Last month Mr. Hockey morphed back into Mr. Baseball when he went to Cubs fantasy camp at their spring training grounds in Mesa, AZ. I flew out there to cheer him on…and drag him (and various other members of our families) to a couple tiki spots, like Trader Vic’s in neighboring Scottsdale.
When we first walked in, I was impressed by the huge Japanese fish floats hanging over the reservation stand. (Or as Mr. Baseball might so eloquently put it: Nice balls!)
According to my trusty Tiki Road Trip guide, this branch opened at the Hotel Valley Ho in 2006. The previous Trader Vic’s in Scottsdale operated for almost 40 years (1962-1990) before shuttering.
There are some traditional design elements, like tall tiki columns, tribal masks, and a glass-enclosed Chinese oven, but it also feels very modern with the floor-to-ceiling windows and industrial touches like exposed ducts and cement.
One nitpicky detail I noticed was the shade of the Maori candleholders on the tables was a lot lighter compared to the one I picked up at the Trader Vic’s warehouse sale.
We headed to the bar and took a couple low-slung seats around a drum-inspired table. We were still able to enjoy the perpetually fair weather, though, because the lounge area opens up to the outdoors where there’s a fountain and swank fire pit
At Trader Vic’s Scottsdale, there’s double happy hour: Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. and 9 p.m.-11 p.m., and all day on Sundays starting at 4 p.m. Bar bites are $5, beers $3, glasses of wine and six classic Vic’s cocktails (Mai Tai, Bahia, Zombie, etc.) are $6.
The food and drink menus seem to be pretty standard across most Trader Vic’s. However, each of them has a different signature drink. The Cactus Bloom was a bubblegum pink concoction made with tequila, Pisco brandy, lemoncello, fruit juices and prickly pear syrup. My companions opted for the Gun Club Punch and Zombie (middle & right).
Also unique to this location were the happy hour offerings. Unfortunately I wasn’t a big fan of the Char Siu Bao: two giant snowball-sized steamed buns with barbecue pork, chili-garlic sauce and pickled daikon. The shredded meat inside was kind of dry, and there wasn’t enough sauce to overcome it.
I kept stealing bites of what Mr. Baseball ordered: the Chinese Oven Roasted Maui Burger with sweet potato fries. The Hawaiian flatbread (more like ciabatta) and sambal cream cheese were a very tasty twist. I noticed a lot of people ordering it. And of all the $5 “tidbits” available, I think it gives you the most bang for your buck.
It may not be the most tiki of all Trader Vic’s, but I thought the Scottsdale location still had a lot of style. The hosts and servers were super nice, and big bonus points for having such a great weekend happy hour.
Trader Vic’s Scottsdale
Hotel Valley Ho
6850 E. Main St.
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
(UPDATE: Trader Vic’s Scottsdale closed July 30, 2011)