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James Palinsad / Flickr via Creative Commons

Adrift Tiki Bar 2.0 Launches

The team behind Denver's famed Little Man Ice Cream gives the escapist eatery an upgrade.

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With their recent purchase of Adrift Tiki Bar, Paul Tamburello and Loren Martinez, the pair behind the wildly popular Little Man Ice Cream (and many other projects) in LoHi, are trying something new. And it’s not just switching gears from ice cream to rum drinks and Hawaiian-inspired fare. Although Tamburello has done just about “every job there is to do” in the restaurant biz and Martinez cites the fact that Little Man does sales comparable with that of a full-blown restaurant’s, the surprising truth is that the two are restaurant rookies. “I’ve never owned a restaurant,” says Tamburello, who is often associated with Linger and Root Down via his consulting work with Generator Real Estate. “I just thought owning one would be so fun.”

So when the opportunity arose to purchase Adrift from the previous owner, Jay Dedrick, the pair jumped in. Tamburello had long been a fan of the sense of immersion that Adrift provided. “Like going into Beatrice & Woodsley or something similar, you were just immersed into something different.”

Tamburello and Martinez temporarily shuttered Adrift in August for a makeover, and unveiled the new version on Saturday night. They’ve kept the core design the same, retaining many of the kitschy, Polynesian tiki pop decor elements while “classing it up a smidge.” Although tiki bars have recently come under scrutiny for being culturally appropriative, Tamburello’s background in theology informed his approach to the subject. “We wanted to learn about the root and soul of the culture and the meaning of the symbols. Tiki idols are, when it comes down to it, somebody’s god,” he says.

Still, the escapist fantasy of Adrift remains intact. The bar’s focus on rum and shareable, beachy cocktails is largely unchanged, but the food has received a facelift. Chefs Tim Dotson (a Matsuhisa vet) and Hawaii-born Sean Motata (both of whom have worked for Troy Guard in the past) have been tapped to run the kitchen. Although a few of Adrift’s old menu offerings are still around, all of them have been tweaked. The new version of the poke, for example, now employs hyperfresh (rather than frozen) tuna.

And to answer the most pressing of questions: Yes, there will be ice cream. Little Man will churn out a bespoke rum raisin flavor to top Adrift’s pineapple upside down cake, and a lychee-ginger sorbet is also in the works.

Bonus: At Little Man, the “Scoop for Scoop” program provides a scoop of rice to hunger-relief organizations in developing countries. Adrift has a similar mission with the “Mana Immersion Fund,” in which a yet-to-be-determined percentage of every purchase will be donated to charitable organizations abroad.


218 S. Broadway, 303-778-8454

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