The Metro Phoenix food scene started 2018 off with 22 restaurant openings and one closing. We said goodbye to an old French favorite, while welcoming new arrivals from the deep south to south India, along with a slew of new southwestern players coming onto the scene. Go out for New York-style pizza and Mexican-style coffee, homemade pho and vegan burgers. Just be sure to save room for all the new taco options.
West Alley BBQ, Chandler
This barbecue joint from Jackson, Tennessee, has opened a branch right here in Chandler, serving authentic, smoky meats and southern sides. Your choice of meats includes pork, brisket, chicken, and turkey, served as a sandwich, platter, or a a topper for salad, fries, nachos, or baked potatoes. They also offer chicken wings and fried fish. Sides include the likes of creamy coleslaw, green beans, baked beans, potato salad and french fries. Platters are served with buttered Texas toast. More on this eatery coming next week.
Doda’s Pizza, Glendale
A traditional, thin crust, New York-style slice shop has opened in Glendale. The shop offers slice combos, whole pies, calzones, and sandwiches. Slices run the gamut from simple cheese to white slices topped with spinach mozzarella, and ricotta. You will also find more localized toppings, like green chili. The thin crust and oversized slices are sure to remind East-coasters of home.
Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soup
A new branch of this "build your own" enchilada or taco concept has opened in Arcadia. Start with a made-to-order tortilla, and then choose your meat or vegetarian filling, select a sauce, add cheese, and then wait as the plate takes a trip through the oven broiler. You can opt for the "50/50," a flour and corn tortilla, topped with the likes of green-chile pork and green enchilada sauce, or keep it vegetarian with a potato filling. Other interesting fillings include pork shoulder, chicken and cornbread, and braised short ribs. With plate in hand, you can add the garnishes like salsa, house-made crema, cotija, and a variety of hot sauces. Drink selections include Mexican beers, margaritas, and soft drinks.
Tempe Public Market Cafe, Tempe
Tempe Public Market Cafe is now open. The restaurant comes to metro Phoenix from Aaron Chamberlin and his team, responsible for eateries like St. Francis and Phoenix Public Market. “I’m so excited to bring this restaurant to the southeast Valley, where I grew up,” said Aaron Chamberlin, who went to high school in east Mesa. “Whether you’re in search of a quick bite with coffee or a full supper, we have something to nourish you and are excited to help build the Tempe community through fresh, wholesome food and drink.” Early standouts look to include a quinoa bowl with vegetables and a poached egg, and an almond butter and jelly sandwich. There are also more savory options, including brick-pressed chicken and a pork-chile pot pie. Yes, there is wine, beer, and cocktails to sip in the indoor-outdoor space.
Yaya’s Taco, Surprise
Three years ago, Yaya’s Tacos launched a Mexican-leaning food truck with a paleo and gluten-free menu. Now, after having served a whole lot of grass-fed carne asada and free-range chicken in green chile, Esteban and Lizz Garcia have brought their food to a brick-and-mortar location in Surprise. The Garcias have been operating under their new location's previous name — Las Fuentes — for two months. Esteban says this has allowed them to adapt Las Fuentes's menu to Yaya’s gluten-free and paleo requirements.
Goldmine Underground Tap & Barrel, Scottsdale
Goldmine is 16 feet under Goldwater Brewing Co. in downtown Scottsdale. The drinkery is housed in a former shooting range and serves Goldwater staple brews. It will be releasing its own barrel-aged beers in the next few weeks. As you descend into the basement, a vintage circular sign greets you with a playful teddy bear holding a machine gun – a nod to the location’s history, and also a nod to Goldwater's present, as Machine Gun Teddy is one of the breweries's most acclaimed beers. Drinkers are surrounded by cinderblock walls, steel vats of beer, and repurposed wooden barrels of tequila, scotch, and bourbon. It's open on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 10 p.m. The underground bunker has a capacity of 15 to 20 people.
Centrico has opened in the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix. The restaurant serves Mexican food with a modern flair. Four owners have a hand in the restaurant, including Pete Salaz. Salaz has been a a DJ in the Valley for three decades, and he spins "Latin-flavored dance music" at Centrico. Salaz owns the nightclubs Bar Smith and Monarch Theatre in part with Edson Madrigal. The two own Centrico with Jessica Madrigal (Edson's wife) and Carmen Mora. Centrico's chef, Miguel Beltran, is related to the Madrigals and has a background in catering. Currently, on Fridays, the restaurant opens after lunch for happy hour at 4 p.m. The kitchen stays open until 2 a.m., serving small bites and cocktails.
