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If you had 1 day in San Francisco

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Which Tiki Bar would you go to? I am torn between going to Trader Vic's in Emeryville, Tonga Room, and Smuggler's Cove. Leaning Smugglers Cove, but it lacks the historical stuff I am interested in. I've never been to any of these spots, so it'd be appreciated for some recommendations/other spots I am not thinking of! Mind you, I would not have a car.


Which day of the week, and where are you staying? Those two factors can make a huge difference. Any of those three are going to be well worth your time, so you can't go wrong!

What Humu said.

I'd recommend having dinner at Tonga Room (open Wednesday through Sunday), then take a five minute taxi ride to Smuggler's Cove (open every day). If you're in town Monday or Tuesday, Trader Vic's!

We are there on a Friday, which makes me nervous (i lived in SF for a bit and never went out on weekends), and we are staying in Union Square.

You will be very close to the Tonga Room, then.


If I were in your shoes, I think I would do what Loki-Tiki said: Tonga Room early, then Smuggler's Cove by taxi.

Tonga Room opens at 5, but they don't start serving dinner until 6. They have a happy hour buffet going at 5, but it's pretty awful. You'd want to get out of there before the band starts playing, usually 8pm, because the band is terrible AND they'll charge you a steep cover charge to stay after that point.

Fridays at Smuggler's Cove can be very busy, and you should brace yourself for a line. However, the pattern generally seems to be that there's a bit of a push in the early evening for the after-work Friday crowd, and then another later push for the folks going out for a night on the town. 8pm feels like it could be a sweet spot between those two, but I'm not super familiar with the Friday patterns, and you can't count on a lull. Be prepared to wait in line for a bit. But once you're inside, it's lovely (that's the nice part of that line -- it keeps the crowd very manageable inside).

Getting over the Bay Bridge on a Friday can be just absolute hell, to be honest. I don't know when it dies down, but rush hour starts early on Fridays, and it's miserable. I once had plans to go to Emeryville for dinner at 7pm on a Friday... I was in traffic on surface streets just trying to get onto the bridge for 45 minutes. I gave up, called to cancel my reservation, and went home. So if you do want to try to do Emeryville, don't plan on cabbing it. I would advise taking BART to the MacArthur station in Oakland, and then a cab/Uber to Trader Vic's (which is darned easy, it's a short ride).

If you're feeling a little Amazing Race-y, you could fit all three into one night. Tonga for a drink right at 5, Emeryville for dinner, then Cove. Cove is walkable from the Civic Center BART station.


Another option would be to start your evening in the East Bay at Trader Vic's for the 4:00 o'clock happy hour, then head back into the city for Tonga Room at 6:00 and Smuggler's Cove around 8:00.

If you arrive at Smuggler's Cove pretty much any time between 6:00-7:30 or 9:00-12:00, you'll likely run into a rather long wait. I get the sense that a lot of people going to the opera, symphony, or other entertainment events in the area, usually leave the Cove around 7:30, but the after-dinner crowd comes in around 9:00ish.

If you don't want to try to squeeze in all three in one night, and if you don't mind the cheesy band at Tonga Room, then get to Smuggler's Cove when they open right at 5:00, then go to the Tonga Room for dinner (please note that Smuggler's Cove does not serve food). If you're going to the Tonga Room for dinner, you should probably make a reservation as there can sometimes be a line just to get into the bar. I expect the dining room has an even longer wait for drop-ins.

Of the three, the cocktails are definitely the best at Smuggler's Cove. That being said, the drinks at the Tonga Room have improved dramatically in the past year when they hired a new F&B manager and started using real juices, and high quality syrups, spirits, etc. They even have a drink on the menu that was submitted by Martin Cate (martiki) of Smuggler's Cove. Although Smuggler's Cove may not have the historical aspect you're looking for, there is actually quite a bit of tiki history in many of the decor items, and you'd never know by looking around that it's only been there for just under five years. The interior is very much classic tiki and feels weathered and collected.

I would recommended a drink in the Tonga Room to take in the amazing decor and then taxi to Smugglers Cove to enjoy the best drinks, great nautical decor and the lovely staff.

This is stellar advice! I will make some reservations now!

If I had 1 day in San Francisco I would be sad. There is so much to see and do in the City that picking and choosing is hard....

Some others have said similar and I agree. Start with a light dinner at Trader Vic's Emeryville. Normally a Tiki Bar should not have so many windows, but when the view with your dinner and Mai Tai is sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge.... the windows can be forgiven.

Suffer the traffic back to the City and hit the Tonga Room for a drink. Its been a while since I have been there, but from what I hear you can still skip having anything to eat there. Do take a bit of extra time and go upstairs in the hotel and look at the great pictures of early San Francisco.

Hop a cab over to Smugglers Cove. Please take lots of pictures because I haven't been able to get there yet and I want to live vicariously through your photos and story.

If you have any sobriety left and are looking for an adventure, take a cab out into the Avenues and go to Trad'r Sams. (locals, please tell me its still open!) The drinks aren't very good, but the decor is (used to be) so much fun!


Trad'r Sam is still there! But I cannot recommend it on a Friday night, it's not worth the trip. I was there on a Friday a couple of months ago, the place was standing room only (and not much of that) with a very young crowd, with horrible music blasting. The details are still all there! And the drinks are still undrinkable. Good ol' Sam's. If you have time to kill before the other places open, you might consider cabbing out there to take a peek, but I wouldn't go all the way out there in the evening. It opens at 9:00 am. It's got to have some fantastic people watching at that hour, eh?

If you're into cocktails and you go out to Sam's, it's worth noting that Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, right across the street, is one of the most famous tequila/margarita bars in the world. Tommy's opens at noon, but I'm not sure if the bar is open at that hour.

I am actually going to be in the city for three days, but most of it will be wedding/catching up with friends, so Friday has been put away for Tiki time. Most of the places I hung out at when I lived in SF are closed, and the Tiki love is new to me, so I have a lot to cram into a small trip. Luckily, driving down to San Diego and visiting a ton of places on the way down/in SD.

You didn't say when you were going so you will have to double check if it is open yet before you go.....

If you go over to the East Bay for Trader Vics, take a cab over to Longitude for a cocktail. Most exotic than Tiki, but the drinks are sure to be top notch and worth the trip.



1st post!

I know it can be a bugger to get across the bay but no mention of Forbidden Island in Alameda?

Thanks for the recommendations everyone! I ended up staying at Smuggler's Cove a LITTLE longer than I probably should have, but had some amazing cocktails and met some nice folks. Can't wait to go back with more time to see more stuff!! Tried to go to Trader Vic's when our plane landed, but they close so early!


On 2014-08-22 13:26, RyanTheTerrible wrote:
I ended up staying at Smuggler's Cove a LITTLE longer than I probably should have...

That happens to me ALL the time! Was that this past Friday, the 15th? You didn't happen to meet me there did you? My memory of nights at the Cove seems to get fuzzier and fuzzier.

Don't forget to pay a visit to Tiki Bob: http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=6319&forum=2

On 2014-08-22 16:09, JenTiki wrote:

On 2014-08-22 13:26, RyanTheTerrible wrote:
I ended up staying at Smuggler's Cove a LITTLE longer than I probably should have...

That happens to me ALL the time! Was that this past Friday, the 15th? You didn't happen to meet me there did you? My memory of nights at the Cove seems to get fuzzier and fuzzier.

it WAS the 15th, but I do not recall meeting anyone named Jen. I was in the downstairs with my girlfriend and two friends of mine, we met 4 business dudes and a nice couple, then 3 more pals showed up and it was a nice party!

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