Tiki Bar News & Review: UnderTow – Phoenix, AZ

UnderTow entrance

In February 2020 we ventured below decks of the UnderTow tiki bar in Phoenix, blissfully unaware that (for us) it would likely be for the last time in its original location. As the Arizona Republic recently reported, the bar will indeed reopen soon (September 22) but ultimately will move next door and take over the dining room of sister concept Century Grand. (I’m hoping that means the vintage train car experience Platform 18 will remain.) UnderTow has been closed because of the pandemic since March so it’s a relief to know they’ll be back in any form.

Tikis at UnderTow

My husband always loved describing UnderTow in the style of Stefon from SNL: “Phoenix’s hottest bar is underground in a coffeehouse that used to be an auto shop.” Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality opened it in 2016 and you can see how the project took shape on the Discovery Channel show “Blue Collar Backers” (Season 1, Ep. 3).

Cargo view

Wesley James and Daniel “Tiki Diablo” Gallardo transformed the former service pit into the hold of the UnderTow, a clipper ship circa the late 19th century. The idea was that the crew was so enamored with their travels in the South Seas that they built their own tiki bar aboard the boat. There are boxes of cargo, rum barrels and other souvenirs stored around the space.


Make sure you check out their online reservation system in advance if you plan on visiting during the reopening period, since there will be no walk-ins allowed. There are fewer than 30 seats available in the current 500-sq.-foot space, and that’s even before any social distancing. There are bar stools at three sides of the central bar, small tables for two along the shiplap walls, and one corner booth.

Painting by Doug Horne

Artist Doug Horne contributed this painting depicting some of the colorful characters of the UnderTow crew, including Captain John Mallory and a rare Peruvian breed of Tropical Dodo. (Prints of this are available in his Etsy shop, by the way.)


Portholes (equipped with LCD screens) give you a view of the adventure you’ve embarked upon that visit. These, combined with other special effects, bring a level of immersion and escapism that’s just thrilling to behold.

UnderTow menu, chapter 7

The storylines are evocatively written (by Mat Snapp) and illustrated (by Tom “Thor” Thordarson) in the beautiful menus, with the cocktails integrated into the narrative. Our timing was right to experience Chapter 7, in which the UnderTow has left the tropical jungles behind and now sails amid the treacherous icebergs of Cape Horn. (This accounts for all the icicles and piles of snow around. Is it just me or is there something sinister about that glowing ice…)

Tiki Diablo carving

UnderTow consistently makes some of the best tiki drinks I’ve ever had. They are complex, creative and always intriguing. You’re likely to encounter exclusive rums, infused spirits (like cashew-infused cachaça, pandan-infused gin or earl grey-infused rum) and secret ingredients such as “yeti milk” or “dragonblood sap.”

UnderTow cocktails

You’ll have the difficult task of choosing from 30 original recipes, 14 classic cocktails and four large-format drinks. If memory serves, my favorite was the Alchemy of the Damned (buchu-infused Botanist Gin, Banks 7 yr Blended Rum, falernum, guava, passion fruit, orgeat, pineapple, lime), though I recall the Domuyo Volcano and Jungle Wood also being delicious. Our mezcal-loving pal opted for the Piranha’s Kiss of Death Elixir and, for round two, the Blood of the Dodo.

Shaman's Return

The menu completely changes over for each new chapter, with few exceptions such as the Smoking Cannon. Its dramatic presentation, bound to capture the attention of fellow patrons, helped make it one of the best-selling cocktails from the start. The current iteration is the Shaman’s Return, featuring gardenia spiced fog and Buffalo Trace Bourbon, UnderTow private cask of Hamilton-St. Lucian 9 yr Rum, Lustau East India Sherry, Giffard Apricot, Ramazzotti Amaro, Averna Amaro, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, pineapple cordial, Angostura bitters and citrus oils. It’s spirit-forward yet quite smooth.

Shrunken Head at UnderTow

For years, UnderTow’s merchandise had only been available to purchase at the bar, but they launched an online shop with t-shirts and signature mugs. Right now you can still order ceramics like Manuia Mug by Tiki Diablo, Shrunken Head by Thor and Panther Skull by Thor (you can see its silhouette on the right in the above photo). Act fast, though, as stock is quickly selling out.