Casa Amigos Tacos and Tequilas, Scottsdale
Casa Amigos Tacos and Tequilas, a Mexican-restaurant-meets-bowling-alley, is now open Old Town Scottsdale. The establishment features a restaurant on its ground floor. Bowling is upstairs. Hours go late and there is a full bar and drink menu. The new project comes from Evening Entertainment Group (EEG). Past EEG ventures include Bottled Blonde and Stock & Stable. Casa's restaurant features Mexican food like tacos (such as mahi mahi and barbacoa) and burritos. Weekend brunch includes chilaquiles and breakfast tacos.
The Social Hall, Tempe
Tempe is home to a new restaurant with pan-Latin influence and some Caribbean flavor. The Social Hall opened in the former Minder Bender space. It comes to metro Phoenix from Seattle. The chef who developed the menu, Richard Dwyer, is Jamaican. There is a strong Caribbean influence on the menu. Jamaica can be seen in chicken and burgers that get the Jerk treatment. Cuba appears in mojo sauce and a ribeye. The menu extends to Mexico (posole) and pan-Latin dishes like tostones (fried plantains) and empanadas. The Social Hall also serves burgers and chopped salads, a seafood gumbo and a Caprese salad with peaches.
Owner Antoine Smith moved to metro Phoenix from Los Angeles, and brought the food of his childhood. The menu of this restaurant, located on the ground floor of the Ramada, includes baked and fried chicken and fish, waffles, shrimp and grits, hot wings, hush puppies, collard greens, and the namesake cornbread. They also have a full bar.
El Chameleon, Scottsdale
What started as a shop run from a small window inside of Barny's Boathouse in Old Town Scottsdale, became Mr. Mesquite taco in Old Town, and now, a new venture, El Chameleon, which opened next to DJs in Old Town. The bar's front patio is a Wadaa taco stand, open until 4 a.m., and the new menu includes the old favorites, carne asada and chicken, as well as al pastor, served on tacos, quesadillas, and nachos. Chips and salsa, a salsa bar featuring guacamole crema, fresh pico de gallo, and charred onion and jalapeno, as well as dessert, round things out. There's also a full bar.
Surprise Pho Vietnamese Restaurant, Surprise
This family-run restaurant is now serving authentic Vietnamese pho in the far northwestern reaches of Metro Phoenix. The menu features ten types of pho, as well as spicy "barbecued" meats, vermicelli bun bowls, and spring rolls. The simple menu keeps the focus on the pho, with especially enticing options, like a beef pho built from herbs, cilantro, scallion, onion, and filet mignon (served with bean sprouts, basil leaves, limes, and slices of jalapeño peppers). The drink menu includes Vietnamese coffee, soft drinks, and beer.
Love of Chocolate
This family owned shop was opened by the Garcia family as an alternative to chain coffee shops. The stars of the menu are handmade pastries. There's also breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. The specialty coffees are made using local Piexoto coffee. The breakfast menu features the likes of Florentine breakfast sandwiches, made with eggs, melted cheese, turkey, ripe tomatoes, and spinach, atop an everything bagel. The lunch and dinner menus include salads, paninis, and flatbreads. Of the pastries, eclairs are the signature.
Egg N’ Joe, Chandler
The third location of this Arizona micro-chain is now open in Chandler. The breakfast and lunch restaurant serves classic German pancakes with lemon wedges, whipped butter and powdered sugar; homey dishes like bacon biscuits and gravy topped with both Canadian and smokehouse bacon and cheddar cheese eggs under a blanket of country gravy; crepes; pancakes; and skillets. One skillet is the Sun Devil, made with chorizo, sweet corn, black beans, has browns, peppers, and onions topped with cheddar-scrambled eggs, chipotle salsa, fresh avocado, sour cream and green onion.
A staple of the Ahwatukee vegan community has moved to Central Phoenix. The cafe features healthy dishes made from local, seasonal vegetables. Salads, sandwiches, wraps, burritos, bowls, and sushi-like rolls anchor the menu. "Burger" patties are mushroom-lentil-walnut based. They're served on homemade buns or wrapped in a collard leaf. Instead of fries, burgers come with healthier sides like root vegetable wedges. Many of the cafe's popular dishes have made the trip to Phoenix, such as Gila Monster Tacos. These are built like your standard taco but with meatless walnut "meat," black beans, chile con queso, pico, guac, chimichurri, cashew sour cream, and jalapeno.
