Post image for 55 Chicago, spinoff of The Perch, to open Thursday in downtown Chandler

55 Chicago, the new Chicago-themed concept from the owners of The Perch Pub & Brewery, will open right next door to the downtown Chandler venue at 3 p.m. Thursday.

The newly constructed building is located on the north side of The Perch with its main entrance on Chicago Street, hence its address-turned-name.

Opening at 3 p.m. daily, 55 Chicago offers a single page of Chicagoland favorites, including a burger topped with prime rib and caramelized onions, a pork tenderloin panini, deep-dish pizza, Italian beef, and Chicago dogs. (See the food menu.)

The bar will have two house beers created specifically for 55 Chicago by Perch brewmaster Andrew Bauman – S’weet Home Chicago, an American wheat, and South Side Red, an Irish red ale.

Four Perch beers will be on tap – Batch 28 Blonde, Desert Blossom Saison, Rosemary IPA, and Belgium Peach – along with three guest beers from Illinois breweries.

There also will be a dozen wines available by the glass or bottle, 13 specialty cocktails, and house-made sangria. (See the wine and cocktail menu.)

I grabbed a few photos when I stopped by last weekend. They were still cleaning up, so excuse the mess. A barrel at the entrance is one of a couple water features:

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The interior has a mix of seating – booths, four-top tables, and bar seats. Notice the herringbone-pattern wood-like flooring, which extends across the patio on three sides of the building:

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The space exudes an old-time industrial feel, helped by elements like the over-sized metal fans in the open ceilings…

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… and the heavy metal cages on the light fixtures:

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Here’s a view of the long, serpentine, indoor-outdoor bar (looking inside from the patio). The bar snakes along the west side of the building, takes a turn inside at the far end…

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… then doubles back along the inside of the west wall (which has removable windows, natch) before turning left across the south wall:

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Through the doorway next to the communal bathroom sink you can see a gate connecting 55 Chicago’s back patio to The Perch’s courtyard:

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55 Chicago’s patios – front, side, and back – feature a number of hideaway spots, including this lengthy fire pit in the back, one of a couple fire features:

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Post image for Massive global grocery store AZ International Marketplace opens today in west Mesa

AZ International Marketplace, a giant supermarket with foods from around the world, opens today in the former Kmart building on the northeast corner of Dobson and Broadway in Mesa.

The guys behind the market, Peter Quach and Jimmy Lai, also are the owners of Mekong Plaza, the huge Asian market located about a half-mile north on Dobson.

The 100,000-square-foot international market will sell food and general merchandise from six continents, with emphases on Latin America and Southeast Asia (see flyer).

The market’s food court – not ready for today’s opening – will include Mexican and Chinese restaurants.

The strip-mall spaces surrounding the market eventually will be home to a mix of restaurants and shops.

AZ International Marketplace’s hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. As part of its grand opening, there will be giveaways, prize drawings and dragon dancers through the weekend.

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Today’s Tax Day specials: Pizza, burgers, beer & more

BY Jess Harter Monday, April 18, 2016

Post image for Today’s Tax Day specials: Pizza, burgers, beer & more

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Helton Brewing getting close to opening in Phoenix

BY Jess Harter Friday, April 15, 2016

Post image for Helton Brewing getting close to opening in Phoenix

Helton Brewing got local craft beer fans all excited last Sunday when it posted the above photo on its Facebook page with the comment:

‘‘Thanks to the cleaning crew who spent all day getting ready for opening day.’’

That led many people to believe the Phoenix brewery was going to open Monday or Tuesday of this week.

Previous: Here’s your 1st look at soon-to-open Helton Brewing in Phoenix (and its menu)

Alas, I stopped by the brewery on Indian School and 21st Street, and owner Brian Helton tells me construction is pretty much done but he still has three more inspections to pass.

That means, barring any last-minute complications, about two more weeks.

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Lou Malnati’s to open May 16 – brace for the media hype!

BY Jess Harter Friday, April 15, 2016

Post image for Lou Malnati’s to open May 16 – brace for the media hype!

Chicago favorite Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria finally has announced the opening date of its first out-of-state location: Monday, May 16, in the Uptown Plaza Shopping Center at First Street and Camelback in Phoenix.

To publicize the opening, Lou Malnati’s will be providing free meals to local media (and their guests) on May 11 and 12. Given the media’s penchant for free food, expect a mega-blitz of hype.