UnderTow sign

While I will miss this tiny subterranean space, I’m sure they will do an amazing job with these future endeavors. I wish them all the best as they navigate these all-too-real stormy seas.

3620 E. Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85018

Check out UnderTow’s Instagram or Facebook for the latest news.


Tiki Bar Review: Zombie Village – San Francisco

Zombie Village Tiki

I’ve heard San Francisco described as the American capital of Tiki — and though I’m L.A. biased I might be starting to agree. The Bay Area has long been home to some fantastic tiki bars, but a slew of new destinations have sprouted up in the past few years, including Pagan Idol, The Kon-Tiki (formerly Longitude in Oakland), Last Rites and, most recently, Zombie Village.

Skipper Kent's Zombie Village

Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic have been the inspiration for countless tiki bars, but Zombie Village pays tribute to a less famous name (to me, anyway). Frank “Skipper” Kent was a “traveler, lecturer, explorer, yachtsman and cinematographer,” as described on one of the original menus. While some other restaurateurs of this era embellished their personal legends, he was actually the real deal. He sailed all over the world collecting “authentic decorations and curios” that were eventually displayed in his two establishments: Skipper Kent’s in San Francisco and Skipper Kent’s Zombie Village in Oakland. He opened the latter in 1942 and it served as an escapist paradise for 25 years until it was destroyedby fire in 1967. (Naturally, Tiki Central has a very informative thread on its history.)

Zombie Village inside

Now, back to present day! This Zombie Village is a project from Future Bars group, which for more than a decade has created SF nightlife destinations with vintage flair, such as nearby speakeasy Bourbon & Branch (established 2006). It makes sense that eventually they would bring that immersive spirit and passion for craft cocktails to tiki bars. Owner Brian Sheehy and beverage director (now GM) Daniel “Doc” Parks debuted Pagan Idol in 2016 and then Zombie Village with an official opening in January 2019.

Zombie Village interior

My jaw dropped when we walked in. I’d seen a few pictures but it was even more stunning in person. The starry night sky and groovy projections on the wall and tikis bring such a unique vibe, sort of psychedelic. Every so often you’ll hear thunder crash and see a lightning bolt flicker across the wall.

Zombie Village carving

Artist Ivan Lee Mora collaborated with Future Bars on the design andfabrication of Pagan Idol and again with Zombie Village. He made this massive tiki and fish goddess (Crazy Al carved its counterpart), along with the Moai perched on top of the bar and much more. On top of that there are custom pieces from Bosko (carved panels on the bar), Woody Miller (maps of the Caribbean and Polynesia, plus other carvings), Mikel “MP” Parton (Tiki Bob velvet painting and menu cover art that’s also featured on the website) and Marc Atkinson (Aku-Aku painting).

Zombie Village huts

They also brought in Bamboo Ben, the famed fabricator of Strong Water, Clifton’s Pacific Seas, Frankie’s Tiki Room and many other incredible tiki bars. He built out the thatched A-frame huts that line one wall of the space. These private hideaways can be reserved on Yelp for groups of two up to ten people.

Bahooka hut at Zombie Village

Each of the eight huts pays tribute to historic tiki bars with their decor: the original Zombie Village in Oakland, the Aku-Aku in Las Vegas, Luau in Beverly Hills, Tiki Bob’s in San Francisco (with a black velvet painting of its iconic mug), The Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale (my all-time favorite still going strong), Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, Trader Vic’s and, finally, Bahooka pictured here. Note the nautical vibe with the wood planks and empty fish tank, which once had a carrot in it in honor of Ruffus. Huge shout-out to Rob for showing me around and pointing out all these fun details.

Zombie Village grotto

If you don’t manage to get a reservation for one of the huts, there are some bar stools around two corners of the central bar. Open seating is also available in the candlelit grotto — look closely and you’ll spot the “fossilized” impression of tentacles from a fearsome creature of the deep. There’s also plenty of standing room at the drink rail along the wall.

