Where Have All the Trader Vic's Gone?

Where Have All the Trader Vic's Gone?

The fascinating history of the restaurant chain you've never heard of.

Long before Trader Joe's became the premier dietary status symbol of the well-to-do, there was Trader Vic's, a restaurant/bar chain that fit snugly into America's culture of unintentional post-WWII kitsch; a restaurant the whole family could enjoy and one that Mamie Eisenhower might disapprove of as being too foreign.

Trader Vic's, a product of California's "Surf City U.S.A." heyday, was a "tiki bar" during the island-life craze of the 1950s and 1960s; the physical embodiment of a Beach Boys 45 and a genuine California tan. The decor was a knowingly tacky combination of Polynesian relics and heavy English wooden furniture, plush leather banquettes in varying shades of green and mile-thick, wall to wall shag carpeting, and for years it served as stiff competition to Don the Beachcomber, another highly popular, similarly-themed chain (with each owner claiming to be the creator of the Mai Tai).

Trader Vic's Boston location

However, while Don the Beachcomber may lay claim to kicking off this fad of palatable exoticism (today it would simply be called cultural appropriation; the opening might even draw protesters), Trader Vic's extended far beyond the confines of America's borders and became a global sensation. Despite, or perhaps because of the laughably unhip decor, the in-crowd and clueless tourists alike flocked to locations in Japan, Cuba, Germany, England, and, over time, the UAE, Jordan, Thailand, India, and China, not to mention the dozens of locations scattered across the United States for more than five decades.

And then, like any other fad, it passed. By the late 1970s, the kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge humor offered up by Trader Vic's was eschewed in favor of the encroaching excess which marked the Reagan years - save for the Trader Vic's of Havana, which was closed in 1959 on account of Castro's rise to power - and one by one, Trader Vic's began closing their doors (in 1993, Donald Trump closed the Trader Vic's after purchasing the Plaza Hotel, claiming it was too "tacky").

Trader Vic's of Houston - 1969

Today, the vast majority of Trader Vic's are located in the United Arab Emirates, with only two locations (Atlanta and Emeryville, California) operating in the United States. This in itself is not so striking, as American exports usually have hilariously long expiration dates in far-off lands. But Trader Vic's has refused to accept its obsoleteness. Between 2004 and 2008, eight different Trader Vic's opened across America. By 2011, all of them had permanently closed. The most recent incarnation, the Trader Vic's of Los Angeles, opened its doors in 2009 only to close by 2014.

The chain's refusal to lie down and stay down is endearing, if not pitiable. Why shouldn't this declassé, faux-tropical locale, long abandoned by the jet-set crowd of the Swinging 60s get another moment in the spotlight? More utilitarian restaurants like Chili's and TGI Friday's have blossomed and thrived in the wake of Trader Vic's demise, with hundreds of locations found in the remotest corners of the world, while The Rainforest Cafe, ingratiatingly replete with animatronic gorillas, simulated jungle sounds on a hellishly infinite loop, and palm fronds swatting inattentive diners in the face between courses has thrived domestically and abroad. These restaurants demonstrate the kind of all-or-nothing mentality which dominates modern taste. The general public would either prefer minimal ambiance, or be dazzled by a spectacle, than find a middle ground; a tasteful approach to camp/a tasteless approach to class.

Trader Vic's will unfortunately never again be the hangout of the martini-swilling, Winston-smoking smart set, partly due to the extinction of that type of crowd. But for a once-mighty colossus with locations ranging from Arizona to Abu Dhabi and everywhere in between, Trader Vic's deserves some kind of recognition as the rarity that it is: something that was, even for a fleeting moment in time, beloved by the world. How many other restaurants can say that?

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads


I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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The Experience Of Going Home After Your First Year Away

"There's no place like home."


Home. My safe place. The place that calls to me when I am stressed or lonely or sad. The place that fills me with happiness and nostalgia. I will be home in less than a month. But this time, I know it will be different. There is no way it can be the same as it was because I have spent the last 10 months living on my own. No one telling me to clean my room or do my laundry. No one asking me to lower the television. No one asking me what time I will be home when I go out. Freedom. Independence. Autonomy. Self-government. Perfection in its truest form.

Don't get me wrong. My parents are great. They have always encouraged me to be independent, and they have always trusted me. However, they will comment on my room if my laundry bin is getting too full. They never miss an opportunity to tell me my showers are too long, and that the water bill is going up while the lake is emptying because of all the water I am wasting. I haven't had to hear any of this for almost a year, and, to be honest, it's been nice.

We leave home to go away to college, and even though we are 18, we really are not an adult. I didn't feel like one when I first left home, but I feel so much more like one now. For 10 months, I have had to do it all on my own. No one woke me up to go to class. No one reminded me to do my homework. No one did my laundry for me. Sure, my family is only a phone call or text message away, but I pride myself on standing on my own two feet. I got a job here on campus because I like making my own money. I love the feeling I get when I want to buy something, and I don't have to "ask permission." I love being able to buy my family gifts and know that it's coming from me — that I am paying for it with the money I earned. I lined up a couple of jobs for the summer while I was home from spring break, so I am ready. Adulting here I am.

I will always be respectful of my parents, and I know they will be respectful of me, but I am trying to prepare myself for the adjustment of being an adult living with her parents. I know they are trying to prepare themselves as well. They went through it. My father went into the Marine Corps right after high school, and when he returned from overseas three years later, it took some adjusting. My mother went away to school just like I did. She and her parents had to find common ground, so I am confident we will too. We may hit some rough patches or experience some turbulence, but nothing we can't handle. We always work through things. We always have.

All this aside, I am looking forward to spending time with my family, having home cooked meals, enjoying downtime with my dogs, sleeping in MY bed, and using my own private bathroom! With each passing year, I am sure it will get easier and easier until the day I move out permanently. It seems so far off in the distance, but my first year of college just went by in the blink of an eye, so am I sure the next few years will fly by as well. However, it's really nice knowing that no matter how old I am, I will always be able to go home — the comfortable, safe, welcoming place my parents have made for me and my sister. Just like Dorothy said, "There no place like home," and she went back after spending time in Oz.

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