A West Coast Tiki Excusrion...


: : I recently had the chance to visit Tonga, the great Polynesian restaurant/bar located in San Francisco’s Fairmount Hotel. While preparing for our trip out west, my better half spotted a listing for Tonga in one of our guidebooks and, of course, knew without a doubt that it would be a required stop on our vacation. : :

: : The Fairmount is one of the San Francisco’s classiest hotels… a great, old school kind of classy… and it was fun just to walk through the lobby and hallways, looking for Tonga, which we finally found on one of the lower levels (the basement?… hard to tell in a city where everything is built on the side of a hill). We knew we were getting close when we spotted a little display window decorated with tikis and other exotic elements (along with a menu) in one of the hallways. Coming upon the restaurant’s entrance, we weren’t disappointed, as even the reservation desk was surrounded with mood lighting and palms. Tonga is billed as a “restaurant and hurricane bar”… once inside, you realize why… : :

: : Right past the entrance you’ll find the bar and a small dance floor… but the true beauty lies just beyond. The restaurant part of the room is what is truly amazing about Tonga. Sure, like many other tiki bars, it’s dark, it’s got bamboo walls, along with tikis, hurricane lamps, palms, and thatched roofs over the tables, but it’s also got a big lagoon right in the middle of it all! That’s right… the tables surround a lagoon and, while you sit there eating and drinking, a big barge carrying the house band floats out to the middle of the water, where the musicians begin to play. Unfortunately, the music wasn’t anything like Martin Denny… : :

: : But the Tonga dining experience doesn’t end there… remember, Tonga is a “hurricane bar.” I had just finished my Tonga Itch (a tasty concoction of vodka, rum, curaçao, pineapple juice and grenadine) and was waiting for my Kung Pao Chicken to arrive when lightning struck!… thunder clapped!… and rain poured into the lagoon! Believe it or not, they’ve got it set up so that this special effect happens a few times during your meal (about every 20 minutes or so, I guess). Of course, the lightning is just a series of strobe lights… the thunder is a recording… and the rain comes from pipes near the ceiling... but the effect is not as cheesy as it sounds. Obviously, if you’re anything like me, you’ll realize that there’s just something great about eating and drinking during an indoor tropical rainstorm. : :

: : I must admit, I did enjoy the experience, although I’ve heard constant complaints about this place from other tiki-philes since. Yes, it may be overpriced, the band really sucks, and the drinks may not be the best in the world (although my Tonga Itch was pretty good) but where else are you gonna experience an indoor tropical rainstorm? : :


Fairmount Hotel

950 Mason Street

San Francisco, CA 94108

John Trivisonno © 1998


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