UnderTow: Prepare to Get Swept Away
Here’s the thing: I have a killer job that allows me to get lots of sneak peeks of new restaurants, menus, and concepts. I am an excitable person and I am generally pretty geeked out about most of them. This is different. UnderTow is a game changer for local craft cocktails and where they are served. This place, no joke, changes everything.
Let’s start at the beginning: How UnderTow came to be
It all started with an idea about creating a speakeasy in the vacant basement space of Travis Radevski’s Sip Coffee & Beer Garage. Travis got together with the minds behind Barter & Shake, a Phoenix-based hospitality group focused on elevating and expanding the food and beverage industry here in the Valley and Jason Asher, Director of Craft & Spirits for Young’s Market. When Rich Furnari, owner of Barter & Shake (if the name sounds familiar, it should–these are the folks behind Counter Intuitive), got together with Travis he pitched a tiki-inspired cocktail bar and everything was set into motion after a meeting with Wesley James of StarkJames.
With Wesley at the helm of the design, the oil change bay was rapidly transformed into the cargo area of an early 1900’s clipper ship, known as UnderTow. Furnari says, “One of the pillars of Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s bar and restaurant concepts was to offer the idea of ‘escapism’ to guests. They launched their first concepts during the Great Depression and World War II; people wanted to escape reality.”
“Barter & Shake is very excited for UnderTow. We are a hospitality company that focuses on building strong partnerships with experts in their craft to offer unparalleled and unique hospitality guest experiences. We strive for a balance of fiction, culture, and history that is relative to the concept,” says Furnari.
What’s the vibe at UnderTow?
Roll up to Sip and when you walk into the space, you’ll see a clipped ship hanging from the ceiling. This is your sign, your beacon to Undertow. You’ll find a set of stairs just below the ship and while you descend, you’ll get just a glimmer of what journey you are about to embark upon. The lighting in Undertow is low and perfect. The place is small, with seating for 26 and a little extra standing room, so reservations will be your friend.
There was not one detail that was ignored. The bar and corner table are all handcrafted, thanks to the talent of Danny “Tiki Diablo” Gallardo. The longer you sit in the space the more little details you will be able to uncover.
Undertow is set to offer a fully immersive experience, and it’s like nothing else in the Valley. I realize that I might sound like a preteen girl after the cutest guy in school smiled at her, but it’s all genuine and with good reason. Not only will you find some of the best (let’s just say it – the best) tiki-inspired cocktail in the Valley, but that’s just one part of your journey. The music, lighting, and scenery are all a part of the adventure and are intended to add to your experience.
The goal is to have rotating 96-minute journeys, where everything changes depending on the destination of the moment. You may hear thunder and see lightning while at sea and passing through a storm. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll hear the sounds of the port and people. The view from the portholes will be constantly changing depending on where you are headed and where you arrive. It is nuts! (Good nuts!)
So the space is really cool, what about the drinks and food?
There are about a dozen or so classic tiki cocktail and even more cocktail that are inspired by tiki culture as a whole. Make sure to check out the complete menu, but don’t skip the story on the first few pages. You’ll have questions and the folks behind UnderTow promised that there will be answers – eventually.
Once the spot gets up and going they will be ready to introduce their culinary menu (projected for October), created by local favorite Cullen Campbell, which will consist of dim sum and pupu platters. Easy, inspired eating that will allow for a bite in one hand and a drink in the other.
This space is so incredibly creative and unique and once more people get talking about it, I can only imagine that other spots are going to have to ramp up their concept creativity. I’ve never been anywhere like this outside of Disneyland or Vegas, and I cannot wait to see what comes next!
UnderTow | 3620 E. Indian School Road | Phoenix | 85018 | 602.753.6504
UnderTow will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 4pm until 12am and from 4pm until 2am on weekends.
**We would never try to trick you! So you should know that I was invited to UnderTow along with other members of the media, prior to the official opening. All the tastes, comments, and recommendations are made by me. My words and opinions are my own and cannot be influenced by a free cocktail. Check out our Disclosure Policy for more information. **
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© Taryn Jeffries 2016