“Tiki was about taking somebody to another place. You walked through that front door and it shut behind you, and you were somewhere different,” Asher says. “But we don’t want (Under Tow) to be thatched walls and grass skirts.”
To that end, while the coffee shop crowd sips and taps on their laptops overhead, a design team that includes Wesley James of StarkJames and Danny Gallardo (better known as Tiki Diablo) has been hard at work, converting the oil change bay beneath the former garage into a replica of a clipper ship.
“The great hounds of the ocean,” Asher says.
Located at Indian School Road and 36th Street, Under Tow is tentatively scheduled to open Aug. 14.
Furnari and Asher are designing the space as a nod to tiki’s roots, bringing guests below deck as they voyage to the South Pacific in a hold laden with cargo, exotic drinks and Asian-inspired food.
In designing the drink menu, Asher hasn’t shied away from tiki tropes, but he refuses to be completely bound by them.
“It’s not classic tiki in the sense of what tiki grew into,” he explains. “Maybe this was the first clipper ship that started sourcing ingredients and bringing them back. So the classics will be here, but also interpretations, elaborating on maybe where it started.”
A list of roughly 30 drinks will be evenly split between tiki standards that have been “taken apart and put back together” and “nouveau cocktails” inspired by the classics.
“We’ve brought some diversity through the base spirits,” Asher adds. “Not every tiki cocktail was rum. Our goal is to bring influences from everywhere the ship has visited.”
To pair with the drink menu, Under Tow will slowly phase in 15 or so small dishes designed by Cullen Campbell of Crudo, just across the street. They’ll include riffs on classic pupu platter staples like shumai, bao and ribs that are easy to eat with one hand.
“You don’t want to have to put a drink down to get that bite,” Furnari says.
The tiny space, centered around a bar that was hand-carved by Gallardo, is still under construction as the team adds touches like portholes, wooden decking and multimedia elements to make the experience as immersive as possible.
“I want people to walk down the stairs and turn left and feel like they’re in a different place and time,” Asher says. “Hopefully, from the decor to the music to the food and the drinks, we can accomplish that.”
Details: Under Tow, 3620 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. facebook.com/DrinkUnderTow.