Category Archives: Restaurant

New to the Boulevard: Hop Social

Hop Social is one of the newest restaurants to stake claim to the highly coveted real of Chandler Boulevard. Hop Social occupies the space previously held by Elephant Bar.

This standalone building has been extensively remodeled. The exterior features an elegant upscale look. The first thing you observe prior to walking through the main entrance is the well-lit ample patio space. This promises to be the perfect place to enjoy an AZ winter al fresco dining experience.

The interior design is also quite impressive. The dining room features an interesting play on modern and vintage ascetics with the focal point of the space holding a striking set of large emerald green tufted sofas. The overall feel is a nice contrast from the multitudes of basic chain restaurants that surround this establishment.

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In an unprecedented move, Hop Social kicked off their “soft” opening weekend by giving away meals! I can confidently speak for all Phoenix area foodies when I say I hope this is a trend that catches on. Hop Social sent out a lunch and dinner invitations offering meals to local residents from 11/16-11/18.         

My wife and I were limited to ordering two specific entrees during this soft opening. I went with the Caesar Salad and the BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger.  The Caesar Salad was fit for a king. It arrived with ample amounts of shredded Parmesan and house made croutons all coated with a creamy dressing.  Now I’ve never had a burger that’s been life changing but this was pretty delicious. The bread was fresh and soft and the beef was juicy and cooked to perfection. The salty thick cut smoky bacon took this decadent sandwich to the next level. The side of coleslaw was so-so, bit bland and uninspired. I would suggest going with the rustic thick cut French fries when it’s your turn to choose a side.

The most difficult choice of the night was picking a drink. With 52 craft beers on tap this was somewhat of a weighty decision process. With the word “hop” in the name I anticipated this dilemma. Fortunately with beers like Tower Station (by Mother Road Brewing) and Papago Orange Blossom (by Papago Brewing Co) you can’t go wrong.

Hop Social also hosts happy hour twice a day 7 days a week! With an extensive beer list, eclectic and reasonably priced food menu and prime location Hop Social will be a welcomed addition to Chandler Boulevard.     

Visit the Hop Social website

-AZ Survival Guide

AZ Survival Guide’s Brewery of the Month: SanTan Brewery

LRG_DSC01523In 2013 I took my first tip to Arizona. I knew very little about the extreme desert heat or the rapidly expanding microbrew scene. SanTan Brewery was the first of many beer establishments I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. Located in the heart of downtown Chandler, SanTan is one of the city’s oldest and most popular brewery. They opened their doors in 2007 and have been serving great food and beer ever since.

The brewery resides in a space that was once a bank. The teller lines and safe deposit boxes have long ago been moved aside to make room for the floor to ceiling stainless steel fermenters and all the other needed equipment necessary for a fully functioning brewery. A single industrial vault door is the one hint that this brewery was once a financial institution.

LRG_DSC01489SanTan’s beers can be found all throughout the valley. You will be hard pressed to find a bar or supermarket in the valley that does not care one of their offerings.

Food is one of the elements that sets this brewery apart from its many competitors. The menu is comprised of a balanced mix of your standard pub fare along with some of the best Southwest dishes in the area. SanTan prides themselves on utilizing the best local ingredients.

LRG_DSC01488On my most recent visit, I went with a pint of their flagship beer – Devil’s Ale. This delicious American Pale Ale is served ice cold in the heaviest pint glass ever manufactured (maybe.) In the twilight of the spacious patio this beer appeared to have a hazy dark amber maroon hue. It is characterized by sweet citrus piney aromas and a caramel malt flavor. This well-balanced beer weighs in at 5.5% ABV and is a crowd favorite for sure.

*other notable offerings

Mr. Pineapple – super popular seasonal wheat beer. Try it mixed in their Vacation in a Glass cocktail

Moon Juice IPA / with Grapefruit makes it even better

Hop Shock IPA

Unfortunately, the secret is out on this establishment. Anticipate a bit of a wait for table on a weekend night. But if some quality craft Beer, great service and delicious food is what you seek, you can definitely bank on SanTan Brewery.

Happy Hour: Monday-Friday 3pm-6pm

Reverse Happy Hour: Sunday-Thursday 9PM-Close

SanTan Brewery 

-AZ Survival Guide

 

The Ocean State’s Best Outdoor Dining

There are 2 things that are incredibly hard to find in Arizona: good seafood and people that were born and raised here.

That being said, my wife and I (like most Arizonans) make it an annual tradition to escape the summer heat and head back to the place that we call home – Rhode Island. There is no feeling that can compare to returning to a bar or restaurant that you haven’t been to in over a year and having the Wi-Fi on your phone connect automatically. That’s when you truly know you are home!

Rhode Island is a tiny state but there is much to do and no lack of quality seafood. If you find yourself venturing out of the Valley and visiting the smallest state in the US, here is a spot you need to check out.

Matunuck Oyster Bar

The Matunuck Oyster Bar is located in South Kingstown, only 30 minutes from Newport, in a classic beach house style building. This 2 story structure is adorned with weathered grey wooden shingles, large white trimmed windows and sits alongside the picturesque banks of Potter Pound.

