Six Best New Restaurants of 2011

Categories: Top Lists
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Sure the economy blew this year, but several new Valley restaurants took a chance anyway and opened their doors in 2011. From Cambodian cuisine, to Texas barbecue, to "crazy cook" Italian, here are some of the new places we're most excited about.
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Opened: March 2011 | Cuisine: Cambodian | Price: Under $10 It isn't just a new Cambodian restaurant in the Valley, it's the only Cambodian restaurant in the Valley. And lucky for us, it's a good one. Nearly hidden off Indian School Road in Central Phoenix, once inside, its cheery and colorful interior (plus '60s rock 'n' roll music in Khmer on its speakers) sets the scene for wallet-friendly, classic Khmer cuisine courtesy of chef and owner Lakhana In. Try a rice paper spring roll or the warm beef salad, then move on to sweet-and-sour beef sausages or amok, the national dish of Cambodia with curried fish or shrimp. Questions? In's son Yutheana, who runs the front-of-the-house, is always happy to help. Read the review here.

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Texas BBQ House 
Opened: May 2011 | Cuisine: Texas Barbecue | Price: Under $10 If you're looking for Texas barbecue inspired by Lockhart, Texas, then this unassuming, cash-only joint in South Phoenix should get 'er done nicely. Armed with family dry rub recipes, Mike Pitt and his Texas expat crew serve up meat cooked low and slow, smoked over oak wood, and sold deli-style in a no-frills space where their signature sauce isn't necessary, but it's there if you want it. Start with the heavenly moist brisket, then move on to plump and peppery sausages, a sinfully good sandwich of chopped beef, or a turkey breast that, thanks to a rosemary rub, tastes like Thanksgiving Day. Plates? That would be the butcher paper. Trays? Those would be the Pepsi cartons. Utensils? Unless they're for side dish or dessert, they're your hands -- son. Read the review here.

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Timo 
Opened: October 2011 | Cuisine: Italian, New American | Price: $11-$30 This stylish but snug new restaurant from both the owner, Heinrich Stasiuk, and the chef, Mercer Mohr of Brick, the gourmet pizzeria in Downtown Phoenix, might just make Sunnyslope a regular go-to destination for wine and wood-fired fare. With a sprawling, flora-filled patio, retractable garage doors, and an interior of gray, brown and cream, the oven, the only means of cooking, kicks out fresh baked bread every morning. A fact you'll appreciate after consuming a loaf of it slathered in pesto or apple butter, or when it's used as a foundation for luscious bruschetta, flatbreads, and two-handed hoagies like the prosciutto, copa, and triple cream Brie, or for sopping up what's left of signature dishes like the heavenly short rib tajine.

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Cuoco Pazzo 
Opened: September 2011 | Cuisine: Italian | Price: $11-$30 When chef Peter DeRuvo left Prado in Paradise Valley after only nine months, the Valley food community barely had time to catch its collective breath before he announced his newest venture: Cuoco Pazzo, Italian for "crazy cook," in Old Town Scottsdale. As co-owner and executive chef, DeRuvo had the open and warm lunch and dinner establishment blessed by Tibetan monks. Along with a stellar wine list, DeRuvo's ambitious menu, inspired by the Roman feast, includes house-cured meats, hand-rolled fresh pastas, Mediterranean seafood specialties, and wood-fired pizzas. Don't miss the orecchietti or the delectable crispy half duck -- and don't be surprised if DeRuvo stops by your table to say hello.

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Citizen Public House 
Opened: January 2011 | Cuisine: American | Price: $11-$30 Former Cowboy Ciao culinary master chef Bernie Kantak opened his stylish yet relaxed restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale at the beginning of the year and the Valley still hasn't stopped buzzing about it. Featuring classic American fare with a delicious kick in the ass, the menu includes picture-perfect scallops, standout starters like the luscious pork belly pastrami the Original Chopped Salad (so popular it has its own Facebook page), and dreamy desserts courtesy of Tracy Dempsey. Partner and mixologist Richie Moe devotes as much attention to the libations as Kantak does to the food. And with the recent opening of Citizen R + D, the innovative cocktail lounge upstairs (co-owned by Moe), it's just one more reason to keep CPH on your favorite restaurant playlist. Read the review here.

