When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions,
: The Park
: 3 South Second Street, #114
: About two months
: Food truck fare and craft beer
Where do you go in downtown Phoenix when you want to sit in a beer garden, but still remain shielded from the merciless Arizona sun?
You might go to The Park, a new indoor-outdoor downtown venue featuring a "beer wall" with self-serve beer and wine dispensers; a food truck-inspired kitchen; lounge and game areas; and no shortage of TV screens in every direction.
The Park is located at the Collier Center, next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, putting it within comfortable walking distance to other major downtown venues. Visitors can park inside the Collier Center parking structure, accessible via Washington Street, where The Park customers get two hours of free validated parking.
The venue is a sort of mashup outdoor beer garden, food truck court, sports bar, and hangout zone — all in one air-conditioned space. As you may have gathered from the name, The Park tries to bring an outdoor vibe to an indoor setting. The 11,000-square-foot space features floor-to-ceiling windows and a wrap-around outdoor patio with access to an indoor-outdoor bar.
There's also a stage for live music, featuring a huge 20-foot LED wall to provide visual effects for concerts and to display major sporting events.
The most notable design point, though, is probably the two massive, 20-foot artificial trees located inside the venue. And though there is some picnic-inspired seating, for the most part, the venue leans toward feeling more like a group-friendly sports bar than anything resembling a park.
If you're hanging around downtown looking for a casual, nondescript place to enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, The Park's beer wall, fashioned out of a tricked-out shipping container, is equipped with 28 beers and wine on tap. Beer options range from Bud Light to local and regional craft brews. On a recent visit, there were four taps dedicated to wine, including Arizona wines from Page Springs Cellar and Provisioner.
To access the beer wall, you stop by the beer counter for a plastic card that is used to dispense drinks. You can either prepay for a certain number of ounces, or you can let the card keep a running tab of every pour and pay at the end. Drinks are priced by the ounce.
There's also a full-service kitchen with table service, with a menu that features food from the resident Park Kitchen, along with dishes from local food trucks. The Park works with local food trucks, which rent out space in the group kitchen, and you can order from any of the food trucks on the combined menu.
The menu is in flux, a server told me on a recent visit, as the kitchen strives toward fine-tuning how many dishes and orders can be handled at once. You can expect the menu to be updated regularly, and the kitchen may feature chef guests in the future.
On a recent visit, the menu featured burgers, tacos, and classic bar apps from food trucks like Taste of New Mexico and Loot n' Booty BBQ.
The menu also offers dishes from local favorites like Pedal Haus Brewery, Frost Frenzy (an online bakery with delivery service), and ice cream by Mary Coyle's. There are also several dishes designed in-house by the Park Kitchen.
On the appetizer menu recently, there were Loot n' Booty Sliders, stuffed with generous amounts of pecan-smoked pulled pork topped with coleslaw. Like so many sliders, though, these were fine enough but not particularly memorable.
An order of Taste of New Mexico street tacos were similarly unexciting. You can pick from carnitas, shrimp, chicken fajita, and carne asada. The carnitas were soft and spongey on a recent visit, but the sauce leaned a little bland. And shrimp tacos, topped with shredded purple cabbage and a sprinkling of salty white cheese, were over-spiced.
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Pedal Haus beer-basted wings fared better. The wings are extra-meaty and saucy, with a pleasantly smokey finish. And the house Park Burger may not be especially exciting, but the very thick, sturdy hamburger patty was beautifully grilled and well-seasoned.
The Park comes courtesy of owners Phil Richard and Bob Garland, both veterans of the hospitality industry. Richard worked in marketing at Salt River Fields (which hosts numerous food truck festivals and food-related events every year), and Garland's family has a long history in the restaurant industry.
The Park is not yet an exciting culinary destination, but it will be interesting to see how the kitchen shapes up, if and when new food trucks claim spots in the kitchen. For now, come here to play with the beer wall, fulfill any cravings for middling bar grub (it's still better quality and not as pricey as most of the fare you'll find inside Chase Field), and to surround yourself with more TVs than you might think humanly possible.