Posted in Damon's with tags , , , , , on December 3, 2011 by Trader Vince

The original Damon’s opened in Glendale, CA, in 1937 and is no longer open. This location, the second of two, opened not very far from the original in 1980. It’s large, warm, and dark inside, boasting several impressive murals, wall to wall bamboo, thatch, fake plants, and an older staff that’s always charmingly quirky. The menu is of the old-school comfort food variety (steaks, burgers, fish sandwiches), and their featured drinks—the Mai Tai and Chi Chi—are nothing fancy, but pack a wallop.

317 North Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

Maui & Sons Bar & Grill

Posted in Maui & Sons Bar & Grill with tags , , , , on November 13, 2011 by Trader Vince

It was early fall and Swabbie Chadd and I had just finished a marathon triple-feature of Halloween I, II, & III at the Egyptian Theater, when we literally stumbled upon the Maui & Sons Bar & Grill next door. We made plans to return as soon as possible, because where better to have a Tropical Adventure than Hollywood Blvd?

I mean, it worked for Donn Beach when he opened his Don the Beachcomber Cafe in 1934. In fact, Don’s Cafe was located on 1722 N. McCadden Place, which according to Google maps is only 453 feet away from Maui & Sons. 77 years later and you can still buy a version of Don’s most famous Hollywood tropical cocktail:  the Zombie. Very cool.

Maui & Sons Bar & Grill opened in January 2011. It’s got an open-air surf shack/sports bar vibe, and being on Hollywood Blvd, caters primarily to tourist foot traffic. The tropical cocktails are overly sweet and would piss Donn off for besmirching his legacy, but the food is better than you’d think. I had a blackened fish sandwich, fries, and a Caesar salad. Swabbie Chadd had some tacos. For dessert, we shared the deep-fried widow maker below.

In summary, the first Halloween is the best, followed by Halloween III. Part II is a travesty. Jamie Lee Curtis is stuck in a hospital bed for 75% of the film, then stumbles around in a drugged stupor the entire 3rd act. That’s no way to treat your heroine. Now enjoy a Zombie and the Halloween III Silver Shamrock commercial.


Posted in Bahooka with tags , , , , on October 25, 2011 by Trader Vince

After a very successful trip to Oceanic Arts, Swabbie Chadd and I sailed over to Bahooka on a balmy day to get some grub and libations. Bahooka opened its doors in 1976 and was the second of two locations. The original West Covina location opened in 1967 and closed in 1980 in a lease dispute.

Everything about Bahooka is large. When you enter you immediatley find yourself at the mouth of a giant dark maze of wooden tables suspended by heavy-duty naval chains, 110 oversized fish tanks, tiki statues, and colorful lights. Everything works together to give the impression that you’re below deck in a garish Las Vegas galleon heading to the land of deep fried foods and faux-tropical cocktails. Which makes sense since they filmed a scene from Fear & Loathng in Las Vegas here. To make it even more surreal, it was decked out with Halloween decorations.

Oceanic Arts

Posted in Oceanic Arts with tags , , on October 25, 2011 by Trader Vince

Swabbie Chadd had wanted to go to Oceanic Arts in Whittier, CA for years, and this week we finally made his special dream come true. But never being fully content on a Tropical Adventure that doesn’t involve cocktails, I, Trader Vince, took a page from Steve Jobs and suggested One More Thing: we also hit up Bahooka, which is only 20 minutes away in Rosemead, CA. Without hesitation, Swabbie Chadd agreed.

Oceanic Arts has been the world’s leading supplier of tropical and polynesian decor since 1956. From their giant warehouse, they sell and rent everything from wooden tikis and signs, to shields and masks, to light fixtures and thatch umbrellas, to cocktails glasses and tiki mugs. If you see any of these items in restaurants, hotels, movies, or home bars, there’s a high probability Oceanic Arts was somehow involved.

Lastly, the folks who run it are incredibly helpful and love what they do. Tell them it’s your first time and you might just walk away with a parting gift: in our case, handy little notepads and tiki stir sticks.

For the second half of this Tropical Adventure, see my Bahooka entry.

Milagro Tequila

Posted in Products with tags on September 2, 2011 by Trader Vince

The folks at Milagro were kind enough to send me over a couple bottles of their Limited Edition Select Barrel Reserve, one an amber Reposado, the other a crystal clear Silver. Before even cracking them open, you can’t help but notice the beautiful glass agave sculptures in the heart of the bottles.

The Silver is triple-distilled in small batches from 100% estate-grown blue agave, then mellowed in French white oak barrels for approximately 35 days. The Reposado, for 10 months. Both have taken home gold medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

They also sent along some delicious recipes. As Swabbie Laura and I were headed out the door for a magic-filled night at Los Angeles’s own Magic Castle, we opted for the simplest of them: the Freshest Margarita. It’s aptly named, because we both found it incredibly smooth and fruity—in other words, everything you need for a refreshing Labor Day cocktail.