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Barrio Queen and Silvana Bistro Opened: December 2011 | Cuisine: Mexican | Price: $11-$30 Like two extra gifts of goodness for the holidays, Valley legend and the chef and owner of Barrio Café, Silvana Salcido Esparza, opened Barrio Queen, her casual Mexican eatery, on December 26, and plans to open her second concept next door, the more elegant Silvana Bistro, on New Year's Eve. Barrio Queen will sit alongside Silvana Bistro in the SouthBridge space in Old Town Scottsdale and will offer an all-day breakfast, bakery, several weekend specials, over 350 kinds of tequila, and Mexican specialty dishes such as tlacoyos and red or green pork chile in addition to tamales, elotes, chiles rellenos, Mexican-style french fries, tortillas, blue and white corn masa quesadillas, cemitas, and tons of tacos.The second restaurant concept from Esparza, Silvana Bistro, does not yet have a menu, but Esparza tells me she intends to release it a few days before the opening after she shops the farmers markets to see what they have on hand.

What say you, Valley restaurant ravers? What was your favorite new place to eat this year?

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41 comments
mv_sidow
mv_sidow

What say you?I say it was a sad day when the Metro Cafe closed. For my money, it was the best food in Scottsdale.A little taste of Paris at the Waterfront.Now it's a taco stand....yawn.

PattyinPHX
PattyinPHX

if you notice, there's nothing BEST about the review... its the places nt is most excited about..." here are some of the new places we're most excited about." i, for one, am most excited about the barrio concepts because of who's behind the food... and the ETHICS of the food. chef silvana rocks and is bringing all sorts of flavor to a neighborhood that appreciates her activism, bold confidence and commitment to the arts.  and thank god for the good grub in a hood that normally causes my poket book to seize everytime i eat well... the queen is gonna keep the people fed, well and with love! you go silvana!!! just sayin.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

"if you notice, there's nothing BEST about the review..."

Um, Patty... the title of the post is "Six Best New Restaurants of 2011," and it counts down from six to one.  I'm not sure what other message we're supposed to get here  :-)

Loopguy
Loopguy

So f*ing typical

mitchell_hoverman
mitchell_hoverman

and I meant typical of the new times, not of you silvana!  I can't wait to try the place... just stating that yet another let down appears at the pens of the Phoenix New Times journalists.  

ChefMexicana
ChefMexicana

All I have to say is "holy shit" I better deliver, right ese?  I am sure I will make mistakes, I will have a shitty server here and there.  A missed taco, probably.  The baker will have too many cervezas and not show up.  Shit happens.  No need to worry, those things will get fixed.  It's the food baby.  I have to deliver on the food.  Give me a week.  I promise you all this; I have poured my heart and soul into this place and so has my staff.  How can you go wrong with that?  Todo con Amor.  I mean, the Barrio Cafe is less than perfect, but turning 10 years in a few months.

Sean Murray
Sean Murray

Been there 2x in the last 2 days. Food was spectacular, but service was very bad with most of our plates today being somewhat cold. Tacos got all mixed up as far as ingredients and ended up being amazing concoctions as far as the flavors.

I will be going again irregardless, as there are so many things to try.

WO
WO

It has been a tough couple of years in Phoenix, various business & restaurant closures, etc. I just wonder what it says about Phoenix in general if the BEST new restaurant we have to offer has been open only a day. I feel sorry for anyone else on that list, or those that didn't even make it. Time to change their game, I guess.

