Yoli’s Cafe hoping to raise $5,000 in 5 days to reopen

BY Jess Harter | Monday, October 20, 2014

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It was supposed to be a grand reopening weekend for Yoli’s Cafe in Chandler. Instead, it turned into a nightmare.

The award-winning breakfast-and-lunch eatery had closed for 10 days to expand its tiny kitchen. Among the additions: four new burners and three more feet of griddle.

But instead of reopening as planned last Friday, the owners were filing police reports. Thieves broke into the four-year-old bungalow-turned-restaurant and stole most of its grill.

“It sucks,” chef-owner  Yolanda Fernandez told Channel 5. “People in this neighborhood have seen us for four years and some of them have seen us struggle. They’ve come in and been customers, and seen us grow … so it’s a little devastating to know that these are my own people who have done this.”

Now, Yoli’s is turning to its customers and the community for help. The restaurant has launched a Go Fund Me campaign to raise $5,000 in five days, hoping to get 500 people to donate $10 apiece.

The money is needed not only to replace the stolen equipment, but also to pay Yoli’s eight employees who will be without a paycheck for at least another week.

You can make a donation here.

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Monday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

BY Jess Harter | Monday, October 20, 2014

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Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

  • The Brass Tap: Military and first responders get 25% off entire bill. Team trivia at 7 p.m. with a chance to win a $10-$30 gift cards.
  • Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta: Get a large two-topping pizza, large tossed salad, and order of breadsticks with cheese for $17.50 from 4-8 p.m.; seniors get buy-one-get-one-free discount all night.
  • House of Brews: $3 canned craft beers; $2 potato chicken skins.
  • Hungry Monk: $9.99 all-you-can-eat boneless wings; $2.50 Blue Moons.
  • Jimmy & Joe’s Pizzeria: Buy dozen wings, get second dozen for $2; 16-inch pizzas for $14.95 (up to 3 free toppings); buy any pizza, get second pizza of equal or less value for $5 ($12 for Big Jimmy).
  • La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen: $5 house margaritas; free kids meal with purchase of adult entree.
  • Nicantoni’s Pizza: $1 off manicotti, meatballs (with spaghetti or in sub), Malibu, and Merlot.
  • Zappone’s Italian Bistro: Buy one entree, get 50% off second entree from 4-9 p.m. Dine in only.

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It’s Burger Monday! Here are today’s East Valley deals

BY Jess Harter | Monday, October 20, 2014

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It’s Monday, which means burger specials around the East Valley:

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What you might have missed: The week’s most-read posts

BY Jess Harter | Saturday, October 18, 2014

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This week’s five most popular posts, based on page views:

1. Now open: Fiesta Mexicana in south Chandler

2. Now open: Social Box Neighborhood Eatery in Chandler

3. Former ‘short, fat 8-year-old with Easy-Bake Oven’ realizes dream with GRAZ in Chandler

4. Two Brothers’ Jason Ebel talks about AZ beer scene & their new Scottsdale brewpub

5. Noca closes for good, but Nocawich coming to Tempe

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Now open: Social Box Neighborhood Eatery in Chandler

BY Jess Harter | Friday, October 17, 2014

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about Social Box Neighborhood Eatery, the new concept taking over Iguana Mack’s on Alma School, between Warner and Ray, in Chandler.

The new concept, you may recall, combines what it’s calling “elevated comfort food” with community stewardship. Social Box will donate a portion of its revenue each month to local non-profits.

Earlier: Social Box to combine comfort food with community stewardship

Today, Social Box has its soft opening.

SocialBoxChickenWafflesThe food menu looks promising. Sandwiches and burgers are $8-$11, which includes a side. (Among the side options: A 12-ounce draft beer!) Wood-fired pizzas are $11-$15.

(Pictured: Chicken and waffles sandwich with bacon, cheddar, pickle, house “sause,” and side of sweet potato fries, $11.)

Dinner entrees seem especially reasonably priced. A 12-ounce ribeye steak is $16, short rib au poivre $14, and honey-seared chicken $11. All include two sides.

Brunch, served 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, features brioche French toast ($11), quesadillas con huevos ($9), California omelets ($9), and more.

The drinks menu offers wine, beer, and cocktails. Happy hour, 2-6 p.m. weekdays, includes $1 off bar drinks and $2 off apps, wine, and house drinks.

Social Box is open for lunch and dinner daily.

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Post image for Two Brothers’ Jason Ebel talks about AZ beer scene & their new Scottsdale brewpub

As the founders of Two Brothers Brewing and Windy City Distributing, Jim and Jason Ebel have been major players in the Chicago craft beer scene for nearly two decades. Now the siblings are setting their sights on Arizona.

