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[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-04-07 20:25:27 ]
I haven't visited yet, but I should be there in about two weeks to celebrate my sister and brother-in-law's anniversary and his mother's birthday, so you can count on me to report back afterwards.
[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-04-07 21:32:04 ]
Here's a recent Boulder Weekly article about the drinks:
Ship off to a rum-drinker’s paradise
Swaylo’s Tiki is, first and foremost, an experience, an homage to a different era and a temple to all things tiki. It will take your eyes a moment to adjust to the dim lobby after the bright Colorado sun, making it easy to feel like you’ve shipped off for a Hollywood version of a Pacific Island vacation and not a few parking lots away from Buffalo Wild Wings.
Walking through the front doors, you’re instantly transported. The windows are covered and the interior is lit by faux gas lamps and buoy lights. Wooden walls are lined with nautical memorabilia, tchotchkes and other tiki-themed kitsch, while the walls themselves are designed to look like the interior of an old seafaring vessel.
The fourth restaurant from The Roost owners Sean and Rebecca Gafner has been a lengthy labor of love, according to Beverage Director Matt Grimes. Swaylo’s Tiki has been in the works since 2018, joining The Roost, Jefe’s Tacos & Tequila and the fast-casual lunch spot Smokin’ Bowls in Longmont.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to see this in front of us right now,” Grimes says. “The whole idea is escapism. There aren’t any TVs. We want you to completely be engulfed when you walk in. It’s its whole own world.”
But while setting the stage with decor and tiki trappings is one thing, a big part of American tiki culture’s draw is complex and flavorful rum drinks. Grimes estimates at least 115 different bottles of rum and variants from around 10 different countries, including local bottles from Dryland Distillers and Abbott & Wallace in Longmont.
The labor of love isn’t just for the seafood-focused menu or decor, it extends through the cocktail menu. From hurricanes and zombies to frozen pina coladas, the classics are well-represented on Swaylo’s menu. Grimes said his favorite on the menu is the mai tai, which went through more than a few iterations to reach its current recipe.
“For me, it’s how complex and deep they go. It’s really easy to think that tropical drinks are just pineapple juice and rum. The drinks are layered, complex and detailed,” Grimes says. “Our bartenders work really hard to make great, consistent cocktails with flavors you won’t find on other menus, like passionfruit and pimento dram.”
The cocktails are playful and bright, appealing to the eyes, served in funky ceramic tiki mugs. The unique qualities of the spirits, fruits and spices that go into each have been strongly considered. Cocktails like the Lilikoi whiskey sour play with expectations, blending in tropical flavors with Colorado whiskey to elevate an otherwise standard menu item.
The mindfulness and care that goes into developing the recipes also shows up in less obvious ways, like in the Saturn. Local gin from Spring 44 mixes with citrus and passion fruit, but the whole cocktail is lifted by the use of orgeat, a syrup of almonds and orange blossom. Rather than sourcing orgeat from a vendor or producer, Grimes and his staff produce the syrup in house a dozen gallons at a time. While practical from an expense standpoint, it also lends consistency to an ingredient present in several cocktails.
Frozen concoctions like blue Hawai’ians, lava flows and pina coladas also take the hassle out of ordering. Like the frozen margaritas at Swaylo’s sister restaurant Jefe’s, slushie machines turn with vibrant colors on the wall behind the bar.
Forgoing the blender saves on mess and time for the bartenders, while sparing everyone else from the disruptive whirring of ice being pulverized. As an added bonus, the frozen mixtures are all non-alcoholic. Spirits are added on ordering, so adults who choose not to consume alcohol still have some fun options (and kids don’t feel left out).
It is worth mentioning that Swaylo’s offers two shareable cocktails—a citrus chai punch and Swaylo’s volcano. Served in bowls with long straws, the menu recommends splitting one of these between four-to-six people. Well worth the price as your server lights an alcoholic volcano on fire right at the table.
It is worth noting that the strength of the cocktails are not for the faint of heart or an empty stomach. Fortunately, the food menu at Swaylo’s is up to the challenge, but that’s a column for another writer.
[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-04-07 21:31:42 ]
And here's a pretty in-depth 5280 Magazine article with a few pictures:
Longmont’s First Tiki Bar Opens in a Former Outback Steakhouse
Pulling open the massive, hand-carved redwood doors and stepping inside Swaylo’s Tiki Restaurant and Bar feels like escaping into another world. A giant, gray pirate ship surrounds the bar; lights inside taxidermied blowfish and chandeliers made from rainbow stained-glass parrots dangle from the ceiling; and servers carry around trays of drinks—some of them on fire—in elaborate cups shaped like flamingos and totem heads. It’s a far cry from the suburban feel of this Longmont neighborhood (also home to a Kohl’s and a Holiday Inn Express)—and that’s the whole point.