In my opinion, this restaurant offers one of the best outdoor dining experiences that Rhode Island has to offer. The concept for Matunuck Oyster Bar is “simple food, fairly priced, fresh products, and making sure everybody leaves happy.”

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The Matunuck Oyster Bar literally offers Pond to Plate dining. As you enjoy the mouth-watering selection of New England seafood staples, you can watch the fresh oysters being harvested from the waterfront patio.

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The fresh delicious seafood, the beautiful and tranquil seaside ambiance and the quarter-mile proximity to the sandy shores of East Matunuck beach make this a must-visit destination on all of our trips back to the Ocean State.

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– AZ Survival Guide

A Beerhaus You Can Bet On

Ask anyone in Las Vegas if you can find a craft beer and a snack for $8 or less and they will tell you that the odds are not in your favor. If you find yourself down to your last Hamilton, we’ve got a happy hour spot for you. 

Beerhaus Las Vegas is located right in between New York-New York and Monte Carlo. This is a relatively new restaurant so if your Uber driver is like ours, you may have to provide directions. 

This establishment is set back about half a block off Las Vegas boulevard. It’s in the middle of an area called The Park. As the name implies, it’s a space filled with monuments, statues, water features and outdoor benches (outdoor seating was not getting much use on this sunny 103 degree day). The exterior park/courtyard vibe is a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of the strip. 

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I would describe the interior design as modern industrial. It’s a nice mix of exposed brick, poured concrete and blonde wood grain table surfaces that complete the intended turn of the century factory decor. 

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Happy hour is from 2 to 6 PM daily. You will quickly discover why one Yelp review crowns this bar “best happy hour in Vegas.” 

The craft beer selection is impressive. We decided to go with the Lovelady IPA, a beer that’s brewed in Henderson NV. Slightly cloudy, amber gold color, with a hoppy citrus floral finish, it is delicious! And at the $4 happy hour price I couldn’t resist doubling down. Now when it comes to eats, this beer house features all The Oktoberfest classics that you would expect at a beer hall. They have everything from brats to soft baked pretzels. Most of these items are featured on the happy hour menu for about $4 as well.

We went with the fries and cheese dipping sauce. We weren’t expecting much (after all it was just an order of fried potatoes). After crunching down on our first golden brown, salty crispy fries my wife and I both simultaneously thought ” wow these might be some of the best fries we’ve ever had”… I soon learned that these fried chips did not reach perfection by accident. The executive chef went through 18 different combination of potatoes and oils to to craft these mouth watering gems. The warm creamy cheese sauce was a perfect pairing. It will have you thinking “Who decided that ketchup has to be the industry standard designated fry condiment?” 

Next time you’re in Las Vegas and you find yourself in mid-day recovery mode or just killing time until the night life pops off, the Beerhaus is a must visit happy hour. 

 

– AZ Survival Guide

The Most Interesting Drink of 2017 (so far)

We are slightly past the halfway point of 2017 and it is safe to say I’ve just experienced the craziest cocktail of the year thus far. On our annual road trip from Phoenix to Las Vegas, my wife and I decided to roll the dice on a new restaurant off the strip called Sparrow + Wolf. This hip modern eatery is located about a mile from The Palms. The food was delicious! I ordered the Campfire Duck which was cooked to perfection. This was a decadent combination of medium rare moist duck breast topped with a smoky melt-in-your-mouth slice of foie gras. It is served atop wood ear mushrooms and a gravy-like salted cucumber, plum and duck bone broth ($22.00) But heads up – anticipate upscale restaurant portions. If you come hungry, you’ll leave hungry. But sometimes in a city full of all-you-can-eat buffets, a little moderation is a nice change of pace. 

(Our Charcuterie)

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The Drank

Now a good rule of thumb is when you see the cocktail section of the menus label “Libations”, you are in for an artisan handcrafted treat. With names like “Get Off My Lawn” and “Where There’s Smoke”, choosing a single drink to go all in on was the biggest gamble I took this weekend. The cocktail I opted for was titled “Jump The Shark ” (think Happy Days). The description read Plantation Pineapple Rum, Peanut-infused Bourbon, Banana, lime and Mint. Pretty much every major food group. Believe it or not, this was quite tasty – a great balance of sweet and tart. The subtle hint of banana added an interesting and memorable finish. Our server described this drink as ” the strongest drink on the menu”  and this gentleman was speaking the truth. Here’s the best part- this Sharknado of rum and bourbon is served in a gray and sky blue ceramic shark’s head! That alone makes this crafted cocktail worth trying. (Footnote; I learned the hard way that the ceramic shark head is “not a souvenir “)  

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Take a trip off the strip. The smoke filled casinos, celebrity chef restaurants and $10 Bud Light bars will always be there. Next time you’re in Vegas, grab a drink, a bite and a breath of fresh air at the Sparrow + Wolf. 

 

– AZ Survival Guide