Entries in the 'News' Category

June 26, 2007

New Bartender at Tiki-Ti?

Filed under: Drinks,Los Angeles,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 1:14 pm
New Bartender at Tiki-Ti (Dramatization)
New Bartender at Tiki-Ti (dramatization)

A dramatic shift, and one that can’t help but make you do a spit-take… word on the street is that Tiki-Ti is training a new bartender.

I only have a few details, sent my way by a little bird who got to see the new bartender in action last Wednesday. He said the new bartender is named Mark, he isn’t a Buhen but rather the son of a longtime Tiki-Ti patron (he is a Buhen after all, see below for an update), and the Ray’s Mistake he made was good.

Tiki-Ti has been a family-run outfit: original owner Ray Buhen was the sole bartender for many years, until his son Mike started helping out; Mike’s son Mike came on the scene with the passing of Ray a few years ago. There are several reasons Tiki-Ti has been family-run:

  1. Ray came from a world where your recipes were your currency, your strongest asset, and you sure as heck didn’t teach them to others who could then take them to the competition. Even today, the descendants of some of the original Don the Beachcomber’s bartenders have been so trained by their fathers on this point that they were still wary of showing any recipe notes to Jeff “Beachbum” Berry when he was writing his book on tiki cocktail hisotory, Sippin’ Safari. It’s likely that Ray Buhen felt that only his own family could be trusted with his recipes, and the sentiment has lived on.
  2. The drink list at Tiki-Ti is extensive — mind-bogglingly so. And complicated. Even if they were comfortable letting another person in on the family secrets, getting them up to speed would be a daunting task, to be sure, and your average bartender frankly isn’t up to the task.
  3. Smoking in bars is illegal in California — not to protect patrons, but to protect employees. Since Tiki-Ti is owner-operated, and thus has no employees, smoking is allowed. Mike & Mike are both smokers.

These three reasons are neat & all, but do they really counteract the plusses of having another bartender in the mix? What happens when Mike or Mike get sick? What happens if Mike or Mike would like, for once in their lives, to get to do something on a Friday or Saturday night? What happens if Mike or Mike decide that even though they really love Tiki-Ti, they want to follow their own dreams? They would certainly be entitled. And when push comes to shove, Mike & Mike just can’t run the bar alone forever and ever. There has to be a plan for either succession, or for closing Tiki-Ti. You can probably guess which of those two scenarios I’d rather see. So, while the news that they have a new bartender is a little shocking, it’s not entirely surprising, and it’s actually totally welcome.

What does it mean? Heck, I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Mike & Mike. It’s not likely that they’re going to give up smoking, so I suspect that they’ve made this new bartender part-owner. They’ve probably been training him for quite a while behind the scenes, and they’ll probably start him out just focusing on part of the drink menu initially. Those are just guesses on my part, though.

So, swing by Tiki-Ti and give a warm welcome to Mark!

UPDATE: I just chatted with Tiki-Ti regular Miles Thompson and got more info: Mark is a Buhen, he’s Mike’s son and Mike’s brother. That makes oh-so-much-more-sense, and is wonderful news.

May 11, 2007

Fulton Burley, Voice of Tiki Room’s Irish Parrot, Has Passed Away

Filed under: Disney,History,Los Angeles,News,People,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:00 pm
Michael, photo by Biotron2000
Michael, photo by Biotron2000

Fulton Burley, who was the voice of Michael the Irish Parrot at the Enchanted Tiki Room, passed away this past Monday at the age of 84.

Wait, wait, we forgot to wake up the glee club!

Burley was better known for his many performances as the host and master of ceremonies at the long-running Golden Horshoe Revue. Burley was honored as a “Disney Legend” in 1995. He was married to his wife Terry for an amazing 62 years, until she passed this past January.

Laughing Place has a nice, long tribute, with quotes from his performing partner Wally Boag. [via The Disney Blog]

May 9, 2007

Detroit’s Chin Tiki to Make Way for New Arena?

Filed under: Detroit,News,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 11:55 am
Chin Tiki, photo by Feelin' Zombified
Chin Tiki, photo by Feelin’ Zombified

It’s been a while since my last update about the Chin Tiki in Detroit. It’s been a very, very long time since Chin Tiki was operational — 1980 — but all the interiors were still there sitting unused in the decades that followed, leading locals to hope that perhaps Chin Tiki’s days were not quite over. But Marvin Chin died last year, and I believe much of the decor was sold or moved to his son’s restaurant, Chin’s in nearby Livonia.

