“a retro oddity that's both delicious and an amazing experience ”
It's not hard to see why tiki bars were so popular-- the whole point is to make you feel like you're on vacation. Even today, now that tiki bars are kind of a retro oddity, they seem to take us back to a simpler time. While some tiki bars that are still around tend to lean towards the tacky side of kitschy, there's at least one place that has endured, keeping the authentic, sort of ritzy version of tiki-- the iconic Tonga Room.
The Tonga Room started as an indoor pool on the Terrace Level of the Fairmount San Francisco. The so-called "Fairmount Terrace Plunge" was a hangout for local crowds and celebs alike from 1929 until 1945 (right at the start of the tropical bar trend), when infamous MGM set decorator Mel Melvin was brought on to transform the pool into the ultimate tiki bar; hence the swanky, kitschy Tonga Restaurant and Hurricane Bar was born. It was an instant success.
Even to this day, there's nothing quite like the Tonga Room. The pool, still the centerpiece, serves as a lagoon, complete with a thatched-roof floating stage for Big Band orchestras (and also DJs, this is 2014 after all) to entertain guests and the occasional tropical rainstorm (complete with thunder and lightning) to cool things off. Bright tribal decor covers the walls and accent the bamboo furniture to island perfection. Plus, show off your swing-dancing skills on the dancefloor, which is made from the remains of a lumber schooner called the U.S.S. Forester, which, appropriately enough, once traveled between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands.
The atmosphere would all be for naught if they didn't offer a menu of Polynesian and Pacific Rim delicacies, like poi dumplings, Mahi Mahi, soba noodles, and more. Naturally, the cocktail menu befits the tropical theme. Appease the tiki gods by ordering a fruity, festive drink from the list which features Mai Tais, Hurricanes, Zombies, Singapore Slings, daiquiris, margaritas, and more. Plus they have a massive selection of rums from all over (of course). Watch out: the drinks are pretty strong-- after one or two, you'll definitely feel like you're floating off to paradise! -Roadtrippers
Located at The Fairmont San Francisco, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar has delighted guests with its tropical décor, decadent libations and Asian cuisine since 1945. Having reigned as a swanky outpost of South Seas high style for much of its storied history, Tonga Room more recently gained a following as an icon of tiki’s pop culture heyday of the 1940s and 1950s. Following a $1 million restoration by Gensler San Francisco, Tonga Room has rekindled the excitement of its unique and time-honored décor to recapture the glory of one of the nation’s first tiki palaces.
Highlighting the refurbishment is an updated lounge area boasting a sleek granite top bar and bar stools dressed with snow leopard accents; new luxurious “good luck red” leather banquettes that wrap around the outer corners of the lounge to create intimate venues within the signature space; and atmospheric lighting through the use of hanging globes in amber, blue, red and opal.
Tribal wall coverings in fuchsia and orange add excitement throughout the lounge and restaurant. The dining room now features eco-friendly bamboo tabletops and chic modern chinaware, setting the stage for a memorable dining experience.
The Tonga Room features a top-40 band performing from a thatch-covered barge on the lagoon; a dance floor built from the remains of the S.S. Forester, a lumber schooner that once traveled regularly between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands; and periodic light tropical rainstorms, complete with thunder and lightening.
You'll def need a reservation and expect to spend a decent amount of $$$ here (it's in a hotel) but everything was great. There was a $10 a person fee because live music was going on too, which sucks but whatever, seeing the band on the boat was cool. Everything about this place is over the top. I do wish the drinks came in the tikiware but they tasted good!
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Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
- Sun, Wed, Thu: 5:00 pm - 11:30 pm
- Fri, Sat: 5:00 pm - 12:30 am
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