Germany Tiki Tour, Part 3: Trader Vic’s Munich

Trader Vic's entrance

Our little tiki tour of Germany started in Nuremberg with Kon Tiki and Die Blume von Hawaii, and concluded a little farther south into Bavaria with Trader Vic’s Munich. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, “Trader Vic” Bergeron ramped up the expansion of his eponymous Polynesian-themed restaurants. However, of the more than 20 locations from its mid-century heyday, only a handful of those original establishments are still around today. Trader Vic’s London, which opened in 1963, is the oldest operating branch, followed by Trader Vic’s Munich, which made its debut in 1971.

Inside entrance

This is the only Trader Vic’s location left in Germany (or continental Europe, for that matter), since the closures of Trader Vic’s Berlin (2003-2009) and Trader Vic’s Hamburg (1990-2013). The restaurant is located in the basement of the Bayerischer Hof, an historic hotel that’s a favorite of politicians and celebrities. To the right of the main hotel doors is a blue awning underneath which a Marquesan tiki stands sentry.

Stairway

This entrance leads straight to the staircase descending into this subterranean tiki retreat. It’s flanked by carved tiki poles and decorative metal tiles. (If we’re drawing comparisons, I’d say the tapa-covered spiral stairway of Trader Vic’s London may be more impressive, but Trader Vic’s Munich has the edge when it comes to the rest of the decor.)

Reception

Here, you’ll be greeted by more tall tikis and the reception stand. Straight ahead is the bar and lounge area, while the various dining rooms are to the right.

Bar

On a future visit, I’d try to snag one of the small tables in the bar area, since it’s in the middle of the action. It was a bit confusing to figure out where the lounge seating technically stops, but we were told that anything without a tablecloth is up for grabs. (We checked back here later in the evening and the whole section was full, so I’d recommend arriving on the early side.)

Interior

The space is a labyrinth of interconnecting rooms and it can be difficult to get your bearings, especially if you’ve had a few Mai Tais. But who wouldn’t want to get lost in these gorgeous surroundings?

Dining area

The bamboo and woven matting ceilings are laden with glowing glass fish floats, outrigger canoes, pufferfish lamps and fish trap lanterns. Underneath this medley of textures and ambient lighting, diners are seated at rattan peacock chairs and green banquettes.

Chinese ovens

A glassed-in room houses the large wood-fired Chinese ovens, a signature of Trader Vic’s restaurants. A small sign describes (in German) that the temperature reaches nearly 500°C (around 900°F) and the oak imparts a subtle, smoky flavor to the meat that’s hung inside to cook.

Tableau

We were brought to a table in the farthest section of the restaurant, not too surprising since we hadn’t made reservations. (We had called earlier in the evening and were told it wasn’t necessary for that particular night.) Above our table there was a pretty little tableau of glass fish floats, shells and fake orchids and foliage. (Since we were in a semi-private alcove, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t making too much of a spectacle photographing the meal…)

Crab Rangoon

When you see the menu prices, you will remember you are in one of the fanciest hotels in Munich. Most of the main dishes are in the 30+ euro range, though there are a couple options for about 20 €. Of course, there are Trader Vic’s signatures like the cosmo tidbits platter, ham and cheese bings, bongo bongo soup, etc. Crab Rangoon (11,60 €) is one of my favorites so we had to start with that, especially since our German friend had never tried it before.

Barbecued duck

The menu seems much more extensive than what you’ll find at other remaining locations. (I noticed overlap from vintage menus from Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills.) It was a little overwhelming trying to decide on a main course from all the curries, continental fare (lobster Thermidor) and Chinese oven and wok specialties. I eventually settled on the barbecued duck breast with Polynesian spices, pineapple, mango chutney and Hawaiian potato gratin (30 €). (I don’t know what was supposed to be Hawaiian about it, but it was tasty.)

Wok-fried kangaroo

Our friend chose one of the chef’s specials, which was wok-fried kangaroo with ginger, prunes, shiitake mushrooms, sugar peas and scallions (24,50 €). He wanted to take the opportunity to try a more “exotic” meat than the pork that’s so plentiful in Germany.

Trader Vic's drinks

You’ll find all the classic Trader Vic’s cocktails, naturally, plus the Munich Sour. (The server told us it’s just like the London Sour, but with Cognac instead of Scotch.) I went for the Tiki Puka Puka (16,90 €), while our friend selected the Suffering Bastard (12,30 €) intrigued by the novelty of the name. The drinks were potent, to be sure, but could use a little more finesse. Thankfully, the fantastic setting helps one overlook any flaws.

Trader Vic's sign

If you’re traveling through Germany, be sure to take a momentary detour from the beer gardens and stop in for a Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s Munich. This treasure is like stepping into a tiki time capsule. It’s central and not far from the Marienplatz, Frauenkirche and other sightseeing attractions. As this menehune in the sign helpfully points out, Trader Vic’s is open every day from 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

Trader Vic’s Munich
Bayerischer Hof
Promenadepl. 2-6
80333 München, Germany


Related Posts:

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 1 – Kon Tiki

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 2 – Die Blume Von Hawaii

Bootlegger Tiki – A Rum-Soaked Oasis in Palm Springs

Bootlegger Tiki entrance

In 1926, a young man named Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt left home and traveled around the South Pacific, Caribbean and beyond. Back on American soil, he was a bootlegger during Prohibition and when the Noble Experiment ended, he opened the first tiki bar. Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood became such a success that Ernest legally adopted the moniker.

