Entries in the 'Phoenix' Category

September 24, 2006

They Just Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used To

Filed under: Phoenix,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 12:36 am
Scottsdale Trader Vic's, photo by Jackie Mercandetti for the Phoenix New Times
Scottsdale Trader Vic’s,
photo by Jackie Mercandetti
for the Phoenix New Times

This summer, Trader Vic’s returned to Scottsdale — Scottsdale’s original Vic’s operated from 1962 to 1990, and it was a legendary fixture on the local restaurant scene. However, the Phoenix New Times’ review of the new Scottsdale Trader Vic’s is a very interesting read (emphasis is mine):

I was hoping for a more straightforward experience — either a pan or a rave — but Trader Vic’s left me on a bamboo fence, both in terms of the food and the mood. The place felt slick and shiny and spacious. That’s a mistake. Flickering torches are only sexy in the dark, so I wasn’t keen on the high industrial ceiling and too-bright halogen lights.

The starkly missing sense of mystery at the newer Trader Vic’s locations is a common lamentation among tikiphiles, but it is interesting to now see that sentiment spelled out so plainly in a restaurant review. Trader Vic’s has an immense advantage in their strong brand recognition — time and again when explaining Polynesian Pop to someone, they will perk up and say “oh, you mean like Trader Vic’s!” and go on to relate a story of how much fun they had there years and years ago. That’s a powerful thing for a restaurant to have on its side. The Phoenix New Times reviewer, Michele Laudig, clearly had an expectation, and it wasn’t delivered on — and she can’t be alone. Why on earth would Trader Vic’s want to dilute the meaning of its brand?

Bellevue Trader Vic's, photo by Tracy Anderson
Bellevue Trader Vic’s, photo by Tracy Anderson

Take the new Bellevue Trader Vic’s, pictured above. Does that look like a place that is going to transport you to an exotic land? Does that look like a place where a drink can be a vacation in a glass? I’ve seen dry cleaners with more character.

This comes at a time when the appreciation of Polynesian Pop is reaching new heights. With articles like the one in American Heritage Magazine last month, the awareness of Tiki is growing much wider, and not just as an ironic goof on the past — it’s a growing understanding that it doesn’t have to be tacky, that it can be tasteful, elegant, and fun in a way that is more about intrigue than camp. People are looking for an immersive experience again — they’re looking for a place that lets them cast away their cares, in favor of some time spent in another world, one that is full of dark corners and details to be discovered. These are things that Trader Vic’s once mastered, and no organization is better poised to take advantage of that. That’s what makes it so painful to see them drop the ball.

Restaurants are a risky business, to be sure, and expensive. But if you’re going to bother to play the game, you’ve got to be willing to take risks that allow you stand out from the pack. I know it can be done, because Forbidden Island did it — in a much smaller space, yes, but also with an infinitesimally smaller budget than Trader Vic’s has at its disposal. Today’s modern Trader Vic’s aren’t delivering the kind of dining experiences that you reminisce about decades later. That’s a terrible shame.

January 13, 2006

The Shady Dell’s Tiki Bus

Filed under: Phoenix,Tiki — Humuhumu @ 3:22 am
The Shady Dell's Tiki Bus
The Shady Dell’s Tiki Bus

The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona is an unusual hotel, offering a number of different travel trailers for rental to visitors to this remote, historic town. These trailers are restored vintage aluminum travel trailers, and feature vintage furnishings including televisions and phonographs. In recent years, they have added a 1947 Airporter bus that has been turned into a “Polynesian Palace,” complete with a hand-carved outrigger bar and “resident Tiki god.”

January 8, 2006

Trader Vic’s Update — Lightning Round!

Filed under: Chicago,Las Vegas,News,Phoenix,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 2:13 pm

Courtesy of Martiki:

1. Bellevue, WA- Opening date is set for March 3rd!

2. Scottsdale, AZ- Opening date is set for May 21st!

(as you can imagine, those dates are subject to change without notice)

3. Las Vegas, NV- Still no opening date set, or management team in place. Should open by the end of 2006.

4. Chicago, IL- The Harry Caray people are scouting locations now, and they hope to open in 2006 if possible. Could move to 2007, but it’s definitely coming back sooner rather than later.

5. Amman, Jordan- to open in 2006

6. Shanghai, China- to open in 2006. The Chinese franchisers have the rights to open five locations in China, and are already thinking about their next place.

That all looks ahead of what my best-guess schedule would have been. Looks good!

