Post image for Friday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

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Post image for E.V. Original: The Hungry Monk is ’where great food, craft beer and sports collide’

When Jim Lolli launched The Hungry Monk in 2010, he obviously wanted to serve good food. Nothing fancy, mind you. Just inexpensive pub fare like burgers and wings. But good pub fare.

Lolli also wanted to incorporate his longtime passions for craft beer and sports. He even came up with a slogan to define his goal for the Chandler restaurant and bar: “Where great food, craft beer and sports collide.”

As “The Monk,” as it’s affectionately known to its legions of devoted fans, approaches its all-day fifth anniversary party Saturday, it’s safe to say, by any measure, Lolli has been wildly successful.

Related: 5 ways The Hungry Monk is celebrating its 5th anniversary

Sure, you can find restaurants with fancier food. You can find bars with more beers on tap. You can find sports bars with more TVs.

No place in the Valley, however, seems to put it all together like The Hungry Monk.

‘‘We got a Best of Phoenix award from New Times,” Lolli says, “and the article said, ‘A lot of people struggle to do one thing well. These guys figured out how to do three things well. The food’s very good, great craft beer bar, and they do sports very well.’

‘‘And that’s what I really wanted. That was the goal.”

Hockey to human resources

HungryMonkJimLolli

Born and raised in Detroit, Lolli’s dream was to play professional hockey. “But something happened. It was called lack of talent,” he says in a quip more humble than accurate.

Having worked in concession stands since age 15, he began manager training at McDonald’s and had his own restaurant by age 20. After a few years, he jumped to a human resources position at Little Caesar’s.

In 1992, Lolli’s wife, Carol, was recruited to run a Sports Authority store in Phoenix, and he got an HR job with a Valley pharmaceutical company. And then a chemical company. And then an aerospace company.

In 2007, after 26 years in the corporate world, Lolli decided it was enough.

“I wanted to get back to my roots in the restaurant industry,” he says. “But I’d been out of it for so long, I really did not have the confidence to develop my own concept.”

He decided to open a franchise of a fast-growing, Cincinnati-based chain called Buffalo Wings & Rings, often compared to Buffalo Wild Wings.

“When I chatted with them, they had never had anybody do the craft beer thing, so they gave me permission to do carte blanche,” he said.

Enter Sandman

HungryMonkWingsRings

After finding a 3,600-square-foot location he liked on busy Chandler Boulevard just east of Dobson, Lolli opened his doors in 2008, doing “reasonably well” for the first two years.

Then there was a leadership change at Wings & Rings. Suddenly, Lolli no longer had carte blanche with his 27 craft beer taps.

“Basically they accused me of bastardizing their concept,” Lolli says. “They said I could only have 10 tap handles, and they would dictate what beers would be on them.

‘‘I told them to pound sand.’’

Lolli negotiated out of his franchise agreement, and prepared to open his own concept, similar to what he already was doing. He just needed a new name.

“I went on a couple of beer websites and wrote down the names of the top 100 beer bars in country,” he says. “The name ‘Monk’ popped up twice, and I really liked that name.

‘‘The 16th- and 17th-century Trappist monks in Europe were the best brewers on the globe, so I knew I wanted that name. I stuck the moniker ‘Hungry’ in front of it for the food aspect.”

Something for everyone

HungryMonkBar

The Hungry Monk kept about 60 percent of the Wings & Rings menu, by Lolli’s estimate, and all 27 beer taps. In those days, it was one of the only places in the Valley where you’d find six or seven IPAs on at the same time.

“Fast forward to now, everybody carries craft beer,’’ Lolli says. ‘‘Everybody rotates their handles very aggressively. So we’ve kinda throttled back on the IPAs. Now we have much more variety.”

Imperial stouts and IPAs remain his personal preference of beer styles, but his changing-daily tap list is a draw for beer geeks and novices alike, drawn by promotions like the Monk’s popular $3 Craft Beer Wednesdays.

They also come for a hundred other reasons. An early-morning World Cup soccer match, a Detroit Tigers season opener, a men’s catwalk for breast cancer, a Beer & Bacon Night, a beer-and-doughnuts breakfast, a chili cook-off, a stouts-and-pancakes dinner…

And then there are the many food specials, both weekly ($9.99 all-you-can-eat boneless wings on Mondays, 59-cent wings on Tuesdays, etc.) and everyday (a $6.99 lunch menu, including side and beverage).

‘‘We’re regular-driven, there’s no question about it,” Lolli says. ‘‘About 80 percent of our customers are very loyal. We see them all the time. The other 20 percent probably come in three or four times a year.’’

