y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Quick Stop in San Francisco - The Tonga Room

Quick Stop in San Francisco - The Tonga Room

For well over a decade I've been wanting to experience the San Francisco institution, the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in the basement of the elegant Fairmont Hotel.

Seeing it a couple of months ago on the Travel Channel TV show  No Reservations, when Chef Chris Cosentino took Anthony Bourdain to his favorite spots in town, it renewed my interest in visiting.

I walked over after my jaunt at the Ferry Building and much to my dismay, it was closed. So on another trip, a friend who lives in Oakland indulged me.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room Tonga Mai Tai dark rum triple sec fresh fruit juices

From whatever either Embarcadero or Union Square area, it's a steep uphill climb to get there (you can take a Cable Car if you are not up for the walk). Rest assured when you arrive, you will be ready for one of their tropical libations.

The Mai Tai served in coconut cup hits the spot.Not to mention the festive tropical decor in this awesome tiki bar, one of the nation's first.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room Bora Bora Horror rum banana liquer grand marnier pineapple juice

My friend opted for the Bora Bora Horror, an even more fruity cocktail with banana, orange and pineapple flavors, served in this great tiki head.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room Pipeline dark rum coconut pineapple and orange juices

The bar remains packed with a mix of hotel guests, tourists and locals. Many of our neighbors struck up conversations and there were a couple of quite rowdy and inebriated groups lopping up potent Lava Bowl for 4 in about 30 seconds.

Some of the guests displayed this charming surfer girl cocktail glass, made to look even more ornate with his colorful tattoo sleeves.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room Pina Colada and Pipeline

Our second round consisted of the Pina Colada and also the Pipeline. Like the Mai Tai the Pina Colada was an exemplary version of the popular and often badly mixed drink.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room lagoon a

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room lagoon rain

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room lagoon b

One of the best aspects of The Tonga Room comes from its original indoor 75-foot swimming pool from 1929. In 1945 it got converted by MGM's lead set director to a lagoon.

In addition to the floating stage for the orchestra, a periodic tropical rainstorm takes place every 15 minutes or so in the lagoon. It never gets old too. Most customers run to the center to enjoy the storm each time it occurs.

Due to the mood lighting inside and the fact that I was limited to my cell phone camera, I didn't get the best shots of the lagoon. In any case it must be experienced to be enjoyed.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room drinks menu

The picture menu at the bar really lets you figure out what you are in for with each drink, and they also serve quiet a large and varied Asian food menu.

San Francisco Mar12_Tonga Room Fairmont Hotel tiki wall

This lovely tiki display right outside the elevator, on the Terrace Level of the Fairmont lets you know you are in the right place. Otherwise you'd never expect such a treasure in this formal hotel.

San Francisco Mar12_b Union Square heart

San Francisco Mar12_a Union Square heart

After our tropical escape, we walked (thankfully) downhill to the Union Square station to head back to Oakland for dinner.

I always enjoy the artwork along the way.

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