Every week, there's a cornucopia of Phoenix food news, features, and reviews to report here at Chow Bella. If you're like most people, you probably just don't have the time to get to all of it. It's kind of like those burgers at Old Town Whiskey; it just won't all fit in your mouth ... or in this case, your day. So, here's a recap of some of the top stories from the week that you may have missed.
If there's one thing Silvana Salcido Esparza is not, it's timid. About three weeks after opening Silvana Bistro (Barrio Queen's fancy-pants sister), she shut the place down because a little voice told her the concept wasn't going to work. No hand-wringing, just boom. Done.
Now Esparza's got a brand-new plan for Barrio Queen, which swallowed up Silvana Bistro but kept a few of its high-end offerings. Funny thing is, her new plan looks a lot like her original plan -- the one she had before she let other folks start tinkering with her concept -- and most of it's coming down by October 1.
Esparza plans to get rid of the dishes she imported from Silvana Bistro, admitting that the hybrid menu she has in place now simply "doesn't make sense." She says she agrees with the tepid reviews she received and swears she knows how to fix the problem.
Tempe-sians who like a little bicycle with their brats and booze will want to get their chainwheels checked before cruising down Mill Avenue in September. That's when the city's new bike-friendly beer garden, Handlebar & Grill, opens for business.
Located at 680 South Mill Ave (next door to Fat Tuesday) Handlebar will feature 24 craft beers on tap, a full bar, and German-inspired munchies like brats, sausages, fries, and Belgium pretzels.
Shh, don't tell anyone, but some people get the royal treatment in restaurants while others don't. You've probably witnessed some version of Special Handling in action -- servers scurrying to and from a particular table, the chef-owner engaging in an inordinate amount of schmoozing -- and wondered, "Who the heck are THOSE people and why are THEY so important?"
One obvious possibility is that someone at the table is actually famous. But here in Phoenix -- where the Donald Trumps and Diane Sawyers are fewer and farther between -- it's more likely that the pampered people in question are simply regulars: customers who spend money in the restaurant three or four times a month.
Because it's important not to make the regular Joes feel like regular Joes, many restaurants use a code word for VIP treatment. Charleen Badman of FnB maintains that the parlance in Manhattan, where she worked for nearly eight years, is soigné (pronounced swan-yay).
So what constitutes soigné? It could be anything. Just as Kevin Binkley does at Binkley's, many high-end restaurants keep a tally of what their regulars like and dislike. Are they allergic to dairy? Do they hate mushrooms? They'll never be served those things.
What they will receive is something they've previously expressed a love for or interest in: their favorite biscuits, vegetable or dessert. So-and-so loves pork? He may be treated to a sample of a new pork dish going on the menu.
I know, I know, it's another article about food trucks. I can't help it. Food trucks are often a Guilty Pleasures post just waiting to happen. You take a pedestrian food item, give it a couple of creative twists, and voilà, you have yourself a unique dish that simply must be tasted to be believed.
Bear got its start as The 7th Inning Stretch Dog, an entry in an Arizona Diamondbacks-themed hot dog challenge. After the dog won, Short Leash served it from the truck as a special. The response was so favorable that it's now part of the permanent line-up, alongside such other clever (some would say weird) creations as Igby (coleslaw, bleu cheese, BBQ sauce) and Lady (chipotle cream cheese, sautéed onions, and fried pickles).
The Bear starts simply enough, with a base of BBQ sauce, crumbled bacon, and gouda cheese. Then, it goes zooming out to left field.
Check out what is possibly the craziest hot dog in history.
Arroyo Vodka Finds a New Home at the Old Beet Sugar Factory in Glendale
After 36 years of vacancy, the Beet Sugar Factory in Glendale is undergoing some serious renovations thanks to Ray Klemp, owner of AZ Wine Company in Cave Creek and Scottsdale. The historic 1906 property will become the new home and distillery of Arroyo Vodka; the first Phoenix based spirit founded by Klemp's daughters, Lauren and Morgan.
Morgan, younger sister and manager of Arroyo Vodka, invited Chow Bella to take a tour of the facility, still very much in the early stages of development. As we walk through she explains how Klemp family vacations always involved tours of vineyards in Italy and France, distilleries in Ireland.
Noting our visible envy, she adds "trust me, it's a little different when you're just a kid, and you don't actually get to taste any of the stuff you're learning about."
But between the tours, the family business, and the high profile wine tastings at home (Ray Klemp often holds tasting events with some of his most valuable clients to meet and greet with well-known winemakers) the Klemp sisters acquired a passion and curiosity for alcohol production.
Don't forget to check out Chow Bella's continuing list of 100 Tastemakers.