December 16, 2005

Trader Vic’s Update: Chicago, Bellevue, Scottsdale, Las Vegas and Dallas

Filed under: Chicago,Dallas,Las Vegas,News,Phoenix,Seattle,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 8:12 pm
Postcard from Chicago Trader Vic's, from the collection of Mimi Payne
Postcard from Chicago Trader Vic’s, from the collection of Mimi Payne

There’s been a lot of news on the Trader Vic’s front, time for a roundup:

Trader Vic’s Chicago: As previously reported, the Chicago Trader Vic’s location will be closing for good on New Year’s Eve. The sad and frustrating tale of its demise has been widely reported, but here’s the short version: the new owners of the Palmer Hilton are crappy. This Trader Vic’s location is one of the oldest — it would have celebrated 50 years in 2007 — and the Trader Vic’s organization is disappointed. Reports state that the interior is being preserved as much as possible, and saved for a future installation in Chicago. The Trader Vic’s organization appears to have fast-tracked getting another Trader Vic’s restaurant in Chicago, and the Harry Caray’s restaurant group has announced their intention to run the new restaurant. Hard to say if this is an actual signed deal, or what the time frames are, but it sounds intriguing. Meanwhile, the latest reports on visits to the Chicago Trader Vic’s paint a bleak picture — shoddy, typo-ridden menus, non-existent service, and abysmal drinks. Farewell, Chicago Trader Vic’s, I hope to meet you again under better circumstances.

Trader Vic’s Bellevue: Now for better news. The new Trader Vic’s restaurant in Bellevue (outside Seattle) appears to be progressing nicely. I happened to be at the San Francisco Trader Vic’s when designers were reviewing samples; if what I saw was any indication, expect to see some very nice bamboo. The Trader Vic’s Bellevue website says March 2005 is the opening date, I’ve heard April 1, but of course these dates tend to be squishy. The new Bellevue Vic’s is located in the Liberty Square complex across from Bellevue Square mall, and is located adjacent to a Westin hotel. The restaurant has a main dining area and two private dining rooms, and takes up nearly 8,000 sq. ft. of space.

Trader Vic’s Scottsdale: Scottsdale is also gearing up for a springtime return of Trader Vic’s. A great vintage hotel, Valley Ho, has been undergoing renovations. The new Valley Ho will include a freestanding Trader Vic’s restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating available. Due to open in May 2006 but with Belleuve opening in March/April, I wouldn’t be surprised if this got pushed back a bit.

Trader Vic’s Las Vegas: The ink is barely dry on this one, but Vegas moves quickly… I’m excited to hear how this one comes along. This new Trader Vic’s will be part of the remodel of what is currently the Aladdin Hotel’s Desert Passage mall. With the Aladdin becoming a Planet Hollywood casino, the theme for the mall will be changing. The Trader Vic’s space is reportedly quite large, and will have a front entrance directly on the strip, across from the Bellagio. With the work just getting started, it’s too soon to pinpoint an opening date, but think late 2006/early 2007. Along those same lines, don’t get too attached to it once it opens… Vegas is a place where time has no meaning, and a restaurant open three years is considered dated.

Trader Vic’s Dallas: Earlier this year there were some rumblings about Trader Vic’s coming back to Dallas. Actually, it was more than rumblings, an investor announced the plans and it was reported on in the press, but it turns out it may have been premature. There are no real plans to open a location in Dallas that I’m aware of, but clearly we’re living in a time when such a thing isn’t out of the question. Don’t loseWeight Exercise hope, but don’t hold your breath, either.

All told, things are looking up!

October 4, 2005

Details on the New Trader Vic’s Las Vegas, Scottsdale

Filed under: Las Vegas,News,Phoenix,Tiki,Trader Vic's — Humuhumu @ 1:34 am

Some details have emerged about the new Las Vegas Trader Vic’s, courtesy of Humu Kon Tiki friend Inky Louise:

The Vegas location is slated to go in the Desert Passage mall, that is adjacent to the alladin. They have a lease on a 2 story 10,000sf space that overlooks the strip and has some outdoor terrace areas, on the north side of the property overlooking bellagio and paris. right now i would think they might be opoen sometime next summer.

Inky also mentions that the Alladin is being turned into the Planet Hollywood Casino, and that Desert Passage will also undergo a revamp. The other confirmed new Trader Vic’s location (in addition to the earlier-reported Bellevue, WA Vic’s) is Scottsdale, scheduled to open in April 2006. AJ, who was a manager at the Chicago Trader Vic’s until he resigned after the crapola management change there, still remains a happy member of the Trader Vic’s organization and will manage the new Scottsdale site. Otto von Stroheim mentions that Denver remains on the short-list for future expansion.


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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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