Trader Vic's And Don The Beachcomber, A Tale Of Two Tikis

By Kellar Ellsworth
Interior of Trader Vic's in San Francisco. Source: Cardboard America

The tiki trend that ran wild in mid-century America, fostered by restaurants Trader Vic's and Don the Beachcomber, was sort of a booze-soaked version of the theme-park culture that flourished in the era. Kids who flocked to Disneyland didn't necessarily believe that Mickey Mouse was anything more than a person in a costume but they suspended their belief for the fun of it -- adults at Trader Vic's didn't necessarily believe they were partaking of authentic Polynesian culture, but they had fun nonetheless. The temporary escape to a tropical saloon featuring giant wooden idols, Chinese food and fruity rum drinks with exotic names was just the thing for a public who wanted to visit exotic lands without really leaving the cities where they lived.