The Revival in Tempe: Spirit-Forward Cocktails and Waffle-Wrapped Chicken

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Chicken & Waffles
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 Revival
Restaurant: The Revival
Location: 603 W University Drive, Tempe
Open: Over a week
Eats: New American
Price: $10 - $30 a person

Chef Kelly Fletcher, who spent the last decade running the kitchen at House of Tricks, has a lot of fans in this town. It's not surprising when you learn that he was born and raised here and has worked in Valley kitchens pretty much his entire life. The Revival, which opened its doors on July 1, is the chef's first venture into captaining his own ship. For the project he's teamed up with partner Chad Withycombe, who also owned the space under its former name, Mucho Gusto.

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Justin Beckett's Southern Rail: Southern Food Requires A Little More Soul

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Smoked chicken and andouille gumbo
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 Southern Rail
Restaurant: Southern Rail
Location: 300 W. Camelback Road
Open: Over a month
Eats: Southern
Price: $30+ per person

For four years chef Justin Beckett has been serving up New American fare at his Arcadia area restaurant, Beckett's Table. A few weeks ago, he expanded his repertoire to include a second restaurant, Southern Rail, this time focusing on elevated Southern cuisine.

The new restaurant's location -- inside The Newton, a mixed-used development that took over the former home of Beef Eaters Restaurant -- is almost as much of a draw as the chef's name. Southern Rail shares the space with a second location of Tempe's well-loved Changing Hands Bookstore and the (coming soon) gardening supply shop Southwest Gardener.

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Sumo Maya in Scottsdale: Mexican Style Pho and Korean Beef Tacos

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Korean Beef Tacos from Sumo Maya 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).

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Lauren Saria
Inside Sumo Maya
Restaurant: Sumo Maya
Location: 6562 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Open: About two weeks
Eats: Mexican Asian
Price: $30 per person

Blending two cuisines into a single dish so that both heritages are perceptible but not competing is a challenge. It requires a good understanding of flavor and a creative mind that can deconstruct traditional combinations only to rebuild them in entirely new ways.

At Sumo Maya in Scottsdale chef Herb Wilson does just that. Not every dish on the restaurant's lengthy menu is a perfect 10, but overall it does an excellent job of proving that fusion food doesn't have to be the sort of clunky fare with which we've become all too familiar.

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Haweli Indian Grill and Bar in Scottsdale: Excellent Naan and Satisfying Korma

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
The Tandoori Mixed Grill from Haweli Indian 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).

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Lauren Saria
Haweli Indian Grill and Bar
Restaurant: Haweli Indian Grill and Bar
Location: 7000 E. Shea Blvd, Scottsdale
Open: Over a month
Eats: Indian, Pakistani
Price: $20 per person

The intersection of Scottsdale and Shea might be the fastest growing neighborhood in Scottsdale right now. Over the last few months the area's seen quite a number of new restaurants enter the scene, including most recently Haweli Indian Grill and Bar.

The restaurant, owned by Sarwan Singh, takes over a space that one housed a sports bar. Since it closed, the space has sat empty. It's now a spacious, elegant restaurant that moonlights as an upscale banquet hall. The restaurant's lunch and dinner menu is quite extensive, featuring more than 70 different entrees in addition to appetizers, salads, and desserts.

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Fusion Burrito in Gilbert: Meatball Burritos and New Orleans-Style Beignets

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Sari
The Seoul burrito.
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: Fusion Burrito
Location: 546 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Open: About a month
Eats: Mexican fusion
Price: Less than $10

Mexican fusion isn't new, per se, but it seems to be taking on a new life here in the Valley. There's Mexican sushi, the soon-to-open Sumo Maya restaurant in Scottsdale, and Fusion Burrito in Gilbert. This new restaurant -- courtesy of Johnston and Wales graduate Chip Rooney -- specializes in burritos and quesadillas with flavors inspired by places all over the world.

We'll admit that meatballs in a burrito may not sound appetizing, but Fusion Burrito is somehow making it work.

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Modern Grove in North Phoenix: Goat Cheese Pizza, Local Products and an Astroturfed Patio

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Modern Grove's Ultimate Breakfast 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 Modern Grove
Restaurant: Modern Grove Neighborhood Eatery & Market
Location: 15530 N Tatum Blvd, Phoenix
Open: About six weeks
Eats: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Price: $10 to $15 a person

If you live in the north Phoenix neighborhood around the new Modern Grove restaurant and market, then there's a lot to like about the spot. Located on the northwest corner of Tatum and Greenway, the eatery serves three meals a day and offers a bar, coffee drinks, and a spacious outdoor patio. It's even dog-friendly.

In an area dominated by big chain restaurants, it's a refreshing option.

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JamRock Cafe and Grill: Goat Curry and Bread Pudding in Downtown Phoenix

Categories: First Taste

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Natalie Miranda
Curry goat dish from JamRock Cafe and 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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Michael O'Dowd's Urban Vine: 24-Hour Pork Belly and Soy Bean Gazpacho

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Urban Vine's pork belly is a winner.
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
Urban Vine
Restaurant: Urban Vine | Kitchen | Hops | Grapes
Location: 2201 N. 7th Street
Open: Over a week
Eats: Modern American
Price: $15 per person

Every time we lose a good restaurant in town, it's a sad occasion. But of all the losses we suffered last year, one of the most heartbreaking had to be Renegade by MOD. The restaurant opened last May but came and went in just over six months after chef Michael O'Dowd and partner Ed Leclere parted ways.

O'Dowd's quickly bounced back and put down roots at a new restaurant in a new part of town. Urban Vine, which O'Dowd opened with business partner John Rothstein, opened its doors on May 8 at 2201 North Seventh Street in Phoenix. We're hopeful the restaurant will be doing the same type of risk-tasking, interesting cuisine we got to taste at his last venture.

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Urban Taco in Phoenix: Salsas Take Centerstage

Categories: First Taste

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Carrie Wheeler
Salsa!
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: Urban Taco
Location: 6522 N. 16th Street
Open: About a week
Eats: Mexican
Price: $10-30 per person

Urban Taco has been taunting me for months.

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Steak 44 in Arcadia: a Modern Steakhouse With a Neighborhood Feel

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Steak 44 is not your grandparents steakhouse.
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 Steak 44
Restaurant: Steak 44
Location: 5101 N. 44th St.
Open: About a month
Eats: Steakhouse
Price: $30 to $50 a person

Steakhouses are boring. They're outdated. They're overpriced. At least that's what most self-proclaimed enlightened diners would say. In many -- if not most -- cases those generalizations are sadly true.

But they don't apply to Arcadia's new neighborhood steakhouse, Steak 44.

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