It seemed we couldn't help ourselves. Overcome by infantile mirth, my fiancé and I sniggered all the way to The Perch, an upscale Chandler gastropub whose gimmick, we knew, was that it was home to a menagerie of 50-odd caged tropical birds.
We expected menu items with clever names like Crested Nuthatch Hash and Himalayan Snowcock Almandine. Soups would come dolloped with crème fraîche. Probably, we decided, they would serve breast of guinea hen. There'd be a dessert shaped like a cunning little nest.
If we ordered the Bird Poop Salad, we wondered, would a waitress bring us a plate of Romaine and then, when we asked for dressing, would she point up at the trees and ask us to . . . wait?
We could, as it turned out, have been knocked over with a feather. The Perch offers more than gimmickry; its menu is a trim little list of homemade specialties, none of them with cute bird-inspired names. The three-barrel, on-site brewhouse offers 40 on-tap craft beers with original flavor combinations like Grilled Lemon Cream Ale and Black Diamond Tripel Plum, as well as a dozen different local brews. (There are no goofball macho names for these brews, either; no Goose Springsteen Lager or Edgar Allen Crow Ale. Just neatly descriptive names that our extra-friendly server was happy to describe to those of us who think of beer as something our nephews drink way too much of.)
Opened early last year on the southwest edge of downtown Chandler, The Perch looks like it's been there a lot longer, thanks to the gently overgrown landscape on its rambling, brick-floored patio. That patio offers garden seating and fronts a compound of midcentury homes renovated into a ground-level pub with stained glass windows behind the bar and a rooftop lounge that offers, um, bird's-eye views of Chandler City Hall. Clad in industrial metal and reclaimed materials, the pub's lush courtyard landscape is an aviary of more than 50 brightly colored tropical birds, all of them rescues.
Craft beer aficionado James Swann and partners Rebecca Lavenue and Sue Sechrest (late of the online show Adventures in Brew) are the masterminds behind this peculiar combination of fabulous food and fine-feathered friends. Brewmaster Andrew Bauman is responsible for the beer-flavor combinations that Chef Timothy McGovern works into his appetizers and entrées, nearly all of which are stunners.
A trio of appetizer boards beckoned on our initial visit. We went with the sausage board and swore we'd only nibble from it so as not to spoil our appetites. We cleared it — not because there was a wee helping of cured meat offered, but because it was all so delicious, we couldn't stop glomming. Three different beer-infused sausages — a lightly spicy, crisp-skin kielbasa, a fennel-rich pork sausage, and a mild Italian — were joined by crunchy, tartly pickled carrots, asparagus, and peppers and our first taste of the flavorsome pretzel bread that appears in so many Perch menu items. A pair of really solid dipping sauces rounded out this hearty starter: a mustard made with ale, and a zippy, warm beer cheese dip.
While we waited for what turned out to be a mellow, deliciously creamy bowl of beer cheese soup with chunks of potato and big hunks of bacon as a garnish, we wondered if, when they were alone, the parrots mocked the gossip and banal comments of the patio diners. An order of pig wings made us forget our fowl audience: These were spice-rubbed bone-in pork shanks, crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside thanks to a beer marinade. (Beer is folded into pretty much every single menu item: in the dipping sauces served with most meats; in the bread, the soup, and the sausage.) A side of flavorless slaw felt like an afterthought.
The best thing about the bland quinoa salad with fresh berries and shaved asparagus was its tangy lemon-basil dressing, but we forgot this unexciting appetizer once our entrées arrived. The brick oven tamale was a deconstructed marvel, spicy with dark red chile flavors and stacked with mild chicken tinga and poblano hash on a slab of masa, then topped with cold guacamole and a runny fried egg. The prime dip married smoky prime rib with strips of beer-caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms melted over with Swiss cheese and daubed with a subtle horseradish sauce. A mighty portion of tater tots served alongside were crisp and hot and delicious dipped into the open-face sandwich's au jus. A pepperoni pizza was just okay, its thin, hand-tossed crust dabbed with marinara and melted with mozzarella.
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SHOW ME HOW
If we weren't necessarily excited to have our meal ogled by a hundred or so beady little eyes, we were impressed that Perch makes pretty much everything, from the tortillas to the dipping sauces, in-house and from scratch. And with the diverse crowds that filled this first-rate pub, it would appear that people of all ages — dare I say it? — are flocking to The Perch. We were glad to have joined them.
The Perch Pub and Brewery
232 South Wall Street, Chandler
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Beer cheese soup $4
Pig wings $14
Pepperoni pizza $9
Brick oven tamale $14