Burger Theory Experience

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Pulling up to Burger Theory for dinner, I must admit I was a bit skeptical whether I was going to like the joint. The restaurant sits off of 44th and McDowell attached to a Holiday Inn which took me by surprise. Restaurants attached to motels have a bad reputation of being filled with airport travelers, mediocre food and crappy drink selections. Boy, did Burger Theory prove me WRONG! A beautiful modern restaurant awaits with nice little rustic touches that give this burger joint a welcoming atmosphere.

The menu is filled with American favorites but we knew exactly what we were there for…The Burgers! You have a choice of one of their signature burgers or you can choose to B.Y.O.B. (Build Your Own Burger.) With over 4,320 possibilities a gal could get a bit overwhelmed so I ordered their most popular burger, The Lone Star. A beef patty with thick-cut bacon, cheddar cheese, Parmesan-panko onion ring and BBQ sauce. Lip smacking good! I chose a side of onion rings because I figured the one on my burger just wouldn’t be enough. I had heard good things about their roasted garlic mayo and got a side of it to dip my onion rings into (If you are going to splurge, do it right!) It was a homerun, I ate every last bite! My dining companion decided to B.Y.O.B and built an American cheese-veggie burger with roasted garlic mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled onions and pickles. She was very pleased and said it was one of the best veggie burgers she has ever had. Not one bit salty or dry which veggie burgers are notorious for being.  

When I saw the house-made mini-desserts served in individual mason jars on the menu I knew I needed to save room for dessert. We chose the Key Lime Pie and the S’mores flavors. Both were absolutely delicious and the small mason jar was the perfect amount of sweet after a heavy burger dinner.

Burger Theory also offers local craft beers with a great selection on Happy Hour daily. The bar seems to always have a constant flow of patrons giving the restaurant a nice lively feel. We did hear about their summer special which runs now through Labor Day weekend; when the temps reaches over 105 degrees the Burger Theory Iced Tea (Long Island Iced Tea) and the house Margarita are half off. Now that’s a refreshing deal!

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Duza’s Kitchen Experience

He Said

 

The historic Coronado district in Phoenix is coming into its own as are other of the historic districts around the valley. A good sign that your neighborhood is heating up in popularity are the increased restaurant offerings. My first experience in Coronado was with Tuck Shop which I instantly fell in love with. Its retro home décor and setting fit perfectly into the surrounding area and the food was amazing. Right next door used to be a BBQ joint that was never that busy. Lucky for us that same space is now Duza’s Kitchen. We went for a visit this past weekend and while they could use a good air conditioner the place was packed and for good reason. I had heard their breakfast is the reason to go but looking at the menu I could definitely see myself coming back for lunch. It contained well-balanced offerings of delicious sounding sandwiches, salads, soup, pasta, and a few seafood options. The BBQ is still there if you are craving some pulled pork or brisket. But let’s get back to the breakfast.
I had a seriously difficult decision to make as I could have selected a bunch of different options. I ended up choosing the Shepherd’s Biscuit. An incredibly flaky biscuit sits on the bottom of the plate, split open to allow for the toppings on each half. It is topped with cheese, smoked bacon, brisket, Italian sausage, avocado, ricotta, and finally a couple of eggs in the middle between the two halves of the biscuit. This is beyond plenty of food for one person. The bacon was crispy as I like it and the sausage had quite a kick to it and got my spicy senses tingling. The nice cooling ricotta and avocado helped balance that sausage out along with the yolk from my over easy eggs. The real star though was the brisket. I’m not sure what it was that made this stand out but it was moist and tender and added a lot of flavor to each bite.
My lunch partner ordered the Savory Crepe and savory it was indeed. The perfectly created crepe contained arugula, artichokes, oven-dried tomato, boursin cheese, Portobello mushroom, and it sat in a wild mushroom cream sauce. Perfect for lunch or if you just don’t want a typical breakfast option. I actually would order this for dinner if they were open. We both shared a cinnamon bun that was beautifully layered inside. It had just the right amount of cinnamon and sweet sugar without being over bearing like a Cinnabon type bun.
During the hot summer I definitely suggest getting there early to grab a seat one of the few seats they have inside but there is beautiful outside seating for when the weather cools down. The staff is really friendly and willing to help you choose if you just can’t make a decision. Duza’s Kitchen is the perfect small neighborhood café.

