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: Mother Bunch Brewery Location: 825 N. 7th Street Open: Less than a week Eats: Elevated bar fare Price: $25+ per person
Breweries are popping up all around town these days and while some make great beer, not all are the kind of place where you want to eat, drink, and generally be merry. Luckily that's not the case with Mother Bunch Brewing, a microbrewery and restaurant that recently opened on Roosevelt Row.
It will still be a few weeks until Mother Bunch is tapping its own brews, but this is a microbrewery with much more to offer than just beer. It offers a comfortable atmosphere, friendly service, and an impressive menu of elevated bar fare -- all of which we're happy to enjoy, at least for now, with a pint of another Arizona brewery's beer.
See also: 10 Best Breweries in Metro Phoenix
The Valley's latest brewery comes to the downtown community thanks to Julie Meeker and her husband Jimmy McBride. The bar and restaurant opened to the public on Monday and seems to have hit the ground running.
The centerpiece of the large, well-lit space is the handsome U-shaped bar, behind which sit all 20 of Mother Bunch's taps. For now they hold a selection of 20 Arizona-made beers, though Mother Bunch expects to be able to tap about 10 of their own beers in about a month. The lineup will include beers such as a smoked cherry porter and a single hop pale ale.
Drinkers have the choice to try 4-ounce pours of any beer for $2, while pints will set you back $6. Thirty-two ounce pours are also available for $10.
Large tables (with recycled church pews as bench seating) are ready to accommodate large parties, while a small lounge in the front of the restaurant gives guests a more casual seating option. There's even a chef's table/bar located off the kitchen, for those who wish to take a front row seat to the culinary action.
And speaking of culinary action, there must be plenty going on in the kitchen because Mother Bunch isn't just doing you standard brewpub fare.
The brewery offers a selection of shared plated, salads, sandwiches, and entrees that range from staples like the Phoenix French Dip to the elevated starter, Mussels Steamed in MB Beer.
For a small bite to accompany your beer, the Salty Pork Rinds are a solid option. During happy, which runs daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., a bowl will cost you just $3. The fried pigskins are addictingly crunchy and taste faintly of pork, but the dominating flavor is the blend of spices sprinkled on top.
A more sophisticated option would be the Roasted Garlic in Olive Oil ($7.50/$5 during happy hour), a surprisingly thick dip of mild, sweet roasted garlic. Served with sliced bread and crostini, it makes for an acceptable but unremarkable start.
For a brewpub standard with an elevated twist, go for the pound of smoked wings ($10.50). The serving makes a filling lunch for one or a good starter to share with a friend, though we wouldn't be surprised if you get protective once you've tried your first one. The MBB wing sauce is just the right amount of smoky and hot, but still manages not to overpower the smokiness of the chicken itself. When dipped in the side of housemade ranch, these could easily become a new favorite dish.
The Roosevelt Reuben wasn't as much of a hit; we found the attempt at house cured duck pastrami less successful than we would have wished. Housemade red cabbage sauerkraut and duck fat aioli also failed to deliver in terms of flavor, resulting in an ambitious but unimpressive dish.
A better choice for something between bread would be the 7th Street Sliders, a sizeable start that let's you pick a trio of mini-sandwiches from four options. The burger with cheddar and caramelized onions was slightly overcooked on our visit, but the hickory smoked chicken with Swiss and house mustard made for a statisfying bite.
For heartier meals, Mother Bunch offers entrees such as Pork Chops with Fennel and Apples, a Hickory Smoked Half Chicken, and a featured steak. There are also seven different desserts ranging from beer-infused options such as the Saison Caramlized Apple Cake to a vegan Pumpkin Crumb Cake with Pecan Streusel.
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Though not everything on the brewery's ambitious menu was a hit, we'd be happy to come back and explore the Mother Bunch offerings further. And if nothing else, it's clear the neighborhood has been waiting for this place to open - on our midday visit during the first week of business the restaurant was bustling with a lunchtime crowd. We're already looking forward to trying out Mother Bunch's own beers.