Archive for bars


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.

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.

Bali Hai Restaurant

Posted in Bali Hai Restaurant with tags , , , , , on June 10, 2011 by Trader Vince

Bali Hai opened its polynesian doors for business in 1954 under the name The Hut, a subsidiary of Christian’s Hut in Newport Beach, CA. Struggling financially, it rebranded itself a few years later and has been known as Bali Hai ever since. Located on Shelter Island (a neighborhood of Point Loma in San Diego, CA), Bali Hai recently underwent a substantial 3.5 million remodel. I missed out on the original, but here’s what it’s looking like now:

On the very top of the building, what looks like a shrunken zombie head in a chef’s hat, is the original mascot The Goof—who’s somewhat of a remnant of The Hut era and who’s history is a little muddy. Standing guard by the front door in the lower left of frame is their second mascot, Mr. Bali Hai, who was introduced after the name change.

On the night I was visited they didn’t burn the torches, so perhaps they’re just reserved for special events like corporate parties, weddings, or headhunting raids from neighboring tribal villages.

Mr. Bali Hai has suffered from wood rot and other traumas through the years, but he’s looking like a seasoned veteran these days. Perhaps one day he’ll even get the white bone back through his nostrils—unless that was just a teenage phase of his.

The centrally located bar has a great panoramic view of the bay.

Directly above the bar, this was my favorite detail of the interior. Rich and glossy wood, beautifully lit, it’s easily 20 feet high.

The shadowbox on the upstairs landing could easily be a prop from Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic.

A view from the dining room of downtown San Diego. I liked the mashed potatoes and was told by Swabbie Laura and Swabbie Tim that the scallop entrees were delicious (the bland gnocchi not so much).

As an old-school tropical cocktail purist, I found the 2 drinks I sampled (Mai Tai & Navy Grog) to be wanting. In any bar that prides itself on traditional tropical drinks, the Mai Tai serves as a litmus test to the integrity of the entire menu. The Trader likes to keep it positive, so I’ll withhold saying my drinks were subpar and amateurish—especially for a restaurant who’s had so much time to hone their recipes. I will however say that Swabbie Stacie’s blended Lava Slide was a milkshake-esque delight.

And now I must leave you with a song from South Pacific.

Thatch Tiki Bar

Posted in Thatch Tiki Bar with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by Trader Vince

After being at sea for 16 hours, Swabbie Chadd and I arrived at Portland’s Thatch at 6pm on a Friday ready to drink. Tucked into a quaint storefront on Broadway, it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. What I was expecting to find was a dark little Tiki bar, but to my pleasant surprise they had warm natural lighting and a terrific food menu to boot. As I didn’t get a good picture of the exterior (I was dangerously sober upon arrival), let’s start with the interior and work our way into it:

Booth view looking out the front window. The vibe of the neighborhood is relaxed residential, and there’s lots of shops along Broadway as well.

Settle into one of the half-dozen or so comfortable booths and have a drink why don’t you. Or seven. There’s plenty of cabs.

Love their wood floor, Eames chairs, plants, stellar lamps, and bamboo ceiling. It really felt retro and lived in, like it’s been there longer than its established date of 2007. That’s due in no small part to the owner’s keen eye for authenticity, and the fact that some of his decor was picked up from the now defunct Jasmine Tree chinese restaurant—who got some of their decor from the defunct Portland Kon-Tiki. It’s cool to see the decor live on because you can really feel the rich history in it.

Under the bar is some of that much talked about thatch. Who doesn’t love thatch? It’s wonderfully thatchy.

Michael fits perfectly into the festive and garish environment, staring down at the drinkers with a bemused smile. I want that jacket. Time to move onto the drink menu, Mr. Jackson:

Laminated and easy to read (even after a few), the Thatch menu very impressively has a handle on the Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber classics, as well as a few of their own: including the Craig’s Mistake, a winking homage to the Tiki-Ti’s Ray’s Mistake.

Swabbie Chadd had the drink on the left, a Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai. According to the menu, “A Hawaiian twist on the Mai Tai, combining pineapple, orange juice, grenadine, and a blend of dark and light rum.” I had the drink on the right, an “authentic Trader Vic’s recipe of Puerto Rican Gold Rum, Jamaican Dark Rum, fresh-squeezed lime, orange Curacao, and a splash of orgeat. Garnished with aromatic mint and a spent lime shell.” Both were stellar.

The Zombie. “Don the Beachcomber’s most notorious drink, this is a simplified version of the 1934 original. Cinnamon, grapefruit, lime, and a blend of aged and overproof rums create a drink to wake the living dead!” By simplified they mean they use Trader Tiki’s Don’s Mix, a hand-crafted syrup made in Portland. For info on Trader Tiki Syrups, see my entry here.

It didn’t photograph that well, but if you look closely at the top of this drink you’ll see fire, which burned for a good three or four minutes inside a spent lime shell. The Lift-Off is “a take on Donn Beach’s classic recipes, with orange, lime, cinnamon, falernum, and a blend of dark and overproof rums, served with crushed ice.” This one put Swabbie Chadd under the table. He said he was just looking for loose change, but that doesn’t explain the drooling and speaking in tongues.

The official Thatch mug, which according to the menu is of Marquesan origin. They surmise it’s a god sitting on a baby, but it could also represent drunkenly trying to hide your girlfriend from your wife. To the food menu!

Very Trader Vic inspired food, I had two items on the menu: the Crab Rangoon and the Breaded Shrimp. Both were great. In fact, better than the versions they serve at Trader Vic’s in Los Angeles, which taste bland in a chain restaurant sort of way. These felt homemade in a good way.

The breaded shrimp with sweet chili sauce was terrific, and the rice with teriyaki glaze and sesame seeds was a great touch. Well, my maiden voyage at Thatch was a success: the vibe was friendly, the food and drinks were dynamite, all in all a great little piece of tropical escapism right in the heart of Portland. Well done, Team Thatch. And now I must dramatically turn and yell, HOIST THE MAIN SAIL, SWABBIE CHADD, WE SAIL TO UNKNOWN SHORES!

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