Two Brothers beers made their debut in our state last week. The Ebels also launched the Arizona Beer and Cider Company to distribute their beers, along with others. And they’re opening a huge brewhouse in Scottsdale.

The brothers actually are quite familiar with the Valley. Their parents live in Scottsdale, their grandmother lives in Peoria, and they have aunts and cousins in Glendale.

“One of our main things is family, and we have family out there,” Jason Ebel (pictured above on the right) says by phone from Illinois. “For years I’ve come out to Arizona as often as I can.”

In Chicago’s west suburb of Warrenville, Two Brothers will celebrate its 18th anniversary next week. It recently completed a huge expansion, and already has another scheduled to begin in March.

With so much going on, you’d think it’s an unlikely time to turn their attention to faraway state, even one where family resides. But the Arizona craft beer scene, Jason Ebel says, is at a unique point.

“We see Arizona as this rapidly growing beer market, like where Chicago was 10 years ago or so,” he says. “It’s really on the cusp of going crazy and being this fantastic beer state.

“If we can help move that along, we feel it’s a great time to be doing it.”

‘100 percent craft-focused’

TwoBrothersPintBesides launching Two Brothers in this state, Arizona Beer and Cider will introduce New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing next week and Colorado Cider Company the following week.

“There are a lot of great distributors in Arizona, but none that are 100 percent craft-focused, that really understand all the aspects of being a craft beer distributor,” Ebel says. “We saw there was a potential niche there that needed to be filled.”

In addition, Ebel says they’ve signed up a Valley brewery and another Arizona brewery from outside the Valley.

“You gotta wait for the press release on it, but I’ll tell you we signed up a couple of cool local guys,” he says. “We should be launching both of those within a couple weeks.”

Are there out-of-state breweries the company is targeting to bring to Arizona?

“Absolutely,” Ebel says. “I’m not going to go there right now because of any distributors there that might read your article. But there are some great beers that aren’t in the Arizona yet that are good friends of ours.”

But don’t expect Arizona Beer and Cider to bring in just any brewery. After 15 years, Windy City (which the brothers sold to distribution giant Reyes in 2012 for a reported $50 million) worked with just 28 suppliers.

“We’re not brand collectors,” Ebel says. “Our goal is not to have a humongous book. It’s to have the best book.”

Award-winning beers

TwoBrothersBeersIn terms of Two Brothers beers, the brewery is planning to send its entire line of offerings to the Valley, including eight year-round beers, eight seasonals, three artisan, and a new line of barrel-aged sours.

“We don’t do that for every state, but Arizona’s become a target market for us,” Ebel says.

Two Brothers’ flagship long has been the versatile and easy-drinking Domaine DuPage French country ale, although Sidekick extra pale ale has become a close second and still is growing fast.

“I do believe Sidekick probably will pass Domaine in 2015 in terms of volume of sales,” Ebel says.

Garnering attention recently, though, has been the brewery’s Project Opus, a line of sour beers aged in 100-barrel oak foudres.

One of those beers – aged for two-and-a-half years and dubbed Sour #2 – just won the gold medal for wood- or barrel-aged sour beers at the Great American Beer Festival. It’ll be released on draft and in champagne bottles, probably in February, Ebel says.

“It’s gonna be pretty hard to find because we don’t make a ton of it,” he says. “I would assume fewer than 100 cases will hit the entire market.”

Old Town Scottsdale brewhouse

TwoBrothersFishTacosPerhaps the Ebels’ most ambitious project, though, is Two Brothers Taphouse and Brewery, which they hope to open in Old Town Scottsdale before the Super Bowl in Glendale on Feb. 1.

They’re currently renovating the cavernous (8,165-square-foot) building on the southeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Drinkwater Boulevard that once housed Saddle Ranch Chop House.

Gone are the mechanical bull and rustic country decor. New is a modern industrial look similar to the Two Brothers’ brewpub in Warrenville.

The brewpub will serve what Ebel calls “upscale pub fare” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. (Pictured above: The Warrenville pub’s best-selling fish tacos.)

There will be an extensive selection of coffee drinks, since the Ebels also own a coffee-roasting company.

A 10-barrel brewhouse will produce exclusive beers for Arizona, while all package beers will continue to come from Warrenville.

“We can produce 100,000 barrels of beer a year on our current system,” Ebel says. “We don’t need to make Domaine DuPage in Arizona, know what I mean?

“Our goal is to do different stuff that would just be for the Arizona market. To us, that’s what’s fun. If you’re gonna open another brewery in another state, give it a local flair that makes sense for that market.”

