Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Round Robin: Aloha, Watering Hole!

For this week's Round Robin Photo Challenge, "Ye Old Watering Hole" (suggested by Maryanne of Inside the Gilded Cage), I had several places in mind to feature, and trouble settling on one. At lunchtime on Tuesday, I decided to go to a local restaurant that makes its own ice cream, and to take pictures of ice cream sodas and such. Okay, so I should have asked first. Six pictures later, I was politely told to put the camera away. Their policy is that one can only take photos in the presence (and with the permission) of the general manager. So I left a message and talked to her on the phone later in the day. Her main concern is not to photograph customers without getting a release signed. I had tried hard not to take any pictures of customers, but reviewing them tonight I discovered that a one couple had accidentally made it into two of the shots. I tried cropping them out, but got stuck with someone's elbow. So I deleted those pictures entirely.

That idea was a bust, but I'll go back sometime and do it properly. Meanwhile, I've got a fresh batch of pictures from one of my favorite places to eat and drink in Tucson, taken with permission from the staff. I've written about this vintage restaurant and bar before, both on my blogs and on Roadside America. The name of the place: Kon Tiki.

Depending on who's dispensing the information,the Kon Tiki opened in either 1961 or 1962, but I think it was 1961. Hawaii was a new state then, and Polynesian culture and decor was all the rage on the mainland. Over the years, Tucson's tribute to tikidom got to be a little shabby, as one might expect from 40-year-old thatch and wood and bamboo and matting. We loved the place anyway. One night a year or two ago, John and I sat in a part of the restaurant that was even darker than usual, because they were having electrical problems. While we ate dinner, which was great even if we could barely see it, a couple of guys were fixing a hanging lamp a few feet away.

Things have improved a lot since then at the Kon Tiki. I read on someone else's blog tonight that the Kon Tiki was just refurbished. It didn't quite register with me while I was taking the photos, but I didn't see any any signs of shabbiness this time, except for one tiki that could use a little more paint. "Ace Jackalope" reports that the person who renovated the place for their April 2006 rededication was one "Bamboo Ben," grandson of Eli Hedley, the original interior designer of Kon Tiki. The koi in the little pond outside are still gone (and the tile-lined fake stream is dry), and the parrots are still missing from the aviary. But the rest of the Kon Tiki is looking better than it has in years.

These nice folks, and the ones in the previous picture, agreed to let me photograph them and their family-sized drinks. I should have given them the info on where the pictures would be appearing, but I did disclose that it was for an online photo essay. I can't give you a firsthand review of Kon Tiki's alcoholic beverages, because I stick to diet cola, ice tea and the occasional virgin pina colada. But the drinks menu is extensive, illustrated, and fun to read, with lots of colorful names for the concoctions. The drinks are also reputed to be inexpensive for what you get. Me, I care more about the coconut shrimp and the Polynesian barbecue ribs. And the decor. Always the decor.

The Kon Tiki now has a flash web site. It's very cool and evocative, especially the intro. A lot of the bits aren't finished yet, but there is a photo gallery. I'm perversely pleased to report that like me, they have trouble getting good pictures of this deliberately underlit hideaway.

For many years, the Kon Tiki used to sell tiki mugs that had the restaurant's name on them. We've bought a number of these at yard sales and antique malls, in a variety of colors. But since we started going to the place itself, there's been no merchandise in evidence - until tonight. Now they've got the classic mugs, scorpion bowls, tiki shot mugs, t-shirts, hats and visors. I bought John a scorpion bowl and one of the shot-glass sized tiki mugs. Got to reward the Kon Tiki for remembering their history, and doing it up right!

Thanks, Maryanne, for an excuse to write about the Kon Tiki again.

Now go see what everyone else is doing for this Challenge. And yes, you're welcome to join in yourself!

Inside The Gilded Cage - Posted!

Outpost Mâvarin - Posted!

Ellipsis...Suddenly Carly - Posted!

My Photos

Suzanne R
New Suzanne R's Life - Posted!

Julie's Web Journal - Posted!

Retrospect USA

The Daily Warrior - Posted!

First Digital Photos - Posted!

Fond of Photography - Posted!

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Carly said...

In the age of camera phones, it's almost unrealistic to think you won't end up in someones photo, but it is nice to know there are people like the manager of the soda fountain who are that concerned for their customers. I haven't run into any hassles so far, but I am thinking about looking into standard release forms anyway. Cool challenge photos. :)

DesLily said...

there's so much to see in your photo's and Carly's!.. i guess the idea is to see it all before one begins to order drinks with alcohol! lol

julie said...

Wow. I must show this entry to my son. His shirt wardrobe consists almost entirely of hawaiian-themed articles.

Our Trader Vic's is re-opening. It's attached to a hotel that's being remodeled. The place closed fifteen years ago and I heard that when they went in to take a look at the place everything was still intact. (If you visit that link, there's a speaker alert if you click on the link to the corporate site. Work safe, but a little loud.)

Suzanne R said...

This sounds like a very interesting place to go. I also stick to non-alcoholic beverages due to my diabetes med but it is nice to think of enjoying the drinks on the menu vicariously. :-) I don't know that we have any Hawaiian-themed restaurants in this area except for Trader Vic's in Portland, and Steve and I ate there once. It was quite an adventure! Thanks for this glimpse into the Kon Tiki.

Tammy said...

Aloha Karen :) What a fun place to refresh in the heat. Those glasses are huge!

Janet said...

ahhhh, I wish I was there!

Tess said...

Best places...! Thanks for the cocktails! The coconut shrimp would have to make it to my plate!

Becky said...

You know... this place is #1 on my list of places we MUST go to when the Yanagi clan comes to visit you. :-) I'm thinking a winter trip to sunny Tucson is in order.

Globetrotter said...

OHMAGOSH what a cool place! I can't believe the size of those drinks...does anyone other than you walk out of there sober? Must have been really terrific when the koi and parrots lived there, but still cool nonetheless.

Thanks for inviting me to come up with the theme. I enjoyed it.


Anonymous said...

love all the polynesian pix! looks like a fun time and great theme!