2 oz Milagro Silver

1 oz Lime Juice (fresh squeezed)

.75 oz Agave Nectar

Shake and serve over ice. Garnish with a salt rim & lime.


Trader Sam’s

Posted in Trader Sam's with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2011 by Trader Vince

To my great delight, Trader Sam’s opened its doors on May 25, 2011. Located next to the Disneyland Hotel, I was very excited to see what Disney magic would bring to the neo-tropical movement. With Swabbie Chadd at the helm, we sailed east on the 10 freeway to the city they call Anaheim to put Sam’s to the test. After spending a few hours there, where we carefully put into action our refined tastes and extensive cocktail knowledge, Swabby Chadd and I decided that we whole-heartedly approve. Who are we kidding, we were won over by the mere idea there was a dark bar on Disney property that served cocktails. The fact that we actually enjoyed everything was just gravy.

Sam’s exterior is in the A-frame tradition, although much more petite than the A-frames of yesteryear. The well manicured flora and metal tiki torches also reminded me of Mama’s Fish House on Maui, a delightful escapist compound designed for tourists.

As we headed inside, we passed a shifty twenty-something smoking a cigarette. He warned us about some funky chairs at the bar, chairs that we should avoid. We smiled and moved on, thinking he was baked.

Once inside, we found a beautifully lit three-sided bar with 16 stools, and came to find out three of them are gag stools (on hydraulic lifts) that ever so slowly lower the unassuming drinker to make him feel as if he’s had one too many. The way we found out is that I was fortunate enough to sit in one. The effect is very surreal and I was literally chin-level to the bar before I even noticed—and I was only a quarter way through my first Mai Tai. I can only imagine that the bartenders, who have full control of the stools, really mess with drunk customers they don’t like. I know I would.

Moving onto the drink menu, they had 12 tropical specialty concoctions. I had 3 of them (HippopotaMai Tai, Shrunken Zombie Head, Lost Safari) and Swabbie Chadd had 2 (Piranah Pool, Shipwreck On The Rocks). I’m clearly more manly. Two of their drinks, much like the Tiki-Ti’s ritual, come with a production and some chanting. I’ll let you discover those on your own.

Here’s the beautifully garnished drinks themselves, which all tended towards the sweet side. I love that we’re about to get toasty and it’s starting with this napkin:

Sam’s also serves food. We sampled the Fish Tacos, Cheese Flatbread, and Planko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans. They all hit the spot.

As a bonus, a photo of the Trader on the aforementioned gag chair. Swabbie Chadd is bemused and feeling no pain.

For our first Trader Sam’s adventure, we did it up right. We enjoyed the drinks, the food, the Enchanted Tiki Room design, the integration of the Jungle Cruise mythology—and on a hot summer day, the air conditioning. Overall, Don the Beachcomber by way of Trader Vic’s by way of Tiki-Ti by way of Disney really works.

After we bid Sam goodbye, Swabbie Chadd and I felt like some hearty Southern cooking and headed over to Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. He had the Royal Chicken and a Southern Peach Tea, I opted for the BBQ Shrimp & Grits and a Hurricane. We capped it all off with some delicious Beignets and strawberries.

Being inebriated and full, we thought the best thing to do at that point was to wander Downtown Disney and buy caramel apples and chocolate dipped coconut patties. The night was such a success in fact, we didn’t even make it home. We ended up booking a room at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and spending the night. Now that’s some Disney magic!

Duke’s (Malibu)

Posted in Duke's with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2011 by Trader Vince

Duke’s is part of a small chain named after Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), Olympic gold winning swimmer and the “Father of International Surfing.” Other Duke’s locations include Huntingon Beach, Maui, Kawai, and Waikiki. The Malibu location is located right on the beach and is a very popular tourist destination. Inside, there are several large dining and banquet rooms, as well as several bars, all of which showcacse pictures and vintage collectables that pay tribute to the beach lifestyle and early days of Malibu surfing. And I’m not sure exactly what her job entails, but per the website, “Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the inspiration for the Gidget novel, movie and TV series that sparked the California surfing craze, works at Duke’s Malibu as our Ambassador of Aloha.” Kathy wasn’t there the day I visited, so I missed her Aloha. Finally, I give major props to Swabbie Laura for taking the following photos, as I was on crutches due to a ruptured achilles tendon. I was still able to drink a Mai Tai though, so all wasn’t lost.

Overall, the food and cocktails are very good and decently priced. It’s that damn gorgeous view they make you pay for.

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