Servers and patrons alike crunch across scattered peanut shells on the way to their tables at Teakwoods, a boisterous neighborhood watering hole crowned Best Sports Bar in 2009 by Phoenix New Times. A team of chefs cooks up classic American eats, including half-pound burgers, meaty sandwiches, and their award-winning wings, which can heat up gastro-chambers and cargo-pants pockets with flavors such as medium, hot, and honey-barbecue hot. As bartenders pour draft beers and concoct tasty libations, guests can catch their favorite sporting events on one of many high-definition TVs that broadcast events from the MLB, NFL, and UFC. When guests can't make it to the restaurant, Teakwoods' chefs cater fare to events, gatherings, and parties.
As the restaurant's website explains, Otaku means “obsessed, hardcore fan” in Japanese, which serves as an appropriate echo to the chefs' enthusiasm. Maki rolls in aesthetically pleasing arrangements have a starring role on the menu, employing sweet asian pear and mango to enhance savory slices of raw fish, sautéed scallops, and mushrooms. While sipping from 1 of 13 sakes, diners can also savor hot platters—such as curry chicken or crispy walnut prawns—or enjoy an omakase meal, where the chef presents five courses of off-the-menu rolls and dishes.
The culinary masters at Otaku also aim to “remove the veil of mystery” from sushi dining and preparation through their Otaku Academy. During the learning experiences, patrons of any knowledge level have the opportunity to sit down with a chef as he slices rolls and serves them with ample education.
Sweeping structural curves dressed in warm colors lead patrons through Otaku's dining room, characterized by its sushi bar and multiple counters for parties to dine upon. In a lower section of the dining room, a tree rises from the center of a circular stone counter with chairs, proving that trees thrive when fed salmon.
Using more than 30 spices, the chefs at Ocean Blue Caribbean Restaurant and Bar add super-potent complexity to jerk shrimp, a jerk turkey burger, and jerk chicken. Along with those dry-rubbed and wet-marinated meats, the culinary team crafts Caribbean classics such as ackee and saltfish, sweet potato pie, and Jamaican patties with fillings such as beef, fish, and veggies. “Loosen your belt for large portions and ready your taste buds for well-seasoned staples like brown stewed chicken, curry goat, and jerk chicken,” advises Phoenix Magazine, which has also praised the “excellent coconut curry shrimp” and the “light, pop-in-your-mouth cornmeal fritters,” known as “festivals” for their frequent use as parade confetti.
During daily meals and weekday all-you-can-eat-buffets, the aroma of sizzling meats and spices fill a cozy dining room where the green and yellow of Jamaica's flag brighten the walls. A thatched-roof, tiki-hut-style bar in the room's center help wash down feasts with wine, draft and bottled beers, and fresh-squeezed juices of tropical produce rarely seen stateside, such as soursop and irish moss.
If Cork's name doesn't give you enough indication of its focus on wine, just walk inside. There, you'll see the wine wall, a 25-foot-long, climate-controlled "cellar" that spans from the floor to the ceiling in full view of the dining room. The bottles that line this wall are nothing to scoff at: Wine Spectator has given the selection its Award of Excellence for the last four years. The wine list's excess of 400 options represents just a piece of Cork’s carefully curated cuisine, however. Sommelier Robert Morris and his pastry chef wife, Danielle, join forces with executive chef Brian Peterson to create ever-rotating menus for dinner, happy hour, and dessert. Though dishes typically change with the seasons, they always represent new American cuisine with a hint of European influence. Peterson makes sure to select the freshest and most flavorful ingredients to create these dishes, rejecting any produce that comes from a can or shows its age by speaking in Shakespearean English. Cork also serves up a once-a-month, four-course themed dinner, as well as a Sunday brunch on Easter and Mother’s Day.
Successfully polishing off one of Blu Burger's signature creations isn't always an easy feat. These meaty towers and onion buns teeter under the weight of generous portions of applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and melted cheeses dripping with housemade sauces. Though some diners try to tackle the five signature selections, others extend their culinary creativity to design their own burgers, choosing from an eclectic variety of bases?including Black Angus or Kobe beef, bison, and portobello mushrooms. Customers further customize patties with their choices of buns, cheeses, specialty toppings, and more than 10 types of sauces, which join the selection of 12 craft beers on tap.
In the bustling dining room, tinted windows cast a blue hue on funky artwork and colorful hanging lights. Outside, blue umbrellas speckle the courtyard, protecting diners from both the elements and the notice of paragliding Hamburglars.
It's not unusual to find Tammy, owner of Pearl Sushi Lounge & Bomber Bar, standing behind the bar at one of her two restaurant locations, chatting with customers while they sip her signature cocktails and sake bombs. Her crew of bartenders takes their tasks seriously, mixing up martinis infused with soju, sake, fresh fruit juices, and muddled blackberries, or pouring red and white wines straight from the special tap designed to prevent oxidation. Inside the kitchens, the chefs work with equal dedication, whether crafting classic california sushi rolls or the more inventive White Snake roll stuffed with sweet-potato tempura, tamago, asparagus, and cream cheese, and topped with escolar and a spicy peach sauce. Small plates sport crispy calamari sautéed with fresh ginger and garlic while Big Plate meals feature wok-charred beef and teriyaki salmon flanked with miso soup, salad, and steamed edamame.