The Ken Kimes chain of Tropics Motor Hotels included an outpost in Palm Springs that opened circa 1964. Scattered amidst the lushly landscaped property were tikis of various sizes that punctuated the tropical theme.
Kimes leased the hotel’s food and beverage concession to Sambo’s, who would sometimes include a higher end restaurant and cocktail lounge in their properties. Palm Springs was lucky enough to be one of them.
The Congo Room Steakhouse with its view towards the pool was smartly decorated in a Witco Regency style apropos to the desert lifestyle.
In addition, deep below the Congo Room lay a themed cocktail lounge called The Cellar that was reached via a narrow staircase in the foyer above.
With its slumpstone walls and textured cave-like ceiling, The Cellar was a cozy escape from the world’s troubles above.
A fine selection of wines from the rack or tapped from the barrel awaited the connoisseur.
Unfortunately, The Cellar suffered from porous walls and eventually filled with water. It was entombed in concrete in the 1980s. The Congo Room itself was soon replaced by The Reef bar, which was more in keeping with the Tropics theme. Today, Sambo’s and The Reef are gone and the main dining room is empty.
A bit of urban archaeology uncovered this tasty relic.
To purchase your own prints of these vintage photographs visit the website of Sambo’s photographer Tim Putz.
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The appearance of the The Cellar, especially its wavy, textured ceiling, inspires thoughts of sets that appeared in the original Star Trek TV series. Which is not inappropriate, since they occurred about the same time.
I note that the published photos of the Congo Room, which appear to come from a brochure, look considerably more lurid than the original color transparency above them. The purple and red vinyl upholstery looks blindingly garish in the brochure – not that this is a bad thing, of course.
Wonderful pictures and finds Peter. Thats the main reason I love living in PS it is full of interesting rich history. I love the color scheme of the Congo Room, the rich creams, purples and reds are so chic.