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Mary Candace Evans On Trader Vic’s Return

Dallas restaurant icon Trader Vic’s is returning after shuttering its doors almost 20 years ago. Will its future be as bright as its past?
By Mary Candace Evans |

Dallas Trader Vic’s is still under wraps, but this vintage image from another location provides a glimpse into the past and future. Photo courtesy of Trader Vic’s

Welcome Back
Trader Vic’s is the stuff of legends, and it’s all set for Act 2.

Polynesian Heaven. That’s where we’ll be this time next year, hanging over that wood bar with umbrellaed mai tais in hand. Jones Baker, a local design firm specializing in restaurant, bar, and nightclub design, excavated the historic lounge located on the first level of the new Hotel Palomar a year ago. For almost 20 years, Trader Vic’s has been a virtual time capsule, left in its original state from the time it closed in 1988. Their delicate mission sounds as foreign as a volcano in Big D: Keep as much of the past intact as possible.

We are bringing it up to current code, designer William Baker says, but doing so discreetly”guarding and protecting the original design just as it was. The existing work is so detailed and intricate, Baker says, it would cost a fortune to replicate. When the doors open, Baker says we’ll see natural earth tones, twig panels, a tribal geometric carpet duplicate of the original, the old woven bamboo light fixtures, and lots of avocado green and red. The entranceway will be larger, with Indonesian Tapa cloth on the walls and more carved mahogany wood panels, both laden with historic nostalgic photos of the good ole days. The original red Chinese wood-fired barbeque grills in a kettledrum shape will be a focal in the dining room, flames and all. Might this retro swing bring back the avocado fridge? Those original avocado green Naugahyde-tufted booths with brass buttons will be untouched, ready to hold another generation of supping derrieres. The 2.5-inch-thick original wood bar is being enlarged with matching pieces found in Trader Vic’s corporate warehouse, and the old wood bar tables are being dusted off for use. Rattan chairs and barstools to match the originals, which disappeared, are coming from Indonesia.

Palomar’s Full Court Press
Trader Vic’s will need plenty of those new chairs to seat the designers working on the Palomar project—the residences, restaurants, Exhale Spa, Kimpton Hotel, and ground-level villas. Not only does this project have more PR people on board than any other hotel or high-rise, the designer list is getting so full it may require its own crane. Starting at the top, Joanie Wyll will finish out at least one of the four penthouse units. Paul Draper is in charge of the residence lobby and also one restaurant, Harper’s. The hotel “guest rooms, living room, lounge, meeting spaces, ballroom, pool area “is being created by Cheryl Rowley Design of Beverly Hills, Calif. Principal Bob LaCour is senior project designer.

At one time, in the 60s, this was the largest Hilton Hotel in the world,” LaCour says. On the commercial side, Rowley’s clients include the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, the Kimpton Group, and Kohler Co. golf clubs and spas. A fresh interior architecture has been created in the existing Hilton space, LaCour says. Changes include acid washing and the replacement of exterior windows to extend guest room square footage. Three Architecture of Dallas is the residence’s design architect.

But the real question is: Who is Portia Palomar? Turn to the D Home blog ( to find out.

Made in Dallas
Dallas designers and artists are beautifying San Antonio. Vivian-Nichols Associates, an award-winning Dallas design firm that caters to the hospitality industry, recently finished the Hotel Contessa on the River Walk. We were instrumental in the naming of the hotel based on our original design in which we proposed a large-scale painting of a contessa,” says Reggi Nichols, IIDA. “We created a spatial mythology “an elegant contessa “and Diane Carson at Carson Art commissioned the painting. Design specifications emanated from the painting. Locally, V-N designed the Omni at Park West (when it was a Doubletree), the Magnolia, the Hilton Lincoln Center (when it was a Doubletree), Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, Arlington Hall at Lee Park, and is currently working on guest room renovations at Hotel Adolphus.

Like Ike, Love Art
Ike Isenhour has worked his magic on the model condos at the Grand Treviso, a Las Colinas high-rise project by the Palladium Group featuring art by contemporary painter Andre Queffurus in the lobby and public areas. Grand Treviso’s collection is shipped to the property from the Kiron Espace Galerie in Paris, also owned by Palladium.

Sky High
It may be more than a few miles up the road from his One Arts Plaza project, but architect Lionel Morrison has landed a plumb design project for up-and-coming country western singer Darren Kozelsky and his wife, Amy, who bought the former homestead of Dr. Beck (and Peach) Weathers. You remember the pathologist—he climbed Mount Everest and almost lost his life on that frozen summit.

Fur’s A Ball
Michelle Nussbaumer just finished co-chairing the Fur Ball, a benefit to move the critters at the SPCA from their Industrial Boulevard location to a new home on Hampton Road. That done, she’s off to design projects in LA, Boston, and Mexico City.

New Home for the Rutherford’s
You will no longer need a GPS to find the tassels over the trim at Rutherford’s on Lovers Lane. In late May, the Miracle Mile landmark moved to loftier quarters at 5417 W. Lovers Ln. In 1976, the late John Edward Hughes recruited Robert Rutherford, a Columbus, Ohio, interior designer, to his Design District showroom.  John Edward Hughes came to Ohio, interviewed me, and brought me down here to beef up his lines, says Rutherford, who soon picked up Zumsteg, Cowtan and Tout, and Old World Weavers, to the delight of Dallas buyers. In 1989, Rutherford opened his store at Lovers Lane and Devonshire Drive, selling fabrics, accessories, and furniture. Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

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