The parking lot surrounding Chin Tiki had been sold years ago to Ilitch Holdings, and in February of this year, they took deed of the restaurant building, too. According to The Detroit News, Ilitch Holdings has been quietly purchasing other properties in this desolate area of Detroit, leading to speculation that there may be plans to build a new hockey arena — Mike Ilitch owns the Detroit Red Wings. Even if a hockey arena isn’t the ultimate outcome, it appears likely that the Chin Tiki building is destined to be razed for a larger development — developers don’t buy up four blocks of contiguous land because they really like the sidewalks.

April 30, 2007

BREAKING: Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s Has Closed – UPDATED

Filed under: Los Angeles,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 2:10 am
Beverly Hills Trader Vics
Beverly Hills Trader Vics

Breaking news from Atomikitty: The Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s last day of operation could very well be Tuesday, May 1.

I just finished up my bartending shift at Saints and Sinners, and one of my customers happened to be a bartender over at Trader Vics Beverly Hills. This person (who asked to not be named) told me that the staff has a ‘meeting’ tomorrow @ 10am, but as of now, the last day on the schedule is this Tuesday May 1st!

That certainly doesn’t bode well. It sounds as if the bartender was fairly convinced that this is the end for the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s. While it could be quite some time before any construction starts on the new tower at the Beverly Hilton, there’s nothing stopping them from shutting down the restaurant now. Doing so sooner rather than later lets them do it relatively quietly, and makes one of the arguments against this very unpopular development moot.

More updates as more information comes out (particularly after tomorrow’s meeting with staff), but it doesn’t look good — I’d suggest heading there tonight to pay final respects and get your last good Navy Grog.

UPDATE @ 11:55: Brain says in the comments:

Trader Vics is closed. Last night was the end.

If true, this morning’s meeting is likely all about final paychecks. Still waiting to hear confirmation, but it doesn’t look good. Stay tuned…

UPDATE @ 12:05: I just got off the phone with the Beverly Hills Trader Vic’s. I spoke to a very flustered woman, who clearly didn’t know what she was supposed to say. When I asked if they were open, she said “no.” When I asked if they were closed forever, she became even more uncomfortable, and stammered out that they were closed “for renovations.” When I asked if it was still going to be Trader Vic’s, she hemmed and hawed and said something about the bar moving to the hotel, and that she didn’t know if it was still going to be Trader Vic’s. That sounds to me that after 50+ years, Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills is gone.

UPDATE @ 12:35: Eater LA has heard similar rumblings…

UPDATE @ 1:10: When Eater LA called Trader Vic’s, they got the same spiel, and were told that Trader Vic’s specialty cocktails will possibly be available at Circa 55, which is a newer restaurant near the pool.

If Trader Vic’s veteran bartenders decide to make the move to Circa 55, the drinks should still be pretty good, but if the bartenders decide they’re done with the Hilton, I’d guess the drinks would be iffy. Some of the Trader Vic’s bartenders have been there for a very, very long time, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if some of them opted to retire instead.

I would love it if some of the bartenders decided they’d like to semi-retire in the Bay Area and sling Mai Tais at the Palo Alto Trader Vic’s part-time, but I’m not holding my breath.

UPDATE @ 3:45: An eyewitness report from Tom Slick:

I just got back from Trader Vic’s, and I can confirm with authority they are no longer open to the public. I took a few photos, and was immediately sweated by the beverly hills hilton police as to why was I taking pictures. I told them I was an urban archeologist taking pictures of americas mid century architecture.haha, well they were very uneasy, and asked me to leave the property and to take pictures from the sidewalk. I asked if I were doing something wrong, and the suit told me not really, but the (get this!)owner doesn’t want anyone on Trader Vics property other than the people setting up a private party & private party invitees. I can only assume from this point that it is an employee farewell party.
I asked if I could come to dinner tomorrow night instead of tonight…”probably not”…..
The 2 black suits with ear pieces were guarding the entrance to Trader Vic’s. There WAS activity going on inside, and I did see toolkits. Setting up for a private party seemed to be legit, but the suit wasn’t saying who the party was for…I can only guess…

UPDATE @ 5:45: Eater LA has a press release from Trader Vic’s:

From the press release: “The new Trader Vic’s Lounge will be located next to the new Circa 55 restaurant and the Aqua Star pool area. The menu will feature Trader Vic’s signature drinks including the world-famous Mai Tai, invented by Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron, the Scorpion Bowl and appetizer plates that are ideal for sharing with friends. … ‘We are pleased that the popularity of Trader Vic’s continues to grow around the globe,’ said Robert Davies, President and CEO of Trader Vic’s. ‘Our loyal patrons and hotel guests can be assured that while the atmosphere may be more casual, our new Beverly Hills offering will continue to reflect the finest of our company’s island-style service and culinary quality.’ ”

By “more casual” he must mean smaller and less, um, tiki. Sure, some of the decor will be moved over, but it’s still basically a renovated lounge filled with Trader Vic’s memorabilia. Nonetheless, the new lounge will reopen on May 3. We’re told GM Chai Rojana will still be running the show, and many of the bartenders will move to the new digs.