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Joe’s Midnight Run Experience

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What was once a drive thru liquor store, thus the “Midnight Run” in the name, is now a new 7th St. restaurant adding to the blooming area in uptown Phoenix. Its menu has an international flare with on-menu pairings to a good wine and/or beer selection. As we approach the summer I will warn you that they use a very hot flaming grill right next to the bar seats on one end. We ended up having to move as it got way too warm for my taste. It might be perfect for that girl that is consistently cold even in 100 degree heat. The bar reminded me of a sushi bar as it wrapped around the kitchen with a short glass wall which gives you the opportunity to chat with the chef and other kitchen staff. There is a very nice patio area that will be perfect once the temperatures go back down into the double digits. It’s interesting to note that you can still imagine the building as a drive-thru liquor store with its long profile and once you know the patio was where people drove thru its clear.
The menu starts off with what they call “shorties” or small shared plates. As a fan of a tapas style menu this was perfect for our visit. We decided to just order a few small plates and share. Curried Cauliflower is not as “curried” as one would imagine and is actually perfectly seasoned and the table enjoyed this dish the most. It includes currants, almonds, and shallots. The currants were a really nice sweet touch to this dish and the cauliflower was cooked with just enough crunch left in it. The roasted veggies plate included; fennel, potatoes, asparagus, and some more cauliflower in a romesco sauce. Our plate also included what looked like roasted pearl onions though not listed on the menu. This type of surprise makes me happy to see and assures me that they are using what they have fresh on their veggie plates. Up next we moved to some meat with the skirt steak. It comes with marinated peppers and chimichurri sauce. It’s hard not to want all of their meat plates when you see the flaming grill in the kitchen. It just gets you in the mood for some charred steak. Nicely cooked and full of flavor the key to this dish is the refreshing chimichurri. I used to think all chimichurris were equal but this definitely had its own distinct flavor to it and I could have added it to a few more dishes.
If you’re looking for a more filling dish there is a whole other page to the menu with bigger entrees and salads. After watching them make it, I’m dying to come back and try the Notorious B.I.G. Burger with braised pork, cheese, and chicharrones on top of the burger. It looked amazing! They also have a few items for your sweet tooth or just go and enjoy a few drinks. The service is friendly and great giving recommendations. A neighborhood liquor store turned into a thriving new restaurant, who would have known?!

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Gadzooks Experience

He Said

 

Have you ever craved a quick enchilada but done with quality ingredients and is as authentic as sitting down at a Mexican restaurant? Well Gadzooks may be the place for you. It’s been on my short list for some time and finally getting to give it a shot was making me wish I had tried it sooner. Similar in concept to Chipotle it is a build your own bar setup with very friendly staff waiting to help build your ultimate enchilada. The founder Aaron Pool, like myself, had loved cheese enchiladas since childhood but as he grew up realized you could do a much better quality enchilada then what he was getting. But he didn’t stop there, there are other options for you if you are looking for something else. My gut says he is on to something and this may soon be something more than just a local restaurant.
So how did it work? You start out by choosing between enchiladas, street tacos, salad, nachos, stuffed poblano, potato corn chowder, or tortilla soup. I went with the two enchiladas because after all it is in the name. Next stop is the filling, I choose braised short rib for one and chihuahua cheese for the other. The meet was tender and so flavorful and of course the cheese was like heaven with its creamy goodness. Then again I can’t remember when I last had bad cheese, maybe that’s a good thing! If neither of those interest you there are many other options including, chicken, pork shoulder, sautéed spinach mushroom, and many more. Then you decide which sauce to cover it with, green, red, or Christmas which is a little of both. I went with red because it has always been my favorite on enchiladas. Then you can add a cheese on top mostly for presentation at this point. I went with the asadero to get that white coloring and I will never turn down more cheese.
There are some options to add such as goat cheese, a fried egg, or guacamole. I added guacamole and it was fresh and flavorful. Your 5th step in this process is to add salsa of which you have 4 to choose from. I opted to skip this step as I felt like I was already overloading my beautiful creation. Finally you can top it with crema (which I did), cotija cheese, honey slaw, or pickled onion. After all this you take your cast iron bowl to one of a few tables inside and out and simply enjoy its beauty before devouring it. You will devour it, I promise you. I’m already planning my return and I desperately want to try the tortilla soup next, but I fear my hunger for more enchiladas will win out.

