Da Kine Island Grill
153 E. Fremont Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
This small café, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sells all types of traditional Hawaiian food, from spam musubi and saimin bowls to kalua pork and Hawaiian poke (raw fish). The walls in the main dining section are filled with island memorabilia, such as ukeleles, beer signs and surf sculptures. But what makes this South Bay establishment so popular is the live entertainment on weekends, featuring traditional Hawaiian music, occasionally with hula dancers, classic rock, blues and jazz all on the small stage that resembles a grass hut. Da Kine’s drink menu includes many popular tiki drinks, such as blue Hawaiians, pina coladas and mai tais.
Downtown Tiki Lounge
144 S. B St.
San Mateo, CA 94401
Visitors may argue that San Mateo isn’t exactly South Bay, but it’s in Silicon Valley and this lively establishment definitely deserves to be on the list. After Trader Vic’s in Palo Alto closed earlier this year, many former patrons have been heading to San Mateo to indulge themselves in some tropical vibes. The Downtown Tiki Lounge, adorned with island decor, has a great selection of exotic drinks, including green monsters, scorpions, tropical paradises and tsunamis, along with a good selection of fine beers and wines. Appetizers, sandwiches, salads and side dishes are also available for purchase. Located just a few blocks from the Cal Train Station, the lounge is also noted for its collection of hand-carved Tiki dolls.
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230 Jackson St.
San Jose, CA 95112
This business says guests will be transported back to their favorite plate lunch restaurant in small town Hawaii, making it a great draw for Hawaiian food lovers. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Hawaiian restaurant-bar sells traditional cuisine, in addition to salads, burgers, omelets and burritos. The bar has daily specials including Two for $5 Hukilau Punches on Tuesdays, Wahine (women) Wednesdays with $5 drinks and dinner and drink specials on Tiki Thursdays. On Fridays, there is live Hawaiian entertainment from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Sundays, the restaurant offers a “delicious Kahuna size Hawaiian plate” with a great assortment of traditional food enough to satisfy any “local.”
Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room
221 Cathcart St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Of all the South Bay’s Tiki-style bars, Hula’s Santa Cruz has the best “Tiki Room,” with private dining for up to 50 seated guests or up to 60 guests for cocktails and apps. Located in downtown Santa Cruz, this restaurant is alive with the aloha spirit with Hawaiian music, carved Tiki statues, surfboards, island-style seating, colorful lamps and faux palm trees. Hula’s Santa Cruz serves traditional Polynesian cuisine and has a fabulous selection of tiki drinks like Hula’s mai tais, Hawaii 5-0s, pink bikini martinis and zombies. On “Mahalo Mondays,” the restaurant gives 10 percent of all sales to a different local non-profit organization each month. Hula’s recently won the “Best of” award for Best Exotics Drinks from a local weekly publication, making this location an excellent choice for a round of exotic tiki drinks.
Pono Hawaiian Grill
120 Union St.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The successful opening of Pono Hawaiian Grill just blocks away from Hula’s shows just how much demand there is for Polynesian cuisine and tiki drinks in the beach community of Santa Cruz. Pono, as the locals call it, won this year’s “Best of” award for Hawaiian food from two weekly newspapers. The restaurant’s bar, The Reef, is a popular hangout for young locals and has a full bar with tropical drinks. During the nightly happy hour, mai tais and margaritas are just $5. The Reef has live entertainment nightly, featuring an eclectic range of music from reggae, rock, blues and Hawaiian, in addition to comedy nights and surf movies.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. His work can be found on Examiner.com.