Sidecar Serves Mindful Mixed Drinks

July 26, 2014 |

sidecar_1Lead barkeep Luke Anable has thought carefully about everything on the menu at Sidecar, the newest 900 square-foot concept bar by Tucson restaurateur Ari Shapiro. Working with fellow Wilko mixologist, Starr Herr-Cardillo, Anable custom-crafted each house recipe and hand-selected every bottle on display behind the bar in the newly renovated space in the Broadway Village shopping complex. As a result, he can tell you the life story of each product from soil to shelf.

“All the language is there to meaningfully talk about any product the way people talk about wine,” says Anable of his spirit-selection process. He believes the dialogue that has developed amongst wine connoisseurs—like conversations about where and how something was made—should be employed when talking about beer and liquor as well. “When you add the history layer on top of the cocktails and the culinary layer of mixing flavors, I think that’s a really rich and powerful way to think about what we’re doing here.”

Shapiro, who is consistent with Sidecar in his efforts to “bring Tucson artisan concepts that have an emphasis on craft and health,” worked with partners Page Repp and Rick McClain of design firm Repp + McClain to fully remodel the corner space in what has been called one of Arizona’s oldest shopping complexes. The red brick has been whitewashed, giving the inside of the 1939 Josias Joesler building the smell of fresh paint. The concrete floors are newly stained; deep-buttoned, lime-green banquette benches line the walls underneath the large, south-facing windows; a large 3-D piece by artist Nick Georgiou decorates the space between the windows. The tables feature polished wood surfaces. Natural brown leather accents and warm pendulum lights give the otherwise-industrial space all of the charm of a cozy after-work escape.

Shapiro lives nearby and commutes to Sidecar by way of a fixed-gear bicycle. According to Shapiro, all of his restaurants—which include popular smoothie stop Xoom Juice, Downtown coffee hub Sparkroot, and the wood-fired pizza joint, Falora (just two doors down from the new bar)—have been built on concepts that addressed the owner’s personal culinary cravings. Sidecar is Shapiro’s neighborhood bar, and it’s a place that he hopes mid-town Tucsonans will also “be able to call their own.”

Though it has all of the makings of a hip Downtown club, Sidecar’s intimate environment can only accommodate about 70 people at maximum capacity, including the tiny outdoor patio—an effect, Shapiro points out, that makes an afternoon at the bar feel “like you could be in your living room.”

Sidecar maintains a staff of only four to five, both in the lounge and behind the bar, lending a much tighter-knit vibe between the employees and their patrons, versus the high-octane pace of Downtown on a Friday night. Anable says he “appreciate(s) being able to take a little more time and be a little more patient” with each drink he mixes at Sidecar. The easier pace also means more opportunity to chat with his customers and provide them with a little bit of cocktail education during their experience, he says.

The opening week of operation brought with it a steady flow of customers; a promising start to the business’ first summer—a season which, due to the loss of about 50,000 UA students to their various hometowns, can make-or-break a new Tucson restaurant. But Shapiro’s goals for the space stretch far into the future, which is why he went for a “timeless” appeal when contemplating Sidecar’s aesthetic.

As for getting the word out, the presence of both Sidecar and Falora in a complex of shops that have traditionally been retail-only has meant plenty of media attention for the new watering hole. Other than that, Shapiro plans to keep his advertising efforts to a minimum, hoping that word-of-mouth alone will allow future patrons to “discover” the space for themselves. Those that wander in even by accident will surely not be disappointed.

In sentiments no doubt shared by his employer, Anable says of his position as (perhaps) Tucson’s most mindful cocktail master, “Knowing that everything you push across the bar has a reason for being there—that’s meaningful.” If social drinking can have a greater meaning than an hour-or-so of revelry, this is where you’ll find it.

Sidecar is located at 139 S. Eastbourne Ave. (off of Broadway Boulevard, just west of Country Club Road), and is open from 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 4 p.m.-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 795-1819 for more information.

Category: Business, FOOD & DRINK, The Scoop