The word that the bartenders and GM are being retained is good, but contradicts what Atomikitty had heard — that the bartenders were worried about their ability to find new jobs. Eater LA is waiting to hear solid confirmation that indeed the highly-skilled bartenders — who should be treated as the treasures they are — have not lost their jobs. It would be shameful if they were given reason to suddenly worry about their livelihood.

This sucks.

April 7, 2007

Beachbum Berry’s Grog Blog

Filed under: Drinks,History,News,People,Shopping,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:16 pm
Sippin' Safari, by Jeff Berry
Sippin’ Safari, by Jeff Berry

Tikiphiles have been anxiously awaiting Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s new book, Sippin’ Safari, for many months now. The release is finally drawing near, and Berry will be giving seminars at both Hukilau and Tiki Oasis this summer. Now comes another exciting development: Beachbum Berry’s Grog Blog. Yep, Jeff has added a blog to the site. Welcome to blogland, ‘bum!

I’m incredibly excited for Sippin’ Safari. Jeff has put incredible effort into rooting out the history of Polynesian Pop. It’s a colorful history, and has been well-documented in images — but there are a lot of stories to be told, and Jeff has been finding them, and documenting them. Those who were at Jeff’s seminar at last year’s Hukilau got a taste of what Sippin’ Safari holds. This is not a recipe book (though some recipes are included — thanks to his tireless efforts to track down original bartenders). This is a book about how tiki came to be — not about the world it grew up in, but how it actually, really came to be — how Don the Beachcomber built his dream into something that sparked the imagination of the era.

So, it’ll be really cool. You can preorder it now at SLG Publishing, and be sure to catch Beachbum Berry in person at Hukilau or Tiki Oasis if you can. And read his blog!

March 20, 2007

San Diego: Tiki Oasis 7

Filed under: Events,News,San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:19 pm
Tiki Oasis 7
Tiki Oasis 7

Tiki Oasis tickets are now on sale! This year, Tiki Oasis will be bigger and better than ever — the entire Hanalei Hotel has been booked for the event (that means room parties are a big go!). Speaking of go — that’s the theme this year (beyond tiki, of course) — Otto von Stroheim is combining his love of tiki with his wife Baby Doe’s love of go-go dancing. The event is a mixture of tiki, go-go and burlesque, with performances by the Blue Hawaiians, the Tiki Tones, the Martini Kings, LA dance mainstays Satisfaction and Bardot-a-Go-Go, and Baby Doe’s own Devilettes. It’s a jam-packed weekend, for full details and to purchase tickets, visit the Tiki Oasis website.

The Islands Restaurant Gutting Results

Filed under: News,San Diego,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 2:13 pm
The new Islands Restaurant, photo by bamalamalu
The new Islands Restaurant, photo by bamalamalu

Not that anyone’s hopes were high, but it’s still crushing to see… above is a photo of the newly renovated Islands Restaurant in San Diego, taken by bamalamalu and posted to Tiki Central yesterday. Blech! It doesn’t even look like a restaurant any more, it looks like a hospital waiting room.

March 2, 2007

After 20 Years, the Triumphant Return of Trader Vic’s to Dallas!

Filed under: Dallas,Florida Panhandle,History,Massive Moai,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 4:26 pm
Formikahini enjoys a Mai Tai at the Dallas Trader Vic's, photo by Kenike
Formikahini enjoys a Mai Tai at the Dallas Trader Vic’s, photo by Kenike

Very, very exciting times in Dallas… the long-anticipated day has finally arrived, and the Dallas Trader Vic’s has reopened. The great news, the fabulous news, the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming news, is that they’ve worked hard to keep it intact. Some updates and repairs had to be made, but the architect working on the project, William Baker of Jones Baker Interior + Architecture, took care to preserve the original look as much as possible, including tracking down vintage fixtures, matching the original carpet, and having carvers reproduce original panels. (William Baker is also working on the interiors of the new Destin, Florida Trader Vic’s location.)

