Joyride Taco House Delivers a Good Time Despite Uninspiring Food

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
At Joyride Taco House, the vibe seems to outshine the food.
Considering that "joyride" is defined as "a fast and dangerous ride, especially one in a stolen vehicle," it would make sense to assume that Joyride Taco House delivers a pretty exciting meal. Unfortunately that doesn't exactly hold true, particularly when it comes to the menu of modern Mexican eats.

The restaurant, which had two locations in Gilbert and Central Phoenix, comes courtesy of Upward Projects, the team that's brought the Valley Postino, Federal Pizza, Windsor, and Churn. And as such, you can count of a super-hip design. The CenPho Joyride -- housed in an old Humpty Dumpty restaurant -- features colorful tiles, a spacious patio, and friendly servers. It might be enough to keep you coming back but dishes like the soggy, fishy Crispy Fish Tacos probably won't do much to help.

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A Farewell to Karsh's Bakery, The Valley's Best Jewish Bakery

Categories: Cafe Review

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Evie Carpenter
A loaf of the Jewish bakery's famous challah bread.
For more than four decades Karsh's Bakery was famous in this town, one of best and longest-lasting Jewish bakeries in a city where finding good rye bread and rugalach can pose a real challenge. So when news broke the bakery would be closing its doors, customers jumped at the chance to grab one last loaf of pumpernickel and a handful of black-and-white cookies. In the bakery's last day of business on Wednesday, March 26, customers flooded the shop with business.

But the truth is that these days connivence had taken precedence over quality and most customers pick up their rye bread at a grocery store instead of a bakery. It's the end of era, perhaps not only for Karsh's but for all bakeries of its type.

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Snooze in Central Phoenix Struggles to Live Up to the Hype

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
Snooze serves an ambitious menu that winds up feeling slighltly anonymous.
Whether it's a humble meal of eggs and toast or an elaborate dish of eggs Benedict and handmade pastry, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day and it's the meal Snooze, and A.M. Eatery in Central Phoenix specializes in serving -- every day until 2:30 p.m. The restaurant chain, founded in Denver in 2006, made its way to the Valley late last year, bringing with it a signature brand retro-cool design and environmentally-sensitive cuisine.

No matter when you come by for a meal you're likely to have to wait for a table at this buzzed-about spot, but is it really worth the hype?

The answer isn't straightforward. Some dishes, like the strongly recommended chilaquiles Benedict, hit the nail on the head -- while in other circumstances, the dishes can fall flat.

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Deer Valley Airport Restaurant Serves Hearty, Homespun Fare

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
Deer Valley Airport Restaurant's chicken enchilada plate.
As general aviation declines, small airports around the state and country are forced to shut down their runways for good. It's understandable -- not everyone wants to hear the sound of low flying aircraft in their backyard or smell the fumes of jet fuel when they step outdoors. But as these small airports close, we lose more than just a place for pilots to land their plane. We also lose the restaurants that serve them.

Deer Valley Airport Restaurant is one of this dying breed of dining destinations, a place where the line between "airport restaurant" and "a restaurant at an airport" begin to blur. On one hand, the dining room's aviation-centric decor and view of two busy runways assures that this is definitely an airport restaurant. But looking at the menu alone, it would be easy to imagine this spot somewhere in the eastern United States, diners specializing in homespun and hearty fare can easily be found. Dishes like the near-perfect pork chop and satisfying Sloppy Joe make this restaurant one that we'd hate to see go.

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Pallets Food and Bar on Roosevelt Row Is a Nice Neighborhood Place

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
Pallets' menu reveals a smattering of offerings from Japan, China, Thailand, and Vietnam.
It's hard to see the logic in the name Pallets Food and Bar until you go there. By name alone, it would seem to make more sense that the name be "Palates," a reference to the sense of taste. Or even "Palettes," a potential reference to the fact that the restaurant sits in the heart of the downtown arts district.

But once you step inside the pan-Asian eatery, it becomes clearer that the name refers to the old, weathered wood planks that cover the walls. They're the same kind of planks that make up shipping pallets. The decor choice summons mental images of overseas shipping and far flung ports -- and that's a perfect connection to this restaurant's menu, which offers diners a culinary journey through Japan, China, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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Virtu Honest Craft in Scottsdale: Serving Simplicity Refined With Mediterranean Flavor

Categories: Cafe Review

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Evie Carpenter
Chef Gio Osso's dishes are as pretty as they are tasty.
Chef Gio Osso is getting a lot of acclaim from his new restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale and it's pretty easy to see why once you get a taste. From his artful presentation to his subtle hand at seasoning, his dishes showcase each component with confidence and finesse. Seared ahi tuna, smokey charred octopus, and fresh pasta are featured on the menu now, but his ever-changing menu will keep you coming back time and time again to see what Osso has up his sleeve at Virtu Honest Craft.

