The newest entry to downtown Tucson's bustling restaurant and bar district might prove to be one of its most interesting.
Saint House Rum Bar is a restaurant built around a singular idea - its namesake rum.
"I would say it is inarguably the most diverse liquor in the world," said owner Travis Reese, who has built the restaurant - his third downtown venture with business partner Nicole Flowers - around the cuisines of Caribbean rum-producing countries. Saint House opens today.
The menu includes a few styles of ceviche, Cuban sandwiches, jerk chicken breast salad, fresh battered shrimp to order, taro root chips and dishes employing fish and beef that borrow influences from Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Haiti and other Caribbean nations. Entrees start at $12 and top out at $22.
Saint House Rum Bar's cocktail menu holds as much weight as the food. Pouring from 40 rums from Brazil, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Saint Croix, Martinique, Haiti and other countries, the mixologists will create specialty drinks including the much maligned daiquiri. Reese said Saint House returns the daiquiri to its simple roots - fresh lime, sugar and rum.
"The nice thing about it is, the different rums take on different characteristics with something that simple," he said. "A lot of those rums end up in the tropical world for you. Some of the newer rums are basically built for American palates - a little sweeter, fruit forward, vanilla, oaky."
St. House Rum Bar joins Reese and Flowers' other downtown joints - 47 Scott bistro and Scott & Co. speakeasy. The rum bar is housed in a historical building at the corner of East Congress Street and Arizona Avenue that the pair completely renovated, said the restaurant's designer, Chad Goebel.
The work included tearing down some walls and installing electrical boxes on one brick wall to support 13 lights that look like candles.
"We were able to do a certain amount of artistic remodel to the space," Goebel said, noting that the work was done with historical preservation in mind. "There were a couple of challenges for sure. You're dealing with a building that is 70-plus years old, and the last time it's been updated was the 1970s or '80s."
The renovation revealed a lot of the building's secrets.
"As we were tearing down some of the walls, you can tell there was a door; there's an arch overhead. Or you can tell there was a window. It was interesting seeing history reveal itself," said Goebel, who said there are no known floorplans for the building.
In addition to rum-centered cocktails, Saint House will serve wine and have eight beers on tap including from Tucson's Dragoon Brewing Co.
Saint House Rum Bar, 256 E. Congress St., 207-7757. sainthouserumbar.com
• Hours: Opens today at 4 p.m. Beginning Friday, regular hours are 11 a.m. to midnight daily.
Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at email@example.com or 573-4642.
Published: Aug. 15, 2013