Less than three months after The Sorrow Drowner opened in April, the doors to the adventure-themed tiki bar closed.
Owner Alfred Wheatley cited a string of issues in those early months, punctuated by a refrigerator that “literally exploded” during a week when the business was empty with multiple staff out sick with COVID. Supply chain issues prevented the business from reopening for more than eight weeks, time that Wheatley said he used to regroup and retool for an improved second opening in September.
“We’ve been back open for three months now. We figured out what was holding us back before. We figured out what’s working for us now,” Wheatley said.
One change is a pared-back events calendar. Before the hiatus this summer, The Sorrow Drowner hosted variety shows every Friday and Saturday evening, but Wheatley said it was difficult to book acts that fit the business’s old-timey vaudeville concept. Furthermore, Wheatley said the show started to detract from what was originally intended to be the main event: the drinks and food.
“We were supposed to be a tiki bar that had a show, not a dinner theater. It felt like people only wanted to come for the show,” Wheatley said.
To that tune, Wheatley hired chef Al Devane, and the two are working to hone the menu.
“This new chef is passionate about creating dishes and evolving our menu,” Wheatley said.
With new culinary talent on board, Wheatley said the kitchen is tweaking dishes by intentionally sourcing ingredients and offering more housemade elements. For example, the restaurant’s pupu platter still includes customer favorites like crab rangoon and spring rolls, as well as the Hong Kong-style bao buns stuffed with pork. But the huli huli chicken skewers now feature local chicken basted in sweet, tangy huli huli sauce, and the crab rangoons are made in-house.
Wheatley and Devane are also working on a family-style brunch, which Wheatley hopes to roll out in December.
At the bar, seasonal cocktails have joined more than 25 craft cocktails on The Sorrow Drowner’s menu. The current seasonal offering is the Sorrow Harvester’s Grog, crafted with End of Days’ Port of Entry Rum and Barrel Rested Rum plus local apple cider, blood orange juice and blood orange syrup.
“It’s very, very good,” Wheatley said. “Spiced with cinnamon and clove and a little bit of anise, just a touch of anise so it gives it a little bit of a weird kick at the end.”
Wheatley is working to build the calendar of events over time to supplement the monthly variety shows. One option is screening old movies; Indiana Jones and Allan Quatermain films were mentioned as examples of the kind of films Wheatley envisions fitting with the theme of the business. Another option is world history trivia.
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