Inventive Gastropub Cuisine | Multidimensional Cocktails | Addictive Bacon-Pecan Brittle
What to Drink: Science instructs the cocktail creations of mixologist Rich Moe. Try the Im-Port, a blend of Jameson whiskey, Sandeman tawny port, tobacco-and-leather-infused bitters, and Guinness stout foam. For something sweeter, Moe also mixes up a handcrafted sangria with pomegranate syrup.
Who's in the Kitchen? Chef Bernie Kantak is well known in the area for being the driving force behind Cowboy Ciao. It seems he has the Midas touch when it comes to restaurants. Under his guidance, Citizen Public House was named one of 2011's best new restaurants by Phoenix New Times and Esquire magazine.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Peruse the collection of authentic Native American ceramics and jewelry at Sewell's Indian Arts (7087 E. 5th Avenue).
After: Relax over a cocktail and jokes from comedians featured on Comedy Central and HBO at The Comedy Spot (7117 E. 3rd Avenue).
If You Can't Make It, Try: The Gladly (2201 E. Camelback Road), which showcases similarly inventive cuisine by Chef Kantak and cocktails by Moe, as well as one of the Valley's largest collections of whiskeys and scotches.
At My Wine Cellar, Le Cordon Bleu-educated chef Sarah Baer and in-house sommelier Katie Hallan team up to create a seasonally focused menu with boutique wine and craft beer pairings. Charcuterie and cheese share the menu with bistro-style snacks such as sweet potato chips with honey aioli and spicy crab dip, plus bruschettas, flatbreads, and sliders. The casual space includes a back patio with views of a golf course, and hosts various wine classes that teach students to appreciate different varietals, regional differences, and the rare, extra-chewy types of cork.
Ground Control’s cuisine reflects the cosmopolitan lifestyle of its owner, Sean, who offsets his nightly bartending with daily travels as a professional pilot. He and his wife, Tara, have also lived abroad, a sojourn that developed their taste for European dining. Now settled in Arizona, executive chef Chris Ibarra still satisfies their cravings—and those of their patrons—with scoops of house-made gelato atop stuffed crepes, short ribs braised in Guinness, and custom wood-fired pizzas crowned in ingredients such as roma tomatoes, duck, and gouda. Open for three meals a day, the eatery also anoints glasses with exotic ingredients by serving rich espresso drinks, creative cocktails, and sippy cups of water from the Fountain of Youth. Live music fills the space every Friday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Serial restaurateur Brian Metzger never lets success with his current restaurants stop him from making his next culinary dream a reality. The Abbey's intimate brick-and-stone dining room marks his second foray into comfortable fine dining. Along with executive chef Virginia ?Ginny? Wooters, he drafts a menu full of contemporary comforts, such as their take on updated versions of gnocchi and pot pie. Their influence extends from the kitchen to the full bar, where mixologists whip up craft cocktails spiked with fresh, seasonal fruit juices.
Whether seated on the wrap-around patio or gazing out the windows of the dining room or bar, a rolling vista of foothills tumbles away before diners' eyes, often igniting memories of joyfully rolling down hills as a child or painfully falling down hills as an adult.
When it first popped up at the intersection of Park and University, Wilko was a quick stop for UA students to grab some espresso or refrigerated food to-go. But a massive overhaul in 2010 transformed the space into a fully functional restaurant, and one that has continually added to its menu since.
As a modern gastropub, Wilko prepares all of its inventive comfort food right on-site. That includes sandwiches, flatbreads, and a group of "Tasty Misfits," which don't fit under any menu category, but come in the form of Sonoran bratwurst or pan-seared tilapia. In addition to the eats, diners can fill up empty water balloons or wash down bites with more than 30 wines, craft cocktails, and more than 10 beers on tap.