Located in the Fairmont atop Nob Hill in San Francisco, Tonga Room is the oldest Tiki Bar in the US. When you first enter huge space the first thing you’ll notice is the large lagoon. Periodically throughout the night, a ‘rain storm’ precedes a large barge floating out to the center of the lagoon and a cover band plays. Before this became a Tiki Bar in the 40’s, this used to be the hotel pool! And oh yeah, they have some great drinks!
My absolute favorite here is the classic Zombie. They typically top it off with bitters and it really adds a nice smell to the whole experience. The Mai Tai is solid but not among the best I’ve had. My next favorite here is the Jet Pilot. Lends itself to having some tasty layers going on. The drinks are made very fast as this is a high traffic bar. Quality varies from drink to drink – especially dependent on how crowded it gets. Sadly sometimes they run out of the good pellet ice and just have standard cubes which doesn’t allow for drinks like a Zombie to reach their full potential. Also, this is among the most expensive of tiki bars. A Zombie will set you back $18, yow!
The biggest con to the Tonga Room is how popular it is. I would default to coming here on a Saturday night, as Smugglers Cove is neigh on impossible to comfortably get in to on a Saturday. Tonga usually is a breeze to walk in if you want to hang out at the bar (and a very long wait if you actually want a table). But make no mistake, it will be shoulder to shoulder in there (don’t attempt to sit at the high top tables, they’re for dinner reservations). If you hang long enough you can usually get some counter space at the bar as the turnover is pretty quick. If you are able to hang around for an actual table (or were able to make a reservation) then for sure do it. It’s a super fun vibe in there what with the floating band and the great menu. Can be a little hard to find as it is in the bowels of the hotel. Just go down to the basement and head all the way to the back in what looks like it should be the ballroom.