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The Temple Bar: Great Mystery of Berkeley Tiki

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Is there anyone on this list (Jab?) who knows the story behind this place? I have driven past it, walked by it, tried to see inside, for year and it is NEVER open. Finally last week, the door was open! I ran in and a band was setting up to rehearse. They told me it was only open one Sunday a month for a luau. How is that possible? The band looked at me like I was a ghost. The place is pretty cool inside, with a nice old tiki in the back. There was a drink menu that looked promising on the front counter, but when I picked it up, (no kidding) about 50 cockroaches spilled out and scampered away. Ech.




That sounds GREAT!


It's true that they are only open once a month for a luau. They used to be open more often but not lately. I went once for the Sunday luau without reservations. It was packed but they had a small table left so we got menus. The vibe was weird becuase most everyone there knew each other. We kind of felt like we were crashing a private party. We waited a while and when nobody returned to ask us what we wanted we bailed.

I have been wanting to have an East Bay bar crawl for some time that might include the Temple Bar but would definately include:

Trader Vic's Emeryville

Club Mallard - an old hunting lodge themed bar. The best thing about it is they have 2 tiki patios, one downstairs and one upstairs. My girlfriend Robin did the decor for both including items from oceanic arts and a large mural she painted on the wall. The bar was mentioned in tiki news a few years back. Robin also is an excellent bartender there. She is "grog log trained" so makes great tropical drinks with fresh lemon and lime juices and such. There are other bartenders there who make excellent tropical drinks, especially Tage. So you can get good drinks and enjoy them on a tiki-themed patio!

Another good bar is Thalassa in downtown Berkeley on Shattuck. More tikis there and Robin designed the back bar in an underwater theme. The huge pool room has a gallery with many fine polyneisan art works and a Witco or 2.

Finally, we could visit the sites of the original Hinky Dink's, Trader Vic's Oakland (the 2 palm trees that fronted the place still stand), and Zombie Village (all gone).

Sounds like a good plan? Perhaps we could do it on Labor Day Weekend or some other time in September (not on the 21st. or 28th. of September, however, as there are already things happening those days). The next Temple Bar luau is on 9/1 at 3:30PM. But the cockroach tale has got me less enthusiastic about going there. It costs about $10 for the luau dinner buffet last I checked and comes with entertainment. Here's their web site:


The history page of the web site is interesting.

samoa posted on Thu, Aug 15, 2002 7:01 PM

strange place, sounds like that sign in steppenwolf "magic theatre entrance not for everybody"

[ Edited by: samoa on 2002-08-15 19:02 ]


I finally found out on the web site that the luau is happening on 9/1 and it's $9. A group called Shakka Bruddah's are playing.

It says "Good food and hearty beverages available!"

I wonder what's in a hearty beverage? Maybe a drink with a roach in it!

For $9 it may be worth going to sample the drinks, which only cost $4 and $5.


While in Berkeley go to Spats and order the fogcutter... has fog pouring out in abundance that covers the table! drink tastes great too.

[ Edited by: kahukini on 2002-08-15 20:40 ]



Thanks for all the info. Too bad I'll be out of town for this months. Your crawl sounds like an excellent idea. And I love the Mallard. You get Hunting Lodge and tiki bar all in one. Where did they get the illuminated blowfish?

I too felt not so welcome at the Temple Bar. Same as the Hukilau in SF. Sorry Gecko, but Pac Islanders in CA don't seem to care much for mainlanders.



I believe that the illuminated puffer fish in the Mallard came from Oceanic Arts.

I bet many people will be out of town on Labor Day weekend. It might be a bad weekend for an East Bay Crawl. I will be home and looking for something fun to do, seeing as I'm missing really good events in Austin (Greaseball), near Denver (big rock'n'roll show at Central City), Atlanta (drive-in movies with live bands), etc.

I hope to make it on the 21st., Martin. Put me down as tentative and I'll know more as the date approaches.


Did anyone go to the Labor Day Luau? Anything to report?

[ Edited by: filslash 2008-09-17 17:38 ]

Same experience for me. I travel up to the Berkely area on business quite often but can't seem to ever find the Temple Bar open. A couple of times I stopped by & found the door ajar, but was whoever was inside told me they weren't open. Strange place.


Whoa- long time no see. I ate there about two years ago. Dinner was passable, the dessert was sub-hospital quality, and the drinks were vile.

They seem to keep plugging along. The owners are islanders and have a VERY relaxed approach to success.

On 2006-10-13 23:03, martiki wrote:
The owners are islanders and have a VERY relaxed approach to success.

Relaxed...that's for sure!! After numerous attempts to visit Temple Bar, I noticed a sign in their window which read "Come Saturday ... East Bay Express (local paper) will be here taking photos" Cool, I thought, they'll definitely be open now. Got some folks together and headed down...closed!!! - with the sign still proudly in the window ?!!

foamy posted on Sun, Oct 15, 2006 4:14 AM

Temple Bar. Everytime I hear "temple," I think Masons and/or Shriner. The actual bar was transported from the original Temple Bar in London? I'm still thinking Masons. Ya never know.

There are two "temple bars", one in London and one in Dublin that it could be named after. It's thought that the London one is older (but nobody's certain)

The Temple Bar (It's a district in town) in Dublin some think was named after the one in London...but it's more likely named after Sir William Temple, provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1609.

Lots of Irish Historical things were based from the Temple Bar area before WWI (Joyce wrote much of Ullysses there...as every pub will inform you) and then again it had a huge cultural resurgence in the late 1970s as an area iconic to culture specifically Irish (as opposed to British)


The back bar is historic. It's a really beautiful piece, but it's kind of strangely out of place in the back of a hawaiian-themsed restaurant.

