Trader Vic’s – Scottsdale, AZ

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
480-248-2000

(UPDATE: Trader Vic’s Scottsdale closed July 30, 2011)

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

The Mother Lode of Mai Tai Mix

Tiki Chick reader and all-around-cool-dude Mark contacted me a week or so with an intriguing offer. His father—a longtime regular of Trader Vic’s—was moving out of his house and they had a small stockpile of cocktail mixes to unload. They happened to be right in my neighborhood so I headed over and hauled off more than a dozen bottles of mai tai mix, orgeat and rock candy syrup (oh my!).

He also very generously sent me on my way with this fogcutter mug. Over the years,  Trader Vic’s has produced several versions of this mug, and you can get a glimpse of their most recent ones here.

Thus far all the tiki mugs I’ve amassed have been modern specimens (remember now, I’m a newbie!), so it’s neat to have one that’s practically as old as I am. Thanks again, Mark! Now I just need to go out and get some good rum…

Trader Vic’s Warehouse Sale

Once in a great while, the folks at the Trader Vic’s warehouse in Richmond, California, graciously open their doors to the riff-raff like us.

And one of these sales serendipitously fell on the particular weekend in late September that Mr. Baseball and I were heading up to San Francisco for a weekend of tiki and baseball. (It actually was a real coincidence, as we had picked the date months before since the Cubs would be in town.)

It was amazing to see this treasure trove of tikis. They were lined up along almost all the available wall space.

The “Trader Vic’s Warehouse Girls” (Kier and Michelie, I believe) were overseeing the stock for the sale and they were extremely patient with my constant questions.

I believe I was told that this Barney West tiki (unsurprisingly not for sale) came from the Trader Vic’s in Berlin, but I could be wrong. The unfortunate shuttering of that restaurant was the reason they were hosting a warehouse sale that weekend.

Trader Vic’s saved the decor from ending up in a dumpster (which used to be a common fate for tiki bars) and shipped it back in a container to their warehouse. In addition to the tikis, they also had masks, immense glass fishing floats, woven fishing traps, tee shirts and even a random phonograph.

Most items were out of my price range, but we did pick up some Trader Vic’s branded glasses, a white shell bowl and Menehune swizzle sticks. As an early Christmas present, Mr. Baseball bought me one of the carved Maori candle holders you can see on the middle of that table. (If you look carefully, you can also spot them in my photos of the dining room from Trader Vic’s Chicago.)

I was intrigued by all the nautical things, like the wheel helm in the previous photo and this thing. I’m not even quite sure what it is (a cowl vent?), I just think it looks neat.

I also bought a handful of these vintage advertisement coasters, and as a parting gift the ladies gave us poster prints of the Trader Vic’s menu.

Trader Vic’s Warehouse
623 South 32nd St.
Richmond, CA 94804