Hunger goeth before the fall when you visit one of these new Valley restaurants.
Opened: July 2019
Just across Thunderbird Road from the Arizona State University West campus, where it can presumably cater to hungry Sun Devils, this spare but cheery place is the comeback project of former House of Tricks chef Kelly Fletcher, back in the kitchen after serious health problems put him in a coma in 2017. It’s a straightforward burger joint, with patties that can be ordered “classic” or “Chzburgr,” with onions infused into the vowel-challenged meat, which keeps the burger satisfyingly juicy without the greasiness. Try the Chzburgr combo ($8), with a drink and a side of fries, tater tots or sweet potato “gaufrette,” a righteous name for waffle fries. Wash it down with a Nutella milkshake ($3.50). The menu isn’t long beyond burgers, but the chicken sandwich combo ($9), a fried thigh on a bun with mayo and lettuce, sounded promising; alas, it was a little on the salty side.
Must try: The Po Dog ($5.50) was as good as it sounded, albeit messy: a plump weenie topped with fierce Calabrian chiles and a drift of potato salad.
4920 W. Thunderbird Rd., Glendale 602-314-5407, chzburgr.com
The Bread and Honey House
Opened: May 2019
That funky little building on east Van Buren Street that once housed Los Jarritos is now home to this agreeable brekkie spot. Like its predecessor, it serves up breakfast and lunch choices, most of them as archetypal as its biblical-sounding name. Options range from the simplicity of My Style eggs ($6; with sourdough or grain toast and a generous side of perhaps overcooked breakfast spuds) to the trendier avocado toast ($10) (mildly seasoned green stuff on toasted Mediterra Bakehouse bread with tomatoes, cotija, leafy greens and a single egg). The crêpes ($7) aren’t stuffed, but they’re generously topped with seriously sweet, succulent strawberries, chopped pecans, and, naturally, honey.
Must try: The burger ($10), a splendid patty composed of ground beef, sirloin and brisket on a challah bun, can also be enjoyed in the morning as the breakfast burger ($11), topped with an egg any way you like it. Runny yolk recommended.
4700 E. Van Buren St., 602-275-6996, the-bread-and-honey-house.business.site
Voodoo Daddy’s Steam Kitchen
Opened: April 2019
Undeterred by the demise of Tempe restaurant Voodoo Daddy’s Magic Kitchen, concept man Ron Lynch of Schlotzsky’s and Tilted Kilt offers this similarly named Louisiana fast-casual eatery. The new place looks poised to become a comparably slick chain at some point, with its spacious, Nawlins-style dining room and buffet of fancy iced teas and pure-cane-sugar soda pops. The food is similarly user-friendly, with carefully calibrated spice scales for diners of timid constitutions. A side of the red beans and rice ($3) is a fine way to start, and may even be enough for modest appetites, but the jambalaya ($9.50) – mine was low on the spice scale, and featured chicken with the Andouille sausage – wasn’t hard to devour. A side of batter-fried gator bites ($5) peps up that usually forgettable reptile meat with onion and jalapeño.
Must try: The indulgent shrimp and grits ($9.50) is luxuriously enriched with creamy mascarpone cheese.
1325 W. Elliot Rd., Tempe, 480-659-6145, voodoodaddy.com
Opened: March 2019
In the same plaza where you’ll find Raven Gastropub is this new, farther-north Scottsdale iteration of the old-school, upscale Italian ristorante with locations in the Kierland Commons area, Fountain Hills and Ahwatukee. The atmosphere is elegant yet welcoming, but an attempt to ward off the Bolognese blahs on my visit yielded a mixed result: cavatelli salsiccia rapini ($21). It was a near-miss, combining short, delightfully textured cavatelli pasta and mild sausage with rapini, or, to us Yanks, broccoli rabe. A green by any other name would taste as bitter, and this side of the dish’s flavor profile was ultimately a bit off-putting. Not so the melanzana Arrivederci ($19), which blanketed tender strips of eggplant under luscious ricotta, with a side of penne in a slightly acidic traditional tomato sauce.
Must try: The cioppino ($38) is a spectacle: a briny horde of big, verdant mussels, shrimp that belie their name, scallops, clams, squid, fish and pasta, topped with a lobster tail. A little pricey, but good for a couple rounds of leftovers.
8900 E. Pinnacle Peak Rd., 480-585-8050, italiancuisineaz.com