First Taste

First Taste: 12 West Brewing Co. in Downtown Mesa Is the Business

First Taste: 12 West Brewing Co. in Downtown Mesa Is the Business
Lauren Cusimano

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out, 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
an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Restaurant: 12 West Brewing Co.
Location: 12 West Main Street, Mesa
Open: About a month
Eats: Upscale gastropub starters and mains
Price: $15 to $30 each
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday to Saturday

click to enlarge The Blap! Blap! and the Extra Crispy from 12 West Brewing Co. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Blap! Blap! and the Extra Crispy from 12 West Brewing Co.
Lauren Cusimano
Phrases like “high-end pub fare” get tossed around a lot these days, even at places that are just serving solid wings or pretty decent microwave pizza.  But the menu at the new 12 West spot in Mesa actually does exceed the usual bar food expectations.

In 2016, founders Bryan McCormick and Noel Garcia (who has since moved on) started 12 West as a craft beer tap room inside Barnone at Agritopia in Gilbert. The Gilbert tap room did not — does not — have a kitchen, but patrons could BYOF or snag something from neighbors like Fire & Brimstone, Joe’s Farm Grill, and Uprooted Kitchen.

This past December, though, 12 West got a kitchen and a new location — a two-story former event venue in downtown Mesa. Now, they're slinging cocktails, appetizers, and full-on meals in addition to the craft beer.

click to enlarge The Bretzel with Belgian wheat beer cheese. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Bretzel with Belgian wheat beer cheese.
Lauren Cusimano
To blow past the shareables section of the menu would be a misstep. Menu items like smoked mac and cheese, southwest avocado hummus, and Blap! Blap! fries might catch your eyes, but the Bretzel should be your choice. A warm, Bavarian pretzel paired with a generous portion of Belgian wheat beer cheese and spicy mustard, the dish leaves absolutely nothing to be desired.

Then the food arrives.

The mains are both carefully prepared and delivered with surprising haste. Flatbreads are offered in inventive forms (ricotta-mushroom, bacon jam and fig, caprese), and the salads and bowls on offer include everything from a house salad and Caesar to a serving of power greens and a poke bowl.

click to enlarge The katsu chicken sandwich. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The katsu chicken sandwich.
Lauren Cusimano
The sandwiches: oh, the sandwiches. Downtown Mesa is now sandwich country, as 12 West is just a few suites away from Worth Takeaway and its famed crispy chicken sandwich. And speaking of chicken sandwiches: 12 West has a great one.

The katsu chicken sandwich is a spiced, extra-crispy fried chicken thigh topped with Thai chili aioli on a warm bun, and (if you like) can come with those crunchy, piping hot Blap! Blap! fries.

The steak sandwich here leans creative: grilled flank steak with beef steak tomato, baby arugula, chimichurri, and pickled red onions, all piled on grilled flatbread. It’s an open-faced sandwich, slammed up against a mound of those fries. The best part? You eat this sandwich like a taco, carefully lifting it to your tilted head. With each bite, you get a whiff of the seasoned, extremely aromatic flat bread. This thing is better than a scented candle.

click to enlarge The steak sandwich. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The steak sandwich.
Lauren Cusimano
A few other details of note: 12 West has a double-decker, dog-friendly patio, and it's open late. That's a big deal in downtown Mesa, which is a tough place to find food after dinnertime. And between Cider Corps, Oro Brewing Company, Desert Eagle Brewing Company, Chupacabra Taproom, and now 12 West Brewing Co., you could now do a proper barhop in downtown Mesa — something that'd have been unheard-of just 10 years ago.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano