Openings

Post image for Can you ever have too many BBQ joints? AZ Barbecue Co. to open in Gilbert this fall

Is Gilbert on its way to becoming the barbecue capitol of the East Valley?

Earlier this week I broke the news longtime Mesa fave Waldo’s BBQ is making a second attempt at opening a location in Gilbert.

Now comes word of another smokehouse opening in the town this fall: Arizona BBQ Company is taking over the former La Calabria strip-mall space on the northwest corner of Val Vista and Ray.

(Side note: La Calabria, in turn, has found a new space and is reopening in a couple of months.)

AZ BBQ Company is owned by longtime Gilbert residents Mark and Colette Nichols (pictured at top). He is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef with 27 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

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For the past five years, the couple have run JC’s Catering out of a church kitchen, and they’re looking forward to having a commercial kitchen of their own.

Mark Nicholls describes his BBQ as a spinoff of Texas-style, ‘‘but we do BBQ a little different.’’ As an example, he points to six planned sauces: sweet, tangy, chipotle, habanero, red chile, and green chile.

The featured meats will be brisket, pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs, and smoked chicken. There also will be four kinds of BBQ tacos and two kinds of brisket chili.

Side will include ranchero beans, chipotle potato salad, green chile and bacon mac and cheese, Southwest cole slaw, and chile lime roasted corn.

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A liquor license should be approved by the expected opening soon after Labor Day.

Nichols says he was unaware Waldo’s had selected a spot just a mile away, but he’s not concerned about competition.

‘‘We’re a little unique,’’ he says. ‘‘And there are a lot of people in Gilbert.‘’

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Post image for Freezer’s Ice House in Tempe hopes to heat up local billiards scene

Is pool dying as a sport? Scott ‘‘The Freezer’’ Frost doesn’t think so. The sport’s problem, he says, is aging, uninviting pool halls.

That’s why the Valley resident – who’s considered one of the best one-pocket billiards players in the world – just opened Freezer’s Ice House, an upscale, family-friendly pool room and sports bar in Tempe.

‘‘What we’re hoping this does is become a model for (pool) rooms across America,’’ he says. ‘‘In my opinion, we just need to update them, upgrade them.

‘‘Women should be comfortable walking in. Juniors and junior programs will be alive and well here.’’

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Freezer’s takes over the former Walgreen’s on the southeast corner of Mill and Broadway.

The 15,000-square-foot space actually is divided into three rooms, although the main focus is the pool room with 35 new Diamond pool tables and 12 dart boards (four steel-tipped).

The Hot Spot Lounge will be a sports lounge with a full kitchen and 48 beers on tap by day; at night it will host DJs and music. A row of arcade games ranges from Golden Tee to refurbished retro faves like Final Fight and Ms. Pac-Man.

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The third room, the Chill Grill, will provide an escape for those who want to eat, drink, and converse away from all the action and noise.

Altogether, more than 100 55-inch TV monitors and photos of pool champions adorn the walls, which are illuminated with LED cove lighting in 32 colors (as are the two bars). A roll-up glass garage door opens to a patio.

Freezer’s has been easing into its soft opening this week. It will open at 5 p.m. today, be closed Friday, and then open at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Regular hours – 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily – will begin Monday.

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An official grand opening party weekend is planned for July 27-30.

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Post image for Now open in Chandler: Buon Padre Pizza, home of the Grilled Hot Dog Pizza

Buon Padre Pizza, a new pizzeria that just opened in Chandler, is perhaps most notable for what it is not.

It is not another fast-casual, ready-in-3-minutes pizza concept. It is not a chain. It is not expensive. And it is not afraid to experiment with its menu.

That’s why it’s not too surprising the most popular item on Buon Padre’s short menu is its Gourmet Grilled Hot Dog Pizza (pictured below), a favorite of customers young and old alike.

