Trader Vic’s: Happy Hour at Old-School Icon


Trader Vic’s still has it! If you grew up in the area, chances are you may have gone to Trader Vic’s in Emeryville to celebrate a milestone or special family party. Dinner was at 5pm, blazers were worn, and grandma had a stiff gin martini with an olive. The Polynesian-themed palace on the Emeryville Marina serves up one of the East Bay’s best and most authentic happy hours around; it elicits warm feelings of the past, and allows you to enjoy time with new friends of today. Keep reading to learn when to go, what exotic cocktails to order, and enjoy a photo tour of Trader Vic’s tropical and fabulous interior.


East Bay Roots: Vic “The Trader” Bergeron started his first bar in 1934 on San Pablo Avenue…in Oakland! He claimed to have made the first ever Mai Tai in 1944 and named it such after a happy drinker took an inaugural sip and said, “It’s Mai Tai – Roa Ae,” in Tahitian meaning,  “It’s the best!”  Vic went on to craft a version made with pineapple juice at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, where it is still served today.

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When to Go: Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 4-6pm. Be an early bird and stay for dinner.

Don’t Go on Monday: Trader Vic’s and those plantation shutters are closed.


What to Drink: If you are looking for a Mai Tai, pick any one of the ten offered. Looking for something else? The Drunken Apricot is Southern Comfort mixed with sparkling wine and served with a frozen apricot, the Kava Bowl is a mixture of rums, fruit juices, and almond syrup and serves four people, and the Trader offers a south of the border concoction, the “El Diablo,” with yes, tequila, but you have to go there to find out what else is in it.


What to Eat: It just wouldn’t be right to skip the Cosmo Tidbits, a traditional pupu platter of staples like crag rangoon and BBQ ribs, the famous Pork Sliders, or the Indonesian Chicken Satay. If you can’t always be right and don’t eat a ton of meat like me, the Edamame Ravioli sauteed in romanesco cheese and brown butter is incredible and worth going back for. No happy hour is happy without fries, and The Vic’s House Spiced Fries with Malagasy Aioli go down obnoxiously fast.


Why You Need to Go: When was the last time you got together with your friends, just to talk and have a drink? For me, the answer wasn’t one that I liked. In our busy lives of work, family, and obligations, friendships often fall overboard from that outrigger canoe. We often don’t have the time. Even if it is a month out, put something on the calendar. No one will regret meeting you at Trader Vic’s, and let that bay breeze sail you there.

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For more information on Trader Vic’s, go here.

For a can’t miss cocktail experience in Oakland, click here.

Looking for a hot spot for drinks in Berkeley? Check out this place.

Photos by Lauren Edith Andersen.


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