From their website:

This year with its fine handcrafted and massive rosewood and birch pillars, the Temple Bar takes its place as a survivor in the San Francisco 1906 Earthquake Centennial

The back bar, with its flowing arches, was built in Philadelphia in 1849 and is styled after the original Temple Bar in London, England. In 1856, the rosewood and birch back bar was brought around Cape Horn by clipper ship and stored in a warehouse in what is now San Francisco's Chinatown. Miraculously, it survived the 1906 earthquake and fire and in 1907 was moved into one of the first San Francisco buildings built after the earthquake, a location at 1 Tillman Place.

With the nearly hidden entrance, at the end of a long narrow brick walkway, the Templebar began life as a quiet stopping off place for San Franciscans. However, when William "Davey" Davenport bought the bar for three hundred dollars on a dare at midnight on Prohibition Eve, the Templebar lost some of its quiet obscurity, and San Francisco had its first tea room. The Temple Bar Tea Room dispensed a "lively" brand of tea in silver tea pots throughout prohibition.

It has also been rumored that the Templebar was once one of the City's most luxurious brothels, with its magnificent stairway leading to even quieter locations above the main floor.

After prohibition, the Templebar gained fame as a very "in" dinner house and entertained many celebrities of the 1930's, such as the famed actor, Wallace Beery.

Things quieted down during and after World War II and the Templebar began to take on a new identity, that of a solid luncheon spot with a lively cocktail hour.

In the late 40's telephone company executives discovered it and made it their favorite lunch spot. They decided to use the name Temple Bar as one of the telephone dial exchanges. Thus the exchanges were for example, Beacon, Landscape, and Templebar. Subsequent owners began to use the Templebar name for advertising.

If you are interested in more information about the Templebar, read The Great and Notorious Saloons of San Francisco by Jane Chamberlin. The Temple Bar is listed as one of fifty-five great saloons. Chamberlin says in her book, "The backbar may be the finest in all the city, a massive, brooding piece with flowing arches, finely carved from rosewood and birch. Fashioned in 1849 after the famous Temple Bar of London, it had the good fortune to be stored in the charmed Hotaling Warehouse when the quake and fire hit, avoiding a grievous fate."


They use to have Ukelele lessons on Tuesday nights at 7pm. It was totally communal. The teachers where basically the class attendees, they would show you the basics, give you some sheet music and then it was up to you to learn the songs (pratice makes perfect). I think every year the group that particpate in the class plays an Oakland A's game every year and the Solano Stroll. It was only $5 per lessons. It was really cool or still is.

..call me crazy, but i lost interest after the roaches ran out from under the menu....didn't anyone seem to catch that bit of info??? i can't believe that anyone here is actually considering eating or drinking in that establishment!! gross!! and what's worse, some of you are even stalking the place, waiting for a chance to get in where you can pick up an infestation and bring it back home to your own pad via your clothes....yeesh!! at some point, the enthusiasm of tiki must take a backseat to go ol' common sense and health.....just imagine what the kitchen looks like....***puke!!gag!!

Without having read the bit about the roaches, I ate at this place a couple of years ago.

The Jab even met me there, but chose not to eat.

Clearly, he read this thread before showing up.

Ignorance is bliss my friends - I didn't see any roaches and gamely dived into their buffet.

It was fair, edible.

Being hung over (Trader Vic's the previous night) I had quite a plateful, and as far as I know, consumed no insect parts.

And if I did... well, you know... PROTEIN.

My feeling about this place is that it is a hangout for the local Hawaiian population, and as we all know, their lifestlye is somewhat more relaxed than what we're used to here on the mainland. They open when they feel like it, truly islands-style! Hey, maybe the roaches were brought in from Hawaii to lend authenticity?

Most of the people in there on the Sunday afternoon I was there seemed to know each other, there was a good vibe of aloha in the place, and the (live) music was pretty good.

Not a Tiki bar - just a clubhouse for the local Hawaiians to meet up.

If they hire an exterminator then really, there's not much to compain about. Just do not expect the Mai Kai. It isn't - and isn't trying to be - that.

[ Edited by: tikibars 2006-10-18 12:50 ]

I am proud to announce to the world that, yes indeed, I have been inside the Temple Bar and even got to order drinks! It was about a year ago on a crisp Saturday evening. I was picking up a group of pals from out of town who had been to the Cal game and thought it'd be fun to try out this mysterious joint. Of course, it was closed when I first went by, but the sign promised an open door an hour later. Once I retrieved my football fanatic friends, we went back and found, amazingly enough, that the place was open for business. The four of us were the only people in there on a Saturday evening and we took our places at the bar. The proprietor, Uncle Kem, immediately ingratiated himself to us. A very kindly elder Hawaiian, he had great stories about his home on Kauai as well as about his life as a musician. We all ordered off the tropical cocktail menu and Uncle Kem ambled down to the far side of the bar to start fixin' 'em up. This took about 10 minutes(for four drinks) as he carefully hunted the bar for all the ingredients and then exactly measured out all the proportions. Better late than never, though as they were all quie nice(and cheap!). No dinner was being served, and over the hour that we were there, no other folks came in. We enjoyed ourselves and Uncle Kem's company and look forward to getting back for their monthly Sunday buffet and jam session. Who knows?!?!

-Weird Unc

p.s. No cucarachas were seen.

oops. wrong button.

[ Edited by: tikibars 2006-10-18 12:51 ]

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