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Which Tiki bars does GROG need to see in the Bay area?

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GROG posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2022 3:29 PM

GROG going to Walnut Creek to Tiki Tom's on Halloween for BenZombie party. GROG want to hit some tiki bars in the Bay area while GROG is up there for a few days. Which tiki bars are a "must see" for GROG while GROG in the area. Tonga Room is definitely on the list, and probably Forbidden Island as well. Feedback welcome, and if you are in the area and want to join GROG at one, or some of the bars, let GROG know here and see if we can schedule a meet up.

[ Edited by ernimator on 2022-10-26 14:47:32 ]

Hamo posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2022 10:43 PM

GROG!!! Sorry I won't be there, so I hope you can still enjoy yourself....

Have you been anywhere in the Bay already? I totally recommend Forbidden Island and Tonga Room. You might consider Trader Vic's, since I'd heard its lease might be up soon, requiring relocation. I haven't been to Zombie Village or Pagan Idol yet, but they're on my list.

[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-10-25 22:44:32 ]

Zombie Village and Smugglers Cove, of course. In any other city Pagan Idol would be amazing but here in SF it's just fine.

GROG posted on Wed, Oct 26, 2022 2:49 PM

Thanks for the feedback. GROG hasn't been to any tiki bars in the Bay Area. GROG looking forward to it.

We have a travel guide here, which includes descriptions and such - but also ratings on various categories. So if you're a "decor" person you can make an informed decision of the relative strengths/weaknesses compared to a "cocktails" person.


I would say that if you can make it to San Jose to see Dr. Funk you won't regret it. And that if you've never been to Trader Vic's you should strongly prioritize that one.

Much appreciated. I will check it out.

GROG posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2022 10:26 AM

Do I need to get a reservation to visit any of the tiki bars in Bay Area? I did a road trip recently to Texas from California and went to 5 tiki bars along the way, and the only one I needed a reservation for was Tiki Tatsu-ya in Austin, TX.

Grog, The Wife and I just did this same thing the first week of October--hitting as many Bay Area tiki spots as we could manage. I've yet to do writeups on them but here's our list:

WEDNESDAY Trad'r Sam (San Francisco) Tonga Room (San Francisco) Zombie Village (San Francisco) Smuggler's Cove (San Francisco)

THURSDAY Winchester House (not tiki) (San Jose) Dr. Funk (San Jose) Last Rites (San Francisco)

FRIDAY de Young Museum (large PNG art collection) (San Francisco) Trader Vic's (Emeryville) Forbidden Island (Alameda) Pagan Idol (San Francisco)

Trad'r Sam, as is well-documented, is an absolute dive with cocktails sketchy even by 1980s standards, but it was a great deal of fun. We arrived shortly after opening before it got crowded with regulars. The owner, Angie, is a real character.

Tonga Room is the Tonga Room: Good food, okay drinks. You go for the history and ambience.

Zombie Village is in the Tenderloin, with the homelessness and open drug use on the streets that entails, so plan accordingly.

Smuggler's Cove has fantastic drinks. For a three level bar, it's way smaller than what we expected.

Dr. Funk was an enjoyable, neo-classical tiki bar. It's a bit out of the way, but we built in a visit to the Winchester House.

Last Rites is technically not tiki, but the plane-crash-in-remote-jungle concept was quite well done (and yes, it's absolutely a tiki bar).

Trader Vic's was the impetus for this trip, as we wanted to visit at least once before the (potentially) lose their lease.

Forbidden Island has the tiki-bar-as-a-neighborhood-bar vibe down pat. That's not easy to pull off.

Pagan Idol was dazzling, but later in the evening it filled up with young hipsters doing tequila shots which killed the tiki vibe. Go early or midweek if you visit.

Each bar we visited had a distinct identity. Not a stinker in the bunch. Looking back, we shouldn't have front-loaded day one so heavily but weren't sure if we'd be able to get into most places later in the week.

We had reservations for Zombie Village, Dr. Funk and Pagan Idol. I believe those were the only ones offering reservations. Turns out we didn't need them, although Pagan Idol did fill up Friday evening so had we arrived after 10 they'd have definitely been necessary.

Mucho thanks Prikli Pear. This is info exactly what I was looking for.

GROG posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2022 7:48 PM

Did you stay in one hotel that was pretty centrally located between all the bars, or did you stay at several locations?

Ernie, we stayed at the Cartwright, which was within easy walking distance of Pagan Idol and Tonga Room (but Tonga was seriously uphill!). Plus Chinatown is right there as well. And the original Tiki Bob is two blocks away (Honey Honey is an excellent breakfast destination). Zombie Village is technically within walking distance, but we took a Lyft, because Tenderloin (Bourbon & Branch is a block away from Zombie, if you want to check out one of the OG craft cocktail spots in SF).

We took Lyft to Last Rites and Smuggler's Cove. We used our rental car to get to San Jose and across the bay. Trad'r Sam's is two blocks from Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, so our plan was to get fajitas and an original Tommy's margarita for lunch... but our flight was delayed and it took two hour to get our rental car, so lunch plans were scuttled.

The information is MUCH appreciated. Thank you very much.

My pleasure! If we'd had an additional day we'd have ventured over to Tiki Tom's, Kon-Tiki Oakland, Trader Vic's grave, etc. But we just didn't have that luxury this time around.

And the next time you're in Texas, give a shout. We're between Austin and San Antonio, a convenient detour for folks traveling between Hugman's and Tiki Tatsu-ya!

GROG posted on Fri, Oct 28, 2022 11:21 AM

I will let you know next time I'm heading to Texas---maybe go to the Wurstfest or intertubing down the Guadalupe or Comal river, or hit Gruene Hall for some music.

We live about 5 miles from Gruene Hall. Easy access!

Hamo posted on Thu, Nov 3, 2022 9:15 PM

GROG, how was your trip? Do you remember it?

The trip was a blast. Tiki Tom's is an amazing looking bar and the owners are awesome hosts. The staff is great. I didn't have too many drinks, but I enjoyed every drink I had there.

I got up there late, so I didn't get to go to any other bars. Trader Vics was closed on Monday when I wanted to go.

I didn't stay up there as long as I was going to originally. I just got back from a 2 week round trip to Texas for a high school reunion (I hit 5 tiki bars along the way), so I didn't want to spend a whole lot more money than I already have.

Thanks for all the info here. Just finished whirlwind trip to the bay area. No car, so didn't venture far afield, but still managed to make it to most mentioned here. Descriptions pretty spot-on.

Will add that there is a L & L Hawaiian BBQ just across the street from Pagan Island, if you are over 65 and using public transport, get a senior Clipper Card at the Ferry Terminal, and Trad'r Sam is currently closed with an owner dispute, and most do not expect to re-open. thx again

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