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Big-T & the Bada-Bings

A Tiki Treasure Trove Opens in the Bay Area
The classic tiki bar is experiencing a renaissance in the San Francisco Bay Area, as evidenced by the opening of Tiki Tom’s in Walnut Creek and The Conga Lounge in Oakland last year. Now, North Bay hepcats ‘n’ kittens can get their own tantalizing taste of backyard exotica at the newly launched Mr. Vise Grip’s Bamboo Bar.

Strategically located in a street level room adjacent to the enormously popular nightclub 19 Broadway in charmingly rustic Fairfax, California, Mr. Vise Grip’s is a slice of Hipster Paradise smack in the middle of Hippie Central. The proprietor of this latest exponent of Pop Polynesia is none other than Vise Grip himself, longtime baron of the local Swing scene. But the suave ‘n’ savvy Vise wants to expand the obvious appeal of his dream project beyond the subculture of resident lounge lizards and hula honeys to make the Bamboo Bar a regular destination for the average Joe community, as well.

Of course, the bar is something of an anomaly in a timeless town like Fairfax, which comes off like a Norman Rockwell painting of a Grateful Dead concert. The seemingly incongruous sight of a true blue tiki tavern had many of the graying counterculture crowd gaping as they passed by the bar’s Grand Opening a few months back. Dig it: This is the kind of place their parents used to frequent. It was a case of retro culture shock for some, but in fact, the Bamboo Bar fits in snugly with the naturally nostalgic environs.

19 Broadway has been around for decades and features live music seven nights a week. Lounge act luminaries from Sam Butera to Reverend Horton Heat have held court in this cozy landmark, so having a tiki bar on the premises only makes further sense when you factor in the musical element. The Bamboo Bar itself, though newly invented, already has the lived-in ambience of a well-frequented oasis. This largely has to do with the thatched awnings, bamboo covered walls, ubiquitous tiki god statues and comfy cabana chairs and tables. But, this soothing sense of tradition also ebbs from the pleasant demeanor of the friendly, hard-working bartender (John) and the magic of master mixologist Vise Grip. The bar’s list of “exotic libations” includes classics like the Mai Tai, Blue Hawaiian and Chi Chi, and twists on old standards like my favorite, their extra strong version of the Zombie called “Nite of the Living Dead.” Enhanced by the sight of so many voodoo dolls in their sexy aloha dresses, a trip to the Bamboo Bar is an intoxicating experience, well worth the trip to far-away Fairfax from just about anywhere.

-Will “the Thrill” Viharo

Mr. Vise Grip’s Bamboo Bar is located at 19 Broadway in Fairfax, California. Hours are 5:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m., Thursday thru Sunday, with live music nightly. For details, call (415) 485-0375 or visit

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Check out past ATOMIC features.

Dear Dottie
1999 Articles List
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2001 Articles List
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Tiki Treasure Trove Opens in the Bay Area


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