Hitting the road

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Perhaps The Monk’s greatest asset, though, is it’s comfortable, no-drama, everyone’s-welcome attitude, something exemplified by the laid-back Lolli and appreciated not only by customers but also breweries and distributors.

‘‘At the end of the day, the beer community has insanely embraced us,’’ Lolli says. ‘‘I kinda don’t want this to be in an article, but – you know what? – we’re not assholes to deal with. We don’t ask for much.

‘‘I hear this from almost every distributor: ‘You guys are the easiest to work with.’ I don’t moan and groan about anything. I don’t demand anything. If you can get (a certain beer), great. If not, no worries.’’

The Hungry Monk has spread its wings in recent years. It debuted a food truck, known as The Traveling Monk, in 2013. And this summer it opened a second location in Prescott, where Lolli and his wife have a second home.

Lolli admits the Prescott venture wasn’t really planned. Rather, the opportunity presented itself when downtown’s Firehouse Kitchen unexpectedly went up for sale and was too good of a deal to pass up.

Despite his corporate background, Lolli says he has no plans to build an entire chain of Hungry Monks.

‘‘I tell everyone if I ever try to open another restaurant, someone has permission to smack me.’’

(E.V. Originals are a series of occasional profiles chronicling the backstories of the places that give the East Valley’s food and drink scene its distinctive flavor.)

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Post image for Meet Uncle Bear’s head brewer Joe Baldwin at cask tapping tonight

Uncle Bear’s Brewery in Ahwatukee will host a Meet the Brewer cask tapping at 5 p.m. today.

Meet head brewer Joe Baldwin and enjoy $4 pints from a firkin of Tangelo Ocean Beach IPA dry-hopped with whole-cone Simcoe.

There also will be $4 pints of Dog Park Dark Ale randalled with vanilla and cinnamon.

All growler fills of UB beers will be $3 off.

The New Groove Band will perform from 6-9 p.m.

Keep up to date on local food & drink news: Click here to receive a daily email of MXSW posts

Post image for Thursday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

  • Baja Joe’s: $9.99 fajitas; Cantina Nachos for $5 after 5 p.m. (cantina only).
  • The Brass Tap: Service industry gets 25% of draft beer and house wine from 9 p.m.-close.
  • Fibber Magees: Half-price wings & tenders; $2 off Captain Morgan drinks, $4 shooters.
  • Hungry Monk: 99-cent chicken tenders.
  • La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen: Ladies receive happy hour pricing on drinks from 6-9 p.m. in bar.
  • Murphy’s Law: Ladies Night with $3 Pinnacle cocktails and $4 Pinnacle martinis from 8 p.m.-close.
  • Nicantoni’s Pizza: All-day happy hour with $2-$3 beers, $5 wines, and $1 off spirits; $4.50 appetizers; $6 wings.
  • El Palacio: $2 street tacos, $3 Mexican pints, $4 margaritas, $5 sangria
  • Romeo’s Euro Cafe: Five-course “Taste of Romeo’s Euro Cafe” dinner at 6:30 p.m.
  • Social Box Neighborhood Eatery: Special weekly cocktail and pricing for ladies.
  • Uncle Bear’s: $2 off fajitas and Lemon Chicken Sizzle; $3 Fence Jumper golden ale pints; $4 Mexican Moonshine rocks margaritas
  • Wimpy’s Paradise: Handmade pierogi (pictured above) available from 5-7:30 p.m.
  • Zappone’s Italian Bistro: Buy one pizza, get a second for half-price. Dine-in or takeout.

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Post image for Celebrate Huss Brewing’s 2nd anniversary at Craft 64 on Saturday

Tempe’s Huss Brewing will celebrate its second anniversary Saturday at Craft 64 in Old Town Scottsdale.

Starting at 7 p.m., Craft 64 will introduce six new specialty ales from Huss:

  • Peach Pie Pale
  • Wendigo Wet Hop IPA
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Blonde
  • Peanut Butter Hustler
  • Koffee Kolsch
  • Grapefruit IPA

Four of these beers will be for the anniversary event only. They will not be available in the Huss taproom.

Brewery owners Jeff and Leah Huss will be on hand to hand out swag.

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Post image for Spice things up this weekend at La Ristra’s annual Hatch Chile Fest in Gilbert

La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen in Gilbert hosts its annual Hatch Chile Festival this weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, the restaurant will be roasting its year’s supply of chiles, which it picked up in Hatch, N.M., earlier this month.

The weekend also will include special dishes featuring Hatch green chiles and a tap takeover by Santa Fe Brewing.

The Cover Ups Duo will perform Friday night, with Stephen Griffith playing Saturday night.

