Diego Pops Brings Brussels Sprouts Nachos and Late-Night Tacos to Old Town Scottsdale

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Brussels Sprouts Nachos
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
Diego Pops in Scottsdale
Restaurant: Diego Pops
Location: 4338 N. Scottsdale Rd
Open: About a month
Eats: Mexican
Price: $10-$15/person

It's been about a month since Diego Pops opened quietly in the former home of Mexican pottery store off Scottsdale Road. The new dining spot is the second concept to come from the folk behind the popular health food restaurant mini-chain, Original ChopShop Co., and offers a modern Mexican-inspired menu of tacos, salads, appetizers, and sides.

You won't head here for the truest representation of Mexican cuisine, but between the late-night hours and retro-chic design Diego Pops should appeal perfectly to the Old Town Scottsdale dining crowd.

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The Upton in Scottsdale: Char Siu Ribs and Thyme-Marinated Southern Fried Chicken

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Char Siu Ribs
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
The back patio at The Upton.
Restaurant: The Upton
Location: 7216 E. Shoeman Ln, Scottsdale
Open: Less than a month
Eats: New American
Price: $20+/person

It's only been about a month since Petite Maison in Scottsdale closed its door for good as owners James and Wendy Porter hung up the towel on restaurant ownership. And though their little French restaurant was a staple of the Old Town neighborhood for five years, the space already looks so different you might not recognize it at all.

With a modern re-design the new The Upton has given the restaurant a new identity and one that certainly includes the food as well. Chef Chris Schlattman may be Petite Maison alum, but his food doesn't play by the old rules. At The Upton you'll find elevated versions of classic dishes from all over the world.

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Cherry Tree Smokehouse BBQ in Phoenix: Get the Spicy Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Spicy Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich
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 Cherry Tree Smokehouse BBQ
Restaurant: Cherry Tree Smokehouse BBQ
Location: 1923 East McDowell Road
Open: About six weeks
Eats: Barbecue
Price: $10 to $15/per person

For months, the former Dairy Queen that sits in the shadow of State Route 51 on McDowell Road has flaunted some new signage. "Coming Soon," the marquee promised as a new sign for Cherry Tree Smokehouse BBQ debuted on the freestanding brown building.

Early last month, the new spot finally opened and inside you'll now find a quaint little restaurant serving smoked meats, sides, and desserts. Cherry Tree Smokehouse may not be the cheapest dinner option in the Central Phoenix neighborhood, but if our first taste is an indication, the slow-cooked meats can be worth the extra dough.

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Tapacubo at The Graduate Hotel Brings $3 Tacos and Pressed Tortas to Tempe

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Cubano Torta from Tapacubo
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
The bar at Tapacubo
Restaurant: Tapacubo
Location: 225 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
Open: Less than a week
Eats: Mexican
Price: $10+/person

On Friday, the second dining outlet at the new Graduate Hotel Tempe opened its doors to the public for dinner service. Under the direction of chef Brian Archibald, Tapacubo brings approachable Mexican cuisine in a playful atmosphere to the neighborhood.

The restaurant's succinct menu of starters, tacos, tortas, and sides will appeal to fans of similar places such as Doug Robson's Gallo Blanco, spots where you can count on good, affordable Mexican eats served with a side of humility and fun. (And the fact that both restaurants are located in chic boutique hotels definitely adds to the sense of familiarity.)

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Heng's Kitchen Brings Xiao Long Bao and Scallion Chicken to Mekong Plaza in Mesa

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Shrimp chow mein
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
Heng's Kitchen
Restaurant: Heng's Kitchen
Location: 66 S. Dobson Road, Mesa
Open: About two months
Eats: Chinese
Price: $10/person

Those who seek top-quality Vietnamese eats have probably already ventured into Mekong Plaza to dine at Hue Gourmet. The counter-service restaurant located in the Asian-themed mini-mall Mekong Plaza has earned a reputation for serving flavorful and affordable Vietnamese cuisine unlike anywhere else in town.

Now Hue has a Chinese restaurant neighbor, one that's also worth a stop during your next Asian market grocery run. Heng's Kitchen, which opened in October, serves a menu of Chinese cuisine with enough options to appeal to Asian food experts and newbies alike.

