First Taste

First Taste: Drunk Munk Provides a Safe Tiki Experience at Scottsdale Prices

Trying the Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant Drunk Munk.
Trying the Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant Drunk Munk. Lauren Cusimano
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: The Drunk Munk
Location: 7133 East Stetson Drive, #1, Scottsdale
Open: About four months
Eats: Seafood, sushi, and tiki-themed cocktails
Price: $20 to $55 per person
Hours: 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday

The tiki-themed Drunk Munk opened in early March at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Stetson Drive in Old Town Scottsdale — or, more specifically, the Fifth Avenue Shopping District. Yes, the Polynesian bar and restaurant is in the old Cowboy Ciao spot, and while it looks like only the sign was swapped on the outside, the inside got a pretty good makeover.

click to enlarge Looking a little like the old Cowboy Ciao, which is cool. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Looking a little like the old Cowboy Ciao, which is cool.
Lauren Cusimano
The 4,600-square-foot restaurant seats 150 in the dining area, along with 50 spots on the patio once it’s not July. The inside is all dark red and darker wood, like a beach house meets a Red for Ed rally. There’s a giant Moai head behind the bar, along with some fun tiki mugs on display. But the rest is all sleek Scottsdale — not that it doesn’t look smart.

Some background: Greg Donnally co-owns The Drunk Munk along with Andrew Nam and Scott Hane of neighboring Geisha A Go Go (and formerly of Drift Lounge, another Scottsdale spot which closed in 2012).

On the exceptionally text-heavy food menu, expect Polynesian-focused items like a flaming pu pu platter and Mahi Mahi Mahi, Asian-inspired small plates, and other menu items like sushi rolls, starters, and salads. It’s a real novella, and all over the map. Literally: Korean this, Hawaiian-style that, then tostadas and ceviche.

Conversely, on the cute, picturesque drink menu, little illustrations of the cocktails guide your eye, helping you find the right marked-up yet adorably photogenic drink for you.

click to enlarge The Alota Colada, best enjoyed during happy hour. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Alota Colada, best enjoyed during happy hour.
Lauren Cusimano
Drinks are called the Almond Joy, Bikini Girl, and Pele’s Eruption. And some speak to those fun mugs, in the shape of Buddhas, the lucky cat, tiki gods, and, of course, hula girls. But FYI, there’s also a full bar, and beer and wine options.

The trick to the Drunk Munk is this: Go during happy hour. It’s from 4 to 7 p.m. daily, and it’s half off appetizers, house sushi, well drinks, wine, beer, sangria, and most importantly, specialty cocktails. You can mix and match, try something new, and have a big sip of your neighbor’s drink, without racking up an enormous bill.

To drink, we went with the Alota Colada — which was definitely on the small side considering the name, but it’s made with care by knowledgeable bartenders, and you’ll definitely feel loose afterward. It also feels small for the price, but again, not at happy hour, when the specialty cocktails are 50 percent off, making it $6.

click to enlarge Give the sushi a skip. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Give the sushi a skip.
Lauren Cusimano
But if you’re heading over for the happiest hour, which we, again, couldn’t endorse more, a few pieces of advice.

Give the sushi a skip. It’s grocery-store grade, which is to say edible, but not great — even if you order one promising the most zap like the spicy tuna.

If you’re looking for a snack, or a shareable plate, the Bali Bottle Rockets are recommended. This cheat-day food is an egg roll-wrapped wad of cream cheese, shrimp, scallions, and garlic. It comes lava hot, so let it sit while you finish your anecdote or whatever you have to do. A sweet chili sauce is served with it, which overpowers the rocket, so go easy.

As for the rest of the food, the mains seem fresh and colorful, and probably decent. But it’s hard to picture someone paying $18 for the Drunk Munk Chop Salad, even if it is a nod to the famous Stetson Chop once served under the same roof. Or $54 for the Moai Tomahawk Steak, at a place with a tiki gimmick instead of one of the many nearby steakhouses? God speed.

click to enlarge Though not an everyday food, the Bali Bottle Rockets are recommended. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Though not an everyday food, the Bali Bottle Rockets are recommended.
Lauren Cusimano
Will the Drunk Munk transport anyone to the swinging days of Trader Vic’s, the old site of which lies coincidentally less than 500 feet away? Probably not. And that’s especially no thanks to The Smiths and The Killers playing over the speakers, or the busy flatscreens.

But the bar and dining room do get rowdy after a bit, and it will be packed come fall, winter, and especially spring training. So, we’re not really worried about this new Scottsdale tenant.

If you like tiki drinks, go visit (again, dear tiki god, during happy hour) and try a few. But if you like tiki bars, enter at your own risk.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano