Essence Bakery Cafe in Tempe to close at end of May

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Sad news for East Valley macaron lovers: After 10 award-winning years, Essence Bakery Cafe in Tempe is closing at the end of May.

The restaurant and bakery, located on the southeast corner of Hardy and University, serves a European-inspired menu for breakfast and lunch.

The signature menu item, though, is chef-owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos’ macarons, made fresh daily and available in more than a dozen flavors.

Although Theodosopoulos and husband Gilles Combes decided not to renew the Tempe lease, their three-year-old Phoenix location on the southeast corner of 38th Street and Indian School remains open.

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Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream closes Tempe location

BY Jess Harter Monday, April 17, 2017


Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream has closed the Tempe location it took over just last summer. The location, on the northeast corner of McClintock and Southern, previously was home to Nello’s Pizza.

Iowa-based Happy Joe’s entered the Arizona market by opening a Gilbert location in June 2015. It took over Nello’s in Tempe in June 2016 and briefly tried to operate the latter as a hybrid of the two concepts.

Happy Joe’s lays claim to inventing the taco pizza – dubbed the Taco Joe (pictured), its bestseller – in the early 1970s.

The Happy Joe’s in Gilbert remains open.

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Fast-growing Huss Brewing opens its Phoenix taproom today at Uptown Plaza on the northeast corner of Central and Camelback in Phoenix.

Launched in 2013 by Jeff and Leah Huss, the south Tempe brewery bought Papago Brewing last year and is now the third-largest brewery in Arizona. Its popular brews include Scottsdale Blonde, Magic in the Ivy pale ale, and Koffee Kolsch.

The Phoenix taproom features 15 Huss beers on tap and a menu of shareable appetizers (see food and drink menus). Patrons also can order food from neighboring restaurants, including Lou Malnati’s Pizza, Shake Shack, Chipotle, and Zookz Sandwiches.

“Just like our Tempe Taproom, we wanted to create a comfortable space where people can relax, sip our beers, and enjoy food from a multitude of area restaurants,” Leah Huss says.

The taproom hours are 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, and noon-8 p.m. Sunday.

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Taxation is Theft release

Tax Day is fast approaching, and the Beer Research Institute in Mesa is marking the occasion by tapping a new beer: Taxation is Theft. The dry Belgian saison is brewed with Darjeeling tea in a nod to the tax-protest Boston Tea Party. All weekend, BRI will be selling Taxation is Theft tax-free; that is, the brewpub will pay the tax for you!

Four Peaks turns 20

Four Peaks celebrates its 20th anniversary Saturday with a concert lineup headlined Blues Traveler at its Wilson Street taproom in Tempe. Door open at 3 p.m. for the event, which also includes food trucks, a photo booth, a time capsule, and lots of Four Peaks beers. If you didn’t buy your tickets in advance you’re out of luck – the event is sold out.

Press Coffee tasting

Did you know Press Coffee in Chandler holds Coffee 101 tastings on the first and third Saturdays of every month, including this Saturday at 10 a.m.? Learn the histories, geographies, and flavors of four different coffees in the one-hour interactive class. Cost is $10, but you get a $10 gift card so basically the tastings are free! RSVP:

Tombstone tap takeover

Recently opened Tombstone Brewing is fast becoming a favorite of Arizona beer drinkers. Find out what all the fuss is about when The Whining Pig in Gilbert hosts a Tombstone tap takeover from 4-7 p.m. Saturday. A tap list hasn’t been announced, but the brewery has been getting raves for its Northeast-style hazy IPA and Norwegian Farmhouse IPA.

Easter Sunday brunches

Before heading out to your regular Sunday brunch this weekend, remember it’s Easter Sunday and restaurants will be busy. There also are some specials. For example, Bourbon Jacks in downtown Chandler has a special menu, The Perch will have $5 mimosa and Bloody Marys, and Pier 54 in Tempe will have food and drink specials plus lakeside live music from noon-2 p.m.

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Chicago-based Gino’s East to open April 24 in east Phoenix

BY Jess Harter Thursday, April 13, 2017


Gino’s East, a Chicago favorite for deep-dish pizza since 1966, will open its first Arizona location at 4 p.m. Monday, April 24, on the northeast corner of 36th Street and Indian School in east Phoenix.

A new 4,400-square-foot-building and patio has been constructed on the site that formerly was Hazelwoods First Place.

Says Jordan Himmel of Gino’s East parent company Bravo Restaurants, ‘‘The wait is finally over, and we are pleased to be able to bring a little piece of Chicago to the Valley of the Sun.”

Besides its signature deep-dish pizza, Gino’s East has thin-crust pizza, sandwiches, and salads. A full bar offers craft beer, cocktails and wine.

