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: Stock and Stable
Location: 5538 North Seventh Street
Open: About three weeks
Eats: American gastropub
It's probably been a while since you thought to yourself, "Gee, I'm really craving some American gastropub fare." (If ever.)
It's been about a half a decade since the "gastropub" took the American dining scene by storm, bringing fancy burgers and hand-shaken cocktails to the hungry masses. Since the initial popularity boom, gastropubs have (thankfully) ceased to be the only genre into which new restaurants fall. And yet, with the opening of Stock and Stable in Central Phoenix earlier this month, it seems the gastropub, in some capacity, really is here to stay.
Like most gastropubs, this new restaurant, located at The Colony (an adaptive reuse project attempting to turn a former Central Phoenix office building into a hip destination for shopping and dining), serves a menu of fancified American classics. Think a basic chicken sandwich, but dressed up with "charred scallion remoulade"; pastrami made with beef tongue; and French toast served as sticks with a side of cherries and ricotta cheese. There's also a list of cocktails — in fact, an impressively long one — and a dining room decked out with lots of leather and wood and a bulky bar.
We started our lunch with a pair of cocktails, selected from the restaurant's list of 15 options. The Dog and Pony Show read like an elevated take on a simple gin and tonic made with gin, fresh ginger and apple cider, lime, and tonic. But instead, it tasted more like gin and limeade than anything else. The Eastern Promises fared much better, arriving at the table in a tall frosty glass garnished with a tiny umbrella and a sprig of mint. The Thai tea-infused whiskey was far from overpowered by banana liquor, Jagermeister, coconut milk, and tiki bitters, making this a perfect summer sipper for those who usually favor darker, spirit-forward drinks.
We hit another bump with an order of salt cod tots ($12). Five not-quite-bite-sized cubes of crumbed fish arrived coated and fried, but failed to achieve the crispy texture that makes well-done fried fish so irresistible. Marinated celery and mustard seed didn't add much in the way of a textural contrast, making the dish a soggy flop of flavors that didn't quite sync up.
Tarragon garganelli ($14) made a better impression, though the name doesn't really convey the essence of the dish. There's garganelli (that's pasta made by rolling flat squares into tubes), but neither the noodles nor tarragon really star in this gumbo-like dish. The bowl comes full of sausage, clams, and shrimp with the seafood, plus halves of blistered cherry tomatoes and pieces of fried artichokes, swimming in a nice, flavorful broth that would have been even better had it been served to us hot instead of lukewarm.
Stock and Stable's baby gem salad ($10) is a nice enough version of a classic wedge featuring five half heads of the sweet lettuce along with confit tomatoes, bleu cheese, corn, pickled grapes, and almonds covered in a buttermilk vinaigrette. Besides the unwieldy nature of the salad's construction — seriously, you try to saw off a hunk of lettuce then wrangle some kernels of corn and a halved grape onto your fork all at once — it was a fine way to get some greens in our meal.
Finally, we ordered the restaurant's crispy chicken sandwich ($12). It was served on a heavy sesame bun, but we liked the chicken and the sweet-spicy honey hot sauce in which it was tossed, as well as the gooey American cheese melted between the bun and the meat. The charred scallion remoulade added some moisture to each bite, but its flavor didn't really live up to its ambitious description.
So, if a gastropub hopes to be a comfortable destination for high-quality food and drink, then Stock and Stable aims high but falls short of achieving the ideal. The space is comfortable enough, and the cocktails will keep your attitude up, but for now, there are plenty of places for better dining in the surrounding neighborhood.
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