Doc's Voodoo Bar

A staircase ascends next to the gnarled roots of a banyan tree upstairs to Doc’s Voodoo Bar, which opens up on busy weekend nights or for private parties. It’s festooned with tropical foliage and vines overhead and a catacomb’s worth of skulls on the bar.

Zombie Village menu

Doc’s menu features traditional tiki drinks (Mai Tai, Painkiller, Nui Nui) as well as more experimental offerings, like a Jamaican Zombie spiced up with Scotch bonnet chilis. There are also a few large-format concoctions, including the Scorpion Bowl, Chief Lapu-Lapu and Zombie Luau.

The Bird of Paradise & Coconut Pandan

The Bird of Paradise ($13, mezcal, cachaca, lemon, passion fruit, vanilla) had a bold smoky flavor that could be tempered by the tart sweetness of the passionfruit whip and the tangy li hing mui (salty dried plum powder) dusted on top.

The Coconut Pandan ($12) blends two flavors often found in Southeast Asian cuisine, the latter derived from the leaves of a tropical plant. (I first tried this nutty flavor in a tiki drink a few years ago in the Pandan Painkiller at Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago.) This drink featured Barbados rum, coconut milk, pandan and coconut rum liqueurs, plus a lychee and coconut popsicle that is a delicious bonus.

Zombie Village mugs

On a shelf behind the bar you can spot the limited edition tiki mugs that have been designed for the bar so far (along with ceramics from other tiki bars). There’s the Moai Mug by Woody Miller and Zombie Village mug by Eekum Bookum (inspired by the glowering genie-like figure that appeared on the menu covers of the original Zombie Village.) For their recent first anniversary they released a new glaze (with a black and gold fez) and on my visit last month there were still a few available to purchase at the bar for $120. (If you’re looking for a cheaper souvenir, don’t forget to take the cool custom swizzle stick from your drink.)

Zombie Village entrance

Zombie Village is open Monday through Friday 5 p.m.-2 a.m. and Saturday 6 p.m.-2 a.m. (closed Sundays). It’s located in the Tenderloin District, not the most savory of neighborhoods but don’t let that deter you. (Their Instagram has recommended tourists that walk over to come down Jones from O’Farrell instead of up from Ellis.) It’s just a short rideshare trip away from sister spot Pagan Idol, or you could head over to Smuggler’s Cove or the Tonga Room….but you just might fall under the spell of Zombie Village and make an evening of it.

Tiki Bob at Zombie Village

Zombie Village
441 Jones Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Zombie Village: website

Tiki Themed Engagement Photos at Disneyland

photo by D Park Photography

Aloha! Why so much radio silence on the blog lately? Over the summer, Mr. Hockey/Baseball popped the question and we spent the last several months planning a wedding… The Tiki Chick is now Mrs. Hockey/Baseball!

Enchanted Tiki Room photo by D Park Photography

To the surprise of many of our friends, we did not have a tiki wedding. (The newlyweds from Modern Tiki Lounge can show you that’s done, though!) However, our fantastic wedding photographers, D. Park Photography, also happen to specialize in engagement photo shoots at Disneyland. So, of course, I couldn’t resist the chance to get some snaps taken at the Enchanted Tiki Room.

photo by D Park Photography

The photos gave me the opportunity to wear my tropical floral printed dress from Stop Staring! — it was a print created exclusively for Unique Vintage in Burbank. Pure Beauty by Danielle got me all dolled up for the occasion.

photo by D Park Photography

The shoot was back in January, during the wettest winter Southern California had experienced in years. I think it had been raining the whole week leading up to this day, but we lucked out with sunshine!

Dole Whip photo by D Park Photography

What’s a visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room without Dole Whip? The mischievous Mr. Hockey dabbed some on my nose! (Thankfully, this was not foreshadowing to any cake smashing to the face at the wedding — it was all very civil.)

Photo by D Park Photography

It was super crowded that day, but D. Park Photography is very adept at making it look like you’re secluded in your own little world at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Tangaroa photo by D Park Photography

I couldn’t have been happier with how the photo shoot turned out. Drexelle and David of D. Park Photography are total pros and utter sweethearts, too! I need to get some of these photos framed to put on display in our home tiki room.

photo by D Park Photography