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: Outta Bronx
Location: 4105 East McDowell Road
Open: About seven weeks
Eats: New York-style deli grub and street food
"Don't come here if you're on a diet," Aziz Othman says with a laugh, when asked to describe the menu at his new restaurant, Outta Bronx.
The New York-inspired grub shop recently opened in a busy strip mall near 40th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix.
"There's no kale or gluten-free anything here," the proprietor says. The genial Othman is a friendly presence at Outta Bronx, fist-bumping and shaking hands with the neighborhood regulars who step up to the counter to order items like The Fat Stack, a buttery French roll packed with thinly sliced beef, an all-beef hot dog, some coleslaw and French fries, and a kitchen-sink assortment of other toppings.
The counter-service restaurant has been in business for only about two months now, but it already seems to be a neighborhood hub for locals with a weakness for meaty sandwiches and cheese-smothered fries.
Othman describes the fairly expansive menu at Outta Bronx as "extra cheesy," and that's not much of an exaggeration. Locating a menu item that isn't lovingly smothered or glued together with cheese is no small challenge.
So, no, you won't come to Outta Bronx for a kale salad. But you will come for its irresistible menu of sandwiches, the aforementioned cheesy fries, and a small menu of fried shrimp and chicken wings.
The bright, well-lit restaurant, with its prominent signage and gleaming newness, stands out like a beacon in an otherwise shabby and crowded strip mall. Finding a parking spot during prime dinner hours can be a challenge, but it's worth the effort to take in the friendly neighborhood airs — and, of course, the deliriously rich sandwiches.
One of the signature offerings at Outta Bronx is the Chopped Cheese sandwich, an ultra-savory loose-meat Angus beef sandwich that's become a cult favorite and bodega staple in Harlem and the Bronx. The Outta Bronx rendition might mark the sandwich's first appearance in metro Phoenix.
What's the big deal about the Chopped Cheese? The Chopped Cheese has emerged in the last few years as New York City's modern classic 'hood sandwich, a sort of answer to the Philly Cheesesteak. It's an un-fancy, simple, and very good meat-and-cheese hot sandwich that comes wrapped in a paper sleeve and sits in your stomach like a log.
The version here is very satisfying: the meat is nicely seasoned and crisped up at the edges, plumped out and extra-savory from a lavish infusion of melted American and provolone cheese.
The Fat Stack, another hot sandwich, is also emerging as one of the restaurant's most popular options. Its main appeal is derived from the fact that it's so jam-packed with salty-rich components, your palate doesn't even know where or how to start processing it.
The thinly sliced beef is generously lubricated with melted Swiss and pepper jack cheese, and the sliced-up hot dog gives it some more salty punch. Some thin, crispy fries are glued into the delicious mess with even more melted cheese. You get the sense that this is something some bored, ravenous teenager, left to his own devices, would invent something like this, stuffing every favorite and available snack food into a single hot, fluffy French roll. So, yeah, it's pretty great.
There's a small menu dedicated exclusively to cheesy "street" fries, including West Coast-inspired takes like the jalapeño-spliced Baja fries.
I ordered the pastrami chili cheese fries on the recommendation of an employee working the counter. You can't really ask too much of a Styrofoam container piled with cheese-smothered fries — it's not exactly a nuanced dish. Mostly, you will process the lush, salty flavors of melted American cheese, and the chili is credible enough to give the dish some meaty savoriness. The pastrami is fine, chopped up and griddle-crisped around the edges, but its distinct flavor gets halfway lost in the muddle.
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If you're a chicken wing connoisseur, though, you might want to make your way to east Phoenix to try the ones here. The chicken wings are fried and tossed in your choice of various house-made sauces. An order of the chicken wings with the "Asian Invasion" sauce yielded one of the best dishes of the night. The sweet-sour sauce, on a recent visit, was not overly sweet, and the wings were meaty and well-cooked.
Othman, Outta Bronx's owner, says the restaurant's name is a tribute to the various cultures and culinary traditions that thrive and pass through the borough. It's an idea that's writ across the menu, where you'll find sandwiches modeled after regional staples like the classic Shrimp Po' Boy. There is also a sandwich called the Pizza Burger, and a California-inspired club. So, Outta Bronx stretches all over the culinary map, and the menu is sort of a catchall of every major strain of good and greasy American grub.
In the end, melted cheese might be the common denominator, literally and figuratively gluing everything together, and that's an idea most of us can get behind.
Learn more about Outta Bronx by visiting the restaurant's Facebook page.