Oh, Tonga Room, you crazy, wonderful, fever dream of a bar. There's a lot about the kitschy tropical spot in the Fairmont Hotel to make one uncomfortable if they were to think about it too hard. The carved-wooden tiki gods and other odds 'n' ends around the place stop just short of racism — this is not the bar to bring a college sophomore taking a course on imperialism. The drinks are expensive and syrupy-sweet, and the less said about the pseudo-Asian food the better, especially the happy hour buffet. But put all that aside for a moment and revel in what the Tonga Room has been doing right since it opened in 1945. There's a fun “rain storm” every half hour when a recorded thunderclap sounds and a strobe light goes off and rain pours down from the ceiling into the indoor lagoon. At 8:15 every night, a Hawaiian-shirt-clad band boards its floating barge stage and drifts out to the middle of that lagoon to play songs like “Brown Eyed Girl” and Santana's “Smooth” — songs you know, songs you'll be happy to boogie down to on the ship-deck dancefloor with the tourists and octogenarians after downing half of a potent Smuggler's Golden Punch Bowl through a large plastic straw. You might walk in sneering and ironic, but it's damn near impossible to leave the Tonga Room without having had an earnestly good time.
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