Ten percent of all opening-day proceeds will be donated to Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Customers can enter a raffle for a chance to win a free monthly pizza for a year.

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April 13: Smoke & Mirrors beer dinner at SunUp Brewing in Phoenix

BY Jess Harter Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Fresh off its April Fool’s Day-themed beer dinner, SunUp Brewing in Phoenix is hosting a Smoke & Mirrors beer dinner – ‘‘where nothing is as what it appears’’ – at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

The evening features five SunUp beers and four dishes:

  • App: Smoked pork sausage with fresh fruit and seared potato.
  • Salad: Spicy cabbage with smoked red peppers, carrots, and zucchini, with cucumbers and avocado emulsion.
  • Entree: BBQ beef brisket with cheesy cauliflower, and golden beets.
  • Desserts: Smoked white chocolate with candied brioche and fresh raspberries and honeydew.

A vegetarian version also is available. Cost is $30 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the brewpub or online.

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Chico Malo, a new Mexican restaurant with some South American influences, will open its doors at 4 p.m. Friday at CityScape in downtown Phoenix.

It takes over the 7,078-square-foot space that previously housed The Corner  and will seat 180 people.

The restaurant will serve weekday breakfast on a fast-casual (order-at-the-counter) basis, then switch to traditional, sit-down service for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

The menu ranges from chilaquiles ($8) and burros ($9) for breakfast, to tacos ($5-$6) and tortas ($12-$13) for lunch, to dinner entrees like harissa-braised Pollo Fundido ($26).

See the lunch and dinner menus. (Pictured: Pollo Frito Torta with fried chicken breast, pickled cabbage, jalapeño marmalade, and egg creama.)


Hours are 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-midnight Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday.

Chico Malo is owned by recently formed Culture Shock Hospitality, whose principals include Joel Bachkoff, owner of Stand Up Live and Copper Blues at CityScape.

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Romeo’s Euro Cafe in Gilbert holds its weekly ‘‘Taste of Romeo’s’’ dinner, hosted by chef Romeo Taus and his wife, Janice, in a private dinning room, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 13.

The dinners typically feature five courses selected from the restaurant’s regular menu. This week’s menu:

  • Spicy Lamb Potatoes: Gyros meat and potatoes, hand-formed and deep-fried.
  • Broiled Chicken Salad: Grilled chicken tossed with artichokes, roasted red peppers, black olives, green onions, walnuts lettuce greens and a lemon-mustard sauce.
  • Sainte Victoire: Broiled chicken topped with kasseri cheese and raspberry-honey-Dijon sauce, with sauteed vegetables (pictured).
  • Vasco De Gama: Sautéed chicken and gulf shrimp, carrots, mushrooms, green onions, sun-dried tomatoes, curry-mustard seed sauce, bow tie pasta, pistachios.
  • Raspberry White Chocolate: Creamy cheesecake made with real raspberry puree.

Cost is $30 per person plus tax and tip. Add five wine tastes for $10. RSVP: 480-962-4224.

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Congrats to Mirza ‘‘The Snowman’’ Selmic, who woofed down two large cheese pizzas in 14 minutes, 25 seconds to win the 17th annual charity pizza-eating contest Sunday at Flancer’s in Mesa.

The Phoenix resident, who finished a close second in the 2014 contest, won $250 and was crowned by Miss Arizona Katelyn Niemiec and Miss Teen Arizona Elan Morris.

The contest wraps up Flancer’s annual fundraisers for Warfighter Sports, Sunshine Acres Children’s home, and Jewish Family & Children’s Services. The three charities received $30,000.

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Award-winning Naked BBQ opens 2nd location Tuesday in Scottsdale

BY Jess Harter Monday, April 10, 2017


Naked BBQ, one of the top barbecue joints in the Valley, will open its second location at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Scottsdale Fiesta Shopping Center on the southeast corner of the 101 and Shea.

It takes over the space formerly occupied by Cousins Subs, across the parking lot from Portillo’s.

The daily smoked meat options include chopped brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, sliced turkey, and hot links. Specials range from prime rib to pork belly.

(Pictured above: Naked’s award-winning Pork on Pork sandwich with pulled pork topped with smoked pork belly.)

As it name implies, the dry-rubbed meats are served without sauce, although Naked offers several sauces on the side, including a South Carolina mustard sauce and a rare (in Arizona) North Carolina vinegar and pepper sauce.

It also offers a North Carolina version of its cole slaw and house-made pickles.

Unlike the north Phoenix location, which opened in January 2015, the Scottsdale location will serve local craft beers.

The Scottsdale hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

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