Photo courtesy Pronto
All the news that’s fit to nosh.
Taco the Town: Love the customizable menu, fast service and efficiency of Chipotle, but long to support a local restaurant over a chain? East Valley institution Serrano’s Mexican Restaurants has a new fast-casual concept for you. Pronto will open in Serrano’s Tempe location (6440 S. Rural Rd.) this fall. “We’ve learned a lot over the past two years, and we know that fast-casual concepts have experienced significant recent growth,” says CEO Ric Serrano. “Our Pronto concept will offer customers fresh, quality ingredients at an affordable price. We hope our loyal customers embrace Pronto and that we gain some new fans as well.” Look for build-your-own combos of tacos, burritos, nachos, salads and more. And don’t fret, Serrano’s loyalists – you can add Serrano’s beloved bean dip, chips and salsa to your order. Read my happy hour love letter to Serrano’s here for more temptation/inspiration.
New Growth: To paraphrase the Beastie Boys, “the menu’s gettin’ big and the menu’s gettin’ bigger” at Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale. The Valley outpost of the Cottonwood osteria recently debuted a Morello Forni Cupola Dome wood-fired oven from Italy and a new executive chef, Steve Zimmerman. “Our dishes feature ingredients grown in our Northern Arizona greenhouses, gardens and orchards, and we supplement with produce sourced from local Arizona growers,” says owner and winemaker Maynard James Keenan. “Merkin Vineyards’ farm-to-table, vine-to-glass concept is the cornerstone of our success, and it’s a concept we intend to continue developing.” Zimmerman has extensive experience in the hospitality industry (Wyndham Phoenix Hotel, Widewaters Hotels) and will be expanding the eatery’s selection of handmade pizzas, pastas and wood-fired-oven-roasted vegetables. “He’s the perfect culinary artist for our vision,” Keenan says.
Bespoke Sips: Tequila aficionados have a new local blend to sample thanks to Los Sombreros. The Mexican restaurant – with locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa – partnered with award-winning tequila brand Maestro Dobel on a one-of-a-kind spirit. “We’re pretty excited about our new custom tequila,” says Los Sombreros owner Kurt Riske. “This is a unique barrel pick specific to Los Sombreros and cannot be tasted anywhere else. And, of course, we were intimately involved in its creation, so we can vouch for its flavor, which is incredible.” The agave spirit was aged in a blend of American and French oak with medium barrel toast for five months, leading to notes of vanilla and nuts. Riske recommends enjoying the fine tequila over ice with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Wine Brunch: It’s famed for its deep, ever-evolving wine and craft beer list, but Postino WineCafe just threw its hat in the cocktail ring with a lineup of five brunch cocktails. Fittingly, these tipples focus not on spirits but on fortified wines, aperitifs and beers. “As a beer and wine establishment, we felt we’d done everything we could to showcase the great diversity of those offerings, from proprietary wines and boutique producers to local and nationally beloved craft beers,” says Upward Projects beverage director and sommelier Brent Karlicek. “But we felt we were leaving a particular guest out to dry, and made a commitment to better serve those who are passionate about craft cocktails.” The Killer Queen is a fruity, fizzy concoction of Cocchi Americano and Moscato, the ’Lectric Eye is a bit more intense with Cappelletti and Dolin Blanc vermouth, and the Sherry Mary features Oloroso Sherry and Rainwater Madeira for a deep, umami-rich spin on a classic Bloody.
Lunch Bunch: Arcadia upstart Eat Up Drive In is now open for lunch service. The fast-casual restaurant opened in March but expanded its hours last Wednesday after customers requested the Caesar wrap, Arcadia salad, Hot Chick sandwich and six varieties of baked potatoes (!) be available during their lunch hours. The new-school drive-in uses produce from Maya’s Farm and pours caffeinated brews from Passport Coffee & Tea.
Aloha Treats: After running her Mahalo Made food truck since 2017, Valley media personality Lady La opened a brick-and-mortar location of her shave ice business in Central Phoenix last week. The Hawaii native partnered with OneAZ Credit Union on opening festivities, including giveaways during the grand opening. La’s organic, handcrafted shave ice is inspired by Hawaiian and Japanese flavors.
Sandwich Schedule: To celebrate August being National Sandwich Month, Miracle Mile Deli is offering a different sandwich special each week. The deal is available for takeout or dine-in (Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.) and includes a side and a dill pickle. Mark your calendars for:
- 8/2-8/7 – New Yorker
- 8/9-8/14 – Brisket Sandwich
- 8/16-8/21 – Combo: Pastrami & Corned Beef (my personal favorite)
- 8/23-8/28 – The Straw
Bookish Fun: If you’re anything like me, one of the things you missed most during the height of the pandemic was leisurely flipping through a book or magazine while sipping a latte at a coffee shop. Hearth ’61 at Mountain Shadows Resort Scottsdale is bringing back that singular pleasure with its new Library Coffee Cart pop-up experience. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (and on Monday, September 6, which is National Read a Book Day) from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., you can pop into the restaurant’s Living Room to peruse tomes on art and design while enjoying caffeinated bevs from the Hearth ’61 Bar. Two specialty drinks will be served only during these windows: the Design Nut (iced espresso, cola, black walnut bitters, turbinado syrup and whole-milk foam) and the Coconut Matcha Latte (coconut milk, matcha, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon; available hot or iced). The best part? You don’t need a hotel reservation to enjoy the experience – locals are welcome.