trader Vic's Palo Altowebsite, they say:

'The new Trader Vic's location strays away from the Tiki bar idea toward a more refined concept. San Francisco architecture design firm, Architecture & Light, has created a space that remains true to the Polynesian theme while incorporating elegance and comfort. Throughout the restaurant is a collection of unique and authentic pieces from the private collection of Dinah's Garden Hotel owner Raymond Handley, an avid world traveler and rare art collector.'

Is this a sign of things to come for new Trader Vics?

BTW, there is a huge painting done by Mr. Bergeron himself, hanging in the stairwell on the way to the restrooms.


[ Edited by: tropicalguy 2005-08-27 11:39 ]


On 2005-08-26 22:03, tikipedia wrote:

On the Trader Vic's Palo Altowebsite, they say:

'The new Trader Vic's location strays away from the Tiki bar idea toward a more refined concept. San Francisco architecture design firm, Architecture & Light, has created a space that remains true to the Polynesian theme while incorporating elegance and comfort. Throughout the restaurant is a collection of unique and authentic pieces from the private collection of Dinah's Garden Hotel owner Raymond Handley, an avid world traveler and rare art collector.'

Is this a sign of things to come for new Trader Vics?

From what I heard, the Vic's Corporate folks wheren't pleased 9or something like that) with the end result of Palo Alto. That is why the new SF location is much closer to Trader Vics visual roots than the Palo Alto location.


Some more pictures of the Palo Alto Trader Vic's:


Just visted there yesterday.

The "remodel" was minimal.

The bar has not been touched as far as I can tell. The new Mai Tai Lounge is beyond the bar in the old right-hand dining room (the one furthest from the entrance). What they've done is sectioned off part of that dining room with a wooden divider, held in place by some guide wires. They painted that part of the ceiling a dark red and moved both booths from the Bar into the new area, as well as some tables. There's a giant tiki in the corner. We didn't recognize any new Tikis per se, it looks like just painting and rearranging of existing furniture and tikis took place.

The bar area looks exactly the same except the booths are missing. The booth closest to the entrance has been replaced with a table, while the booth farthest from the entrance is left empty, so a band can set up there. They were just setting up as we left. When the band is not scheduled to play I bet they move a table there.

So what did they achieve? It is better than the old bar, for sure. The lounge is darker and moodier thanks to the darkened ceiling. The huge tiki that is in the corner is a great one (humu got photos). The booths are better served in their new place, but the rest of the lounge just had regular table and chairs. And while it was too cold for them to do this today, the glass walls in that section can be opened completely to have it merge with the patio, so in the summer at night it could be really, really nice. We weren't there while the music was playing, but my guess is the lounge will be much quieter than the bar without it being silent, since the band sets up on the other side of the wall that divides the lounge from the bar.

Compared to other Trader Vic's, Palo Alto is still ranked pretty low in my book, but this new lounge makes it a bit better. It is now the preferred place to hang out at in this Vics.

Trip update:
The service, on the other hand, was disappointing.

We first ordered the happy hour MaiTais. They tasted wrong, for sure. They weren't weak, but they did not have the right amount of lime, and I think they were using poor quality rum.

The next time the waitress came around, we ordered two appetizers: the duck and the shrimp rolls. 20 minutes later, we still hadn't gotten them. When the waitress finally came around, I had already finished my Mai Tai. She informed us that they were out of the duck. I quizzed her about why it took her as long as it did to let us know that they were out of duck, and she said "they just found out". She then brought the shrimp rolls. Frankly, her answer made no sense.

The bar menu was the cheapest-looking menu I've ever seen in a Vics, quality-wise. It was sprinted with Microsoft Word fonts and assembled shoddily.

When we left around 7:30, every table in the bar and lounge was filled. I guess they're doing good business.

[ Edited by: hanford_lemoore 2006-02-17 14:49 ]


Gotta add my review. Been here twice before, but that was well before I discovered Tiki Central. Once was for dinner and drinks, the other at the bar for drinks only, and both were excellent, though I don't remember details. Warning: VERY long post ahead. Also know that I haven't had a lot of TV's drinks, so what I enjoy may still not be the "proper" preparation. Generally, I prefer tiki drinks to be complex - tart, sweet, bitter - not sickly sweet, but aside from that I could be "wrong" on some of these.

Dropped in around 6 PM on Thursday, the 28th of May. Bar was quite full, but we got two seats. As noted, no more booths in here, and it had a darker look to it. Not traditional TV's decor, no, but worlds better than, say, TV's Las Vegas was. Decor adds a lot to my enjoyment, and I love old-fashioned tiki bar clutter, so yes, this felt a bit clean and neat, but it was still relaxing.

We ordered the big pupu platter type affair, which came on a plate with a spirit lamp under it. Portions were smaller than I remember (only two ribs?) but it was all quite tasty. Our main focus, though, was the drinks. I brought a camera, but completely forgot to photograph anything I got, but remembering such things, needless to say, got more difficult as the night went on... Thank goodness I got a menu, or I'd never remember what we got.

I started with the Dr. Funk. Noted: while absinthe is now legal (and some old menus say "Sorry, no real absinthe any more!") Vic probably wouldn't have used it in the original; wile Vegas' menu noted Herbsaint but they only carry Pernod, Palo Alto's menu description mentions Pernod. So I asked - what DO you use in yours? They had Herbsaint! I had had this in Vegas and it was okay, but here it really was excellent. Nice drink, a little tart, deep rum flavor at the bottom with the heady aromas of Herbsaint and mint when I buried my nose in the top. I liked that they had a squeezer built to take lime halves, and put the husk in the drink, something that makes a novice like me smile. I think my BF had a Rangoon Ruby, basically a vodka-cran with lime, not really tiki but tasty.

