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FIRST LOOK: Mothership

A tropical escapist, alien otherworld, crashes into South Park from the creators of Kindred
Photo Credit: James Tran
SDM - First Look - Mothership-165.jpg

SDM – First Look – Mothership-165.jpg

Photo Credit: James Tran

The dark side of an alien planet now exists in South Park. You can drink a Mind Killer in it. And you can stare at stalagmites and shooting stars, namedrop L. Ron Hubbard, just utterly detach from reality.

Open the door at the corner of Juniper and 30th Street. The back of that door is covered in a hyper-blue rock formation, both prehistoric and interplanetary, like Land of the Lost on shrooms. I don’t care if it’s light or dark outside or if you have the vision of a bird of prey. You will go momentarily blind. It is so incredibly dark in here. But a few moments later (after you’ve navigated the slight twist of the cave entrance), your eyes will recover, you’ll start to comprehend that you are in the crash-landed restaurant and space lounge, Mothership. One half is what remains of the ship (the bar is the ship’s console). The other half is the barren intergalactic wasteland of your Thursday night out. Alien plant life is snaking and encroaching the hull, pools of psychedelic light occupy crannies. Tiki cocktails are served. Vegan food is native language.

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SDM – First Look – Mothership-203.jpg

Credit: James Tran

The wild tropical-escapism idea started in 2016 at vegan restaurant, Kindred—a retro-futuristic tiki cocktail pop-up night called “Permanent Vacation.” The night grew and grew and—pandemic pause—grew. Now it has its logical forever home. The fever dream was brought to life by noted designer Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez, whose company Top Notch Kustoms crafted the famous tiki bar other-worlds in San Francisco (Smuggler’s Cove, Whitechapel) and Seattle (Inside Passage).

“Rather than just be a space bar with random nerdy space things thrown around, we had to start with the story,” says owner Kory Stetina. “We wanted to do this truly immersive experience, so we needed to understand what its story was before we built it. So a ship has crash landed into a light volcano and part of the ship has been broken off into the rocks and plants…”

We could go on. There restaurant comes with its own sci-fi novela that Dune author Frank Herbert could appreciate. But some things—especially this thing—are best left to be experienced.

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SDM – First Look – Mothership-201.jpg

Credit: James Tran

But we will say that there are easter eggs hidden about (play around with the electronics panel between the bathrooms). Local plant designer Britton Neubacher of Tend Living designed “new species” of plants that seem to be infecting the ship a la the black tentacles in Stranger Things. There is art from Tom Neely, who created the comics Humans and Henry and Glenn Forever. The imaginative fiction of the place got so out of hand that Mothership even has its own OST (original soundtrack), eight-and-a-half hours of luminous space rock from musician Justin Pinkerton, the first part of which has been pressed onto vinyl.

“Justin is a childhood friend, going back to 1983 in Encinitas,” Stetina says. “I once gave him an old synthesizer because it was getting absolutely no use in my place. Didn’t know years later he’d use it to create the Mothership soundtrack.”

That’s the thing about Mothership. While naysayers will nay and say, it’s a collection of friends and makers working toward a far-out idea. “I do think it’s so outrageous that design elites could look at it as being over the top,” admits Stetina. “But that’s kind of the point. Especially right now, I think we all need a little escapism. It’s fun and makes you smile and captures that childlike wonder. And these were a bunch of single maker people who connected through music and art and Kindred and tiki. It’s a lot of independent weirdos giving all they could give.”

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SDM – First Look – Mothership-111.jpg

Credit: James Tran

On the serious side—cocktails and food are serious. Kindred chef Dylan Craver has created the menu, which intentionally brings all flavors in the universe together—like a potato latke with a Korean twist, or an okonomiyaki. Beverage director David Kinsey and bar manager Juan Castañeda have gone above and beyond to create 17 original tiki cocktails.

“Despite the outrageousness, many of the drinks have inspiration rooted in classic midcentury tiki,” says Stetina. “We spun them into weird terrain and chose garnishes like dried sage, which is our equivalent of the mint garnish. We’ve made gardenias as a nut butter-based mixture that’s in the Pearl Diver cocktail, and made it with a cultured and churned cashew butter. We created three different house orgeats, three grenadines.”

Mothership opens Aug. 2 (reminder: “soft openings” are supposed to be a bit of a cluster, so be kind). Sometime within the next week you’ll be able to make reservations for 90-minute experiences. As for Stetina, on the eve of “friends and family” test runs, he says, “Sure, right now I’m ragged and broke. But for better or worse, being able to witness something like this come to life, to give it its best shot, go all in, jump off the cliff, completely leveraged—it’s all worth it.”

SDM - First Look - Mothership-079.jpg

SDM – First Look – Mothership-079.jpg

Credit: James Tran

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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