By the 1940s, he had moved to Hawaii and turned over the U.S. rights of the business to his ex-wife, Cora Irene (“Sunny”) Sund, who opened more than a dozen additional locations over the next few decades. Don the Beachcomber was a favorite among celebrities so it made sense to have a branch in Hollywood’s desert playground. Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs opened in 1953 and in its heyday attracted famous faces (and voices) like Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Bootlegger Tiki

Literally following in the footsteps of that historic establishment is Bootlegger Tiki and neighboring sister spot Ernest Coffee Co. (The tiki bar references Don’s former profession, while the coffee shop was given his real first name.) A curtain in the hallway separates the two, but Bootlegger Tiki also has an official entrance flanked by two carved tikis on Via Lola Street just off North Palm Canyon Drive.

Don the Beachcomber bamboo

I knew the tiki torches on the roof had been restored — and even worked into the logo for Ernest Coffee Co. — but I was excited to learn that to the right of the bar is a pillar (painted to resemble bamboo) that had also been part of Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs.

Bar at Bootlegger Tiki Palm Springs

The space is quite small so you’ll want to get there close to when they open at 4 p.m. to snag one of the three booths or five spots at the bar. There are also three seats along a ledge by the entrance and three shorter rattan chairs to the left of the bar. (Patrons can also take their drinks out to the patio shared with Ernest Coffee.)

Seating next to bar

Above them you’ll notice one of Tom Hofer’s paper collages designed to look like giant vintage matchbooks. This one features Don the Beachcomber, naturally. (Hofer is often one of the vendors at the bi-monthly International Tiki Market Place at Orange County’s Don the Beachcomber — Don’t get confused, that restaurant is a recent incarnation of the brand.)

Bootlegger Tiki booth

The decor of this tiny tropical retreat is just gorgeous. The requisite lauhala matting and bamboo are interspersed with panels of red-velvet, Chinese-print wallpaper that give a glamorous touch to the island hut vibe. Further enhancing the sultry setting are flickering candles, the red glow of pufferfish lanterns and titillating black velvet paintings. (See what I did there?)

Bootlegger Tiki interior

Another nod to local tiki history is this reproduction of Edgar Leeteg’s famous “Hina Rapa” (left), which Palm Springs businessman Irwin Schuman saw in a Honolulu art gallery and inspired him to open the Chi Chi Grill Cocktail Lounge in 1941. There was a copy of the black velvet painting on the wall of the Polynesian-themed spot, and it was so popular that Schuman reprinted it on menus, matchbooks and many other items — but he didn’t bother to get permission from the original artist.

More seating at Bootlegger Tiki bar

Reggae music was on the sound system when we first arrived, then it switched to Rat Pack and other loungey tunes, which I personally preferred. Even better would have been some exotica to really set the mood!

Bootlegger Tiki menu

When Bootlegger Tiki opened in September 2014 they started off with a core menu of 10 cocktails. That’s since expanded to more than 25, ranging from non-tiki standards (French 75, Sazerac, etc.) to complicated concoctions involving mole bitters and cinnamon smoke.

Bootlegger Tiki Mai Tai

Trader Vic is credited for inventing the Mai Tai, though there’s been debate about that over the decades. (A chapter in Jeff Berry’s book Beachbum Berry Remixed offers an interesting investigation behind the claims.) Bootlegger lets you know where their loyalties lie by serving up the Ernest Gantt “Original” Mai Tai ($12). It’s a very different creation, composed of gold and dark rums, lime, orange liqueur, Velvet Falernum, absinthe and Angostura bitters. (Don’s famous drink, The Zombie, is also featured on the menu.)

Drinks at Bootlegger Tiki

One of the most popular drinks is the Pod Thai (left, $10), a more exotic Pina Colada with Thai basil and cardamom-lemongrass syrup. The “Modern Classics” are where the staff lets their creativity loose. For the spring menu, bar manager Guillaume Galataud devised the Hasenpfeffer ($14), made with Barr Hill gin, rhubarb-lavender purée, Amaro Nonino, lemon and house-made peppercorn ginger syrup.

Bootlegger Tiki drink

If you’re more of a Don Draper type of drinker, seek out the Ring Around the Rosie ($12). Head bartender Heather developed this recipe comprising Old Grand Dad Bourbon, Luxardo, Fernet Amaro, Angostura, orange bitters, rosemary oil and lemon rind.

Cheese & charcuterie menu at Bootlegger Tiki

There’s isn’t much available in the way of food, but you can request the cheese and charcuterie menu from Ernest Coffee Co. (Since our visit a few more snacks have been added: sriracha coconut popcorn, dried mango chili, Coachella Valley dates and Hawaiian macadamia nuts.)