Asked a few questions, chatted about unusual liqueurs, tender gave us a taste of one odd herbal bitters he had, and also discussed some of the non-Angostura bitters they had, including the wonderful Peychard's (I noticed they also carried Sazerac rye). We ordered the flaming beef, and I asked for a recommendation. Was pointed to something not on this particular menu, the Trader Vic's Grog. I'm partial to the Navy Grog, but this was also extremely tasty - I'd order it again. This took bitters, and he used Peychaud's at my request. My BF ordered the Gun Club Punch, and after I pointed out the shotgun shell mugs, it got served in a Starboard Light mug. When I asked about it, the tender told me he likes to use that one for it because it holds more liquid. The flaming beef was good, of course served with a little cast metal hibachi filled with chunks of Sterno.

Next up was calamari, a Fogcutter for him, and I asked for another recommendation - I remembered a reallty strong drink being noted somewhere on the Forum, and I love very potent drinks that actually have flavor, i.e. aren't a death drink (like the Adios Mother...) He knew exactly which one I meant: the Queen's Park Swizzle, "the strongest drink on our menu" he told me. One sip and I could tell it was killer, but it tasted great, which is more than I can say for some extra-strong drinks I've tried. I've had the Fogcutter before, and it was quite good, but the Queen's Park Swizzle and Trader Vic's Grog were standouts. The calamari was also very good, though I love fried calamari anywhere. This was light on the coating, which is always better, and very tender, not at all rubbery like bar food calamari always is.

As usual at any TV's, we ended the night with Black Stripes. Despite the hot weather, I always love this one, though Las Vegas put no spices in it, nor did they (claim was that they couldn't - can anyone confirm?) light it. Here, as on our past two visits, it was hot, strong and spiced, with that lovely blue flame on the top from the 151 float. I also asked about the differences between the gift-shop mixes and the bar mixes, and he, too, confirmed, stating that bar mixes were different only for the Grog and Mai Tai, and that he could sell me Grog mix for $10, but management no longer let him sell the bar Mai Tai mix. He told me they're changing menus soon, and passed me an extra cover (that "Rum, the spirit of the ages" is going up on my wall) as well as noting that gone would be the existing cover with the topless girls leanin' on the Trader censored with badly-added bikini tops. I find these censored covers rather funny.

I did snap a few photos, including the big painting that (I had no idea was) painted by Vic himself. I guess I know now why i was drawn to it. I asked the tender for his name, and he wrote down "Clinton", I'd try to go when he's working on my next visit. I'm 99% certain he was our tender the previous time, too. I told him a little bit about Tiki Central, and asked if I could take his picture and, further, post it. He agreed, and grabbed four bottles, all Trader Vic's official rums. Notice his very cool TV's-drinks Hawai'ian shirt - are these common employee wear? I've never seen one before. I also grabbed a few of the paper coasters, which list 28 TV's locations including the sadly-missed defunct Bellevue, WA location.

Here are some professional photos I found on-line of my beloved Trader Vic's Palo Alto. Some of you may say it was not tiki but in some ways it was more authentic tiki than any other tiki restaurant past or present. For starters they had the "Old School" Trader Vic's cocktail menu with over 45 classic Trader Vic drinks in the strong category, and they would make any old off-menu Trader Vic drink you requested. Mr. Raymond Handley, who was responsible for opening this, the first new Trader Vic's in approximately 28 years, was a world traveler who collected many authentic carvings from Papua New Guinea. He used the restaurant to showcase some of his collection. While these photos don't highlight the collection, believe me, drinking there was like visiting the De Young Museum Oceanic Arts collection where the docents wondered around serving stiff exotic cocktails! One of the bartenders was a Hawaiian entertainer. He was also responsible for the pre-recorded background music which was mostly modern Polynesian artists.

This is the upscale dining room known as the "Captain's Cabin". There were two paintings on the right wall (one seen here) that were painted by Trader Vic himself. The tapestry on the left wall is by Henry Moore, a famous British artist. The main dining room (not pictured) was to the right, beyond the intricately carved wooden partition wall.

A picture of their single Chinese Oven. These are built on site and must be demolished when the restaurant ceases operation. There is no practical way to move them!

Next to the bar was the Mai Tai Lounge. The imposing tiki in the right corner is actually a chair, facing backwards. It is a Papua New Guinea "Shaman's Stool" that the village elder would sit on when hearing and deciding upon concerns of the village.

The bar, which was the first room you would see upon entering the restaurant. The Mai Tai Lounge was behind the far mask wall.

For you south bay tikiphiles, you can still get a Trader Vic style Mai Tai at the adjoining Dinah's Poolside Restaurant, part of Dinah's hotel that owned Trader Vic's Palo Alto. Octavio, who worked at Trader Vic's Palo Alto, makes easily the best Mai Tai in the south bay. It is only $6 at lunch time and the food is great. If you go be sure to ask for Octavio's Mai Tai!

[ Edited by: TropicDrinkBoy 2013-05-05 16:53 ]

From the "add insult to injury" department this morning... I'm sitting at my desk, in Florida, and one of our vendors in Silicon Valley sends me an email invite to a seminar in Palo Alto. Dang, that address sure looks familiar... Yup, the event will be held at the restaurant which replaced Trader Vic's in Palo Alto. Here's their web site for anyone with a morbid interest:


Here's a screen shot of the property from Google Maps. Note the old landmark radio tower at the corner.

I miss this Vic's. It was elegant.

I agree. I also miss it but all is not lost. Dinah's serves very good Trader Vic style Mai Tais right next to the pool in your "bird's eye view"! I'm going to have a few there for lunch tomorrow.

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