First Taste

Corduroy in Midtown Phoenix Is Not Really a Tapas Bar -- But It Does Have Good Cocktails

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: Corduroy Location: 2601 North Central Avenue Open: About two weeks Eats: Small plates, sandwiches, salads Price: $20+/person

Tom Jetland and the team behind such popular mid/downtown spots as Fez, Switch, and Pizza People Pub have added a stylish new restaurant to their growing group. And with a menu dominated by globally inspired small plates, the new addition, called Corduroy, gives neighborhood diners plenty of new dishes to try.

Though the name doesn't seem to fit the restaurant's "tapas style" cuisine, the space, formerly a Schlotsky's deli, seems just as polished as you would expect given the team behind it. The combination of exposed brick, stained glass, and richly patterned metal ceiling panels lands you somewhere between a 1920s speakeasy and a modern Spanish eatery. In addition to a large dining room, Corduroy offers a covered patio and full bar.

See also: Fez in Central Phoenix Plays It Safe But Gets It Right

You might have thought (or wished) the sharable small plate trend had come to an end, but Corduroy dedicates about a quarter of the menu to the idea. Alongside entrees such as mussels ($13), katsu fried chicken ($14), and raised red curry lamb ($17), you'll find a column of small plates ranging from veal meatballs ($12) and spanikopita ($11) to original creations such as the Crispy Cuban Cigars ($13).

This eggroll-like dish takes inspiration from a Cuban sandwich, and features ham, pulled pork, Gruyere cheese, and caramelized onions wrapped in a wonton roll. Served with a side of pleasantly tart pickle and mustard grain aioli, the six pieces are easy to share and likable enough. Not so great that we'd feel the urge to try them again, but how wrong can you really go with deep-fried pork, cheese, and dough?

The equally imaginative Portuguese Corn Dogs ($11) were less successful. The thought of deep-fried and battered linguiça piqued our interest, but too-greasy batter made reality fall short of our vision.

Balancing out the two fried selections, we tried an order of Fontina, white bean, and kale dip ($11). For a vegetarian menu option or a starter, it's a heavy dish. There's a surprising meatiness to the flavor that's a nice contrast to the accompanying pita, white bread, cucumbers, and carrots.

From the lengthy selection of sandwiches and burgers, we also tried the smoked trout tartine ($13). The open-faced sandwich offered slices of smoky fish topped with an arugula and radish salad and almonds over a slice of crusty (but not to crusty) bread. Though the flavor of the fish did shine through, the heavy preserved lemon dressing and Boursin spread on the bread wanted something more acidic to cut all the fat.

When it comes to cocktails, however, Corduroy's ready to impress. The list of 18 cocktails -- well priced between $8 and $10 -- includes classics such as an Aviation, Pisco Sour, Highball, as well as eight original creations.

Whiskey, mescal, or scotch lovers will appreciate the Johnny Ringo's Epitaph, a booze-forward combo of bourbon, vermouth, Lephroaig scotch, cherry liquer, and Memphis bbq bitters. While Bangkok Daisy, with Thai chile infused tequila, cilantro, lime, cucumber, and pepper, will make your mouth pucker with tartness and spice.

Though it seems inaccurate to call Corduroy a "tapas" restaurant in any sense, on the upside the restaurant's small plates are not so small, and quite easy to share. (More than can be said for many other restaurants.) And though the culinary technique probably won't blow you away, with a solidly crafted cocktail in hand and good company, you'd be in good shape dining at Corduroy.

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Lauren Saria
Contact: Lauren Saria