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: Duza's Kitchen
Location: 2243 N. 12th St.
Open: Less than a week
Eats: Breakfast, lunch
There's a chance you've eaten chef Mensur Duzic's food before, though you might not realize it. That's because for the past few years, the German-trained chef has been the man behind the cafeteria at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, where he gained recognition for upping the hospital's dining game with things like made-to-order salads and wood-fired pizzas.
Now he's opened his own little spot. And just as he raised the bar at PCH, Duzic's bringing surprisingly sophisticated cuisine to the Coronado neighborhood.
Earlier this week, Duzic opened Duza's Kitchen at 2243 North 12th Street, in the portion of a converted home that used to be DJ Fernandez's Astor House. It's a casual restaurant with counter-style service, though the space's existing sleek design is definitely still present. In addition to the small dining room, there's a large and welcoming back patio — complete with a vintage soda dispenser stocked with bottles of La Croix sparkling water.
The restaurant's open only from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and serves breakfast until 11 a.m., then lunch options thereafter. There are coffee drinks, juices, and grab-and-go options including pastries, cold sandwiches, and side salads packaged in mason jars.
The breakfast options range from a build-your-own cage-free egg omelet to a crispy breakfast naan bread with hummus, tzatziki, arugula, and prosciutto. The list also includes pumpkin quinoa porridge, arepas, crepes, and a Mexican breakfast torte.
On the lunch menu, you'll find mostly open-face sandwiches with options to build your own or choose from a list of vegetarian and seafood offerings. There's also a "Lighter Side" section with a list of salads that range from kale and apple to Duzic's version of ratatouille. These are probably too small to constitute a complete meal, but at less than $5, each makes a generous side or a hearty starter.
We tried the beet salad ($4.50), a sweet and creamy combination of red beets, arugula, and dill in a creamy yogurt-based dressing; A fingerling potato salad ($4) featured hard-boiled eggs, kale, arugula, and several fresh herbs. Neither quite matched the menu descriptions (it seemed several of the ingredients listed didn't make it on the plate), but both were elevated, uncomplicated, and easy to enjoy. (Plus at those price points, who's going to complain about a serving of fresh and flavorful vegetables?)
The best part of the meal was the open-face prime rib sandwich ($9), which came with a choice of cheese and sauce. From a list of options that included provolone, cheddar, mozzarella, and burrata, we went with Gruyere cheese and chimichurri sauce, also adding caramelized onions on top. The combination of the crisp, melted cheese and perfectly cooked prime rib was excellent — in fact our only complaint is that we'd probably add a few more toppings next time. Even the toasted crusty white bread exceeded expectations. Served with a side of salty potato chips, this sandwich is one for which we'll be returning.
From the vegetarian options, we selected the spicy eggplant caviar sandwich ($6.50), which was good but definitely not spicy in the least. In fact, the combination of roasted eggplant, onions, and tomatoes fell on the sweet side of spectrum, but was still flavorful and nicely accented with fresh basil, parsley, and dill. Served on wheat bread, this sandwich is the kind of lunch that's filling without weighing you down.
During our visit, he staff at Duza's couldn't have been more accommodating. They brought our food out the patio (instead of having us come back in to get it) and delivered sides of red and green housemade salsa, both of which were excellent — and quite spicy. A mason jar of fruit-infused water offered a nice cooling effect. We tried the strawberry, coconut, lime, and mint water ($3.50), which was fine but might be the only thing on the menu that doesn't feel like a complete steal.
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Just a few days into business, Duza's Kitchen already has us intrigued with a globally inspired menu of ingredient-driven food. At the right price point and with friendly service, this restaurant could be a lasting addition to the Central Phoenix neighborhood.