Varsity Tavern opens on Mill Ave. for food, fun and drinks.

Texas-based Reign Group is about to open their second concept this year along Tempe’s Mill Ave. When the Varsity Tavern opens in early December it will be located upstairs from Rodeo Ranch which opened in August.

Varsity Tavern will offer a dine, drink and play atmosphere both day and night with over 8,000 square feet of fun. A wrap around balcony will offer guests a great view of Mill Ave., Sun Devil Stadium and the sunset.

“With Varsity Tavern, we’re pushing the dining and entertainment limits on Mill. Ave.” says Josh Regan, co-owner of Reign Group. “We fully expect these concepts help Mill Ave. become an undisputed epicenter of the dine-drink-play movement in the valley” says Reagan.

Shrimp and Pasta. All photos courtesy of Duality PR & Varsity Tavern

Dine

Executive chef Albert Hernandez is no stranger to the Mill Ave. dining scene as he was the executive chef at Monti’s La Casa Vieja. The menu is inspired by James Beard award-winning chef Robert McGrath who helped Hernandez create the Texas style food with an Arizona twist.

The menu includes unique dishes such as Pot Roast sliders, Meat Toothpicks with Chimichurri & mashed potatoes and the Sloppiest Of Jospeh’s on an Onion Roll. Brunch will be served on Sundays and Mondays and offer Potted Huevos Rancheros, Big Benny and Bananas Foster french Toast.

Drink

Guests can expect a wide range of cocktails, craft beers and wine at Varsity Tavern. Whether it’s a Bloody Mary at Sunday brunch or bottle service on a Friday night all will quench people’s thirst.

A full-time craft cocktail artist is on staff and has created cocktails such as Spicy Margarita and Blueberry Mojito.

Play at Varsity Tavern

The sports bar turned nightclub atmosphere will offer DJ spinning most nights and hi-def television’s for sports fans. Nightly promotions will offer Gold Fish Races on Monday’s and Bada Bingo on Wednesday’s. A lively Happy Hour also happens on a regular basis.

Varsity Tavern is on the southeast corner of Mill Ave. & 5th St. Hours are Mon. – Wed. 11 a.m. – midnight, Thurs. & Fri 11 a.m. – 2 a.m., Sat 10:30 a.m. – 2 a.m. and Sun. 10:30 a.m. – midnight. For more information visit their website.

The Whining Pig Beer & Wine Bar opens at Desert Ridge Marketplace

The 6th location of The Whining Pig Beer & Wine Bar has opened in north Phoenix at Desert Ridge Marketplace. Across from Dave & Buster’s The Whining Pig will be the neighborhoods go to wine and beer bar that occupies more than 4,000 square feet.

Photos courtesy of The Whining Pig Beer & Wine Bar

The friendly and knowledgeable staff pours wines from around the world and over 125 craft beers from rotating taps. A selection of grilled cheese sandwiches and meat & cheese plates are available off the limited menu.

Vintage boards games and other forms of entertainment make the place good hang out with friends and family.

The bar opens daily at 1 p.m. and stays open til the late evening and early morning hours.

Scottsdale’s BLK Live offers a new upscale Social Hour menu

Scottsdale’s live entertainment venue and restaurant BLK Live has introduced a new Social Hour menu in time for the holidays. Friends and co-workers looking to celebrate can enjoy upscale comfort food, cocktails, beer and wine at special pricing.

The best part is the upscale happy hour is available twice a day Thursday – Sunday from 4 – 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. – close. Guests can enjoy Kobe meatballs, bourbon-glazed seared pork belly and crunchy coconut shrimp with mango chutney. Creative signature cocktails are offered at a reduced price along with $4 domestic drafts, well drinks and house wines are poured with $5 imported and craft beers.

BLK Live is at 7301 E. Butherus Dr. Scottsdale 85260. For more information visit their website.

BBQ, smoked meats and a pitmasters journey at Naked BBQ

There’s a lot of BBQ joints in and around Phoenix with more on the way. It’s one of my favorite foods so it’s always good to see what’s what and who’s who in the BBQ world. More times than not the people are just as good as the food they serve, this is one pit masters journey into the world of BBQ and smoked meats.