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With New Menu, Chef Kelly Fletcher at The Revival in Tempe Has Finally Hit His Stride

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Pork Osso Buco
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 Revival
Location: 603 W. University Drive, Tempe
Open: About five months
Eats: Mexican
Price: $25+/person

It's been a roller coaster of a year for the restaurant located at 603 West University Drive. In June, it closed as Mucho Gusto, a longstanding neighborhood Mexican spot, and reopened a month later as The Revival. Owner Chad Withycombe brought on chef Kelly Fletcher, formerly of House of Tricks, to introduce an eclectic New American menu. It was interesting, but as the summer wore on, the restaurant struggled to find its identity. Finally last month, Fletcher announced he was revamping the menu and bringing back Mexican cuisine.

To put it bluntly, that was a very good decision.

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Revo Pizzabar in Tempe: Fast-Cooked Pizzas and a Full Bar -- and It Delivers

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
The Revo pizza from Revo Pizzabar 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
Revo Pizzabar
Restaurant: Revo Pizzabar
Location: 200 E. 5th Street, Tempe
Open: About three weeks
Eats: Pizza, salads
Price: $15 and up/person

Revo Pizzabar, a fast-casual pizza spot located below the Tempe Transit Center, is not a ground breaking restaurant concept. In fact, the only thing that sets it apart from the many, many, many other similar spots around town may be that it's slightly more upscale than most and offers a full bar.

That doesn't mean it's not a good fit for the neighborhood. With a large patio, well-stocked bar, and prime location just steps from Sun Devil Stadium, this is exactly the kind of restaurant that can sail smoothly by with just-interesting-enough cuisine and plenty of cold beer.

Oh, and did we mention they deliver?

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Paz Cantina in Downtown Phoenix: Solid Tacos That Could Use a Little Heat

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Tacos from Paz Cantina
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 Paz Cantina
Restaurant: Paz Cantina
Location: 1011 N. 3rd St.
Open: One week
Eats: Mexican
Price: $10+ a person

When Joseph Aguayo opened Verde in 2010, he brought excellent, freshly made tortillas and affordable Mexican fare to the downtown dining scene. The restaurant, which was located in the 1930s building that's now home to Matt's Big Breakfast, unfortunately didn't last long, closing after just seven months. Perhaps Verde was ahead of its time. Or perhaps Aguayo and co-owner Matt Avilla simply spent too much money remodeling the building.

Either way, he's back -- and this time, he's got help.

At the new Paz Cantina, Aguayo has teamed up with Brian Webb (Hey, Joe!) and Michael Reyes (Pure Sushi, the Compound Grill, Otro Cafe) to deliver fresh tortillas and affordable Mexican fare to downtown once again.

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Welcome Chicken + Donuts in Phoenix: Asian Fried Chicken and Kick-Ass Artisan Donuts

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Fried chicken and donuts, a match made in fried food heaven.
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
Restaurant: Welcome Chicken + Donuts
Location: 1535 E. Buckeye Rd, Phoenix
Open: Less than a week
Eats: Fried chicken, donuts
Price: $12 - $15/person

Chances are that if you've been to Welcome Diner then you already know chef Michael Babcock has a way with fried chicken. It's been on the menu in sandwich form since even before the he and Welcome Diner co-owner Jenn Robinson found their restaurant's brick-and-mortar home.

Now he's given his fried chicken the spotlight -- or at least, half of one. At Welcome Chicken + Donuts the name of game is exactly as it sounds: Bone-in fried chicken and artisan donuts. And if you're a fan of either or just love good food, you'll want to get over there ASAP.

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Wild Game Sports Grill Brings Smoked Wings and Happy Hour Deals to Central Phoenix

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Smoked wings from Wild Game Sports Grill
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 Wild Game
Restaurant: Wild Game Sports Grill
Location: 2445 East Thomas Road
Open: About six weeks
Eats: Elevated bar fare
Price: About $15 a person

When it comes to sports bars, I think it's fair to say that general expectations are pretty low. Or maybe "low" isn't exactly the right word, but basically you want to know if you'll: 1) Be able to see your game, 2) Get a cold (preferably cheap) beer, and, 3) Eat food that doesn't suck. Being close to home is usually also a plus, in case the game goes south and you have to drown your sorrows.

The good news is that in all of these three things, Wild Game Sports Bar meets at least the minimum expectation. In some categories, it even achieves top marks.

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