2013 best new restaurants
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2013 Best New Restaurants
Marilyn Hawkes, Wynter Holden, Carey Sweet & Gwen Ashley Walters
October, 2013, Page 96
Photo by Camerawerks
It was a banner year for the Valley dining scene – such an abundance of great new restaurants, in fact, that PHOENIX magazine was forced to cut several worthy candidates from our final roster. It was agonizing, but we did it. So dig in.
745 W. Baseline Rd., Mesa
: May 2013
: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tu-Th; 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. F; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sa
Ethnic restaurant names often get lost in translation. Cases in point: Portland’s Hung Far Low and San Francisco’s Kaka Udon Kitchen. Beaver Choice owner Hanna Gabrielsson isn’t ashamed her eatery landed on Zagat’s 10 Worst Restaurant Names list – she named it after Canada’s national mascot, not some grade-school double entendre. Name-related guffaws aside, locals were instantly hooked on Gabrielsson’s Swedish-Polish comfort fare. Her brie-topped schnitzel cordon bleu is a masterpiece, and the creamy dill sauce of Captain’s Fish would seduce the hardest haddock-hater. Valley “Beaverites” practically burned pierogi in protest when Gabrielsson and her husband Marek closed shop earlier this year in preparation for a move, but larger digs and a $200,000 makeover calmed the mob. Gone are Beaver Choice’s flimsy white plastic chairs, replaced by an eclectic mélange of repurposed diner booths and statuesque metal dinettes. Photos of Stockholm landmarks hang on sage walls and the menu has expanded to feature recipes scoured from Gabrielsson’s secret stash of vintage Swedish food mags. Where to start? Gravy-soaked poutine does a mean waltz with Poland’s Black Boss porter or Svyturys Baltijos Latvian beer. Finish with hearty elk stew, available Thursday to Saturday, and the sinful – albeit unfortunately named – Äppelkaka.
Photos - from left: Owner/chef Kevin Binkley of Bink’s Midtown • Cherry tomatoes with snap peas, Thai basil and ricotta cheese
Photos by David Zickl
magazine #1 Restaurant of the Year
2320 E. Osborn Rd., Phoenix
: March 2013
: Contemporary American
: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. M-Th; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. F-Sa; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Su; happy hour 2:30-6 p.m. daily
James Beard multi-nominated Chef Kevin Binkley and his wife, Amy, are finally giving central Phoenix a taste of what Cave Creek and Carefree residents have enjoyed since Binkley’s Restaurant and Café Bink opened in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Although the three restaurants vary slightly in terms of cuisine, all share hallmark traits of kitchen creativity, quality ingredients and above-average service. Where Binkley’s is the gastronomical flagship and Café Bink serves refined American-French bistro fare, Bink’s Midtown – set in the cheery bungalow that once housed Sophie’s French Bistro – stakes its claim on vegetables, spotlighting delicacies sourced from local farmers on their own dedicated menu. Nearly a dozen seasonally-driven small plates served tapas-style share menu space with half a dozen just-plucked garden salads and a handful of vegetable-driven soups – like blackened okra with sweet pepper jelly; shaved melons spiked with chile and mint; or cherry tomatoes and snap peas on a bed of creamy ricotta. Bink’s carnivorous fare shines brightly, too – especially the sweet and sour sweetbreads nuggets and the deep-fried baby back ribs with tamarind and sesame dipping sauce. Open seven days a week, Bink’s Midtown is alluring (and accessible) enough to draw diners from every corner of the Valley.
Photo by David Moore
Cheesecake crêpe with strawberries and salted caramel
3370 N. Hayden Rd., Scottsdale
: February 2013
: Modern Mexican
: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. M-Th; noon-10 p.m. F-Sa
If fine meat is one of your culinary passions, this charming mini-gastropub from owner Robert Molinari – who also owns Uncle Sal’s Italian eatery next door, and the Side Door bar and restaurant nearby – is an absolute must-visit. Arguably, the main attraction is a huge cold case next to the front door, stocked with boutique proteins from venerable Phoenix butcher Hobe Meats. The actual menu is a bit Barrio-esque, with mod-Mex offerings like a gooey cheese quesadilla stuffed with shiitake, oyster and Portobello mushrooms spiced with jalapeño and tomato; and a pitch-perfect shrimp and corn tamale, deconstructed so the grilled prawns nestle in a corn-cilantro cream sauce atop a slab of masa. This tucked-away, stylishly concealed eatery has the tempo and energy of a bar; hence, it’s a great place to sip a margarita while nibbling the signature “pig wings” of freshly plucked, grilled petite pork shanks shining in spicy-sweet chipotle glaze. And you gotta love the one-stop shopping convenience. Following their meals, diners can score beautiful house-aged prime steaks, alligator tail and other carnivorous wonders in the cooler up front. Your four-legged foodie at home will be happy, too – the butcher counter sells raw pet food and some of the choicest chew-bones in town.