Warm reception so far

Asked if he’s encountered anything he didn’t expect in Arizona, Ebel doesn’t hesitate.

“One of the things that’s surprised me – in a positive way – is the reception we’ve gotten,” Ebel says. “Whether it’s been the retailers or the other breweries in town, they been very receptive to what we’re doing and that we’re coming in.

“They realize we’re here to enhance and not to try to take over. In Chicago it’s not quite so friendly, I would say. It’s not that it’s not friendly overall. We have a lot of great friends in Chicago.

“But the market is more mature. It’s more saturated. So there’s a little bit more of hard edge to the market in Chicago than in Arizona right now. And that was a really nice thing to find.”

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Huss to tap seasonal Rice Pudding Porter on Saturday

BY Jess Harter | Friday, October 17, 2014

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Huss Brewing will tap its seasonal Rice Pudding Porter on Saturday at the south Tempe brewery’s taproom.

The beer kinda snuck onto the scene last November because the brewery was so new, but it grew quite popular by the time it ran out in March.

The spiced porter is brewed with vanilla beans, brown rice syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It clocked in at 5% ABV last year, and may be a touch above that this year, brewer Jeff Huss says.

Like last year, Huss brewed a single 34-barrel batch.

After its Saturday release, the beer eventually will roll out on draft at accounts throughout the Valley.

Asked what’s coming next from the brewey, Huss says he’s toying with the idea of Citra-based double IPA. Stay tuned…

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Friday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

BY Jess Harter | Friday, October 17, 2014

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Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

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Post image for Former ‘short, fat 8-year-old with Easy-Bake Oven’ realizes dream with GRAZ in Chandler

After a corporate career with Jamba Juice – where he worked his way up to an ownership partner – Marcus Gonzales was ready to shift gears and chase his lifelong dream of making great food with his own hands.

“I wanted to do something on my own,” the Queen Creek resident says. “I was jonesing for 15 years. I wanted to do fresh salads and fresh sandwiches. I wanted to go as local as possible without being ridiculous about it.”

The result is GRAZ Kitchen Fresh, which opened last week on the southeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Pecos (map), just off the Loop 202 and less than a mile south of downtown Chandler.

“For lack of a better term, I’d call it a market-fresh concept,” Gonzales says. “Everything you see — from my pasta salads to my fruit bowls to my yogurt cups — I make everything every morning.”

GRAZMarcusGonzalesBread is delivered fresh every day from Jonathan Robins Bakery in Tempe. The house coffee is a proprietary blend from Press Coffee Roasters in Scottsdale.

The 1,100-square-foot strip-mall space, formerly a Quiznos, has a modern industrial decor with a long black chalkboard covering one wall and floors stripped down to gray concrete.

“The best description of me are my floors,” Gonzales says. “They’re industrial, they’re a little worn, and what you see is what you get. There’s nothing special about me. I’m not a chef. I didn’t go to (culinary) school.”

Gonzales sells himself short. Eager to learn more about cooking and the restaurant business, he worked – for free – at several Valley restaurants, most notably the former Bravo Bistro in Scottsdale.

After a full work day as a district manager overseeing five Jamba Juice stores, the father of five children would work a 6 p.m.-to-midnight shift washing dishes at Bravo. After several months, he worked his way up to prep work and, eventually, line cook.

GRAZSandwichNow he finally has his own small eatery, selling bagels, steel-cut oatmeal ($3.50-$3.99) and egg sandwiches ($7.25) for breakfast, and salads ($7.99) and sandwiches ($6-$8.50, including five types of grilled cheese sandwiches) for lunch.

Sides include kale slaw ($2.60), a healthy and flavorful alternative to regular cole slaw. It’s made with kale, Napa cabbage, green onion, and feta cheese.

A juice bar offers fresh-produce blends and wheatgrass shots made to order.

GRAZ is a dream come true for the south Phoenix native whose grandmother wouldn’t let him help her in the kitchen.

“Picture a short, fat 8-year-old with a pink Easy-Bake Oven, trying to hide from his grandma,” Gonzales says.

GRAZExteriorBut it wasn’t until a stint in the Marine Corps took him overseas that he really was hooked.

“When I had pizza in Rome, it just rocked my world,” he says. “Do you know what I’m talking about?

“It’s that feeling of – I guess you can call it euphoria. You get numb and warm all at the same time.

“I was like, ‘I just want to do this for the rest of my life.’’’

GRAZ Kitchen Fresh is open 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday.

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Thursday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

BY Jess Harter | Thursday, October 16, 2014

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Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

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