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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The Normal at Graduate Tempe: Red Velvet Waffles and Bottomless Cups of Coffee

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Chicken N Waffles from The Normal
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 new diner-style restaurant.
Restaurant: The Normal
Location: 225 E. Apache Blvd, Tempe
Open: Less than a week
Eats: Diner fare
Price: $15+/person

Blink and you might have missed the new business that opened at 225 E. Apache Boulevard and in case you've been wondering, it's a new boutique hotel called the Graduate Tempe. Located off Apache Boulevard just east of Mill Avenue, the college-inspired hotel replaces the longstanding Twin Palms Hotel, which closed its doors earlier this year. If you live in the Tempe neighborhood (or have ever been drunk and hungry in that part of town) then you probably also remember that the spot used to house a 24-hours IHOP. Sadly for drunk and hungry students, it's gone for good. But there is hope for those seeking late-night diner fare.

Enter, The Normal Diner.

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Angry Crab Shack and BBQ in Phoenix Brings Southern-Style Surf 'n' Turf to Arcadia

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Angry Crab Shack's Pit Master Platter
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 Angry Crab in Phoenix
Restaurant: Angry Crab Shack and BBQ
Location: 2808 E. Indian School Road
Open: Just over a week
Eats: Seafood, BBQ
Price: $25+ per person

We can't be the only Central Phoenix residents who've bemoaned the drive to Angry Crab Shack in Mesa. That's not to say the food isn't worth it, but we've just always wished it were just a little closer to the central part of the Valley. After all, less driving means more time crab-eating, right?

Well, as of last week, all our seafood prayers have been answered. The restaurant opened a second location on the northeast corner of Indian School Road and 28th Street in Arcadia. And though we're sure you thought it wasn't possible, the second location may have actually improved upon the concept of its predecessor. Because what more could you want with your bag of boiled crab than a side of ribs and tender brisket? Nothing. That's what else.

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The Mission @ Minder Binder Brings Tempe History to Life -- But the Food's Not So Good

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Lauren Saria
The classic cheeseburger from The Mission @ Minder Binder
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 Mission @ Minder Binder
Restaurant: The Mission @ Minder Binder
Location: 715 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
Open: Less than a week
Eats: Burgers, pizza
Price: $15+ a person

Since closing in the mid-2000s, the big red barn on the northeast corner of University and McClintock Drive in Tempe has sat empty. But for 30 years before that, the red barn housed one of Tempe's most loved bars and music venues, Minder Binders. It originally opened in 1972, bringing the raucous college crowd five bars, an outdoor volleyball pit, and plenty of booze.

As of last week, Minder Binders is back in a new form. Thanks to a new group of owners the barn has been remodeled -- extensively -- and is now home to a restaurant and drinking establishment dubbed The Mission @ Minder Binder.

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Forge Wood-Fired Pizza at Union at Biltmore: Cauliflower Pizza and Olive Oil Soft Serve

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
Cauliflower Pizza (under a blanket of arugula).
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 Forge Pizza
Restaurant: Forge Wood-Fired Pizza
Location: 2502 E. Camelback Road
Open: Just over a week
Eats: Neapolitan-style pizza
Price: About $20/person

There's certainly no shortage of places to get a pizza around town these days. There's not even a shortage of places to get a remarkably good pizza (see: here, here, here, and here). We can't say when it happened, but somewhere along the way, Phoenix became a place to find pizzas of all shapes, varieties, and levels of quality.

The latest pizza place to join the pack comes to the Valley by way of northern California and has two sister restaurants in Bay Area. The third outlet can be found in the shops at Union at the Biltmore Fashion Park, taking over the space most recently occupied by Short Leash Short Lease. It's not likely to change the way you think about pizza but makes a nice spot for an al fresco lunch.

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Rollover Doughnuts in Phoenix Isn't Perfect But Shows Promise

Categories: First Taste

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Lauren Saria
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 Living Room at Rollover Doughnuts
Restaurant: Rollover Doughnuts
Location: 10 W. Vernon, Phoenix
Open: Just over a week
Eats: Doughnuts, coffee
Price: About $2/doughnut

Portland has Voodoo, Chicago has The Doughnut Vault, and Las Vegas has their Pink Box. For years now fancy, crazy, strange doughnuts have been taking cities from coast to coast by storm -- and yet, somehow, the trend just hasn't really taken off here in Phoenix.

That is, until now.

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