Like its sister restaurant Taqueria El Chino, the new El Chino Restaurante y Cantina will specialize in Sonoran-style Mexican dishes like carne asada burritos and cahuamanta soup.
Like its sister restaurant Taqueria El Chino, the new El Chino Restaurante y Cantina will specialize in Sonoran-style Mexican dishes like carne asada burritos and cahuamanta soup.
Jackie Mercandetti

February Restaurant Openings and Closings in Metro Phoenix

In February we welcomed nearly a dozen new restaurants to metro Phoenix, and said goodbye to one. Gilbert got new options for Mexican seafood and craft beer; Glendale has your sweet tooth covered with rolled ice cream and bubble tea; and Tempe introduced a unique blend of Mediterranean and Southwestern cuisines at a new eatery you don't want to miss. Here's the full lowdown.

Taquería El Chino
Taquería El Chino
Shelby Moore

Openings

El Chino Restaurante y Cantina
There's a new option for Sonoran-style Mexican cooking in downtown Phoenix. El Chino Restaurante y Cantina is the second restaurant from owners Rafael and Lynn Ung, the folks behind Taquería El Chino. El Chino Restaurante y Cantina will specialize in Sonoran-style burritos, tacos, enchiladas, and gorditas and boasts a full bar and two patio dining areas. The bar menu includes popular Mexican cocktails like Micheladas. The new restaurant will offer a limited late-night bar food menu until 2 a.m. on the weekends and also plans to offer an all-day brunch menu on Saturday and Sunday. With plenty of patio space and a brunch menu, it sounds like El Chino is hoping to become your new weekend Michelada hookup spot.

Nomadic Ice Creams Rolls, Glendale
At Nomadic Ice Creams Rolls, Nino McCurley makes fresh ice cream to order. There's a long list of flavors to choose from, including the Choco Brah, made from a chocolate-mocha base, Oreos, and dark chocolate syrup. A create-your-own ice cream option is also popular. Customers choose a base flavor, then add various fruit (strawberries, blueberries, banana, mango, and many more), crunch (cookie, cereal, or ice cream cones), and syrup (strawberry, chocolate, dark chocolate, or caramel). Finally, customers can add Nutella, whipped cream, or nuts. The options are numerous.

La Madeleine Country French Café, Chandler
La Madeleine, a restaurant that prides itself on classic country French cuisine, opened its second Arizona location this month near Chandler Fashion Center. La Madeleine started out as a simple French bakery in Dallas in the 1980s and has expanded to over 70 locations serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu includes custom breakfast crêpes and omelettes, the Croque Monsieur (a classic French ham and cheese), and classics like quiche Lorraine and Chicken Parisien. La Madeleine's signature pâtisseries and vienoisseries are baked fresh daily.

The interior of Starlite is more polished restaurant than roadside barbecue joint.
The interior of Starlite is more polished restaurant than roadside barbecue joint.
Chris Malloy

Starlite BBQ, Scottsdale
Walter Sterling's new barbecue restaurant, Starlite BBQ, opened this month in Scottsdale. Sterling, executive chef at Ocotillo, will be migrating to Starlite for the foreseeable future. Alex Levine, a sous chef at Ocotillo (the one charge of Ocotillo's smoker), is chef de cuisine at Starlite. Rounding out the Starlite team is Brad Twigg, fresh over from a line of beverage ventures in Southern California to helm the drink program. Starlite offers traditional barbecue staples, like brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, chopped pork, sausage, smoked chicken, and smoked turkey, but the smoked meat offerings go beyond what you would find in a traditional barbecue joint. "Arizona doesn't really have a style of barbecue, so we have to borrow," Sterling says. "We're not trying to create our own style but we're trying to do some things representative of Arizona."

February Restaurant Openings and Closings in Metro Phoenix
Courtesy of The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys, Mesa
The Halal Guys, which opened its first Valley location last year in Tempe, has just added a restaurant in Mesa. The Halal Guys is a chain that started from a food cart in New York City. They serve sandwiches, but are most famous for the "chicken and rice" platter, which features chicken on a bed of orange rice with lettuce, pita, and tomato. Aficionados know to douse their platters with sauce, whether it's the popular "white sauce," a spicy red sauce, or even barbecue sauce.

