The Tahitian, Pasadena 1960s
The first Tahitian restaurant opened in Studio City, California, in 1959 and was followed two years later by a second Tahitian restaurant in Pasadena, California. Tiki lanterns blazed outside (along with fabulous neon signs) and inside the restaurants were furnished in classic tiki- inspired Polynesian décor. There were puffer fish lights, outriggers hanging from the ceilings, firepits, ponds and waterfalls. Staff, some of whom had been imported from Hawaii, informed diners that they were being ‘whisked away to a tropical paradise’ while setting down menus on tables.
The establishments were co-owned by restaurateurs Don Avalier and Bill Dove with Chef Francois Sirgant as a third partner. Tiki and Polynesian culture was all the rage in the 1960s and both restaurants served Polynesian and Chinese fare, in addition to a large selection of curries. There was also American and French food. Tiki cocktails were served in mugs shaped like coconuts and clamshells or in large bowls and concoctions such as the Headshrinker was limited to two per person (probably a good idea). Others included Satan’s Fang or the King Kamehameha. Some 60 different types of rum were on offer in a menu entitled The Romance of Rum which, as the years went on, expanded to 68 different types of rum – with the joke warning ‘not to be sampled in one sitting.’
The Tahitian at 12010 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, which had previously been an Eaton’s Rancho restaurant, was a hit from its opening night and Daily Variety reported that it catered the premiere of Flower Drum Song, a film adaptation of the 1958 Rogers and Hammerstein musical. The Pasadena location at 137 South Lake Avenue also flourished and its Sunday Buffets were particularly popular as a family event, costing $2.95 per adult and $1.95 per child in 1962.
In May 1968, the Studio City Tahitian closed, and its fixtures and fitting were put up for auction. It was replaced by a McDonalds in the 70s. The Tahitian in Pasadena closed around the same time.
Thanks to Bryan Castañeda for allowing us to restore and print this menu cover, a reminder of California’s love of Tiki culture.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.