Summer Miracles: 5 New Eateries in the Valley

Nikki BuchananAugust 28, 2020
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Spicy noodle soup from Kungfu Ramen; Photography by Rob Ballard
Spicy noodle soup from Kungfu Ramen; Photography by Rob Ballard

Opening a Valley restaurant in the summer is always a bold maneuver – and this summer, doubly so. See what our critic has to say about these new eateries.

Kungfu Ramen 

Opened: June 2020
1845 E. Broadway Rd., Tempe, 480-268-7331, phoenixramen.com
11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

For Westerners, the name of this noodle house might seem oddball, conjuring Chinese martial arts and Japanese noodles in one breath. Fact is, “ramen” is a Japanese transcription of the Chinese word “lamian” (wheat noodles), while “kungfu” means “a skill acquired through hard work and practice.” Once you taste the food here, which focuses on the dreamily doughy, wheat-based cooking of northern China, the name actually makes a lot of sense. Start with crisp, golden-brown scallion pancakes ($5.99) or barbecue pork buns ($8.99) so feather-light and blindingly white they hardly seem like food at all. Then move on to stir-fries like chile-oil-slicked noodles with earthy cumin-scented lamb ($10.99) or hearty, meat- and veggie-filled soups ($13.99), thick with house-made noodles in various permutations – hand-cut, thin, thick, wide or extra wide (translation: ridiculously long). This is comfort food at its elemental best. Call or order online. Pickup or delivery available.

Slim Thick Café

Opened: May 2020
1900 E. Fifth St., Tempe, 480-729-5303, slimthickcafe.com
M-F, 7 a.m.- 2:30 p.m., Sa-Su, 7:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Blame Kim Kardashian for “slim-thick” – the new standard of beauty defined by big boobs, bulging thighs and a bodacious booty, made all the more extreme for the signature flat stomach and wasp waist. Whether you’re going for that look or you just want to eat better, this breakfast/lunch spot (not a physical restaurant but rather a curbside pickup and online delivery venue) may be your ticket to a healthier, more ooh-la-la you.

the Thick Grilled breakfast sandwichfrom Slim Thick Cafe; Photography by Rob Ballard
the Thick Grilled breakfast sandwichfrom Slim Thick Cafe; Photography by Rob Ballard

Surely the Thick Grilled (ham, melted fontina and an egg on buttery grilled Texas toast, $9.99) has more to do with thick than slim. Ditto for that flaky chocolate croissant ($3.60). Still, there are plenty of healthy options for bodybuilders and vegans alike – breakfast and lunch bowls ($8.99-$14.99) offering an eye-appealing mix of wholesome ingredients, including scrambled egg white, steak, brown rice, roasted sweet potato, asparagus and avocado. Order online or by phone; they’ll bring your packaged meal to the car. Delivery available.

Combo No. 3 at Mr. Claws; Photography by Rob Ballard
Combo No. 3 at Mr. Claws; Photography by Rob Ballard
Mr. Claws

Opened: June 2020
1130 W. Grove Ave., Mesa, 480-955-1883
M-Sa, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Su, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

For Louisianans, nothing says summer like a seafood boil – whether it’s shrimp, crawfish or crab – bathed in spicy, Cajun-seasoned butter sauce. At Mr. Claws – a cute seafood-in-a-bag place that feels like a less rambunctious version of Angry Crab Shack – you can get all that and more if you’re willing to fork over the cheddar. For $68.99, the Combo No. 3 offers a pound each of shrimp, crawfish, king crab and fat green mussels, served for takeout in a plastic bag also filled with corn on the cob, potatoes and sausages.

Throw it all on a big platter, and you’re ready to dig in. Swap out Cajun seasoning (offered in three heat levels) for garlic butter or lemon pepper butter. (You can also order mussels, shrimp or crawfish à la carte.) Lots of choices here. But the fun is in the sheer abundance of seafood, which also includes lobster tail ($16) and grilled garlic butter oysters (five for $11.99), which aren’t included in any combo. Pickup and delivery available.

Twist Bistro & Gallery

Opened: May 2020
32409 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale, 480-912-1459, twist-bistro.com
Tu-F, 11 a.m-9 p.m., Sa, 10 a.m.-9 p.m, Su, 10 a.m-2:30 p.m.

Husband and wife team Larry and Sandy Shore (he cooks; she curates the art for their restaurant gallery) have created a cozy, slightly elevated space that, even mid-pandemic, draws a neighborhood Scottsdale crowd for its craft cocktails and scratch-made American food, prepared with a Mediterranean twist (get it?). Creative apps such as herb-flecked, griddled zucchini pancakes (creamy with feta and served with garlic yogurt sauce and mint, $8.50) or crispy fried chicken kebabs (served with spicy, sticky-sweet jalapeño-lemon-basil syrup, $8.50)

mascarpone cheesecake at Twist Bistro & Gallery; Photography by Rob Ballard
mascarpone cheesecake at Twist Bistro & Gallery; Photography by Rob Ballard

kick-start a meal that could be as straightforward as a steak paillard sandwich with grilled onion and horseradish on a Noble baguette ($15) or as exotic as house-smoked, honey-glazed barbecue lamb shank with almond-golden raisin couscous and favas ($27). Nothing twisty about ultra-creamy mascarpone cheesecake with salted caramel and crunchy pistachio praline, but you shouldn’t miss it. Order by phone and pick up inside.

Diavolo pizza at Osteria Mia; Photography by Rob Ballard
Diavolo pizza at Osteria Mia; Photography by Rob Ballard
Osteria Mia

Opened: June 2020
2530 W. Happy Valley Rd., Phoenix, 623-434-4604, osteriamia.com
S, Tu-Th, 3-9 p.m., F-Sa, 3-10 p.m.

Like almost every neighborhood in the North Valley, Norterra is a dining wasteland of yawn-inducing corporate restaurants, so hooray for Osteria Mia, a hip, high-ceilinged Italian bistro and wine bar in the Norterra mall. Situated a popcorn kernel’s throw from Harkins Theatres, it’s an endearing place, offering sophistication and the kind of personal touch you seldom find in these parts.

You could happily make a meal of appetizers alone, grazing on breadcrumb-topped, Parm-flecked artichokes with lemony aioli ($9) or balsamic-drizzled Brussels sprouts, jazzed up with golden raisins, Gorgonzola and crisp pancetta ($10). The menu’s greatest strengths, however, may be thin-crust wood-fired pizzas and house-made pastas ($14-$18). I can imagine dropping in before or after a post-pandemic movie for the spicy-sweet Diavolo (topped with soppressata, Calabrian chiles, ricotta and honey). But for now, I’ll order online or call ahead, then pop in to pick up my goodies.

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