Charcuterie plate at Bootlegger Tiki

The regular platter ($25) turned out to be quite a spread, as you can see by that hefty slab of pork liver mousse. We were also pleased with our picks of the aged gouda, Cowgirl Creamery cheeses (St. Pat’s and Truffle Tremor), sopressata picante salami and smoked chorizo. (The platters are listed as chef’s choice, but our server let us make the six selections.)

Bootlegger Tiki happy hour

Happy hour is offered every day from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and again from 12 a.m.-2 a.m., featuring $5 daiquiris, mojitos and Sloppy Joes (not the sandwich but the drink made with rum, dry vermouth, lime, triple sec and grenadine).

Bootlegger Tiki doesn’t have any souvenir ceramic mugs specially designed for them, but they do sell logo pint glasses, flasks and shakers, along with t-shirts and tanks tops. They’re available for purchase at the bar and at Ernest Coffee Co. next door.

With both Bootlegger Tiki and Tonga Hut Palm Springs opening in the past year or so, Palm Springs has become an even more desirable location for a weekend getaway.

Bootlegger Tiki
1101 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs CA 92262
760-318-4154

Related Posts:
Carrying the Torch: Ernest Coffee Co.
“Secret” Tiki Room at Tonga Hut Palm Springs
More Tiki in Palm Springs

A-Frame Goes Hawaiian with Local Favorites & Tiki-Inspired Drinks

IMG_2237 Five years ago, chef Roy Choi of Kogi food truck fame transformed an old IHOP in Culver City into an Asian-influenced “urban picnic” dining spot called A-Frame (after its iconic shape, naturally). In February 2015, the restaurant fulfilled its architectural destiny by transitioning to a more Hawaiian-centric concept with tiki-esque drinks.

16793277049_6a892bce81_o_1 While it’s true that Roy Choi was chef of the old Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills back in the day, the real driving force for this was the new executive chef, Johnny Yoo, who wanted to serve up Hawaiian comfort food inspired by places like Side Street Inn in Honolulu. On A-Frame’s web site, Choi points out that the menu already had some aloha flavor to it, with the furikake kettle corn and baby back ribs. (Those are two of the few dishes kept on the menu since the switch.)

IMG_2241 The decor stayed essentially the same, with the addition of some vintage longboards above the bar and artist Eric Junker’s graffiti art of “Hawaiian-inspired alchemical symbols of abundance and gratitude.”

IMG_2244 There are some tiki amongst the decor, including a Big Kahuna tiki bottle opener from Smokin’ Tikis perched on the bar. Take a look in the merch display at the reservation stand and you’ll spot a few more tikis.

16793281649_12e9126b4e_o_2 Even if you sampled poi at a luau once and didn’t like it, don’t let that deter you from ordering the Hush Poippies ($9) to start. These crispy bites of taro and potato arrive piping hot to the table because the kitchen sends each dish out as soon as it’s ready. They’re served with a side of sweet chili sauce but are addictive enough on their own with the grated white cheddar and Parmesan.

IMG_2272 A-Frame produces its own house-made Spam, a noble endeavor that we had to support by getting the musubi (one piece for $5 or a trio for $12). The ume paste brings an interesting, tangy taste to this essential Hawaiian snack made with white rice and Spam wrapped in nori.

IMG_2288 Eight Legged Duck ($17) presents an intriguing pairing of seared foie gras and slices of baby octopus terrine, though we wish the portion had been a bit more generous. In the interest of not running up the bill too high, we’d skip this next time.

IMG_2294 - Version 2 My meat-and-potatoes man went for the Double Kimcheesburger ($14). He tends to have more traditional tastes but he was on board with the toppings of cucumber kimchi, bacon guava jam, sweet Maui onion and aged cheddar.

IMG_2298 Curry gravy and pickled pearl onions put a slightly different (but very welcome) spin on Loco Moco ($15), that Hawaiian staple of a hamburger patty with rice, gravy and a runny egg.

IMG_2302 Another carryover from A-Frame’s previous menu is the dessert Chu Don’t Know Mang ($10): pound cake churros with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. We were blown away by these and can definitely see why it had to stick around.

IMG_2304 The cocktail list features 11 tiki-inspired tipples, priced at $12 each. The most traditional of the bunch is the Zombie Isle (Bourbon barrel rum, Hawaiian dark rum, lime, orange, apricot, absinthe). (Bonus points for serving it in a tiki mug.) I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Pina Cholada (reposado tequila, coconut milk, orgeat, lime, pineapple, egg white). Normally I have no issues with tequila but here it turned me off. I’m still curious to try the other drinks, though — I’m sure there’s a favorite to be found. There’s also 24 oz. cans of Primo available plus several California craft beers on tap.

IMG_2240 Every night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. and weekends from 10 p.m.-closing there’s Luau Hour, featuring deals on select dishes, $4 beers, $6 wine and $8 cocktails (Kona Old Fashioned, Guava Buck and a Big Island Gimlet with passionfruit). During weekend brunch, A-Frame pays tribute to its IHOP roots by offering all-you-can-eat pancakes ($15) in tropical variations like banana mac nut and lilikoi butter. (You can also add on unlimited Mimosas, Micheladas and Bloody Marys for $16.)

A-Frame
12565 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310-398-7700

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