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.
Mad Chef Gastropub's culinary innovators seize inspiration from European public house kitchens, folding the flavors of American comfort fare into a menu of fresh, house-made fare. Lauded as “addictive” in Phoenix magazine, poutine kicks off dinners or appetizer-fueled food fights with a sizzling mound of steak fries drowned in a slow-cooked house gravy and three-cheese sauce, then dusted with cheese curds ($5). Slabs of bacon steep in Jim Beam whiskey before chefs drape them across the MC's burger's half-pound of Angus beef, melted gruyère, and caramelized onions secured inside a brioche bun ($11). Diners can order the fish 'n' chips entree to crunch down on beer-battered cod or thwart the escape attempts of restive companions by slicking down floors with homemade tartar and slaw ($10).
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.
TK's Urban Tavern carefully constructs a menu of timeless pub staples using local farm ingredients, regional elements, and a modern flair. The open-show kitchen forges meals in full view of eager diners, putting on display such succulent entrees as the oven-roasted chicken, paired with polenta and dressed in an anchochili glaze ($15). Traditional tavern selections include a range of thin-crust pizzas ($10–$12), groups of medieval travelers, and innovative sandwiches such as the BLT ($9), which casts off its stodgy acronym by nestling wild arugula and a wayward fried egg in with applewood bacon and tomato on toasted nine-grain bread. Youthful appetites delight in a range of nutritious kid's entrees ($6), and grownups can complement menu choices with an extensive drink list populated by draft and bottled beers ($3–7.50), wines by the glass ($7–$12), and specialty cocktails ($8–$12). Located in the bustling Scottsdale Quarter, the tavern's savory selections make ideal openers or afterglows to shopping, movie outings, or long days as a human statue.
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.