Pizzas comes in three sizes: 10, 12, and 14 inches. A 12-inch one-topping pizza is just $5.99, while a 14-inch three-topping is $8.99. The most expensive pizza – a large Meatza with sausage, pepperoni, beef, ham, and bacon – is $10.99.

Other than pizzas, the menu offers two salads, two flatbread sandwiches, and a few appetizers.

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Buon Padre (which is Italian for ‘‘Good Father’’) officially doesn’t deliver, but say they will do so if they aren’t too busy. They also don’t have a liquor license.

They took over the former Venezia’s Pizzeria end space (hidden behind McDonald’s) in the strip mall on the northeast corner of McQueen and Pecos.

Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

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The Reef moves quarter mile to new location in Chandler

BY Jess Harter Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Post image for The Reef moves quarter mile to new location in Chandler

The Reef, a sports bar and grill that had operated for more than a decade on Warner just west of Arizona Avenue in Chandler, has moved to a new location about a quarter-mile away.

Its new home is a 5,120-square-foot building on the northeast corner of Arizona and Warner. The building most recently housed Mi Linda Mexican restaurant.

The Reef describes itself as ‘‘Arizona’s finest dive bar,’’ a tongue-in-cheek reference to owner Mark Vargovich’s passion for deep sea diving. In 2012, Vargovich bought what was then known as The Draft House and renamed it.

Its former home on Warner, which closed in April, will reopen later this summer as  (‘‘B Squared’’), a burgers-and-beer concept.

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Post image for Ex-Arizona Rattlers team president opens pizza & grilled cheese shop in Mesa

LJ’s Pizza was a Mesa institution, offering a popular all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for nearly four decades before closing in 2011.

LJ’s later reopened in a smaller, cafe-like structure behind its original location – sorry, no more buffet – and its former space on Main Street west of Stapley is home to another pizzeria.

The newcomer is Joey’s PSG. Joey is chef/owner Joey Windham (pictured below), and PSG stands for ‘‘pizza, soup and grilled cheese.’’

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If Windham’s name sounds kinda familiar, it might be because the Northern California native first came to the Valley in 2011 when he was hired as team president of the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers.

His Rattlers tenure was quite successful. After finishing second in his inaugural season with the team, he helped the Rattlers to three straight AFL championships before joining the rival Los Angeles Kiss.

Now retired from the sports business and its grueling travel schedule, Windham – who describes himself as ‘‘a real Italian with 56 cousins‘‘ – is turning his longtime passion: food.

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Torn between two concepts – an ’’authentic‘‘ New York-style pizzeria and a soup-and-grilled-cheese-sandwich shop – he decided to combine the two. Joey’s PSG was launched last month.

The menu features seven specialty pizzas in three sizes (plus a build-your-own option starting at $7.95), 17 gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (seven with cheese only and 10 with meat, starting at $7), and several housemade desserts.

‘‘Artisan’’ has become an all but meaningless term in today’s food scene, so let’s just say Windham makes the pizza sauce from scratch every day along with the dough. He uses sliced (never grated) whole-milk mozzarella imported from Italy.

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Joey’s PSG’s most popular menu items, according to Windham:

  • The Joey’s Special pizza (Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives, pictured above), his personal favorite;
  • The VP sandwich (pepper jack, cheddar, and muenster with wine Dijon mustard grilled on rye/pumpernickel swirl bread, pictured above with housemade chips), named for his wife’s initials;
  • The seven-pound carrot cake (shown below).

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Joey’s PSG is still a work in progress. A liquor license is in the works, and an empty lot on the east side of the restaurant will be enclosed for a patio this fall.

Joey’s PSG is open 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Saturday.

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Waldo’s BBQ in east Mesa to open Gilbert location

BY Jess Harter Monday, June 19, 2017

Post image for Waldo’s BBQ in east Mesa to open Gilbert location

Looks like we know what’s moving into the recently vacated Harvey American Public House in Gilbert.

Waldo’s BBQ in east Mesa has applied for a liquor license for the building on the northwest corner of Val Vista and Williams Field.

