Despite the Alfred Hitchcock movie title, trains aren’t typically the first place we think of to go and meet strangers. That’s what bars are for. Now luckily, those in Phoenix can do both! The recently opened Century Grand cocktail bar takes guests back to the 1920s during the prohibition era with a train station design. The bar was created by Jason Asher and Rich Furnari, the same creative team that brought you UnderTow, another cocktail lounge in Phoenix.
What to expect
The bar consists of three parts; the Grand Century, which is a cocktail bar with wine-by-the-cart service specializing in dim-sum food. The second component is Platform 18, a cocktail bar modeled after the presidential pullman railcar. Lastly, the Grey Hen Saloon is an in-bar tasting room that doubles as a store selling alcohol and the tools needed to make cocktails. The Grey Hen Saloon offers a wide array of whiskey spirits and boasts of the largest single barrel stocks in the entire country with over four hundred different whiskeys.
As guests enter in Grand Century, they will be greeted by staff fully dressed as porters, ticket takers, and conductors. Platform 18 is complete with full sound effects and display monitors that create the appearance of passing through Colorado. Guests there can hear the train’s whistle sound off as well as the wheel’s churning as it rides along the tracks. The lights even dim periodically to create the effect of going under a tunnel.
“I think their jaws are going to drop,” said Asher while speaking about the restaurant to ABC15. Of the pair’s most recent endeavor, Furnari said, “Century Grand is our most ambitious project to date with multiple cocktail experiences, locally-focused innovative cuisine, a progressive natural wine program, and one of the heartiest single barrel spirits selections in the country.”
The food and drink
The drink menu will include more than 25 specialty cocktails with names that perfectly fit the theme such as; The Anti-social Man, The Man Behind the Curtain, The Boxcar, and Weekly Shipments. The food is styled after dim-sum with small plates served for immediate consumption. The menu is 42 pages long including fictional stories about Grand Century train station to entertain patrons.
The food portion of the menu includes items like fried oyster rockefeller, pork and duck terrine, thai crispy beef, and japanese eggplant fries. In addition to the signature cocktails, patrons at Grand Century can also choose from a selection of beer and wine.
According to the Grand Century Facebook page, Platform 18 has, “over 40 infusions, tinctures, and bitters that we add to cocktails,” noting that, “many of which are made in-house. Some ingredients are as simple as Burnt Sugar. Others can be quite foreign and mysterious, like Dragon’s Blood Sap or Sea Buckthorn Berry.”
The chef leading the culinary mission is Sacha Levine. Prior to taking the helm at Grand Century, Levine was a part of the operations at Rancho Pinot, FnB, Quiessence, Atlas Bistro and Ocotillo, and various restaurants across the Valley.
“I took popular themes from the 20s and adapted recipes to the way I cook,” said Levine on how she created the menu concept for Grand Century. Levine added, “The menu’s foundation is built upon local farmers, purveyors and artisans who drive the market, while leveraging food culture elements from the era.”
Small plates and shareables
Like any traditional train ride, Grand Century offers a number of food options not found on the menu, but rather are wheeled around on a cart that comes right up to your table. The idea behind this is to allow the dishes to visually entice guests allowing them to select whatever looks good to them in the moment. Items that can be found on these carts include; marinated Korean meatballs, fried and served with a light helping of kimchi and chilled shrimp poached in dashi and served with silver cucumber and dip.
Guests can also choose to sample from the tea sandwich menu. With that, they have a choice of sun-dried strawberry preserves with pistachio butter or a crab salad served with yuzu koshu mayo and cucumber.
The restaurant focuses heavily on the small plates and shareables trend that has been sweeping across restaurants around the country. Small plates that guests can choose from include, sweet potato dumplings with farmer’s cheese, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate molasses, and brown butter hazelnuts served with apple cider gastrique.
As we enter a new ‘roaring twenties’ Grand Century stands as a throwback to the last century’s roaring twenties. Opening just in time to experience the 100 year anniversary of the era it is modeled after, Grand Century is nothing short of a twenty first century grand speakeasy.
Where: 3626 E. Indian School Rd., Phoenix
When: Grand Century is open Sunday – Thursday 5 pm to 12 am; Friday and Saturday 5 pm to 2 am.
Platform 18 is open from 4 pm to 12 am Sunday – Thursday and 4 pm to 2 am Friday and Saturday.
Grey Hen is open from 2 pm to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 2 pm to midnight Friday and Saturday.
Reservations are highly recommended. Either plan to come early, or make sure the check out their reservation policy on their website before booking your evening. Reservations are limited to 90 minutes, just like The Undertow.