Twisted Grove Parlor + Bar in Scottsdale: Oysters, Salads, and Housemade Ricotta for Dessert

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Twisted Grove in Scottsdale is an approachable neighborhood restaurant.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
Twisted Grove in Scottsdale
Restaurant: Twisted Grove
(formerly Twisted Root)
Location: 8220 North Hayden Road
Open: Almost a month
Eats: American
Price: $25+/person

With Wally's American Pub and Grassroots Kitchen and Tap, chef Chris Collins mastered the art of opening and operating a neighborhood restaurant. The ingredients are pretty simple: a menu that's safe but feels fresh, service that's casual and friendly, and an atmosphere that makes your clientele feel at ease.

And knowing of his other restaurants' success, it should come as no surprise that Collins' latest endeavor also delivers all three of those things.


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FrinGo's Kitchen in Chandler Serves Seriously Homestyle Puerto Rican Food

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
FrinGo's Kitchen serves Puetro Rican fare in a Chandler strip mall.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
FrinGo's Kitchen
Restaurant: FrinGo's Kitchen
Location: 2160 North Alma School Road, Suite 116, Chandler
Open: About a month
Eats: Puerto Rican
Price: $10/person

We wouldn't blame you for thinking, "Well, this place can't be that good. It doesn't even have mofongo," when you first look at the menu at FrinGo's Kitchen. After all, the mashed plantain dish is pretty much a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine.

But then you pick what you do want from the compact menu, and the man behind the counter turns to the kitchen says, "Ma!" and recites your order to a woman in the kitchen.

Suddenly, you have hope.


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Milk Bar Brings Polish Eats and European Style to Downtown Phoenix

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
A place to get pierogi and Polish beer? We'll take it.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
Milk Bar in downtown Phoenix
Restaurant: Milk Bar
Location: 801 North Third Street
Open: About three weeks
Eats: Polish
Price: $10 to $15/person

"This would do well in Chicago," remarks the guy sitting at the next table over.

And he's probably right. But on a Thursday evening, despite its high-visibility location in downtown Phoenix, the newly opened Milk Bar is mostly empty.

The restaurant's odd name becomes less odd when you learn it's the English translation of bar mleczny, the name of the Polish dining institution that dates back to the Communist Era. These bar/restaurants served simple, traditional Polish food to laborers back then, and this Milk Bar aims to bring the tradition into the modern era.

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Kale & Clover in Scottsdale Does Health Food Right

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
It's easy to be enchanted by the comfortable design at restaurateur German Osio's latest spot.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
Inside the dining room at Kale & Clover
Restaurant: Kale & Clover
Location: 20511 N. Hayden Road
Open: About three weeks
Eats: Health food
Price: $15-$20/person

Sitting on the patio at Kale & Clover in Scottsdale with a plastic glass full of Arizona-made wine can feel almost as comfortable as sitting at home. With strings of lights floating overhead and plush outdoor furniture to sink into, this latest spot from local restaurateur German Osio (Local Bistro, Central Bistro, SumoMaya) is both a stylish dining destination and an unpretentious place to enjoy a leisurely meal.

The food here, according to the restaurant's tagline, is "mindful." But the word doesn't just refer to the fact that the menu focuses on healthy, mostly vegetarian eats. We were happy to find that each of the dishes we tried on our visit were also carefully prepared and most important, easy to enjoy.


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Aaron May's The Yacht Club in Arcadia Isn't Sailing Smoothly Quite Yet

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Charred octopus at The Yacht Club needed a little more char.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: The Yacht Club
Location: 4231 Indian School Road, Phoenix
Open: About a week
Eats: Seafood
Price: $20+ per person

Seafood is having a moment right now in Phoenix. Maybe it's because we desert inhabitants need to taste the saltiness of the ocean every now and then -- if only in oyster form -- or maybe it's because we're finally revolting at being known for as long as "steak and potatoes" kind of town. Either way, there's been a serious influx of East Coast-inspired seafood restaurants cropping up in, of all places, Phoenix.

The myth that it's impossible to get good seafood in our dry and landlocked state has been false for years, and to prove that you really don't have to look very hard. There are several places in town that serve fresh, and well-prepared seafood.

Unfortunately, right now, chef Aaron May's Yacht Club isn't one of them.

