Tiki Bob’s -The Making of an Smiling Icon

With his goofy smile and 50’s pop stylizing, Tiki Bobs is an icon of Tiki Culture, born in San Francisco, at the legendary Tiki Bob’s.

tiki bob barStanding vigil at the corner of Post and Taylor streets in the city of San Francisco is a goofy faced Tiki named Bob. Tiki Bob’s, Baghdad by the Bay’s famous 50’s Polynesian restaurant and Icon maker is gone, but the memories (and the Tiki) linger on.

Tiki Bob’s came into existence in 1955 when “Sneaky” Bob Bryant, bar manager of Trader Vic’s, left after his job after a falling out with Vic Bergeron himself. He opened a new place down the road … called Tiki Bob’s. Bryant decorated the place in true Tiki style with various Tiki statues, bamboo, velvet paintings of naked women, globe lamps, fugu and netting. The walls and ceilings were paneled with corrugated tin, and later plastered over with Chinese newspapers from the 50’s for that authentic exotic experience.

tiki bob's

The restaurant served the usual Polynesian fare, but was famous for their 3 1/3 inch thick Pork Chops, crab cakes, and sesame chicken. For dessert you could order Banana Fritters loaded with whipped cream, and topped, naturally, with a paper umbrella.

tiki bob's mug ooga mooga

The Tiki Bob Mug

But of course, most important of all was their signature drink, the Super Sneaky Tiki, served in what many consider to be the FIRST Tiki mug, the Tiki Bob Mug.

The famous and happy faced stylized Tiki logo was created by Alec Yuill-Thornton, and according to Sven Kirsten, author of the indispensable Tiki Pop, looks “part George Jetson, part modern primitive.” The Tiki Bob Mug, with his friendly eyes  and instantly recognizable smile, is one of the most collectible of all Tiki mugs, and has almost a cult following among those who collect Tiki. (Love him or hate him, very few people are neutral on the subject of Bob).

Tiki Bob’s Lingerie at Lunch

Along with the free Tiki Mug, Bob Bryant was looking for another innovative way to drum up customers from the San Francisco business district lunch crowd, and the famous Lingerie Lunch was born. Patrons could enjoy a titillating fashion show of four voluptuous models in diaphanous nightwear while sipping their rum drinks. After winning a court battle over the “decency” of his show lunchtime patronage went from 50 on a good day to 200, with again that many being turned away (After the trial, Police Chief Cahill said that it was “morally OK”, but that “he would keep an eye on it”…. I’ll bet he did).

In 1957, Bryant opened a second Tiki Bob’s in Sacramento, catering to the Capitol crown, after his wife complained about having to make the long drive to San Francisco.

Bob Bryant himself left Tiki Bob’s in 1962 to work on another venture in Hawaii. Tiki Bob’s limped along until the late 70’s when the doors were finally shut for good.


Tiki Bob’s Still a San Francisco Icon

The bar is long gone, but the statue of Tiki Bob still guards the corner of Post and Taylor. He’s part of the support structure of the building, so whenever a new business pulls in, they just freshen him up with a coordinating paint job.  When you go there to pay your respects, always rub the Tiki Bob’s nose. In Tahiti, this is considered a surefire way to get lady luck on your side.

Tiki bob's Bob bryant

Sneaky Tiki Recipe

– From Beachbum Berry’s Taboo Table

(This Tiki Drink is SWEET…. But it will sneak up on you if you aren’t careful!)

1 part fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 part unsweetened pineapple juice

1/3 part orange curaçao

1/4 part hot-process grenadine

1 part Puerto Rican light rum

1 part dark Jamaican rum

Mix in blender with 8 ounces ice until almost smooth.

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