The Prohibition-era speakeasy concept is nothing new—there are plenty of cocktail lounges in the Valley offering the clandestine rush of drinking bootlegged booze.
But at Century Grand, taking a trip back in time is not so much about the destination—it’s the journey. And, oh, what a journey it is. Award-winning chef Sacha Levine presides over the culinary component of this theatrical adventure, which harkens to the razzle-dazzle of The Jazz Age, The Industrial Revolution and expansion of American railroads. “We drew inspiration from a variety of historical items, including the birth and evolution of the rail as it forged its way across the country,” says Jason Asher, co-owner along with Rich Furnari.
Cocktails like the Cincinnati, OH (Botanist gin, Caperitif aperitivo, rhubarb juice, strawberry and lemon, $12) are named after major railroad junctions throughout U.S. history. Light bites—many of which are displayed on rotating dim sum trollies to encourage impulse noshing—represent dishes the wealthy would have enjoyed in the 1920s. Think: steak tartare with shiitake mushrooms, cured yolk, Chinese mustard and sesame cracker; ham steak with corn nibs and heirloom beans; and sweet potato dumplings with farmers cheese, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate molasses.
49 Square is a blend of mezcal, pisco, hyssop leaf, licorice root, quillaja bark, green tea, celery juice, Granny Smith apple juice and lime juice; Caleb West mixing up a Dead Man’s Pocket Watch.
But the piece de resistance is Platform 18, where only boozy delights are served. The dusky waiting area resembles a train platform, complete with benches, street lamps and a glowing steam engine. There, a host guides guests aboard a faux passenger train car—replicated from a 1926 Presidential Pullman U.S. No. 1.—where LED television “windows” impart the illusion of riding a real train as it snakes its way through snow-dusted forests and craggy mountains. Lights even flicker when passing through tunnels. Sip on clever concoctions like 3 Days, 3 Nights, a blend of sherry, tequila, pickled cucumber, lime, serrano pepper, jasmine and soda water. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with spiked sorbets and ice creams.
Poached seafood and cold spaghetti salad with tomato vinaigrette, fennel and calabrian chile
After the maximum 90-minute train car experience, stop by The Grey Hen, a retro bottle shop boasting the largest single-barrel selection of whiskey in the country, with more than 80 barrels of American spirits handselected from each distillery. As owners of Barter & Shake, the team behind popular neighboring Tiki bar UnderTow, Asher and Furnari are no strangers to pairing cocktails with narrative: “Truthfully, the story is the absolute core of who we are and what we do,” says Furnari. “We love the idea of escapism—that the guest [can] ‘travel’ to another time and place and get away from their daily woes without having to jump on a plane.” All aboard! Separate reservations are recommended for Century Grand and Platform 18, 3626 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix