Last summer, as Phoenicians tried the old fry-an-egg-on-the-burning-asphalt trick, a fellow Valley-ite became a traitor and took his icy talents back east. Just kidding, but former ASU Sun Devil Kyle Billig did jump on a coastal trend and moved back home to Pennsylvania to open Sweet Charlie’s, a Thai rolled ice cream shop in downtown Philadelphia.
The time warps here in the Valley keep closing. You know what I mean: those little rifts in the space-time continuum through which you can slip and feel like you’re back in midcentury America. A couple of years ago it was Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe, and in 1998 it was the Cine Capri at 24th Street and Camelback; now it’s the Bashas’ at 7th Avenue and Osborn that’s in its homestretch of existence.
Call it a revival. Call it old school. But really, this is just old Scottsdale.
The latest opening in Old Town Scottsdale is Ellure Lounge, and with it, the owners are promising to bring back Old Town’s club-tastic heyday. In a press release for the grand opening launch party this weekend, owner Chris Sprow claims, “Old Town has lost its reputation as the world-class leader for high-end entertainment. Ellure promises to deliver just that.” Sprow, the former director of marketing for Scottsdale nightclub SIX, which closed its doors in 2009, says the vision in designing Ellure “was to bring class back” to the area.
The relatively new MATCH restaurant opened inside FOUND:RE hotel in Downtown Phoenix late last year, and has quickly become a destination for locals, who praise its stylish surrounds and ever-changing menus from Executive Chef Akos Szabo.
The Feel: Hipper than the first Lollapalooza festival. Feast your eyes on a giant painting by local artist Randy Slack of a young Burt Reynolds naked on a bearskin rug behind the reception desk before walking around the corner to ultra chic MATCH, with its long and loaded bar, wall of wine, floor-to-ceiling windows and modern minimalist design.
When I went to Italy on a class art trip at 16, I turned my nose up at our nightly four course dinners. I know, I know: poor little girl getting to travel abroad and try new cuisines. But I suppose my palate just wasn't refined enough then, what with all that hormonal brattiness clouding my tongue. Plus it all seemed so overwhelming: bread followed by salad followed by pasta followed by meat followed by dessert. Too much.
Older and wiser, I can now get behind the excess every now and again. At Fat OX, Scottsdale's latest upscale Italian eatery, I got to relive the jubilant surplus that is a multi-course Italian dinner. But this time, I liked it.
The Welcome Hospitality crew has for three years worked to build restaurants with reputations that live up to their name. With both Welcome Diner and Welcome Chicken + Donuts in central Phoenix proven successes around town (PHOENIX named the latter a Best New Restaurant last year), the brand turned its eyes to the south. So what happens when a Phoenix foodie favorite meets a recently UNESCO-designated World City of Gastronomy? A whole lot of yum.
Fans of Bobby-Q in Phoenix will find some familiar flavors at the new East Valley outpost – wood-fired steaks, saucy St. Louis-style ribs, and the cheesiest, most gooey mac and cheese around (made with five different cheeses). The menus at the venues are the same, but the new Bobby-Q -- which opened to the public on October 3 -- has some fresh amenities, too.
The Feel: Like sitting in a really cool collage of Americana. Restaurateur Bob Sikora has a big personality and favors several seemingly disparate design elements that somehow comfortably come together. He’s big on lighting, and before the new restaurant opened, he sat in every single seat and booth to check the spot’s luminousness. There’s soft blue lighting under the bar and around the bar racks. He also loves big, leafy green indoor plants, and they hang around and over various parts of the massive restaurant, along with too many flat-screen TVs to count, custom-made sconces with bent silverware sculpture bases, and old timey light fixtures. The social lounge features gorgeous handcrafted juniper tables inlaid with turquoise and copper, custom leather chairs and sofas, and antique steel mirrors. Brick and wood abound. A DJ turns the lounge into a disco dance hall late at night, but during the day, classic rock rules the restaurant speakers.
There’s a new chef in the kitchen at Market Street. After honing his culinary skills in Chicago at the original Weber Grill and the Four Seasons (and following Phoenix stints in the kitchens of Sam Fox’s Bloom Restaurant and Roy’s at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge), Michael Hunn took the helm of Market Street Kitchen last month. The Chi-town native nudges the restaurant’s rustic American cuisine (pastas, soups, salads, slow-cooked and wood-fired meats) up a notch with his focus on farm-to-table fare; according to a press release, “Chef Hunn’s favorite part of each day is talking shop with his fishmongers, produce farmers and his meat dude.”
Every chef should have a “meat dude.” And if the thick and smoky bacon in my grilled cheese sandwich was any indication, Hunn’s got a pretty keen one.
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