AZFOREVER208II
AZFOREVER208II

I AM SITTING AT BARRIO QUEEN HAVING THE BEST CHILAQUILES EVER.  WAY TO GO.  

jumping the gun
jumping the gun

 I am at Barrio Queen using the restroom. The toilet seats are so cushy, I feel like I'm crapping on a cloud! This place is simply the best.

Concerned Eater
Concerned Eater

Well, obviously naming a restaurant that opened at the same time as publication as the #1 new restaurant of the year is pretty clearly an indication that the New Times' food reviews are entirely based off of hype and hipness -- but then, if you're any kind of a regular reader, you already knew that.  These reviews are almost entirely worthless -- aside from finding out a place is open, you'll never really learn anything about a restaurant, other than how much the reviewer believes they're supposed to like it.  

What a bunch of garbage..

JohnnyBeGood298
JohnnyBeGood298

Citizen's PH is also great.  Have you had the pastrami pork belly?  out of this world.  Barrio Queen and CPH deserve to be 1 and 2.  

JohnnyBeGood298
JohnnyBeGood298

Wow, one day and it's not only on a list, but number one?!  Had to go find out for myself.  Laura is right.  I have never seen anything like this in my life.  Un-effing-real!  I think Laura is spot on.

Your crowning moment
Your crowning moment

 So, let me get this straight: You, too, rushed over to the restaurant, had one eating experience, and based solely upon that singular experience, you now also can authoritatively proclaim this restaurant as "Best." You know what, Johnny? I think you have all it takes to become the next restaurant critic for New Times. Move over, Howard, Michele, Nikki, Carey, etc. Here's Johnny... 

jumping the gun
jumping the gun

  Here's the thing: How can you call something "Best" that can barely claim anything more than mere up-and-running status. Perception is reality, folks. Attach "best" to a restaurant piece, and reader's will assume you've made an educated and informed assessment of the conceptual, operational and edible virtues of the place.  By simply proclaiming a place first-rate before the smoke from the opening gun clears, on the other hand, how can you expect to accomplish anything more than shooting yourself in the foot from a credibility standpoint?  I can't help but wonder how the owner herself feels about all this noise. 

azfoody
azfoody

Citizens Public House is a disappointment for a restaurant if you are the least bit hungry. Either that or adjust your price range for the place.  The portions are very small although tasty.  For the price of scallops (appx $20 if I recall) they can give me more than 2 (or was it 3) scallops !  I was so hungry after eating this I had to go somewhere else to eat !  I am alsonot sure why a place in old town who is competing with so many other mediocre restaurants wants to showcase sausages as one of their highlights on the menu.  Really ?  Sausage ? Won't be going back.

Joel LaTondress
Joel LaTondress

You know, when I first read this I was ready to jump on the bandwagon against including Barrio Queen on this list for reasons already mentioned.  But I walked away and thought about it some more, and it occurred me that those of us who care a great deal about this topic (I'm including myself here) often get frustrated when popular chefs open places in this economy and they don't "hit the ground running".  Critics have typically given the place maybe 4-6 weeks for the FOH and BOH to shake out the opening jitters, but the new mantra is that things should be smooth out of the gate.  Who's right?  

Perhaps Laura is choosing to believe that 24 hours is enough to get a restaurant running smoothly and pump out it's best food.  

In reality, that's impossible, and does anyone really expect it?  When was the last time you went to a new place that had ten typos on the menu?  Opening blunders, oversights - it happens.

Given what I know of Silvana, I'm sure this place will be great.  But critics aren't supposed to compose "Best Of" lists via rose-colored glasses.

Sekong by Night?  I was one of their very first customers.  The food was pretty good, but the service didn't get better, even six months into their opening.  Neither did the marginal-quality beef and seafood.

This is why sites like Yelp are becoming more popular than "food blogs".  This saddens me.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

I don't see any issue with writing something about a place right when it opens.  We understand that a scant few if any places are truly firing on all cylinders on day one.  We take that into account, and the posts/writeups/reviews that follow fill in and provide perspective over the next couple of months.  It isn't like the old days when you'd get that major critic's review and then not find out if the place had gotten it together until they revisited it 3-4 years down the road. Now there's a constant stream of information. If a place irons out the kinks, we'll hear about it.

