Saturday, November 11, 2023

Sam's Seafood, May 1967

I have two nice photos from 1967 featuring a beloved tiki landmark - Sam's Seafood, located on the Pacific Coast Highway at Sunset Beach (or Surfside if you prefer) - about halfway between Huntington Beach and Long Beach. The original Sam's Seafood opened in nearby Seal Beach by brothers Sam and George Arvanitis. A fire destroyed it in 1959, and it was rebuilt in 1960 (at a cost of a million dollars) in a wonderful tiki style, with a Hawaiian Village. 

One website wrote: Of more interest to the tikiphile was the Hidden Village banquet room area in the back available for event rentals, which was large and moodily lit, with glass floats, waterfall displays, A-frame covered seating areas, and a small bar. Sounds wonderful! And just look at that fantastic, eye-catching sign.

I love the classic thatched A-frame entrance, with the outrigger canoe overhead, and glowering tikis on either side to keep evil spirits away. The website quoted previously said: In 2007, Sam's Seafood became Kona. In 2009, Kona closed and the restaurant reopened as Don the Beachcomber (no connection to the historic chain), which then closed in 2018. Why can't we have nice things?

The OC Weekly has a wonderful article about Sam's Seafood that you should definitely check out if you are interested in more info!

Today is the REAL Veteran's Day. Thanks to my Dad and thousands of others for their service!



TokyoMagic! said...

I ate at Sam's just once, probably around 1986. I still have a book of matches that I've kept as a souvenir. I must have eaten in that special room, because I definitely remember the waterfall. I also remember a lot of rock planters. That giant swordfish above the building lit up with neon, and could be seen from far away, when approaching from either direction. I wonder if there is any hope for it all being saved? Now I'll have to go check out those links.

Thanks, Major!


I loved this place! Friends and I would meet for drinks or drinks and dinner then more drinks . The interior was glorious tiki … I only experienced it as Kona and Beach Comber …, it was a sad day when it closed. They also held a vintage tiki swapmeet once a month which was always fun … and everyone had drinks and food after . The waterfalls and lighting inside was vintage and moody. The larger event room was usually closed off but sometimes the manager would let us see it lit up : it looked like a movie set… of a vintage Polynesian nite club with its own bar and stage platform and smaller tiki cabana dinning tables … lots of fun times. All in the past .

The historic Royal Hawaiian in Laguna Beach has reopened but I haven’t been yet … I pass by it on the weekends … I’ve heard good things so far.

As much as vintage retro Tiki is extremely popular …. The Tiki Bar and Tiki Lounge is quickly disappearing…support them before it’s too late!

JB said...

Wow, that sign just keeps on going and going, doesn't it. I especially like the neon swordfish. I'm not much of a seafood person, although I do like battered fish and chips... with an endless supply of tartar sauce on the side. Sam's also has steak and chicken so I'm sure I would leave there sated and satisfied.
I've often wondered why traditional Polynesian architecture has those tall roofs that jut out over the front of the structure. I suppose there's some practical reason for it.

Thanks for the [burp] food, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Well, in the 2018 "street view," the neon fish was still there, but the birds were having a field day with it. Unfortunately, that fabulous parking lot sign had already been replaced :,-118.0789157,3a,44.7y,318.29h,101.86t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sYZgWUYwSkzxA3PwCGlt1gA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu

But in the February 2023 "street view," the neon fish sign has been removed, and the main sign reads "Himalayan Grill", but there is also a "We Have Moved" sign above the boarded up front door. And the building is "For Sale or Lease":,-118.0790163,3a,48.8y,329.47h,101.3t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sA__vE_yNRzaA45qDwkrEAw!2e0!7i16384!8i8192?entry=ttu

Melissa said...

The swordfish must have looked so cool lit up at night.

I'm sure whatever bland, beige box they replace the building with will be just beautiful. /s

JG said...

Oh man, I would have this place. I still do, at least in pictures.

Thanks for posting these, Major.


Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, very nice that you got to enjoy Sam’s Seafood (and have a matchbook from there!). I sure love those tiki-themed places. These days a cool sign like the Sam’s swordfish might be saved by enthusiasts, but I’m not sure they did so back then, sadly.

Mike Cozart, I gather that the place lost some of its popularity for some reason. Maybe the food/drinks went down in quality? Wow, the tiki swap meet must have had some real treasures. My sister is friends with somebody who is apparently one of the premier tiki collectors in SoCal, she says just his wall of vintage tiki mugs is mind-blowing. There are a number of tiki-themed bars near me, but I’m not much of a drinker, so I haven’t been to any of them (except for the famous Tiki Ti in Hollywood).

JB, yeah, that sign is hard to miss. It’s like it grabs your brain and makes you steer your car into the parking lot! I’m fine with seafood. How about some nice fried shrimp? Or filet of sole? There’s always *something* I can enjoy! I believe that the large A-frame structures are referencing actual Polynesian buildings called “roof huts”.

TokyoMagic!, well, that second Google view sure is sad. But the fact that the swordfish was there until relatively recently makes me a little more hopeful that it was saved.

Melissa, what if the beige box is STUCCO?!

JG, yeah, it really does look like an amazing place.

Melissa said...

Stucco was the blandest Marx brother. Probably why we don't hear much about him.