Keep up to date on local food & drink news: Click here to receive a daily email of MXSW posts

Post image for Wednesday specials & deals from MXSW sponsors

Today’s specials and deals from MXSW sponsors:

  • Baja Joe’s: $8.99 chef’s pasta specials; dozen wings for $5 after 5 p.m. (cantina only); $2 bottles and shots, $3 mugs, margs, and Patron from 8 p.m.-close (cantina only).
  • Craft 64: Happy hour all day with $1 off craft drafts and $6 glasses of wine.
  • Fibber Magees: Half-price flatbreads and desserts; half-price glasses of wine and $3 flavored Smirnoffs.
  • Floridino’s Pizza & Pasta: With purchase of $8 or more, kids under 10 eat free off kids menu.
  • Hungry Monk: 59-cent boneless wings (pictured above); $3 craft beer pints.
  • La Ristra New Mexican Kitchen: Ride your two- or three-wheel bike (with or without motor) and get happy hour pricing on drinks from 6-9 p.m. in bar.
  • Murphy’s Law: All-you-can-eat fish & chips for $16 from 6-10 p.m.; $4 Tullamore Dew, $5 Jameson, $5 Bushmills, $5 Irish Car Bombs all day.
  • Nicantoni’s Pizza$3.95 house wine; $3.25 Blue Moons and Shock Tops; $9.95 salad & lasagna combo.
  • El Palacio: Kids eat free with a paid adult entree.
  • The Perch: 50% off all wine and meat & cheese plates.
  • Social Box Neighborhood Eatery: $2 off glasses of wine and $5 off bottles.
  • Uncle Bear’s: Kids eat free with paid adult entree; $3 Head to Tale amber ale pints; $1 off appetizers.
  • Wimpy’s Paradise: Kids eat free with each adult meal (additional kids eat for $3) from 4-7:30 p.m.
  • Zappone’s Italian Bistro: 50% off all bottles of wine.

Keep up to date on local food & drink news: Click here to receive a daily email of MXSW posts

Post image for JC’s Steakhouse in Gilbert to host Mother Road beer dinner Wednesday

JC’s Steakhouse, which opened in Gilbert in December, will host its monthly craft beer dinner at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The steakhouse is offering a four-course menu paired with beers from Mother Road Brewing in Flagstaff:

  • Reception beer: Gold Road Kölsch Style Ale
  • 1st course: Shrimp and pineapple kabob, paired with White Walls Extra Pale Ale.
  • 2nd course: Tropical salad, paired with Sunset Kölsch.
  • 3rd course: Chorizo-stuffed pork loin, paired with Roadside American Pale Ale.
  • 4th course: Sticky toffee pudding, paired with Lost Highway Black IPA.

All dishes will be prepared with the beer they are paired with.

Cost is $35 per person. RSVP: 480-306-4545.

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Post image for East Valley’s 1st Corner Bakery Cafe to open Sept. 14 in downtown Tempe

Corner Bakery Cafe, a Dallas-based chain similar to Wildflower Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery, will make its East Valley debut next month on the northwest corner of Mill and Third Street in downtown Tempe.

The fast-casual cconcept offers a menu of breakfast scrambles, paninis, sandwiches, soups, salads, pastas, and sweets. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Corner Bakery currently has three Arizona locations – in downtown Phoenix, north Scottsdale, and Glendale.

The first 100 opening-day guests through the Tempe doors at 7 a.m. Monday, Sept. 14, will receive a commemorative travel mug with free daily coffee refills for one year.

A local franchise group plans to open up to 15 CBCs in the Valley over the next six years.

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Post image for Snow peas? Tofu? Soon-to-open Eklectic Pie to offer array of unusual toppings

Chinese snow peas, walnuts, tofu, corn, pears, and sesame seeds … on pizza?

Those are just some of the toppings that will be offered at Eklectic Pie, which will open next month on the northeast corner of Stapley and Baseline in Mesa.

The new concept’s pizzas will feature nine sauces, eight kinds of cheese, 10 meat options, 16 vegetable toppings, five kinds of fruit and nuts, and 13 “finishers.”

“The options are nearly endless,” partner Charlie Harmon says. “There is something for every taste bud ranging from classic to very unique.”

Eklectic Pie will use all-natural flour, organic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, and ingredients from Queek Creek Olive Mill, The Pork Shop, and other local sources.

“You won’t find a heat lamp, microwave, or freezer at Eklectic Pie,” Harmon promises.

Diners will be able to order one of 11 “Wall of Fame” pizzas or build their own. Pizzas will be $5.49 (7-inch) or $7.99 (11-inch), regardless of the number of toppings.

Eklectic Pie also will serve sandwiches and salads. Beer and wine will be available.

Look for the opening near the end of September.

Keep up to date on local food & drink news: Click here to receive a daily email of MXSW posts