classic

Tonga Room

San Francisco, CA
Bar & Restaurant
153
pictures
Articles in Critiki News
I want to go!
Plan your visit:
Save
Get there
Share
I have been!
Report back to Critiki:
Visited?
Rate
Comment
Add Pics
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA
Opened in 1945
Wed-Thu 5pm-11:30pm
Fri-Sat 5pm-12:30am
Sun 5pm-11:30pm
closed Mon-Tue
(415) 772-5278

Critiki ratings

Tonga Room

7.8

Overall

by 336 people

1

10

Detail
Everyone You
Decor 9.7
Drink Quality 7.1
Drink Selection 7.4
Food Quality 7.1
Food Selection 7.3
Mood 8.5
Music 6
Service 7.6
Tikiness 9
Tilt 8.3
Vibe 7.8

Upcoming Visits

Regulars & Visitors

View all 660 Tonga Room regulars & visitors

Humuhumu’s description

The Tonga Room is a great example of an old, classic Polynesian restaurant. It can be found in the basement floor of the upscale Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The Tonga Room has gone through several incarnations over the years, themed initially in 1945 as a cruise ship (the S.S. Tonga), then in the '50s as a Mondrian-esque Chinese restaurant, then finally in the '60s the current theme of a Polynesian paradise took hold. Before becoming a restaurant, the space was the hotel's swimming pool.
The bar area of the restaurant has some impressive nautical theming, complete with a large ship's mast and sail, and plenty of rigging. There are two long dining rooms. The left dining room lies beneath a peaked-roof A-frame structure of impressive scale, with gorgeous carved details. The right dining room includes tables clustered under smaller round thatched huts, each one filled with large, colorful float lamps. Around the entire restaurant there are no shortage of old carved pieces tucked in between tropical foliage.
The dining rooms and the bar wrap around the real star attraction: a water-filled lagoon (the remains of the room's swimming pool origins), with a small tapa-lined boat with a thatched roof, where a band plays. Every thirty minutes a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool. Unfortunately, this grand spectacle is also where the Tonga Room experience goes sadly sideways: while earlier in the evening the soundtrack is appropriate Hawaiian music, the house band plays dance hits of the '80s. The band starts playing at 8pm, at which time a cover charge is added to all bills (adding insult to the injury). The more low-key Happy Hour buffet at the Tonga Room, which goes from 5-7pm Monday-Friday, is quite popular.
In early 2009, the Fairmont announced plans to add a new tower of condominiums; this plan would have displaced the historic Tonga Room. This led to a fight against the removal of this unique piece of San Francisco history. The end result was positive: the Tonga Room is now protected under special landmark status by the City of San Francisco. The owners could still choose to close the Tonga Room, but every artifact within must be painstakingly cataloged, tracked, and preserved, and hopefully that daunting task will stave off any dreams of converting the space. The hotel has since changed ownership, and the new owners have no interest in the old condo plan.
In 2013, the menu was revamped; the tropical drinks being served are now much truer to the traditional recipes, and prepared with more care. Tonga Room's management has said that this new menu has led to a dramatic increase in bar sales, giving hope that this new trend towards a higher quality experience at the Tonga Room will continue.

Comments

Stacy
Stacy has visited Tonga Room.
March 11, 2019, 11:06 PM
A classic, but if only the drinks were as great as the atmosphere. The menu could use some love. Drinks are pricey but mediocre in a city of outstanding cocktails. Certainly Worth popping your head in if youíre visiting SF but if I had guests Iíd take them to Smugglers,Pagan Idol and Last Rites ( love their drinks).
March 1, 2019, 9:44 PM
Welcome to the Tiki Cruiseline! Step right up and enjoy sysco food, "Boogie Wonderland" played by a man with a keytar, and drinks with EXACTLY the scientifically approved amount of alcohol. Yes, I think it is clear that most of us have been to Tonga as a rite of passage. Personally, I was completely able to put aside my "high end tiki" snobbery and just enjoy the tiki restaurant of olde: Family's enjoying grandpas birthday, anniversaries, baby-boomers shaking their butts to Earth Wind and Fire, and servers with aprons and collared shirts.

It's a blast from the past in that THIS is not only what people loved from theme dining, but this was essentially fine dining in the 50's. I could totally feel the history, the lore, the footprints of 4 generations of people celebrating here. What may seem tacky in the midst of the revival tiki movements of the 80s and now, really holds water on it's own (not just because of the pool) as a classic.

The point about Tonga was that we all had a really spectacular, wild, kinda classy time. Also we spend probably $400 on mugs so there is that.
Monster A GoGo
Monster A GoGo is a semi-regular at Tonga Room.
February 1, 2019, 1:38 PM
The Tonga Room is an institution that has miraculously been saved from demolition (at least for now) and has inexplicably become a popular go-to place for those in the city once again. It has become so popular that you really do need to make reservations to even hope of getting in.

I have been several times. On the last two visits, I noted that the lighting was turned up (for safety reasons in the crowded room?), spoiling the atmosphere and ruining the lightning effect for the every-30-minutes thunder storm that hits the place.

On my last visit, well...It was so crowded, it didn't really happen. You can read my blog about that trip (and several other tiki adventures from the surrounding area) if you'd like. The link is here:

https://monsterago-go.blogspot.com/2018/01/im-freaky-for-tiki-10-great-san.html

With its revitalized popularity, here is hoping the Tonga Room will be around for a long, LONG time to come.

Cheers!
View all 45 comments

Articles in Critiki News

All 6 Critiki News articles
Upcoming Visits
Regulars & Visitors
  • Diamond Shoals
  • Tikicomber
  • tongaroom415
  • Humuhumu
  • Primo Kimo
  • The Jab
  • Tiare
  • Colonel Tiki
  • Rugby Matt
  • Lokelani
  • Kukuthi
  • JenTiki
  • Dr.TikiMojo
  • Tikizilla
  • Okolehao
  • tiki kupcake
View all 660 Tonga Room regulars & visitors