(As regular MXSW readers know, I don’t accept free food or drink, so I won’t be checking out Lou Malnati’s until it opens to the public.)

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Health-focused Crisp Greens to open Thursday in Chandler

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post image for Health-focused Crisp Greens to open Thursday in Chandler

Crisp Greens, a new fast-casual salad concept, will make its debut Thursday in downtown Chandler. It takes over the former Planet Sub space on Arizona Avenue just south of Chicago Street.

The concept, which offers ‘‘fresh and healthy meals to busy individuals,’’ is the brainchild of Brandon Fisher and Darron Moffatt, who enlisted Martika Russo, chef at the Four Seasons in St. Louis, as a consultant.

Crisp Greens’ menu features eight gourmet salads, also available as wraps, with a choice of tofu or chicken and fresh-baked bread ($8-$9.50). You also can build your own salad or wrap from a list of 50 ingredients.

Crisp Greens will open at 11 a.m. Thursday. After the grand opening, hours will be 7 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays and 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. weekends.

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Blaze Pizza to open first AZ location Thursday in Tempe

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post image for Blaze Pizza to open first AZ location Thursday in Tempe

Blaze Pizza, a Pasadena, Calif.-based fast-casual pizza concept whose celebrity investors include NBA star LeBron James and TV journalist Maria Shriver, will make its Arizona debut Thursday in downtown Tempe.

It takes over the former Zia Records building on the southwest corner of University and Maple, just west of Mill Avenue.

Like the many other fast-casual pizza concepts that have sprouted up in the Valley, Blaze allows diners to choose the toppings for their 11-inch pizza, then cooks the pizza in an 800-degree oven in just 180 seconds.

Blaze claims to be the country’s fastest-growing pizza concept. Since its launch in 2011, it has opened 116 locations and plans to add another 96 by the end of this year.

Other Valley locations are in the works in Phoenix, Glendale, and Avondale.

Blaze Pizza’s hours are 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 10:30 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday.

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It’s Taco Tuesday! Here are today’s East Valley taco deals

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Post image for It’s Taco Tuesday! Here are today’s East Valley taco deals

It’s Tuesday, which means taco deals…

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Post image for Mugsy Dogs celebrates grand opening today & Saturday in southeast Gilbert

Mugsy Dogs, a burger and hot dog shop, celebrates its grand opening today and Saturday in the Lowe’s shopping center on the northwest corner of Higley and Queen Creek in Gilbert.

The eatery takes its name from owner Doug ‘‘Mugsy’’ Jones, a Phoenix native who got his nickname in high school.

Although the shop offers burgers and hot dogs, it’s the latter that are the focus. In addition to the flagship Mugsy Dog, specialty dogs include:

  • BLT Dog: Wrapped in bacon with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and bacon bits.
  • Pizza Dog: With pizza sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni.
  • BBQ Pork Dog: With baked beans, pulled pork, cheddar, and onion rings.
  • Gringo Dog: Bacon-wrapped with mayo, baked beans, pico de gallo, and green sauce.
  • Mac ’N Cheese Dog: With mac ’n’ cheese, crumbled cheese crackers, and bacon bits.
  • Slaw Dog: With chili, Ccoleslaw,  and onion.
  • Chili Dog: With chili, onion, and shredded cheddar.
  • Chicago Dog: With mustard, pickles, onion, tomato, sport peppers, relish, and celery salt.

Today and Saturday, regular Mugsy Dogs and kids meals are half-price. On Saturday, there will be a bounce house (11 a.m.-4 p.m.), fire truck on display (noon-1), and classic car show (4-7).

Mugsy Dogs is open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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Downtown Tempe’s Ncounter sold to franchising group

BY Jess Harter Friday, April 8, 2016

Post image for Downtown Tempe’s Ncounter sold to franchising group

Family-owned Ncounter in downtown Tempe has been sold to a franchise group that plans to expand the breakfast-and-lunch concept nationally.

Thom and Kathy Coker, who launched Ncounter in 2011 and also own T.C. Eggington’s in Mesa, made the announcement in a video on the eatery’s Facebook page.

The new owners are Pacific Restaurant Partners, a co-venture between Due North Holdings and Tokyo-based Hotland.

Due North founders Kevin and Kathryn Blackwell also founded Scottsdale-based Kahala, which franchises the Blimpie’sCold Stone Creamery, and Samurai Sam’s brands.

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