Today I’m going to start a new multi-part series looking at the architecture of Trader Vic’s. While there is no disputing the highest quality of the food, drinks and interior atmosphere found in the original Vic’s locations, surprisingly, a lot of the exterior facades for Trader Vic’s were quite tame.
For many years, the Trader Vic’s franchise was associated with Hilton hotels, and most of their restaurants were located inside or adjacent to a Hilton. We’ll start this series with a look at some of the simplest Trader Vic’s exteriors.
Atlanta was one of the last original Vic’s to open. It is located in the basement of the Downtown Hilton and is still operating today (go visit if you want to experience the last operating classic TV now that the Dallas location has shut down)
From the street, you would not even know that Trader Vic’s was hiding in there.
But as you approach from the sidewalk, you can see the street entrance
However, if you enter the restaurant form the lobby, you must first ride the elevator down to the basement, where you will find this small entrance gate into the restaurant.
The original TV was located in the basement of the Palmer Hilton in downtown Chicago. That location has since closed and TV has opened a new location downtown.
The interior entrance to the Palmer Hilton TV was a little on the bland side.
Exterior entrance to the downtown Hilton in Detroit
Detail of the entrance in Detroit
San Francisco, California
The San Francisco location had a bland canvas awning, flanked with simple tikis on each side, leading up to some nice carved wooden doors.
The Seattle TV was still a simple exterior façade. However, with the addition of the thatched awning, the Tahitian fish trap lamps, the tapa patterns and the Moai at the front door, this locale showed a glimpse of the incredible atmosphere to be found inside.
Trader Vic’s was one of the key players back in the day of classic Polynesian Pop Culture. Surprisingly, there were dozens and dozens of other tiki restaurants that were much more exotic and elaborate than Trader Vic’s from the outside. That said, the magic of Trader Vic’s really happened after you stepped inside the restaurant, sipped a Mai Tai and let the let your troubles slip away. That’s where Vic’s competitors had a hard time keeping up, he was a master.
In Part 2 of the series we will look at the next level of exterior design for Vic’s and the locations that had a little more flair.