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The Stand Serves Hecho en Arcadia Burgers and Tacos

Categories: Cafe Review

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Evie Carpenter
The Standard burger with bacon, onions and jalapenos, hand cut fries, chocolate chili shake, vegetable taco and a Mexican coke.
We're not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way Central Phoenix's Arcadia neighborhood became the unofficial burger capital of metro Phoenix. So when The Stand opened, we were disappointed to hear the area would be getting yet another burger-centric joint. After an underwhelming first visit it took a while for us to walk through the doors again. But we're sure happy we did.

The restaurant is a mash-up of a burger joint and a taquería, and the burger part of the operation encompasses only one item: The Standard. It's a double stacked burger reminiscent of In-N-Out's Double Double, and it's up to you to add on cheese, grilled jalapeño, grilled onions, and other extras. And even though the salted dulce de leche shake milkshake is reason enough to return, the real reason The Stand stands out is because if the consistently enthusiastic service.

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The Brooklyn Cafe in Scottsdale Keeps Real Cooking Alive

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
The Brooklyn Cafe: Old-school charms meets great flavors and impeccable preparation.
For more than two decades, Voltaire in Scottsdale served the same menu of classic French-inspired fare. Dishes like Beef bourguignon, oysters Rockefeller, and Duck a l'orange stayed, while restaurants elsewhere worked to incorporate buzzy concepts like "organic," "free range," and "all-natural" into the mix.

But in August, the restaurant reopened under a new name, The Brooklyn Cafe. And along with the new moniker, chef and owner David Antonelli introduced a new menu and design. The Brooklyn Cafe still appeals to the Voltaire customer base with top-notch service. But for newcomers, there's plenty to appreciate, too. Through dishes like veal blanquette and escargot, Antonelli shows that he's perfected the art of classic preparations, turning out the subtle flavors and time-intensive sauces that are hard to find these days.

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Ingo's Tasty Food in Phoenix Serves Nearly Perfect Burgers

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
Eat at Ingo's: Sandwiches, anyway -- including the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the Ingo Burger.
The most recent addition to the cluster of dining spots at the intersection of Campbell and 40th Street is Ingo's Tasty Food, a round, metal-and-brick building in which chef Dom Ruggerio crafts truly tasty hamburgers. The restaurant, named after the childhood music teacher of one of LGO's owners, offers diners a single curved counter with twelve bar stools and nice views of the culinary action.

Ingo's does get a little gimmicky, with a handwritten Post-It note specials and a complicated queuing system. But as our guest reviewer Robrt Pela reports this week, Ingo's burger make it all worthwhile. Ruggerio begins by cooking a thick puck of grass-fed beef to a perfect medium-rare. And unlike at other burger joints, you won't find these patties smothered in superfluous toppings and obscure cheese. The simple cheddar Cheeseburger is a basic and near-perfect as it gets, while the Ingo Burger shines as a juicy take on classic Reuben sandwich.

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The Clever Koi in Phoenix Is Innovative but Sometimes Overly Complicated

Categories: Cafe Review

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Jackie Mercandetti
Steamed buns look more like tacos, another creative take at Clever Koi.
We've been excited about The Clever Koi since as soon as we heard that chefs Jared Porter and Joe Absolor, both formerly of The Parlor, were opening a modern Asian eatery in Central Phoenix. The restaurant was one of the most-anticipated in recent memory for many a food lover, but high expectations can be a recipe for a disaster.

Fortunately, that's not the case here, as our guest reviewer Eric Schaefer reports this week. The Clever Koi's menu of progressive, ingredient-driven Asian food offers some dishes that hit the mark -- and when they're good, they're really good. The Massaman Udon/Red Curry/Roasted Duck is the kind of dish you'll want to return for with its massaman paste, coconut milk, pickled peppers, and perfectly firm noodles. Unfortunately, other plates will leave you wondering if the far-reaching menu that covers Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese spin-offs has the kitchen stretching a tad too far.

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