Pescado Borracho, Gilbert
A new taco and tequila bar called Pescado Borracho opened this month in Gilbert next to sister restaurant High Tide Seafood Bar & Grill. Pescado Borracho serves gourmet tacos and a wide selection of margaritas in a fun, casual atmosphere. Menu items include aguachile, grilled octopus, and braised beef short rib tacos. All meals come with complimentary chips and salsa upon request. Happy hour is every day from 3 to 6 p.m.

Made-for-camera ice cream bars.
Made-for-camera ice cream bars.
Meagan Mastriani

Pop ‘N Tea Bar
Fancy frozen treats called Diamond Bars are the signature dish of the newly opened Pop ‘N Tea Bar, a glossy dessert shop on McDowell Road in Phoenix that also serves slushies, smoothies, and teas. Plain Diamond Bars come in 13 flavors of gelato or sorbet. There’s a range of choices from classics like mint chocolate chip to swankier options like sea salt caramel. The shop also has nine smoothies and eight slushies to choose from, along with six classic milk teas and five sweet teas on tap.

TRES Tempe, Tempe
TRES Tempe is a new eatery on Price Road in South Tempe. Executive chef Steve Zimmerman uniquely blends flavors from Mediterranean and Southwestern cuisines with dishes like Moroccan Spiced Pork Wings and South of the Border Caesar Salad. "Tres" refers to the three plate sizes: small tasting plates, medium entrée plates, and large sharing plates. The restaurant has a large patio and full service bar offering an array of craft cocktails, beer, and wine.

Luna Gelateria, Scottsdale
Luna Gelateria, an artisan gelato shop committed to serving authentic Italian gelato, is now open next to Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana in Scottsdale (the Shops at Gainey Village location). Owner Stefano Fabbri of Pomo Restaurant Group and gelato chef Tyler George hope to serve up a taste of the old country by using simple ingredients and a state-of-the-art gelato machine imported from Italy. Luna Gelateria's also makes panini, salads, and pizza.

Blendz Boba Tea Lounge, Glendale
Valley restaurateurs Paul and Sonia Walia, owners of Razzleberriez Frozen Yogurt and the now-closed Crave Waffle Sandwich Creations, have opened a bubble tea shop at Westgate in Glendale. Blendz Boba Tea Lounge offers over 50 drink options, including signature drinks like The Churro Chata (topped with a cinnamon sugar doughnut or churro twist for extra) and Unicorn Kiss. If that's not enough sugar for you, try a mermaid cake pop or ice cream macaron for dessert.

Koi Poke 
The poke craze is still going strong in metro Phoenix in 2018, with Koi Poke opening a new location on Indian School in Arcadia this month (and planning nearly a dozen more). Poke, for those still out of the know, is a popular Hawaiian dish made with seasoned cubed raw fish served over a base like rice or lettuce and topped with fresh vegetables and herbs. Koi Poke's menu offers small, medium, and large bowls starting at $10.

Flying Basset Brewing, Gilbert
Flying Basset Brewing, affectionately named after the owners' basset hounds, opened this month in Gilbert at the old Famous Sam's location. The new brewery is a dream come true for pilot Rob Gagnon, who was previously head brewer at BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse. Rob and his wife Sara, a registered nurse, plan to have the brewery completely up and running in March, but for now they're offering a house Copper Ale and a few dozen guest beers on tap, along with sandwiches, salads, and appetizers.

Closings

LAMP Café has closed.
LAMP Café has closed.
Jackie Mercandetti

LAMP Café, Scottsdale
LAMP Café, the North Scottsdale trattoria-meets-sandwich-shop, has closed. The Café was owned by Matt and Lindsay Pilato, who own LAMP Pizzeria right across the breezeway. The two opened LAMP Café in October 2016 after finding success with their excellent pizzeria. "When we opened the second location, we found it was taking too much time away from our focus on our pizzeria and our family," Linday says. "We just wanted to keep things simple." The Pilatos plan to focus on LAMP Pizzeria, where you can still taste a few LAMP Café dishes like Caesar salad.

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