When they opened Swaylo’s inside a building that previously housed an Outback Steakhouse last month, Sean and Rebecca Gafner wanted to take diners far, far away from the cold, drab Front Range and transport them somewhere much more colorful and temperate, like Polynesia. “We wanted to create a tropical vacation experience without leaving southwest Longmont,” Sean says.
The Gafners own three other restaurants in Longmont—the Roost, Jefes Tacos & Tequila, and Smokin’ Bowls—all of which are located on the city’s historic, walkable Main Street. For their first foray away from downtown, the Gafners chose a shopping center right next to their own neighborhood in southwest Longmont, which they lovingly call “Swaylo.” They’ve lived in this part of town since first moving from California to Longmont to open the Roost seven years ago, and they wanted to help set the area apart. “All of our best friends, who are like family to us, live in this neighborhood—we spend every holiday together,” Sean says, “We’re trying to brand this really great part of Longmont down here. Like Denver has RiNo and LoDo, we believe Longmont could use a district other than just the creative district downtown, too.”
Opening a tiki-inspired restaurant has long been on the Gafners’ bucket list. Three years ago, they were in talks with a building owner at another location, but that deal fell through. Then, the pandemic upended the hospitality industry and the Gafners turned their attention toward keeping their businesses running. They initially offered takeout at all three restaurants, but quickly realized that wasn’t a profitable venture. Instead, they closed the Roost and Smokin’ Bowls; shifted some of their staff to Jefes (where tacos and margs made for great take-home fare); gave away $60,000 worth of food; and helped the rest of their employees file for unemployment. They reopened the two restaurants for the summer of 2020, but closed them again when the temperatures started to drop.
In March 2021, they reopened the Roost and Smokin’ Bowls for good. And last summer they experimented with the tiki concept by building a 24-foot-long bar on the sidewalk in front of the Roost (like many Colorado cities, Longmont allowed downtown eateries to temporarily expand their outdoor seating). “It was awesome,” Sean says. “It was super fun. And we wrote all of our tiki cocktail recipes.”
Those cocktail recipes are the brainchild of Matt Grimes, who serves as beverage director for all four of the Gafners’ restaurants. Though Grimes loves sipping big scotches and smoky mezcals, tropical cocktails are his “bartender soul-food,” he says. So far, he’s helped source 110 rums from a dozen different countries for the bar at Swaylo’s, including several made right here in Colorado by purveyors like Longmont’s Dry Land Distillers. (Swaylo’s is also partnering with Dry Land to age an agricole-style rum in a whiskey barrel for the next year.) “Rum styles vary so much,” Grimes says. “It’s so much more than the typical Bacardi and Captain Morgan; it goes so much deeper than that.”
Swaylo’s cocktails run the gamut from elaborate—like the Swaylo’s Volcano, a cocktail meant to be shared by four to six people made with two rums, maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, lime, pineapple, and Demerara sugar—to classic, like the Mai Tai. But whether diners are familiar with the cocktails or they’re trying something for the first time, they can count on drinks crafted with fresh juices and scratch-made ingredients, like house-made orgeat syrup, Grimes says. Some are served in traditional drinkware, but many arrive in ornamental vessels—the Zombie, for instance, made with two types of rum, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit, pomegranate, lime, absinthe, and angostura bitters, is served in a cup shaped like a skeleton. “That’s tiki summed up: It’s over the top, it’s extravagant, it’s fun,” says Grimes. “We don’t ever want to put down a drink in front of somebody and not see joy before they even take a sip. Seeing that presented is just as important as the flavor.”
The food menu, meanwhile, is all crafted by Gafner, who spent much of his career preparing Pacific seafood in California restaurants. Appetizers include the classic Hawaiian snack of Spam musubi (made with grilled Spam, rice, nori, teriyaki, and pickled ginger), and poisson cru, a Tahitian raw fish dish featuring marinated swordfish, lemon, coconut milk, cucumber, cilantro, and chiles. Swaylo’s also offers a selection of customizable bowls—such as a poke rice bowl or red curry rice noodles, with the option to add a variety of proteins—as well as hearty dinner entrées. To make the popular Huli Huli Lamb dish, for instance, Gafner braises a lamb shank from Longmont’s Buckner Family Farm in a tangy, teriyaki soy broth, then plates it with sweet potato purée and baby bok choy. Fish plays a starring role on the menu, too, in creative preparations like crispy-skinned barramundi, coconut oolong tea bass, ahi nori, and mahi-mahi tacos.
