We're just a month into 2016, and we've already welcomed some great new restaurants to the Valley. And in case you're worried whether metro Phoenix chefs and restaurateurs can sustain the pace, we're here to reassure you. Over the next 11 months, we'll see the openings of new restaurants from some of the city's best chefs, as well as the additional of some huge national names to our local scene.
Buckle up, Phoenix. It's going to be a great year.
Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva
James Beard Award-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza will take her talents to Grand Avenue this year when she opens Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva at 1301 Grand Avenue in Phoenix. The restaurant, which the chef expects to open in February, will serve "a small menu featuring the Barrio Cafe all-stars," Esparza says. Expect dishes including cochinita pibil, chiles en nogada, and Barrio Cafe's famous guacamole to be complemented by a daily menu made with "locally sourced and hard-to-get ingredients from Mexico."
Shake Shack (Scottsdale and Phoenix)
It's been about seven months since we told you that Shake Shack, the wildly popular New York City-based burger chain, would open its first restaurant in Arizona at Scottsdale Fashion Square. The Valley's first flagship restaurant is coming "very soon," according to a spokesperson, and will feature a dramatic shade structure meant to mirror the shape of the original restaurant in Madison Square Park. The restaurant's 50-seat patio also will feature a lounge area with a fire pit, foosball table, and bleacher seating. Shake Shack also will open a second Valley restaurant at Uptown Plaza in Central Phoenix early this year. That restaurant, located on the northeast corner of the intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road, will feature a midcentury design, in keeping with the design of the 1950s landmark strip mall.
The Shop Beer Company
Originally expected to open in February, The Shop Beer Company is the highly anticipated new brewery from the Cartel Brewery team. Chief beer officer David Arnce, head brewer Matt Johnson, Dylan DeMiguel (sales), and chief of staff Jason Calhoon plan to open the brewpub at 922 West First Street in Tempe, offering 12 housemade brews and four guest taps. In addition to about 6,000 square feet of brewing space, which will allow the brewery to more than double its lineup of beers, the bar should seat about 50 people and will include a covered patio/beer garden with a stage and space for food trucks to park.
Nico Heirloom Kitchen
Chef Gio Osso's second restaurant — named for his son, Nico — is expected to open in April at 366 North Gilbert Road in Gilbert. Serving "casual, West Coast-inspired seasonal Italian" food, the restaurant aims to be a more family-friendly spot than the chef's first restaurant, Virtu Honest Craft, a small but upscale eatery located in Old Town Scottsdale.
Chris Bianco's Trattoria
Chef Chris Bianco still hasn't settled on a name for his pasta-focused trattoria set to open this year at the Town & Country Shopping Center, where you'll also find the second location of his world-famous Pizzeria Bianco. The 35-seat restaurant will serve a small menu of about two entrees, a couple of vegetables, and three types of pasta, all made, of course, with seasonality and locality in mind. The chef hopes to bring a "completely new experience" to diners, while still keeping his style of simple, rustic cuisine. The restaurant also will have a expanded bar program. The chef expects to open in mid-March.
The Clever Koi (Gilbert)
Initially expected to open this spring, the second location of The Clever Koi now is on track to open in downtown Gilbert in June. The restaurant comes from owners Jared Porter, Joshua James, and Nick Campisano and will be located behind Heritage Marketplace, a development that's also home to restaurants including Barrio Queen, Zinburger, and Lo-Lo's Chicken and Waffles.
Deep-dish pizza lovers probably haven't forgotten when we told you Chicago's Lou Malnati's pizzeria planned to open a restaurant in metro Phoenix. The restaurant — the first to open outside the Chicago area — is expected to open this May at Uptown Plaza, the same Central Phoenix strip mall where Shack Shake will open one of its first Arizona restaurants. In November, the company also announced its plans to relocate five members of the company's management team to ensure the authenticity of the its well-loved products, which include Chicago-style deep-dish pizzas, soups, salads, pastas, and more.
The Wilderness Room
In September, we told you about Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.'s plans to open a new location in downtown Gilbert. Founder Jonathan Buford told us the third location (the first being the original brewpub and the second being the adjoining tasting room) will be located at 313 North Gilbert Road and will be called The Wilderness Room. Fans of the nationally recognized brewery can look forward to spot that's focused on "craft cocktails and Arizona-based wines."
Matt's Big Breakfast (Tempe)
Already this year, Matt Pool of Matt's Big Breakfast opened his third restaurant, in the Biltmore neighborhood, but he's not done for 2016. Later this year, he and wife Erenia will add a fourth location to the mix, this time in Tempe at the yet-to-be-completed Marina Heights development. Pool says the Tempe restaurant will seat about 120 people and will include a patio, a first for the longtime restaurateur. And although the restaurant will be inside the sprawling, five-building complex (much of which will be used by State Farm), Pool says he'll offer the same menu and hours of the other Matt's Big Breakfast locations.
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In-N-Out (Central Phoenix)
Central Phoenix residents looking to get their Double-Double fix will have a much shorter drive to make later this year once a new location of In-N-Out has opened its doors at the Camelback Colonade shopping center. The fast food burger joint will open on the east side of the mall, which is located on 20th Street in Central Phoenix.