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Corduroy Experience

He Said

 

Another adaptive reuse restaurant, showcasing all the amazing things that are happening in and around downtown Phoenix. This 1928 building used to house a grocery store and the renovations have kept that 1920’s era feel. While swanky looking and makes you wish there was a secret speakeasy, it’s as casual and comfortable as you’d want it to be. Our server sported a bowtie and vest and made us instantly feel at home. Knowledgeable about the menu and very patient with us, as it took us a while to make decisions. The menu is that delicious looking and that’s just the cocktail menu. There is a good variety of international wines to choose from and a half page of craft cocktails. We tried the High Ball, which is made with Jack Daniel’s whiskey, small batch ginger ale, and lime on the rocks. Refreshing was the first word that came to mind. Put this place on your next light rail bar call for sure.
The first choice you’ll have to make is whether you want to share some small plates or go it alone with a main entrée. Either direction I believe will take you on a great dinner journey. We opted for the tapas and ordered way too much. The good news is most of the small plates comes in two sizes, we choose the smaller of the two which comes with 2 of each. We started with bacon wrapped mission figs which comes with fresh fruit and a blue cheese garlic sauce. It’s a great dish to enjoy your cocktail and company. Next up was the chimichurri shrimp, combining the prawns, heirloom tomato, arugula, radish, chimichurri, on sesame toast. The best part of this dish was the sizeable shrimp and the fresh chimichurri. Following the shrimp we opted for a couple of pork dishes, BBQ pork empanadas which are flaky pastries stuffed with braised bbq pork, jalapeño crema side and the Cuban cigars, crispy wontons with ham, pulled pork, gruyere, sweet onion, pickle dijon sauce. If you are looking to stay away from meat there are plenty of alternative options. Crispy potato croquettes with manchego chive filling and dill ranch cream for dipping are so creamy you’ll want the full order. By far the most surprising and wonderful small plate was the crispy cauliflower, it is an herb & parmesan breaded cauliflower with aioli hot sauce & blue cheese sauce sides. The side sauces were good if you wanted to give it a little kick, but I happily ate them plain. It’s a good way to get those veggies in your diet, even if they are fried.
While we had no room to partake, there is a good selection of deserts for you to cap off your meal. Including a seasonal selection, a different daily chocolate options, and a few regular items. The difficulty is always going to be controlling yourself with all the great dinner dishes, to make sure you have room for any of them.

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Second Story Liquor Bar Experience

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Who would have thought to find a hidden gem located in plain sight? Right on Scottsdale Road in the heart Old Town Scottsdale, the Second Story Liquor Bar is waiting to deliver another winning meal. I love that they continue to keep up with the seasons by altering their menu and changing their innovative New American creations every few weeks. The low lighting and limited space gives The Second Story Liquor Bar a sophisticated speakeasy vibe.

True to the name, it is located on the second floor above The Gelato Spot with a small, wrapped balcony overlooking Scottsdale Road.

To start, you must order one of their fancy craft cocktails.  They are listed by era on the menu, starting in the 1800’s. I couldn’t resist the Corpse Reviver, which was served in a coupe with gin, lillet blanc, conitreu, crème de violtette and lemon juice. My dining companions enjoyed the Gin Fizz and the Bees Knees, which they both agreed were divine.

For dinner, we decided to get several plates for the table.

The French onion arancini was a wonderful starter. Little round bites oozing with Gruyere cheese and all the delicious flavors you expect in French onion soup.

Next was the pumpkin gnocchi. All of fall’s wonderful flavors together in one dish! The rustic and comforting spices combined with the fluffy gnocchi was a stellar combination.

The bright red beet risotto was up next. Not only was this dish visually stunning, but it was equally tasty. The natural earthiness of the beets paired perfectly with the risotto. This dish was surprisingly hearty and gave the perfect salty contradiction to the sweetness of the pumpkin gnocchi.

For dessert, we indulged in the banana foster bread pudding. Continuing with the comforting fall flavors, this capped the evening off perfectly. Paired with popcorn-flavored ice cream, this traditional dessert was given a unique, smoky kick that was strangely addicting.

The Second Story Liquor Bar delivered an amazing meal again, I am glad I fit in a visit and got to experience this season’s menu!

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