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Jorge's Chicken and Waffles in Tempe Has a Chicken and Waffle Cone -- and It's Not Bad

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Chicken and waffles from Jorge's Chicken and Waffles in Tempe
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
Inside Jorge's Chicken and Waffles
Restaurant: Jorge's Chicken and Waffles
Location: 1212 E. Apache Blvd, Tempe
Open: About a month
Eats: Chicken & waffles, Mexican
Price: $15 and under/person

Jorge's Chicken and Waffles. Even the name is intriguing. And when you look at the menu -- a diverse assortment of dishes that includes fried chicken, Belgian waffles, and carne asada tacos -- this new Tempe restaurant is at least worth a try.

Located next-door to Curry Corner, the 3,200-square-foot Jorge's Chicken and Waffles offers a large dining room and a side patio with views of busy Apache Boulevard, as well as a full bar. We stopped by for an early Friday dinner, and enjoyed a quiet meal in a mostly empty restaurant.

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Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale: Painkillers and Bacon Beignets at Peter Kasperski's Latest (Rotating) Concept

Categories: First Taste, Hooch

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Lauren Saria
Micah Olson makes a New Orleans-inspiried cocktail at Counter Intuitive in Scottsdale.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

This one, by the way, is more of a First Sip.

Day-drinking be damned. Weekday drinking, too -- or so the story goes for the highly-anticipated cocktail concept from Cowboy Ciao and Kazimierz World Wine Bar owner Peter Kasperski, which is now open to the public as Counter Intuitive. Only awake from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the menu features cocktails from top-shelf Valley talents Micah Olsen and Jason Asher and will change themes every few months. First up: Infused bourbons and a Bourbon Street-infused menu with a back story: a New Orleans estate sale for the deceased, sadly fictitious Bartholomew Chesterfield Ignatius Sugarman.

We went to pay our condolences.

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The Montauk in Scottsdale: Great Patio -- But Skip the Lobster Roll

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Lobster Roll from The Montauk
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

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Lauren Saria
Inside The Montauk
Restaurant: The Montauk
Location: 4360 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Open: About three weeks
Eats: New American
Price: $15 to $20+/person

Designed to look something like a Long Island beach house, this new spot took over the building that formerly housed Bungalow, a sports bar and restaurant. With a new white paint job on the outside and a dining room decorated in eclectic, East Coast preppy style inside, there's no doubt that, at least aesthetically, The Montauk is a nice change.

As for the menu, it almost seems as if The Montauk can't decide between embracing its Long Island theme and appeasing the tastes of Scottsdale's conservative and health-driven diners. You'll find clam chowder and a lobster roll, but also an $11 hot dog and green curry shrimp.

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Cafe Tranquilo at The Clarendon Hotel Isn't Quite as Good as Gallo Blanco -- Yet

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
A selection of tacos from Cafe Tranquilo at The Clarendon.
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Cafe Tranquilo
Location: 401 West Clarendon Avenue
Open: Less than two weeks
Eats: Mexican
Price: $10 to $20 a person

Fans of Gallo Blanco at The Clarendon Hotel aren't done mourning the loss of the popular restaurant. But already, there's a new restaurant in the space. Really, it's just a new version of Gallo Blanco that's not operated by or associated with former restaurant operator Doug Robson.

The new iteration of the restaurant is called Cafe Tranquilo, and to help get things up and running, Clarendon Hotel owner Ben Bethel has brought in chef Dan Maldonado. Local diners may recognize his name because he was half of the culinary duo behind the now-defunct Tacos Atoyac. Since that spot shuttered suddenly last spring, he has opened his own taco restaurant called Mucho Macho Taquerilla.

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House of Tricks in Tempe Has a New Lunch Menu -- And We've Got Bad News for PB&J Fans

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
The new vegetable sandwich on the lunch menu at House of Tricks
Fans of House of Tricks in Tempe may notice a few changes to the restaurant's lengthy lunch menu. Earlier this year the restaurant removed a few items from the lunch selection and replaced them with new dishes.

The changes include taking away the restaurant's popular PB&J sandwich, which was made with balsamic macerated strawberries, pistachio butter, shaved fennel, mascarpone cheese, and arugula. The good news is the new dishes include excellent options such as harissa pork tenderloin served with charred eggplant puree, and arugula and chickpea salad.

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