Bu said...

I must dig in the recesses of my mind to get a faint memory of Sams....I HAD to have driven past this place hundreds of times, and I had good friends who lived on Sunset, so...I had to have gone there too....the fish neon is vaguely familiar...but there was a sign like this on a few restaurants/fish markets/etc. where I lived. All things Tiki are OK with me. TRE is a shame, but...and the end of the day, it takes $$$ to keep these places going. When I closed my business the native folks were shocked and vexed: me: "...guess you should have shopped here." I was not smiling when I said it. Guess they didn't have an "N" for their sign..."OPEM"...with a piece of the M chopped off. 10am seems super early, but I suppose beach peoples need their cocktails that early. Would like to see photos of the Hawaiian Village: didn't seem to be pictured on the websites. I miss Hawaii after working there, so probably should add it to the ever growing bucket list. "Tiki" is not so overly present least it wasn't on the Big Island in the countryside. I do like the romanticized Tiki culture however...but don't wear a Tiki around your neck, because it is "Taboo" and you might plow your surf board into a coral reef...if you get that joke, thank you. I think I had a Carte Blanche card: I don't think they gave those out like Skittles.....I had a Diners Club card too....both still around, but under the Master Card banner....I don't think the original ones were "credit" cards...I think they were charge cards. Like Mickey Mouse charge at Disneyland: better pay that bill every month, or it's coming out of your check....Thanks Major for Tiki Saturday. Didn't know Tiki Ti was world famous now. That was kind of a dive in my Hollywood days...but a really groovy one. Glad to see it's still there and enjoying the fame. Everyone visit please, so it doesn't end up like Sams. Or go to Damon's in Glendale: just as good as Lawry's for Prime Rib...except you are not surrounded by tour groups (you will probably be surrounded by film industry behind-the-camera people) , and the price is much more in line with reality.

Anonymous said...

I recall this place when we would pass by in the early 60s. And much of the land across the street was just sand. The palm trees and tiki architecture stood out from everything else. Unfortunately, we never stopped. And then we never drove down this stretch of PCH again with the extension of the San Diego Freeway into Orange County. But such is progress. Happy to see the building there but it now looks so far gone that it will likely be so in the near future. A stark reminder of the passage of 60 years. KS

Melissa said...

"...but don't wear a Tiki around your neck, because it is 'Taboo' and you might plow your surf board into a coral reef"

If it means I also get to meet Vincent Price in a cave, I'm okay with that.


LACE Music Of Cypress California is restoring the Swordfish signs.. in their site they had videos a d photos of the sign being removed and the progress of the restoration …. But as to what and where the sign is going isn’t clear .

The “Hawaiian Village “ in the large event room wasn’t a literal theme … there were terraces of dining areas and stages with their individual thatched tiki hut roofs and a separate bar …. ( the entire location. 2 bars and a lounge ) only the waterfalls in the main dinning room were still working … but the waterfalls in the event too
Were probably only filled and operating when needed. The entry lobby of the restaurant had a great historical display - a mini museum of vintage menus , signs , restaurant China …advertising for the restaurant. They also sold merchandise … I hade a set of their tiki drinking glasses with the building and signs but under the Beach comber name I received as a house warning present . My bar cabinet is filled with business cards , diecut Coasters and napkins smuggled out over the years before they closed.


I don’t want to sound blasphemous, but like BU I always felt the Tiki Ti … as famous as it was … wasn’t very tiki . It felt like a dirty dive bar inside a building That once WAS a tiki lounge … but only some tiki decor remained in the ceiling… because the owners were too lazy to remove it. Also the Tiki Ti had odd operating hours … sonetimes it’s open … then it’s closed for weeks .. then open again. But I admit it’s been over 5 years since I’ve been. But I’m sure it’s difficult to maintain heavy theme decoration .

There was a place between WEHO and LA called the LAVA LOUNGE that was a TOTAL dive bar … but the owners admitted it! Lol. It was once a Hawaii themed lounge … but very little remained … every 5 feet or so was the Rock work with fake tropical plants or colored lighting remaining and only one small waterfall with a trickle of water - almost like a running urinal! And at some point old fashioned looking wrought iron ( probably painted aluminum) railing was placed around the rockwork … the lounge also had some vintage shag carpeting in areas from “remodels” in the 60’s and 70’s …. The place was so dumpy … but the cocktails EXCELLENT and despite the creepy old forgotten decor and the Erie lighting .. the crowds were lots of fun….lots of Disneyland fellow employees would go their to pre-medicate before heading to the bigger bars and clubs …

TokyoMagic! said...

Apparently, the owners of Lace Music in Cypress (which Mike C. mentioned) have the sign, and they plan to restore it and install it at ground-level, outside a Tiki restaurant they plan to open. They said the restaurant will be a combination of Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room, and the television show, Lost. I wonder if that means there will be a "hatch" room?

That's the only info I was able to get out of an Orange County Register article, before they blocked me from reading all of it. I think I've reached my limit of "free" articles from them for the month. But some of you might be able to read the entire thing, if interested:

Bu, I wore a small Tiki around my neck once, but then I threw my back out during a hula dancing lesson. My "hu" went one way, and my "la" went the other. (Insert canned laughter here.)

Anonymous said...

What was the restaurant across from Sam's