The owners of Tacos Chiwas haveopened a cafe. Cafe Chiwas has flair your typical cafe doesn't. Coffee drinkers will find a standard lineup of drinks: latte, mocha, cappuccino, macchiato, as well as standard coffee. Cafe Chiwas is also pouring Mexican coffee-based beverages, like cafe de olla, made made from black coffee, piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), cinnamon stick, and orange peel. Cafe Chiwas also serves pastries and small Mexican dishes. These offerings include strawberries and cream, a Mexican fruit cocktail, and a "pico de gallo" that features fruit instead of tomatoes (flavored with lime juice and chile powder). Esquites are on the menu — street corn in a cup. The cafe is currently in something of a soft opening. Holguin says that the now-limited hours will expand, and that she and Hernandez plan to keep building on the smoothies and cakes.
La Botana Tacos, Fountain Hills
Fountain Hills has a new casual Mexican restaurant offering two-for-one margaritas daily as well as complimentary chips and bean dip for every table. The menu features casual favorites like nachos topped with grilled peppers, onions, mushrooms, and shredded cheese; tacos filled with carne asada, chicharron, and carnitas; grilled build-your-own burritos, Sonoran hotdogs, and taco salads.
Authentic Thai Kitchen
A cozy little Thai restaurant has taken over the space formerly occupied by Cor Tapas and Wine. Decorated with contemporary Asian decor, the eatery has a menu featuring standard Thai restaurant favorites like pad thai, panang, mango sticky rice, and Thai iced tea. Parking is limited directly in front of the restaurant, located at 4500 North 12th Street. Street parking is available on the surrounding blocks.
Adding to the ever-expanding range of regional Indian food in metro Phoenix, Godvari has opened and is offering south Indian specialties on its buffet and ala carte menus, featuring the likes of miriyala rasam, Gongura mutton, mustard fish fry, idly, vadas, dosa, chicken Chettinadu, and biryanis of all ilk. They also feature an entire menu of "Indian Chinese" dishes popular across the subcontinent.
HOP Central Brewery and Taproom
HOP Central Brewery and Taproom features dozens of beer taps, a custom-made walk-in cooler, and ample casual seating. A large, L-shaped polished Corian bar spans half the length of the space. The neon tube-light beer signs on display are on loan from part-owner and brewer Mike Heerbrandt’s private collection. Soon, the bar will be adding outdoor seating. HOP Central will soon be expanding its selection of original craft beers. The long-term goal is to have three to five offerings of house brews consistently, with seasonal creations rotating in and out of the tap lineup.
CreAsian Bar and Grill
A new Vietnamese restaurant has opened in Phoenix's Moon Valley Neighborhood. The menu focuses on pho, vermicelli bowls, "sizzling plates" like steak and egg or salmon teriyaki, and small bites like spring rolls, chicken wings, and bacon-wrapped quail eggs. The restaurant has a full bar and offers weeknight happy hours from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., when drinks are half-priced. The interior features flat screen televisions, and there is an outdoor seating area as well.
Marco’s Pizza, Gilbert
Marco's pizza has opened a new location near the San Tan Costco in Gilbert. There is a small dining area indoors and additional seating outside. The kitchen is open concept so you can watch your pizza being made. The place offers typical pizza joint fare, like wings, cheesy bread, salad, sandwiches, and pizza. Pizzas run the gamut from standard pepperoni to specialty variations like chicken Florentine, featuring grilled chicken, garlic-Parmesan sauce, fresh spinach, red onions, sliced tomatoes, three cheeses, and feta
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Coup Des Tartes
Longtime Phoenix dining staple Coup Des Tartes is now closed. For two decades, the restaurant served "French-inspired American cuisine." Proprietor Ron Pacioni attributes the close to outside pressures, including a move from the restaurant's 16th Street location in 2014 and changing labor laws. At first, Coup Des Tartes was a BYO located in a farmhouse from the 1930s. At the original location, customers enjoyed Gallic dishes like beef Bourguignon and a Brie brulee. The restaurant even hosted events like burlesque shows, murder mysteries, and wine dinners. It also hosted weddings. Coup Des Tartes closed in 2014, moved, and reopened at its current digs in 2015, which closed for good at the end of January.