Photo by Michael McNamara
3115 E. Lincoln Dr.,
: May 2013
: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. M-Sa
Throughout Daniel Malventano’s 16-year reign over one of the Valley’s best fine-dining restaurants, he never could quite settle on a name. His Camelback Road eatery was variously known as Il Forno, Acqua e Sale, then Daniel’s Italian Cuisine until it closed in 2007. But as his triumphant re-entry into Valley dining confirms, a Malventano-fronted resto by any other name would taste as sweet, with exquisite dishes like pork tenderloin decorated with prosciutto in red wine plum sauce, alongside crisp Brussels sprouts and sweet potato mash. The mood is more casual this time around, with a stark Euro-ambiance anchored by an enormous, yellow-tiled wood burning oven, and friendlier prices to match. Think homey comfort food, if your mom was a top-notch chef. Menu listings are deceptively simple – papardelle Bolognese may sound pedestrian, but you’ll swoon over the slow-cooked ragù. Snails, under the expert cook’s hand, remind us why the little creatures can be so ravenously delicious (hint: a rich butter braise, crunchy fennel and a flurry of garlic), while humble chicken Parmigiana gets a marvelous crunchy crust on its edges thanks to a turn in the wood oven, finished with a lovely tomato-rich sauce that floods into accompanying mashed potatoes.
Photo by Terri Lea Smith
Cheesecake crêpe with strawberries and salted caramel
7520 S. Rural Rd., Tempe
: June 2012
: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tu-Sa; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Su.
The Valley food truck scene’s first brick-and-mortar conversion came with a name change – from Truckin’ Good Food to Crêpe Bar – but the fantastic sweet and savory crêpes suffered not one iota. In fact, they got better. Social media-savvy Chef Jeff Kraus and his small band of cooks expanded the limited food truck menu and put a serious emphasis on the coffee program. Daily specials (a mix of local meats and farm produce) are communicated to the public through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #cbop (Crêpe Bar Original Plate). Crêpe lovers of all ages gather at the communal table to share bites of the “First Time” Nutella and banana crêpe along with latte art-topped cups of Portland-based Heart coffee. Some patrons hang around until lunch and munch on Papa K – Kraus’ signature crêpe stuffed with local ham, pepper jack cheese, greens and mushroom ragout. Some come just for the #cbop special, which might be as simple as a slice of brioche topped with burrata, arugula and cherry tomatoes. As cooler temperatures return to the Valley, Kraus will resurrect Crêpe Bar’s weekend “Experience” – à la carte dinners featuring fresh, imaginative plates like beet greens pierogi with mustard brown butter and polenta fritters with red-eye gravy and bacon.
Photo by Richard Maack
The "Big Star" with Schreiner's sausage and Molinari pepperoni
5210 N. Central Ave.,
: October 2013
: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. M-Th; 11 a.m.-midnight F-Sa; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Su
Upward Projects restaurant group (Postino, Windsor/Churn) has a knack for creating fun, high-energy neighborhood hangouts that are instant hits with staying power over the long haul. That’s because the team, headed by Craig DeMarco and Lauren Bailey, sweats the small stuff (groovy salt and pepper shakers) as well as the big stuff (stellar service and food). The lively menu of artisanal pizzas (like roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta, manchego and garlic) gets a wicked boost from master baker MJ Coe’s crust recipe. We keep coming back because the food is good, the drinks are better and we dig the vibe of the redeveloped circa 1969 building designed by modernist architect Alfred Beadle. Appetizer standouts include pecorino-dredged roasted corn coins and a platter of roasted vegetables. The porchetta sandwich is a knockout with roasted pork loin and belly tucked into crusty bread, and pizzas – try the Big Star loaded with Schreiner’s sausage and veggies – hit the spot without draining the wallet. Zip into the drive-thru for a pizza and a growler of craft brew to go, stopping at the door stamped “right place, right time.” Enjoying your pie at home, you’ll think “Yeah, it is.”
Photo by David Moore
Squid ink linguini
Franco’s Italian Caffe
4327 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale
: October 2012
: 5-10 p.m. M-Th; 5-11 p.m. F-Sa
It was 1987 when Florentine chef Franco Fazzuoli debuted Franco’s Trattoria in Scottsdale, electrifying the Valley’s collective palate with authentic Italian delicacies most of us had never encountered before: creamy risotto, handmade pappardelle baptized in wild boar ragù, and whole wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano shaved to order. Family considerations stole him away to Manhattan in 2007, but he returned last fall, improving the Valley’s fine-Italian fortunes overnight. His Old Town Scottsdale café is cozy and minimalist, all the better for the big, pure flavors of first-rate presentations like silky prosciutto and blissfully rich burrata, or crunchy-edged polenta cakes mantled in velvety gorgonzola. Simplicity shines with superior ingredients and expert cooking talent, so while the menu reads only “fettuccine tartufo,” know that the actual dish is heaven-on-earth fresh noodles napped in a voluptuous truffle-scented cream sauce that will have you licking the plate. For such a rarified experience, the dining is surprisingly easy on the wallet – the hearty chicken paillard, pounded thin and smothered in juicy balsamic-dressed greens with sides of potato and vegetable, is just $17.50, for example. There’s also the charming Fazzuoli himself, who treats newcomer and seasoned regular alike with the same Old World warmth. Bentornato, old friend.
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