Trader Vic's, Havana 1958
The Habana Hilton, located on the highest point in Havana and visible from every part of the city, opened to great celebration in March 1958. There was a state-of-the-art casino, a supper club and rooftop bar and a Trader Vic’s designed by Seattle architect Lloyd Lovegren (1906-1989).
The lavish tourist destination was a reminder of US influence in Cuba – but not for long.
After head of state Fulgencio Batista was overthrown and fled the country on December 31, 1958 (with a rumored $300m in his back pocket), Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro used the hotel as his headquarters for several months in 1959. The Trader Vic’s, like other American businesses on the island, was nationalized.
The hotel became the Habana Libre Hotel( now the Tryp Habana Libre) and Trader Vic’s became the El Polinesio.
Fortunately, most of the Tiki décor was preserved, from the fireplace to the birdcage lamps and even some of the original glassware. Much of this preservation was due to longtime manager Osvaldo Sainz, son of original Trader Vic’s bartender Enrique Sainz.
By all accounts, those lucky enough to visit El Polinesio today can still drink a mai tai from one of the few Trader Vic’s glasses that remains. Much of the 1950s décor is said to still be intact.
This unused 1958 menu is signed by Trader Vic himself – Victor Jules Bergeron – who sold them off as keepsakes of the Havana location that lasted only a few months.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.
All printed in USA.