Waldo’s just completed renovations on its original location on Main Street just east of Greenfield that has been open since 1993.

This will be Waldo’s second foray into Gilbert, having opened a short-lived location at SanTan Village Marketplace in 2007. It also has two ‘‘express’’ locations in Phoenix.

No opening date has been announced.

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Now open: LA Crab Shack in west Mesa

BY Jess Harter Monday, June 19, 2017

Post image for Now open: LA Crab Shack in west Mesa

LA Crab Shack – the LA stands for Louisiana, not Los Angeles – has opened at the year-old AZ International Marketplace on the northeast corner of Dobson and Broadway in west Mesa.

The menu offers ‘‘all the flavors of the Gulf Coast,’’ including crawfish, oysters, shrimp, frog legs, alligator, catfish, clams, mussels, and crabs – all by the pound.

Happy hour specials include $5 hot wings, $1 oysters, $2.50 Bud Lights, $2.75 glasses of wine, and $3 margaritas from 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday.

LA Crab Shack’s concept is very similar to the mega-popular Angry Crab Shack, which debuted in Mesa in 2013 and has grown to six Valley locations.

Another similar restaurant, Jimmy T’s Holy Crab Shack, is opening soon on the northwest corner of Alma School and Ray in Chandler.

LA Crab Shack is open 3-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 3-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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Blue Clover to replace Eddie’s House in Old Town Scottsdale

BY Jess Harter Saturday, June 10, 2017

Post image for Blue Clover to replace Eddie’s House in Old Town Scottsdale

Eddie’s House, chef Eddie Matney’s nine-year-old restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale, has closed and will be replaced by a new concept called Blue Clover.

Matney, one of the Valley’s first “celebrity chefs” thanks to numerous TV and magazine appearances dating back to the 1980s, saw his restaurant struggle through bankruptcy in 2014.

Situated on the northwest corner of Marshall Way and Indian School, Eddie’s House had been listed for sale for several months.

Blue Clover is described as a farm-to-table concept with a distillery. The new owners include brothers Weston and David Holm, the former one of Matney’s partners in Eddie’s House.

Their sister is mixed martial arts competitor Holly Holm, most famous for her 2015 upset of Ronda Rousey.

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Now open: The Organic Bean Cafe in downtown Mesa

BY Jess Harter Friday, June 9, 2017

Post image for Now open: The Organic Bean Cafe in downtown Mesa

The Organic Bean Cafe, a family-owned coffee shop, has opened on the northwest corner of Macdonald and Pepper Place, a block north of Main Street, in downtown Mesa.

OBC specializes in organic Fair Trade coffee and espresso drinks.

The shop had its soft opening several days ago, but holds a grand-opening party today in conjunction with downtown Mesa’s monthly Second Friday event.

The grand opening, from 7-9 p.m., will include live acoustic music, tarot card reading, and mini massages.

OBC is open 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.

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Opening Saturday: Modern Market in Ahwatukee

BY Jess Harter Friday, June 2, 2017

Post image for Opening Saturday: Modern Market in Ahwatukee

Modern Market, a Colorado-based fast-casual chain focused on healthy dining, will open at 8 a.m. Saturday on the southwest corner of 50th Street and Ray in Ahwatukee.

The 2,853-square-foot, 64-seat space is in a new building – also home to Noodles & Company and, later this year, Snooze – in front of the AMC Ahwatukee 24 theaters.

Modern Market, which debuted in Boulder, Colo., in 2009, promises ‘‘great tasting, healthy food made from ingredients you could trust for a reasonable price.’’

The breakfast menu offers scrambles, breakfast sandwiches, and whole-grain waffles. The lunch and dinner menu features salads, sandwiches, and brick-oven pizzas.

The concept’s first Arizona location opened in Old Town Scottsdale in February. A third is scheduled to open in north Scottsdale in October.

Modern Market’s hours are 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.

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