Night owls rejoice! The owners of FEZ expand their repertoire with globetrotting comfort fare.
Central Phoenix isn’t known for after-hours eats. The sidewalks are all but empty at the end of business hours. By 9 p.m., midtown’s skyscraper-laden core looks like the set of I Am Legend.
Sensing the need for quality midnight munchies, FEZ co-owners Tom Jetland and Mark Dillon unveiled a late-night tapas spot in the circa-1920s Pay’n Takit Market building adjacent to Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar and Durant’s. Corduroy is as warm and welcoming as its fabric namesake, with toasty orange walls, stained glass, misted wraparound patio and booths big enough to seat a flag football team. Servers feel like old friends by the end of the night.
To be honest, “tapas bar” is a bit overreaching. Though most dishes are shareable, Corduroy’s menu bears little Spanish influence, save for a handful of appetizers spotted with words like “Cuban” and “jamón.” Debatable verbiage aside, its diverse offerings perform quite nicely on the tongue.
Barbecue pork empanadas ($13), for example, deliver a sharp tamarind tang inside buttery pastry, while juicy Serrano ham provides a deliciously baritone note in the restaurant’s airy potato croquettes ($12). A three-fingered-pinch of Middle Eastern spices makes Corduroy’s spanakopita ($11) a crowd pleaser, though creamy feta dressing would add a palate-soothing element the dish lacks.
While most chefs shy away from chicken – the “boring beige” of culinary meats – three of Corduroy’s most enjoyable mains feature this most pedestrian of poultries. Thin-pounded cutlets are thickly breaded and fried in Japanese-style katsu ($15), served with a hearty brown gravy instead of the insipid ketchup-based concoction typically associated with the dish. (It’s a definite improvement, reminiscent of a classic Southern fried chicken platter.) The piquant glaze of chicken piri-piri is fit for an African queen, and citrus lovers will go gaga for the bright, zingy caper sauce of lemony chicken ($15 each).
Seafood is a hard sell in the desert, but Corduroy does right by beautifully seared scallops ($17) and smoked trout tartine ($13). Both are imbued with smoky flavor, the latter topped with creamy herbed Boursin and earthy nuts for a highly textural, classy take on the traditional lox-and-bagel. The scallops are dressed beautifully with ripe roma tomatoes and pancetta nuggets – creating an exciting dance of acidity and crunch – though the promised “potato purée” looks like a scoop of school cafeteria potatoes. Avoid lunch lady fare by substituting crisp black pepper potatoes or an à la carte side like Corduroy’s creamy cabbage slaw with sweet bacon chunks ($6).
Offered as an appetizer, Corduroy’s crab balls ($13) are flavorful and crisp despite the mushy “mystery meat” texture common with seafood croquettes. If your date will be crabby without them, try pairing the fried cakes with a crisp salad such as the Toluca roasted corn with manchego and crunchy asparagus bites or the Supatra with kiwi-like dragon fruit and sugary cashews ($10 each).
Corduroy’s rotating dessert selection is a bittersweet game of Russian roulette. One day, my tablemates nearly choked on dry, crumbly chocolate ganache cake; other dice rolls yielded creamy mango-topped cheesecake and a to-die-for banana cake blanketed in sugary caramel sauce and rich vanilla bean ice cream ($8 each).
With Downtown restaurants multiplying faster than desert bunnies, rivalry for dining dollars is fierce. But thanks to lively global dishes, personable servers and late-night hours, Corduroy has a pant leg up on the competition.
Contact: 2601 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-374-7585, corduroyaz.com
Hours: Tu-Su 11 a.m.-midnight
Highlights: BBQ pork empanadas ($13); spanakopita ($11); chicken katsu ($15); seared scallops and pancetta ($17); smoked trout tartine ($13); Supatra dragon fruit salad ($10); banana cake ($8)
50 Best AZ Restaurants
We ate. Then we drove. Then we ate some more. ...
Where To Eat 2018
Another year, another glorious eruption of must-try restaurants, visionary chefs, hot food trends and celebrity recommendations. Find them all here, in our top o’ the year salute to Valley dining. ...
2015 Best New Restaurants
Our annual highlight reel of metro Phoenix’s most damnably delicious new restaurants. ...
Where to Eat 2017
Food trends, upcoming restaurants, rising chefs – the gang's all here! Plus: “Destination Dishes” throughout Arizona worth the drive. ...
75 Best Dishes in the Valley
The most iconic. The most creative. The best specimen of a beloved breed. ...