I visited Naked BBQ to taste the meats and get the lowdown from Oren Hartman  at his Scottsdale location. His affordable smoked meats and friendly service & atmosphere have Oren thinking about expanding his “Eat Naked” philosophy. Not one for the competition circuit he prefers to spend his time at the restaurants or any number of catering events he does with his staff and customers.

He has many friends in the BBQ community in Arizona and from his travels and many come through for a taste.

Naked BBQ

Growing up in New York there wasn’t much BBQ but college in Madison WI. and living in Chicago helped open his eyes to smoked meats.

Corporate America had Oren travel the country most weeks and not a fan of steakhouse dinners he would visit BBQ pits in the south and mid-west. When a buyout of the company allowed Oren to retire early he knew BBQ was his next career.

After much research and development Oren opened Naked BBQ 4 years ago at Bell Rd. & 23rd  Ave. in north Phoenix and a Scottsdale location last year.

Brisket, ribs and pork shoulder in the smoker

Naked BBQ is named as one of the 100 restaurants by Arizona Republic food editor Dominic Armato in his recent article “The Ultimate Guide to Phoenix Restaurants”.

The meats at Naked BBQ

The aromas of the oak and pecan wood capture you right when you walk in the door as you make your way up to the counter and menu board. No surprises here brisket, pulled pork, ribs, sausage, smoked chicken and few sides are all you need. Smoked in a meat carousel for up to 16 hours meats are usually pulled sooner if they tasted the way they should.

Naked is the way your meats arrive with 4 sauces available if you choose to. My first tray arrives with strips of brisket that are moist and have a thin layer of fat and are well smoked. My St. Louis style pork ribs tender and cling to the bone just my bite to help fall off. A side of warm mixed beans have chunks of meat scraps and a tinge of heat. Not a big fan of potato salad only a bite or two and I’ll save the calories for the meats.

Tray two brought 2 kinds of smoked sausage, pulled pork, mac n cheese and creamy & Carolina style cole slaws. The pile of pulled pork was juicy and flavorful.

Naked BBQ
Tray 2

Sausage is low on my BBQ priority list so it was good to taste the sausage situation. A lingering spiced sausage and a herbed savory link set the bar for me as I’ll have to start to save room for the links. All three sides were emptied as who can’t resist mac & cheese and I’m always craving a good home cole slaw(s).

Friday and Saturday night specials Oren smokes up Prime Rib then Brontosaurus (beef) ribs respectively.

Sauce it up

If you prefer to dress you meats with sauce there are 4 styles to choose from. Sweet, spicy, a North Carolina vinegar and a rarely seen South Carolina mustard sauce will give you a look at regionally diverse sauces.

If you want more heat ask for the hot pepper paste to stir into your sauces. If you dare taste the paste naked with the meat. A few local beers are on tap to help tamper down the heat.

Scouting for other locations to open Naked BBQ, collaborations with other pitmasters & friends and playing around with a retail line of sauces and rubs Oren’s second career tastes better than his first.

The 2 locations of Naked BBQ are..

2340 W. Bell Rd Phoenix 85023 Lunch only Mon. – Fri. 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. or til the meats gone. Fri. & Sat.  11a.m. 8 a.m.

10240 N. 90th St. Suite 105. Scottsdale 85258. Sun – Thurs 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sat. & Sun. til 9 p.m.

 

 

High quality and affordable steakhouse coming to Carefree

December is a busy month so you’ll want to keep a day open as Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse will be opening in Carefree. It will be the newest concept from the Keeler Hospitality Group who owns the Liberty Station Tavern and Smokehouse in DC Ranch and north Scottsdale. You won’t find the stuffy pretentious steakhouse vibe yet a more social house atmosphere.

