ASU entrepreneur’s bike-friendly brewpub is a fun cruise, but the menu needs a second gear.
Restaurateur Julian Wright is the Animal House version of Peter Kasperski or German Osio. The Arizona State University grad’s myriad Mill Avenue ventures range from La Bocca – a fairly well-respected pizzeria – to defunct watering hole The Library, known for busty “student” servers wearing plaid skirts. Wright’s newest addition is similarly tuned-up for younger crowds – a bicycle-themed, 14,000-square-foot nanobrewery and restaurant in the old Islands spot at Centerpoint.
With its artsy metal-rim décor, Pedal Haus – the latest in a growing peloton of bike-friendly Valley watering holes – is a bit more upscale than the typical college bike bar, but not egregiously so – there’s cornhole on the patio, an outdoor bar with 49 taps and TVs for catching current sports scores.
While there are a few entree standouts and some nice beer-spiked pub grub, the overall food experience – conceived by Chef Matt McLinn, formerly of Méthode Bistro and The Grind – is a bit underwhelming, clearly playing second fiddle to the scene.
Tangy beer cheese makes greasy but flavor-packed bratwurst bites ($7) an easy pleaser, and meaty chicken wings ($9) soak up Belgian witbier like an Oktoberfest tourist. Crisp tempura-battered cheese curds ($6.50) are the Midwestern-Asian cousin to the mozzarella stick, with a lighter and more golden outer crust. Steer clear of Pedal Haus’ poutine ($9) – it insults the Canadian standard with soggy potatoes in a puddle of alleged beef gravy that looks more like the bottled stuff microwaved by lazy moms at Thanksgiving.
Instead, pair burgers with creamy mac and cheese for a small upcharge or try the garlicky herbed potatoes that come with steak frites ($16, 8 oz./$32, 16 oz.). The thick-cut natural beef is tender and lean, with a zingy red wine demi to satisfy our dark gravy cravings. It’s a bit over-seasoned, but far less offensive than the salt lick billed as stout-braised beef ($18). On our visits the advertised chorizo accompaniment was curiously absent, and the roast stringy and tough.
Look to Pedal Haus’ bacon-topped Angus patty with garlic aioli ($14) for more tender meat, or play it safe with a hot ham and cheese ($13) that pairs perfectly with a pint of house-brewed chocolaty brown porter.
Gently charred corn-off-the-cob combines with creamy chèvre and refreshing jalapeño-lime vinaigrette for an unexpected burst of flavors and textures in the avocado salad ($12), my second favorite dish to the surprising organic asparagus and mushroom pasta ($14). Featuring soft pappardelle studded with crisp green veggies in buttery black pepper sauce, the dish has a homey feel similar to the organic pot pie ($13). Though watery, its thyme-heavy broth gains weight with the addition of carrots and a flaky puff pastry topper.
Food-wise, Pedal Haus isn’t as consistent or enjoyable as nearby Blasted Barley or even Gordon Biersch. But the patio concept is fun and the beer highly drinkable, and sometimes that alone is worth a pedal.
Pedal Haus Brewery
Contact: 730 S. Mill Ave., Ste. 102, Tempe, 480-314-2337
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Su-W, 11 a.m-12 a.m. Th, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. F-Sa
Highlights: Bratwurst bites ($7); tempura cheese curds ($6.50); steak frites ($16, 8 oz./$32, 16 oz.).; hot ham and cheese sandwich ($13); avocado salad ($12); organic asparagus and mushroom pasta ($14); organic chicken pot pie ($13)
Mini-Review: From Mill Avenue restaurateur Julian Wright comes the Valley’s latest – but demonstrably not greatest – bike-themed restaurant. Upscale pub grub such as tempura cheese curds, bratwurst bites and meaty chicken wings soaked in Belgian witbier help pick up the slack for generally underwhelming entrees. One that we did like: organic asparagus and mushroom pasta.
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