Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mai Tais and memories in a San Francisco institution

If you grew up in the Bay Area, you’ve probably been to The Fairmont’s Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar, in San Francisco. Their Mai Tais are legendary, and the Pacific Rim Asian cuisine isn't bad. But its really the unforgettable (and somewhat campy) atmosphere that everyone goes for: a faux-tropics setting complete with rainstorms, thunder, and lightning. The place is one of the earliest 'Polynesian palace' bars (dating to the 1940s and designed by a Hollywood set decorator).

A live band performs on a floating stage on an indoor lagoon. And it was green before that was a political statement: the dance floor is made of wood reclaimed from an old schooner.
We've heard rumors that this tiki torch haven may be closed, as the hotel owners are considering a condo conversion that would edge out the tropical wonder (we're waiting to hear back from the company). In any case, you should probably check it out while you still can. Try to go for Thursday and Friday night’s Happy Hour buffet (mini shiitake eggrolls, chicken wontons with chili sauce, Kalua pork garlic noodles, and more); at $9.50 plus one-drink minimum for the all-you-can-eat extravaganza, the price isn’t bad. It’s one of those institutions that everyone has a memory of (my Mom remembers dropping in after a day of shopping along Union Square).

Details: At 950 Mason St., atop Nob Hill. Click here.

Have a Tonga Room memory? Tell us, by leaving a comment.

1 comment:

ClaireWalter said...

This sounds like a real bargain for such a retro experience. I'm betting that not long after the last of these Polynesian places has been yuppified, someone will come along and recreate a new one -- but probably not with happy hour affordability.

COPYRIGHT Lora Finnegan 2008-2009

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