“We are extremely elated about the introduction of this new concept and are looking forward to providing it to the diners of Carefree and to our city’s visitors from near and far,” says Paul Keeler, president and CEO of Keeler Hospitality Group. “Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse will satisfy the need for a high-value, top-of-the line steakhouse dining experience in Carefree while also staying true to the approachable and comfortable atmosphere the surrounding community.”

Steakhouse
Photos courtesy of Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse

A steakhouse menu in Carefree

Keeler Hospitality Group Executive Chef Anthony Apolinar will lead the culinary team. Apolinar knows his meat as he’s been working at both Liberty Station locations.

The menu at Keeler’s will feature specialty cuts of Certified Angus Beef, fresh seafood, chicken and classic American comfort food.

Diners will enjoy sharable “For the Table” starters Lobster Mac & Cheese, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Crab Cakes, Mussels and more. Steakhouse staples French Onion Soup and bisque’s along with Caesar, Wedge, Cobb and Mixed Greens salads will be offered.

“Neighborhood Favorites” entrees include Double Bone-In Pork Chops, seared Lamb Loin Chops and Braised Short Ribs. Specialty sides will complement your main dish including Blue Cheese Cream Spinach, White Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, Risotto and loaded hash browns.

Classic cocktails, Arizona beers and a well-balanced selection of wine by the bottle and the glass will be available.

Social house atmosphere in Carefree

A high-end comfortable atmosphere will welcome guests with several seating area offering a neighborhood feel. An island bar will attract guests to the open kitchen and outdoor dining will be available on the patio or rooftop deck.

Guests can enjoy lunch or dinner at Keeler’s Mon. – Sat. from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Dinner from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. Sun. – Thurs and til 10 p.m. Fri. & Sat. Happy Hour will be available daily from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. and brunch Sun. 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Keeler’s Neighborhood Steakhouse will be at 7212 Ho Hum Rd. Carefree 85377.

 

Huss Brewing Co. celebrates 5 Years of Chasing Dreams

One of Arizona’s favorite craft beer brewers, Huss Brewing Co. celebrates its 5th anniversary with a festival. The “5 Years of Chasing Dreams” festival will be Saturday October 27th at Singh Meadows in Tempe. The brewery was started by Leah and Jeff Huss.

“When we started five years ago, Jeff would brew the beer, filter the beer, deliver the beer and sell the beer out of the back of our very beat up F-150 pickup truck.” says Leah Huss. Huss Brewing now have a Tempe and Phoenix Taproom and legions of fans(myself included) can find the beers throughout Arizona on tap in restaurants and in cans in retailers.

The fun starts at 4 p.m. and will include live music from Huss’s Uptown Taproom GM Mike Chapman and Nashville based Los Colognes will headline. Award-winning Huss’s Family of Beers and seasonal & small batch beers will be poured and gourmet food served from local chefs.

The family friendly event will offer a kid friendly roast your own S’mores kit.

Tickets for the 5 Years of Chasing Dreams festival are $10 with food and beer purchased separately. Kids under 15 are free and tickets can be purchased here.

Singh Meadows is at 1490 E. Weber Dr. Tempe 85281.

 

Nothing’s better than BBQ, Bourbon & Beer at Mowry & Cotton

The Phoenician’s Mowry & Cotton restaurant is again hosting their signature BBQ, Bourbon & Beer Feast on Saturday October 27th. Chef de Cuisine Tandy Peterson cooks BBQ favorites smoked spare ribs and whole roasted pig paired with local beers and bourbon. Resort guests and locals are invited to this all-you-can-eat feast.

Guests will be able to sample beers from Four Peaks Brewing Co., Huss Brewing and Phoenix Ale House. Sip on bourbon from Buffalo Trace, Jim Beam and Woodford Reserve.

The 21 & over event offers guests the chance to mix & mingle as they sample food and drink on the patio and at stations inside the restaurant.

Seating is limited and tickets are $70 plus tax & gratuity and include unlimited food and 6 drink samples. The event goes from 1 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and reservations can be made by calling 480-423-2530 or by email. For more information visit their website.

