Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar It has a tropical and exuberant atmosphere with live entertainment, dancing and rainstorms. Excellent Pacific Rim Asian cuisine is served in the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar in a tropical setting.
Beyond Fairmont San Francisco’s gorgeous Beaux Arts exterior is a kitschy-cool utopia complete with a shimmering lagoon and thundering indoor rainstorms. One of the largest tiki spots in the world, Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is located on the terrace floor of the property, below the lobby.
Location: 950 Mason Street, San Francisco, California 94108, USA
About Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar is a restaurant and tiki bar located at the Fairmont San Francisco hotel in San Francisco, California.
The tiki bar concept, like much of American pop culture, originated in Hollywood. The burdens of the Great Depression and the scarcity of commercial air travel added to the appeal of a real or imagined Polynesian getaway in the years after Prohibition.
With the establishment of the Don the Beachcomber bar in 1933, Donn Beach (née Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) is credited with developing the tiki aesthetic that surrounds diners with tropical decor and rum-fueled cocktails like Zombie and Navy Grog.
Four years later, Beach’s popularity prompted rival restaurateur Vic Bergeron, who went on to invent the tiki bar’s signature drink, the Mai Tai, to rename his Oakland bar and restaurant Trader Vic’s after South Seas.
The tiki craze had begun, and soon every major American city would become a tropical-inspired haven for sipping exotic drinks and feasting on fancy versions of American-Asian fare.
Named after the South Pacific country of Tonga, this restaurant and entertainment venue was opened in 1945.
Fairmont commissioned legendary MGM set designer Mel Melvin to transform the hotel’s indoor pool, which celebrities call the Terrace Plunge, into a restaurant and bar that resembled the pool deck on a luxury cruise ship in 1945.
MelvMelvin is decorated with a new themed diner featuring lifeboats, metal vents and lifebuoys salvaged from the timber sailboat SS Forrester traveling from San Francisco to the South Pacific.
The pool was kept as the focal point, but a small boat was built to house the musicians serenading the guests. The dining room’s nocturnal storms were built in the 1950s, and rain, flashing lights, and loud explosions poured into the pool every thirty minutes.
In the late 1960s, the Tonga Room was transformed into the preppy masterpiece it is today.
The Tonga Room was one of the few tropical-themed venues in San Francisco at the time, but it outstripped nearly all of its competitors. Today, the model is back, with countless contemporary faux Polynesian bars paying homage to the preppy joints that came before them.
The drinks menu at Smuggler’s Cove, a small tiki bar with an encyclopedic collection of rum, launched in 2009, reads like a history of tiki bars and cocktails. Amidst shimmering glass floats and a rippling fountain, you’ll find diorama-like monuments honoring long-closed San Francisco tiki establishments like Tiki Bob’s and Skipper Kent’s.
The Tonga Chamber was referred to as a “historical resource” in a planning department report for the City of San Francisco.
The report stated:
“The Tonga Room is of exceptional importance because of its rarity and being one of the finest examples of the ‘high style’ Tiki bar/restaurant in San Francisco.”
Menu and reservations
For decades, the Tonga Room has wowed tourists (including beloved Bourdain) with its unusual drinks and Asian-inspired appetizers. The lava rock monument represents the legacy of tiki culture and ignited a tiki rebirth in San Francisco and beyond.
The menu includes crispy kalua pork tacos, ahi poke tostadas, and cauliflower fried rice, but the magic of Tonga goes beyond the food.
Reservations are not allowed except for hotel guests. Between 17:00 and 22:00 everyone is invited; Only 21+ after 22:00.