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Burt Lee's Tahiti, Salem, OR (restaurant)

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Name:Burt Lee's Tahiti
Street:Liberty St. at State St.

Burt Lee's Tahiti, had a large tiki statue out front, and inside it was dark, smoky, and covered in bamboo, thatch and other tropical decor. The drinks were very strong, and it was the most popular hang out for law students, local alcoholics, and drunk rednecks. A law school class mate of mine was this huge Irish guy nicknamed Big Bear, and he had a large midori drink there named after him.

They had excellent chicken fingers or fries with ranch which they made by hand. The food was overpriced, but a club sandwich or au jus was just the thing after hours of martinis or Sinful Surfers, cigarettes and cigars, etc. I went there very Wed. from 9 pm to midnight to play poker with some buddies (for "community service" hours).

Around 1998 or so a girl went missing and was last seen here. She was an undergrad who got really tanked one night and walked outside to get some air. She was sitting on the curb and two guys who worked at a restaurant nearby as busboys picked her up, brought her to the woods, did evil things and then killed her. That was the last straw for the nearby merchants, who were tired of all the late night police calls. So the bank next door forced Burt to sell so it could tear the place down so that area could be a drive through for the bank (everything in Oregon is drive through). He claimed to want to open a place up in Silverton in order to get a higher price for the "goodwill" value of the biz, but I don't know if he ever did.

Underneath the site was a tunnel to the biz building next door, which back in the 60's or so, biz guys would bring their secretaries for some hot tub action in the basement and other things, according to my friend Carl Crowell (Attorney at Law in Salem) who was friends with Burt.

Fond memories I have include: a woman doing phone sex at the pay phone outside as a drunkard peed on people walking in; a guy at the bar bragging about how he just got out of jail for beating up his girlfriend; some college guy reaching over the counter when the bartender wasn't looking and stuffing two open bottles into his pants pockets (she did find out); me losing my camera after a Halloween party and too many Grasshoppers (some random guy bought them for me); the bartender George (now deceased) chewing out the female bartender for cutting a guy off "You not human!" he said.

Ah, I miss it. I was there one Friday night studying for law school finals when some reporter took my picture for a "cocktail nation" article. I got a lot of crap about it from the professors, but I still got A's. This article and the menu I have and will scan in someday when I "get around to it."

[ Edited by: hanford_lemoore on 2003-07-25 03:50 ]

I remember the place. The front was very cool and always facinated me as a kid. I went there in the 80's and then once in the early 90's. The food was not even that great and overpriced. Yeah, you described the seedy downfall of the place. Wasn't there another murder tied to the restuarant? Plus liquor licence violations. It is a shame to lose fun tiki places, but a place like that is better off shut down. Maybe a new owner could have restored it, but I don't think the interest was there. I really miss seeing the tiki front downtown. Thanks for posting, I have been curious.

Dang! So where is the menu and the article, dangergirl? And matchbooks...and photos...

dang is right. I just searched my house and I believe the goods are in a box that is comprising one leg of my tiki bar. So, until I have the clams to upgrade my tiki bar, the menu and stuff is in tiki purgatory...

Well, that sounds like an interesting Tiki bar...show a photo of that ! :)

I've been searching for years for a picture of the front of this place and still have found nothing. There is even a facebook page dedicated to the memory of this place but no one has pictures of the outside.

Here's bump and a request for pics if anyone has.



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