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Trader Vic’s :: Emeryville, California

It’s not everyday that I drive to a bar with my friends and a valet takes the car at the front door.  In fact, I never do that. Trader Vic’s is a bar for a new drinking experience, transporting bar-goers wearied from Red Bull cocktails and Appletinis to a tropical bungalow that dates back to the 1930’s.

Trader Vic’s opened in 1932 and legend has it that the Mai Tai originated from this bar.  The bar and restaurant, adorned with old tiki and ocean themed paraphernalia, overlooks the Emeryville Marina lined with motor yachts and sailboats.  Everything in the bar touts it’s history; the framed dollar bills on the wall that date back to the 1930s and earlier, the Hawaiian-retro menus that display cartoons of topless Hawaiian women hanging on white sailors, and the extravagant drinks that are more colorful than the waiters’ flowered Hawaiian shirts.

We strategically arrived during Happy Hour, which features a menu of drinks and appetizers that are all half-off from 4pm to 6pm, Monday through Friday.  We happily sipped on our drinks, which are $8 – $9 full price, and ordered a few appetizers.  My first drink, the Rangoon Ruby, was a tall, bright pink mixture of cranberry juice & vodka, garnished with a sprig of mint, pineapple and lime.  We then moved on to the Navy Grog.  The Navy Grog, served in a squat ceramic mug with cartoons of topless women dancing around the surface, included a blend of rums, grapefruit juice, and spiced syrup.  But the ultimate drink of the afternoon was the London Sour.  This flashy drink, which is a version of a whiskey sour but with scotch and garnished with an orange slice, also has British and American flags stabbed into the orange.  God bless America and our colonial past.

I wasn’t too impressed with the appetizers (Nick and I did not particularly like the tempura batter on our calamari, and the crab cakes I sampled didn’t knock my socks off), but when I visit Trader Vic’s again, I will be sure to try the Kahlua pig entree.  The Kahlua pig, a Trader Vic’s specialty, is served every Friday from flaming wood-fired ovens, which, according to their menu, date back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 20).  Pig or no pig, Trader Vic’s will be my tropical destination when I return to the Oakland area.

Trader Vic’s Restaurant Emeryville
9 Anchor Drive
Emeryville California, 94608

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