classic

Tonga Room

San Francisco, CA
Bar & Restaurant
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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

7.9

Overall

by 198 people

1

10

Detail
Everyone You
Decor 9.7
Drink Quality 7.1
Drink Selection 7.5
Food Quality 6.8
Food Selection 7.4
Mood 8.8
Music 6.2
Service 7.6
Tikiness 9.2
Tilt 8.7
Vibe 8.2

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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.

How to find it

1
The Tonga Room is in a lower level of the Fairmont Hotel, two floors below the lobby level. Since the Fairmont is on a hill, there is a south-side entrance to the building on California St. That entry is on the same level as the Tonga Room, if you enter here, follow the hall to the other end of the building.

Parking

Parking in this neighborhood is extremely difficult. There is a mix of free parking and 2-hour limit metered parking (until 6pm or 9pm) in the neighborhood. If you try to park in the neighborhood, expect to spend about 15 minutes to find a spot about four blocks away. The Fairmont has a valet parking lot for about $20-30, and there is another parking lot just west of the hotel for about the same amount.

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Regulars & Visitors
  • Diamond Shoals
  • Tikicomber
  • tongaroom415
  • Humuhumu
  • The Jab
  • Tiare
  • Kukuthi
  • JenTiki
View all 277 Tonga Room regulars & visitors
Comments
KukePuluke
KukePuluke has visited Tonga Room.
November 27, 2016, 10:42 PM
OK, we gave this place another chance....... We knew to avoid it when the band is playing, as it's been many months and our ears may have finally recovered, or we've gotten used to the hearing loss?
Our two intended dining companions bailed when one of them got the dreaded plague going around at work......Food was better than our first meal here years ago, drinks better also........BUT, what a missed opportunity !
This place is world class in a world class city........and it goes so low brow by not taking into account that the TIKI experience is multi-dimensional. It's about the visuals, it's about the tastes, the smells, the feels, THE SOUNDS ! EVERY time we've been here, the place has looked exquisite! And, every time, the sound has been the flaw in the otherwise stunning composition. Again, tonight we were subjected to seemingly random crap from top 40 radio of the past 3 decades.
At least while we dined poolside, it was at a slightly muffled level so we could hear each other in conversation.
And the periodic rain caused a white noise that was far more pleasing and atmospheric........perhaps this establishment might consider doing away completely with the band and the bad canned music that contributes nothing to the sum of the other parts of this gorgeous environment.
I heard that perfume makers often concoct fragrances that are an assemblage of things wonderful and profane, like gardenia combined with undertones of manure.........perhaps that is what the Tonga Room is attempting?
Come here for the wonderful environment. Watch out for the unpleasant sounds. This is a place best experienced without hearing!
Sorry Tonga Room, I know you can be better!
July 18, 2016, 3:17 PM
As a kid, I went to many tiki places with my parents. Most are now gone (such as Tiburon Tommie's and the Kon Tiki in the Sheraton Waikiki). Only two remain and the Tonga Room is the only to remain essentially unchanged, surviving even a recent plant to get rid of it completely. It exudes classic Tiki character from the ersatz ship deck dance floor to the tikis, outrigger, thatch roofs, and tropical rainstorm. It also is dark and still has one of its claims to fame - the central pool with floating band stand and the "rain" that pours down into it along the edge of the roofed-over tables, accompanied by thunder and lightning. It's a wonderful classic, although the drinks these days could be better.
KukePuluke
KukePuluke has visited Tonga Room.
March 10, 2016, 8:50 PM
This place is beautiful to look at, but watch out for the HORRIBLE live band playing old top 40 CRAP!...at deafening levels.....
What a way to spoil a very elegant environment.
Come on Tonga Room, you are better than that!
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