Trader Mort’s Liquor Store – San Diego, CA

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A couple weeks after Vegas, Mr. Baseball and I went down to San Diego for Memorial Day weekend, kicking off part two of the summer Baseball/Tiki Road Trip.

After a truly epic traffic jam, we finally checked in to the hotel and then headed in the direction of Shelter Island, which was blessedly not too far from the Gaslamp District. We were on our way to our dinner destination, Bali Hai, but we had a little extra time so we stopped to check out Trader Mort’s Liquor Store.

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Mr. Baseball stayed in the car and listened to the baseball game while I went to explore and take pics. You can’t really see in any of my photos, but surrounding the store were tiki torches that lit up at night.

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While I do dig the tiki design here, I also love the idea of giving personality to otherwise generic/utilitarian places (like a liquor store).

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The guy working here was super nice about me sneaking around the store, and even suggested I check out the upstairs. There wasn’t too much up there, but you could look down through the A-frame opening at the boat model in the previous shot.

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I liked the toucan and all the bamboo, and also this intense tiki outside. He’s iconic enough that Munktiki produced a mug with his likeness that catches a pretty penny on eBay.

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Trader Mort’s Liquor
2904 Shelter Island Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106
619-224-3771

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Frankie’s Tiki Room – Las Vegas

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In closing the Sin City portion of the Baseball/Tiki Road Trip, we uninentionally saved the best for last. I’d originally intended to visit Frankie’s Tiki Room the night before, but I hadn’t been feeling so hot. (Do I blame that day’s lunch at Trader Vic’s?… I digress.)

In true Vegas style, Frankie’s is open 24 hours, so were able to just drop in on a Monday afternoon. It’s off-Strip and north of the Strat so you’ll need a car or savvy cab driver, but it’s well worth seeking out.

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Unfortunately, my photos cannot convey how awesome this place is, but they do show how DARK it gets. Stepping in from the bleached-out daylight, we could not see a thing and had to stumble around for a few minutes until our eyes adjusted.

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You could sit at the bar and watch video clips that ranged from Hawaiian variety performances to an amateur tiki-themed porn/horror flick, but we preferred the banquettes under the thatched roof.

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I had the Tiki Bandit, a potent concoction of pineapple rum, 151, apricot brandy and blue curacao, and it was absolutely delicious. It was like an epiphany—Wow, this is what a well-mixed drink is supposed to taste like! The drink’s eight bucks on its own or twenty in the take-home slot machine-shaped mug. How could I resist such cleverness?

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Again, you can’t really see it here, but the space is just a smorgasbord of art, carvings and design features from an all-star roster of tiki artists. In the corner you can spot the Shag “Vice Tester” machine that I was so amused by, it gets its own post.

In short, I loved Frankie’s and I can’t wait to come back!

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Frankie’s Tiki Room
1712 W. Charleston
Las Vegas, NV 89102
702-385-3110

Frankie's Tiki Bar on Urbanspoon

Trader Vic’s – Las Vegas

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Our trip to Vegas a few weeks back might be considered the kick-off to this summer’s Baseball/Tiki Road/Plane Trip (though the baseball element was missing in this leg). We stayed at the Bellagio, so it was quite convenient to stop at the Trader Vic’s in the Miracle Mile Shops across the street before we went to go bet on the ponies. (Our strategy is to bet on the horse with the most hilarious name…It actually works out often enough.)

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For being a Trader Vic’s in Vegas, of all places, the decor is pretty understated. Not so sure how I feel about these modernized tiki touches in the bar area, but I do love glass fishing floats in any situation.

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For me, these giant dudes are the saving graces of the restaurant. They’re larger than life, now that’s what I expect in this town!

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I might have insisted on sitting outside so we could see the fountains (Mr. Baseball doesn’t understand what’s so captivating about a water show), but it was ninety degrees out and I’d never really gotten a good look at the inside of Trader Vic’s.

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Picking my poison was a rather difficult process with all the choices. I kept second guessing myself and finally went with the Tonga Punch ($9.50), made with light rum, Curaçao, grenadine and orange juice. It was ok, but I wouldn’t order it again.

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Mr. Baseball got a ciabatta sandwich from a special insert on the lunch menu that offered more straight-forward American stuff without much Polynesian flair.

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Happy hour lasts from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. and as we were on Vegas time and having a rather late lunch, we were able to get two of the pork sliders with plum sauce for a buck a piece. The rest of the specials included very un-tiki 2-for-1 well drinks, $5 baskets of wings/calamari and $15 buckets of Corona.

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I had the Hawaiian Poke ($11.50)—ahi and hamachi tartare with avocado and taro chips. There’s something indulgent about ordering seafood in the middle of the desert—definitely not locavore-friendly!

Next time I make a visit to Vic’s it will be for Mai Tais at night on the patio. Cue the fountain show!

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6/5/09 Update: As the great Sam Butera once sang: “There’ll be no next time!” The Las Vegas Sun has reported that the Trader Vic’s Vegas is closing. This is precisely why I’ve been trying to visit so many tiki sites on these trips…you never know when they’re gonna get shut down!

Trader Vic’s – Las Vegas
Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood
3663 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
702-405-4700

Trader Vic's (Planet Hollywood) on Urbanspoon