Trader Vic's, the quintessential Tiki Bar, has outposts all over the world. I remember going to the one at the Beverly Hilton, in Beverly Hills. But I never knew that the chain originated in Oakland, California. The original restaurant closed in 1972, but the closest thing to it is the flagship location in Emeryville, California, where we sat on a grey and cloudy July evening, looking out across the Bay to San Francisco.
We sipped mai-tais, the original 1944 recipe, according to the menu. Sweet and tart, with lots of crushed ice and sprigs of mint, they were refreshing and super-charged strong. With them, we ordered a Pupu platter - because why not?
It came on a little pedestal holding a warming candle. Coconut shrimp, barbecue ribs, cha-siu pork and crab rangoon were predictably fried and delicious. We got a little dish of meatballs in a too-sweet gingery sauce, and dunked them into hot spicy mustard.
At a table across from us, two ladies sizzled skewers of something over a sputtering blue flame. For our second round of drinks, I got a coconut-cream and pineapple concoction in a glass almost a foot tall!
According to our son, the Bay area is rife with tiki bars, though he's not sure why. Perhaps we'll go on a tiki adventure this weekend!