 

 

Flix Brewhouse anchors Chandler’s Overstreet development

Downtown Chandler’s new Overstreet retail and dining spot just scored big with Flix Brewhouse as an anchor tenant. The nine auditorium movie house will include a restaurant and working microbrewery that will open this winter. Located at Chandler Blvd. and Arizona Ave. this will be the first Flix Brewhouse in Arizona.

“We’re thrilled to call Chandler our new home,” says Director of Marketing for Flix Brewhouse, Greg Johnson. “The East Valley is the perfect place for a dine-in movie-going concept. Plus, Chandler is already well-established on the national beer map, so we’re looking to really add to the city’s profile with our award-winning brews.”

What to expect at Flix Brewhouse

The state-of-the-art theater will offer dine-in food at every seat and offer first run movies on wide-format screens. Guests can order award-winning regionally inspired beers brewed in-house in small batches to compliment the gastropub food menu.

Pizza. All Photos courtesy of Evolve Public Relations and Marketing

On the food side expect appetizers, wraps, salads, burgers, pizza and a brunch menu. A dessert menu and kid’s menu is also available. Flix Brewhouse sources regional produce and use scratch-made dough.

Each theater will include wide seats, ultra high resolutions 50 foot screens, Dolby sound technology and digital projection.

Brewery

The Overstreet development will opening in December and you can get update’s for the Chandler location at their website.

 

 

KOVO Modern Mediterranean to open in northeast Phoenix

Long time restaurateur Yianni Ioannou opens his new restaurant KOVO Modern Mediterranean in mid-September on the northeast corner of Shea & Tatum. Growing up in Cyprus he came to the United States and operated Greek restaurants learning all aspects of the restaurant industry.

According to Ioannou, “We are excited to bring to the Valley the simple, delicious flavors and bright spices of the Mediterranean. This area of the globe is a melting pot of cultures and culinary influences. This diversity of cuisine will be showcased at KOVO in a modern, approachable way.”

Traditional dishes at KOVO Modern Mediterranean

KOVO Modern Mediterranean will highlight traditional dishes from family recipes, Yianni’s travels throughout the region and his time in the Greek restaurants. A wood fired oven will cook pizzas and other specialties including lamb, beef and organic chicken. KOVO is Greek for “to carve” and the meats will be cooked vertically in a rotisserie style in the open kitchen.

Shared plates such as hummus, tzatziki, grilled eggplant, grilled octopus and Hallumi will be served along with cheese boards and bruschetta. Savory and sweet pastries including Spanokapita and Baklava will also be served and available for take-out.

Signature cocktails, craft beers and old and new world wines will be served.

The 4,000 square foot restaurant will have an open feel and modern design. Mediterranean tiles and ocean blue accents will highlight design features. The dining room, bar and patio has room for more than 140 guests.

Kovo Modern Mediterranean will be open 7 days a week with lunch and dinner Monday – Friday and brunch and dinner on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is at 10625 N. Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix, Ariz., 85028. For updates and information check out http://www.kovomedi.com/

 

Enjoy Arizona only beers, wines and spirits at 1st annual AZ Barrels, Bottles & Brews festival

Arizona is on the worldwide map with its craft beers, wines and spirits with the trophies and awards given over the last few years. To showcase all things Arizona there will be the first ever AZ Barrels, Bottles & Brews festival at Salt River Fields on November 3rd.

Arizona
Photo courtesy of Salt River Fields

The beers, wines and spirits will be made exclusively for the festival and use Arizona yeast, hops, grapes and water.

With a great view of the McDowell Mountains from the concourse of Salt River Fields festival goers will be able to sample from 2-5 p.m.

Over 30 brewers, wineries and distillers are scheduled to participate and the list keeps growing. SanTan Brewing Co., Helton Brewing, Elgin Distillery, Cellar 433 and McFate Brewing are a few of those announced.

Tickets are limited and are $50 for 12 drink samples and access to food trucks to purchase food. V.I.P tickets are available at $65 and allow entry an hour early at 1 p.m. Designated drivers pay only $19 and get a free swag bag. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the festival website.

Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is at 7555 N. Pima Rd. Scottsdale, AZ