Downtown Tempe just gained two especially large indoor-outdoor restaurants. Phoenix has at least three remarkable new dining addresses. Forget spring—autumn is bloomin’ season for the Valley of the Sun’s food scene. Get started with these five new restaurants:
Citrine: Can a restaurant in a bus station offer tasty reasons to linger? Wow, yes. To be fair, we’re not talking an old Greyhound depot, but Tempe’s 21st-century, spic-and-span transit center—a glass and steel edifice with a sweeping driveway and such attractive neighbors as Sun Devil Stadium and “A” Mountain. Citrine anchors the south end of the center, availing itself of great foot traffic and people watching. Lunch and dinner selections include garlic-chile roasted chicken, manicotti and pressed sandwiches. Wine-inclined lighter bites include charred octopus, olives, or foie gras with blackberry pepper jam.
Tip: For a similar menu but a more intimate vibe, try EVO in Scottsdale, also from Citrine’s leaders.
Pedal Haus Brewery: Tempe’s Four Peaks Brewing Company is tenured and prolific. Year-old Blasted Barley Beer Company (also in Tempe) produces a few of its own beers and champions other Arizona makers. Newest suds supplier Pedal Haus Brewery is just getting started, but already feels like it’s in mid-stride. Housed in a barn-sized structure and flanked by sprawling patios, the place is built for large-scale revelry. Brewing tanks stand like sentinels along one wall. Inaugural foodstuffs include fried bologna, tempura-grilled bratwurst, and a lettuce-free vegetable salad in a silky almond-milk dressing.
Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails: A pleasantly clattering dining room and a quieter, off-street patio are your routes through the American South by way of Okra’s menu. Phoenix restaurateurs who’ve found success with artful, modern-Italian cuisine and extremely experimental cocktails at Crudo (also in Phoenix) designate such down-home morsels as hush puppies, catfish with okra succotash, and “Tennessee hot” fried chicken for their new venture. For an extra blast of spice, splash on the house’s Homeboy’s Hot Sauce.
Ocotillo: Some restaurants launch dinner service first, then gradually add lunch and brunch. Ocotillo started with weekday lunches and weekend brunches, and aims to introduce dinner service soon. Some restaurants move into existing structures and do their best to reinvent the spaces. Ocotillo is made up of units that look like shipping containers—but are brand new—stacked off-kilter to create a variety of outdoor vignettes with or without sun exposure.
Weekend brunch is a smiley affair. Staffers open doors for guests and walk them halfway to the restroom when needed. General manager/sommelier David Johnson works the spaces like it’s his personal party. The wine menu coded to indicate such bizarre taste profiles as catbox, silk and cut hay is a guaranteed conversation starter.
In the egg department, there are quiches with black truffles and leeks or kale and oven-dried tomatoes; roast beef hash with a sunnyside egg; and a chicken chimichanga with scrambled eggs, broccoli and cheese. Blue corn pancakes, a spinach salad with smoked salmon, and meat-stacked sandwiches with pickled and roasted vegetables appear on other parts of the debut menu.
Corduroy: Bare brick walls, pressed-tin ceilings with an unpainted sheen, and tables in a variety of size and height configurations create an atmosphere as conducive to group dinners as to pre-theater cocktails and canoodling. Nice nibbles intended for sharing include roasted cauliflower in a Parmesan-herb crust and calamari with chiles and jalapeño cream; entrées span lemon chicken, beef and pork tenderloin, upscale sandwiches and eight salads.