Like all of the Gafners restaurants, Swaylo’s will give away around 30 percent of its profits for community causes, employee bonuses, and charities (they’re still ironing out the details, but expect to contribute to efforts to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Gafner says). And, just like the other restaurants the couple owns around town, they’re planning for Swaylo’s to be here for the long haul: While they don’t own the building, the Gafners signed a long-term lease.
“People in Longmont just want someone who does honest work and who does the best they can with what they’re doing—people appreciate that,” Sean says. “We try to have real relationships with the people we work with—our farmers and distillers and brewers and cheesemakers. It’s super fun and we get to do some cool collaborations. It feels like the community that Longmont is. We didn’t want to come to Longmont and take anything, we wanted to add to what’s already here, which is collaborating and doing high-quality things.”
[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-04-07 21:32:25 ]
Made it to Swaylo's on Sunday afternoon. I had tried to temper my expectations for this place, so I was very pleasantly surprised by the experience. To start, upon entering, we were plunged into darkness.
The bar is inside a ship's hull, and most tables and booths surround the perimeter. It creates a nice separation between spaces. There's also quite a bit of art on the walls, although the tikis I saw were mostly the painted mask type--not exactly clown tiki, and I'd prefer some more traditional versions; still, they're not totally offensive to me.
The drinks and food were very good. I really enjoyed the Mai Tai (and the waitress won points for "warning" me that it was traditional and not fruity).
Overall, I'm very impressed with this place and am happy that there's a well-done tiki restaurant and bar in Northern Colorado, closer for me to visit regularly than places in Denver.
[ Edited by Hamo on 2022-04-27 19:19:51 ]
I was running errands in Longmont earlier today and stopped at Swaylo's for lunch. The outdoor seating has been completed and looks nice, but I'll always prefer the inside of a good tiki bar.
Here are some pictures of the bar area:
I've spent the past week hiking around Colorado and stayed three nights with a friend in Longmont. She warned me this is not a traditional tiki bar and alas I never found my way there. Can you report further on the food and drinks Hamo?
We were there again this past Sunday to celebrate my birthday, so things are pretty fresh in my mind.
I've enjoyed most of the drinks I've had. The Mai Tai is good, so is the Saturn, Aku Aku, and Swaylo's Punch. We all liked the Volcano bowl this past visit. The Three Dots and a Dash lacks a bit, since I don't believe they use Martinique rum. My brother-in-law did not care for the Zombie, and when I tasted his, it seemed bizarre.
I had the Loco Moco this week, which is part of the special summer menu just launched. It was fine, but I've preferred other items much more, like the Kalua sliders, Hawaiian fried rice, chicken teriyaki sticks, and Spam Musubi. There's quite a bit of seafood, which I don't care for, but I do eat and like the Crab Rangoon. Others have enjoyed the fish tacos and poke rice bowl.
All that to say that I find the food and drink to be tasty and of good quality. As for decor, there are no LeRoy tikis, but there are floats and puffers, matting and bamboo, a few PNG masks and Moai, various framed artwork, and peacock chairs. There is also a touch of nautical, most notibly the ship's hull that separates the bar from the rest of the dining room. But I do believe they know the genre, since the do have Sven's and Swanky's books upon the display case in the entry. So I also appreciate the atmosphere.
I was here a few weeks ago, and had a great time. The service was excellent, the drinks were great and on par with what we expect from Tiki aficianados, and that Hawaiian Fried Rice was so ONO! Kudos to these guys for pulling off a great spot.
Glad you enjoyed your visit--too bad we couldn't meet up....
TIKI HUNTING recently posted a video of a visit to Swaylo's, so one can get a better idea of the inside.
TIKI HUNTING : SWAYLO’S TIKI , LONGMONT, CO https://youtu.be/iArX2Jgyaw8
Went for lunch this past Sunday. I hadn't been for a few months, and the lighting seemed much brighter than previous visits. Our server confirmed that they do turn up the lights during the day and bring them down at 5 PM. Since they changed their hours a few weeks ago and are no longer open for lunch on weekdays, that's only an "issue" on Saturdays and Sundays.
Food and drink menu have been adjusted slightly, too, and are still good. Dad was shocked at the check total, but that's what he gets for trying to pay for everything without consulting the rest of the party....
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