Dallas Trader Vic's, photo by Kenike
Dallas Trader Vic’s, photo by Kenike

Tiki Centralites Kenike and Formikahini (pictured above) have posted their trip report from a soft-opening night at the Dallas Trader Vic’s. These two are hard-boiled tikiphiles, with a discerning eye — and they’ve come away more than pleased. The pictures tell the story: the Dallas Trader Vic’s is quite possibly now the best of the stateside Trader Vic’s. It’s gorgeous, people.

The bar at Dallas Trader Vic's, photo by Kenike
The bar at Dallas Trader Vic’s, photo by Kenike
Dallas Star cocktail, photo by Kenike
Dallas Blue Star cocktail, photo by Kenike

In keeping with Trader Vic’s tradition (hooray for Trader Vic’s tradition!), a new drink has been created to commemorate the opening: the Dallas Blue Star, pictured here in a photo from Kenike. The drink has tequila, agave nectar, cointreau, lime juice and is garnished with a star fruit slice — very pretty. Formikahini notes that the drink is a bit sweeter than is her preference, but points out that you get to keep this glass, a Dallas Trader Vic’s exclusive, which is essentially a taller, more slender variation on the classic Mai Tai glass.

Original massive moai at Dallas Trader Vic's, photo by Kenike
Original massive moai at Dallas Trader Vic’s, photo by Kenike

Kenike and Formikahini were treated to a full tour of the restaurant, including a rare visit with this massive moai, carved by Barney West, which stood guard at Trader Vic’s for many years until the restaurant closed. The moai is not in the greatest shape, but is currently being restored with hopes of returning it to its proper post once more.

I could go on and on and on… this is so exciting to see. This is what a tiki bar should look like. Bravo to everyone involved in making this happen — it probably wasn’t always easy, and there probably was more than a bit of convincing involved. Thank you for your efforts! Thanks also to Kenike and Formikahini for doing such a wonderful job of documenting the opening for those of us who can’t be there in person. It’s making me want to check air fares to Dallas….

To see more of Kenike’s excellent pictures, and hear more details (including the fascinating backstory on that Barney West moai), be sure to check out this thread on Tiki Central. The Trader Vic’s Dallas website also has more pictures.

February 2, 2007

Portland: Tiki Kon 2007

Filed under: Events,News,Portland,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 9:08 pm
Portland Tiki Kon 2007
Portland Tiki Kon 2007

Dates for Portland’s annual Tiki Crawl, a.k.a. the Tiki Kon, have been announced: it’s happening July 27-29, 2007. Tiki Kon: Venture into Darkness will include stops at Portland tiki mainstay The Alibi and of course Portland’s newest tiki hotspot, Thatch. HQ for the whole shebang is once again the Jupiter Hotel, and there will be a tour of area home tiki bars.

I was at the first Portland Tiki Crawl five years ago, and I haven’t missed one since — I’ll be there again this year, and I’m particularly excited to get to see Thatch in person. The Tiki Kon website only has a teaser image for now, but stay tuned to the site for details.

February 1, 2007

Trader Vic’s Coming to Florida Panhandle

Filed under: Florida Panhandle,News,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 4:10 pm
Site of Trader Vic's in Destin, Florida, from vrbo.com
Site of Trader Vic’s in Destin, Florida,
from vrbo.com

Some out-of-nowhere news: Trader Vic’s is opening next month in Destin, Florida, in the state’s panhandle. It’s part of the new Palms of Destin resort — the Palms website makes only vague references to a “themed” restaurant, but doesn’t mention Trader Vic’s anywhere. However, Craigslist ads are looking for a Sous Chef to work under Executive Chef Juan Palerm, and the Trader Vic’s website now has a page for the Destin location (with no information beyond “March 2007″). Someone who owns one of the condos has their unit up for rental, advertised here, with mentions of Trader Vic’s (and “Traitor Vic’s”), including this photograph of the purported location. I’m not sure the location could look less tiki unless it was a parking garage, but we can hope that this picture is pre-tikification.

It’s seems strange to me that the word has come out about this location so late in the game; I can’t help but wonder if this is a quickie marriage. The new San Francisco, Bellevue and Scottsdale locations have been criticized for their relatively spare decoration; I’m getting tired of saying resignedly, “well, at least you can get a decent Mai Tai.” Please, please, please let this location be a good one.

Thanks to GatorRob for the tip-off!


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Humuhumu is the creator of several tiki websites. She is a designer and programmer based out of San Francisco.

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