First Taste

There Are No Burgers at the New Aioli Concept in Midtown, and We're Totally Okay With That

The 12-superfood salad makes us actually like kale.
The 12-superfood salad makes us actually like kale. Arren Kimbel-Sannit
The founders of Aioli Burger, one of the first players on the local food truck scene, are trying their hands at some lighter fare at a new location in midtown Phoenix's ModPHX co-working space. Open to the general public, the concept is aimed at modern professionals and a busy business crowd. And the resulting menu may be some of their best work yet.

The concept, which opened in early June, occupies an annex to the side of Mod's office space, and, like the rest of Mod, it looks like a spread from Dwell magazine, with exposed steel and concrete, sleek furniture, and wood accents. Opposite the dining area is an equally urbane looking counter, complete with a handsome La Marzocco espresso maker; Cartel Coffee is providing beans and barista training.

click to enlarge The industrial-chic counter. - ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
The industrial-chic counter.
Arren Kimbel-Sannit
The contents of the stark, Helvetica-clad menu are reflective of the refined design: a little leaner, a lot more subtle. There is a variety of breakfast items, from eggs Benedict to house-made pastries, but it's clear that chef Tom D'Ambrosio is also well-read in trendy lunches. There are two(!) superfood bowls, one based around açai berries and Greek yogurt and the other around kale and quinoa, in addition to sandwiches and bruschetta boards.

One notable omission from the menu is any kind of hamburger.

"We really wanted to come up with a menu that would fit with the Mod model, and for them it's a lot of power foods, nothing real heavy," says Kyle Hollenbeck, Aioli's longtime spokesman. "They didn't want fried chicken and pulled pork sandwiches where people are not gonna want to work for the rest of the day."

And Aioli accepted the challenge. The superfood kale salad ($9) bursts with flavor and freshness thanks to the interesting additions of grapes, cherries, and feta. It is a perfectly cool, filling meal for hellish summer days.

click to enlarge Bruschetta that's actually ... interesting. - ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
Bruschetta that's actually ... interesting.
Arren Kimbel-Sannit
The bruschetta boards ($10 for three bruschetta) include quirky options. The smoked salmon with crème fraiche and capers was a clever variation on classic bagels-and-lox, while the strawberry, balsamic reduction, ricotta, and mint, as well as the apples, fig jam, arugula, and fresh lemon provided refreshing, unexpected fruit options to a traditionally savory dish.

click to enlarge The Cubano at Aioli@Mod - ARREN KIMBEL-SANNIT
The Cubano at [email protected]
Arren Kimbel-Sannit
The most popular item on the menu, according to Hollenbeck, is the Cubano sandwich ($10). Roast pork, smoky-sweet ham, spicy whole-grain mustard, Swiss cheese, and pickle are stuffed between two halves of a pillowy roll and make for a mean goddamn sandwich. The pork is almost pastrami-like, while the mustard cuts through the richness. The sandwich is served with a side of veggie chips.

On the breakfast menu, the chorizo eggs Benedict ($10) uses avocado (did someone say superfood?) to buffer the toasty English muffin from its fluffy eggs, sausage, and Cholula hollandaise sauce.

The menu at [email protected] is full of pleasant surprises, both indulgent and saintly, which is setting the shop up to become a Phoenix favorite for business lunches and power-breakfasts.

Now Open: [email protected] (2828 North Central Avenue)
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Phone (No Website): 602-435-7489

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona journalist whose reporting interests include urbanism, business, real estate and dining.