The issue, I think, is that there's a huge gulf between writing *something* and making such a big claim.  Even if you write immediately, I think at least a modicum of wait-and-see is warranted.

guest
guest

I'm glad that the restaurants listed aren't ALL in Scottsdale.

MatthewCook
MatthewCook

Rotolo's has been open since the day after Thanksgiving 2010 and have created quite the following. Italian food with Cajun flair......why were'nt they included?

Rotolo's is a restaurant and bar in Mesa AZ right off the 60

MatthewCook
MatthewCook

2011 typo sorry!

Guest
Guest

They opened in 2010. But I agree, they are unique and delicious.

Rick
Rick

Laura, you have forever lost your credibility with me.  According to you, the best new restaurant of 2011 opened yesterday. That is simply incredible. The New Tiomes restaurant reviewer is provent o be nothing more than a shill for someone she likes. Shame.

Dogbiter
Dogbiter

You're an idiot! What do you think restaurant reviewers do, fool? They always shill for places the like. It's their freakin' job!

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

A shill is somebody who's promoting a place not just because they love the food (or even if they don't), but because they have some other kind of interest -- financial, social, etc.  And within food writing circles on the internet, it usually implies less than ethical practices.  Neither of those describe what any restaurant reviewer should be doing, Dogbiter.

*I* certainly didn't mean to imply any sort of ethical lapse.  I assume the NT folks have eaten there, and if they feel it's the best new restaurant of 2011 based on what they've had, they're free to say so.  I just think the paint should at least be dry before handing out the blue ribbon, particularly when there are other deserving folks.

Vicelord
Vicelord

Not really, their job is to provide non biased critique of restaurants, not blindly proclaim a place to be the best restaruant in the city on the day after its opening.

Shooter McGaven
Shooter McGaven

It's not possible that the place kicks so much ass that it made the list? We already know that Barrio Cafe has great food (the service is another story). Why is it that hard to believe the new place isn't worthy? Looking at the photos and menus, it looks amazing.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

"Why is it that hard to believe the new place isn't worthy?"

It isn't a question of whether it's good or not.  It's a question of whether it should at least be open long enough to show a little consistency and that its routine non-preview non-opening night menu and service is up to snuff before being declared the best new restaurant of the year.

Vicelord
Vicelord

you wish, all I noticed was that god awful rag you were wearing on your head.

Linda
Linda

yeap. that was me. you were the one checking out my tits. 

Vicelord
Vicelord

You must have been one of the two annoying women sitting next to me by the back window, checking yelp on your phone and complaining that you didn't get the first to review, speaking to the Hispanic waiter as if he were retarded, and generally being rude and condescending to everyone around you.

Linda
Linda

went on opening day. lots of food was not available. our party's food was served to another table. sorry to say, the queen needs some "tweeking" before i'd take guests there again. 

Vicelord
Vicelord

Oh, I just noticed that all of these places are advertisers.

Alison
Alison

Vicelord - are you high?  None of the above advertise with New Times except for Texas BBQ.  Maybe you should check your information before attacking the credibility.  

Vicelord
Vicelord

I wanted to post the same sentiment as Dominic. It's been open ONE FREAKING DAY! I went last night, it was good, but one of the top six new restaurants of 2011?

Way to jump the gun, Laura.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

So the best new restaurant of 2011 is one that's been serving food for less than 24 hours?

I know there's a lot of excitement about the place, but are we so hard up for new restaurants that we're handing out "best of" awards based on buzz and previews?  Only the most pedantic internet trolls would give you a hard time for including them on 2012's list if they turn out to be great.  Why not mention some other wonderfully deserving places instead?

I nominate ShinBay or Tacos Atoyac to take Barrio Queen's place.

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