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: Modern Grove Neighborhood Eatery & Market Location: 15530 N Tatum Blvd, Phoenix Open: About six weeks Eats: Breakfast, lunch, dinner Price: $10 to $15 a person
If you live in the north Phoenix neighborhood around the new Modern Grove restaurant and market, then there's a lot to like about the spot. Located on the northwest corner of Tatum and Greenway, the eatery serves three meals a day and offers a bar, coffee drinks, and a spacious outdoor patio. It's even dog-friendly.
In an area dominated by big chain restaurants, it's a refreshing option.
The Phoenix restaurant is the second Modern Grove Neighborhood Eatery and Market location, brought to the Valley by developer Aaron Klusman -- also the founder of Zoyo Neighborhood Yogurt. He opened the first Modern Grove in Flagstaff last August and plans to open a third location in Mesa by the end of the year. The counter-service restaurant is intended to be a community gathering place and even features a chalkboard calendar listing events such as local high school graduations, farmers markets, and holidays.
To be honest, the "market" part of the name, at least at this Phoenix location, might be a little bit of a stretch. There is just a wall of shelves with a small variety of products including wine, coffee, jam, granola, and pickles. At least the selection includes several local products like coffee from Espresso Italia, PB Americano peanut butter, and Laura's Gourmet Granola. You can also find bottles of Arizona Stronghold wine.
Modern Grove serves a small menu of breakfast items until 11 a.m. The options includes items such as a yogurt parfait, two types of quiches, oatmeal, and breakfast sandwiches. Prices range from $5 to $7. We tried the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich ($6.29), an enticing sounding dish with two fried, broken yolk eggs, tomatoes, avocado, and cheddar cheese on a homemade bun.
Unfortunately the sandwich ended up being underwhelming rather than "ultimate" in anyway. The most flavorful ingredient on the sandwich was definitely the cheddar cheese -- the eggs would have benefited greatly from some salt and pepper. The saving grace was the homemade bun, which was a fluffy, brioche-style bread that still manged not to fall apart.
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For lunch and dinner the menu includes burgers, pizza, salads, paninis, and a number of shareable starters. On the recommendation of the employee who helped us at the counter, we went with one of the personal pizzas.
The Napa pizza ($11.99), easily large enough to share, features whipped goat cheese, fig jam, caramelized onion, and ham. Though not the sexiest-looking dish, the pizza delivered on all the promised flavors. The whipped goat cheese was light and just barely salty, a nice counterbalance to the bold, sweet fig jam. We might have appreciated more caramelized onions, but the generous layer of ham made us happy to see. As for the crust, you've likely had better elsewhere, but at least Modern Grove's was thin and crispy with a few bits of nice black char.
Bu what we enjoyed most about the Modern Grove experience was definitely the inviting atmosphere. With high ceilings and retractable garage-style windows, the restaurant offers a bright, airy dining space. The outdoor patio, which features tidy Astroturf and umbrellas for shade, is as inviting as it is neat. Experience it for yourself and it's easy to see the restaurant's appeal goes beyond the food. It's the perfect kind of place for an easy family dinner that's as much as about comfort and convenience as it is about experiencing good food.