BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND DINNER - ALL ROLLED INTO ONE
When you think of brunch, you may think of girls gathering around a table to complain and gossip - like on "Sex and the City" - or those super-crowded "build your own Bloody Mary bars" that let you add hamburger sliders, jumbo shrimp, beef jerky, whole peppers or anything else you can think of skewing on a stick.
But there are several spots in the Phoenix Metro area that serve great food with unique flavors, are locally owned and family friendly, and happen to offer some boozy delights. Depending on what you're in the mood for, we don't think you'll leave any of these restaurants disappointed.
"So Mach 2, that's about the speed Sean does everything in life." That's according to Lt. Col. Sean Rassas' wife - and co-pilot - Tara. But even though the F-16 pilot turned instructor has a need for speed, he has managed to slow down just a bit, to take control of the morning grind. Sean and Tara own Ground Control Craft Food and Drink in Litchfield Park.
The couple moved from Germany to Luke Air Force Base in 2005. They'd spend much of their lives stationed in Europe and were having a tough time finding a place in the west Valley where they could enjoy a good cup of coffee, a nice glass of wine or beer or even go out on a date night. So, they decided to open up Ground Control to focus on what they missed - fine wine, great coffee, delicious food, and world-class beers.
"Boy, if I knew what I was getting into then. It is way more dangerous to own a restaurant than it is to fly an F-16," said Sean.
Ground Control roasts their own coffee, makes wood fired pizza and their own gelato. They also have a large selection of wines and 28 craft beers on tap.
"My proudest accomplishment in the military was graduating high enough to be able to go fly an F-16. My biggest accomplishment in the restaurant business is to be open after five years," said Sean.
Now 12 years and climbing, Ground Control is practically on autopilot. So while customers keep fueling up, Sean and Tara continue to fly high.
Ground Control is at 4860 N. Litchfield Road.
THE MARKET BY JENNIFER'S
This "Arcadia Light" restaurant is quickly becoming a hot spot for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
Before you get to the menu, the first thing you notice when you walk in is how open and airy it is. You'd never know the space used to be a storage locker.
Jennifer Russo is the owner and chef at The Market, which is tucked on the side of an antique mall near 36th Street and Indian School Rd. "It was a blank canvas which I thought was pretty cool. I wanted it to feel inviting I guess, so that's what the open concept, the doors... I want people to be able to see in the kitchen, see what we do." Russo's mission is to provide a cafe feel where folks feel comfortable coming in wearing yoga pants or a ballgown.
While the red roses on the tables and chandeliers add touches of elegance, the menu is all about sharing.
"I love our meats and cheese boards, charcuterie, really nice. Fun to share. I like any food that's social."
While you'll see the French influence on the menu, there are some distinctly southwest dishes like a waffle with chili and Sriracha salt. The dish is a combination of local products.
So where did Russo ever get the idea to pair chili with a waffle? "I had local ingredients, and I wanted that brunch item that was just filling. Maybe even a hangover helper? You know, just like a Sunday morning real breakfast. I saw the opportunity with the ingredients that we had, and cornmeal in the waffle, with that chili dish, eggs on top of that. I mean, you can beat it."
Russo changes the menu twice a year, ensuring that the selection is seasonal and the ingredients are always local.
WELCOME CHICKEN + DONUTS
If you like your donuts on the traditional side - chocolate or vanilla icing with sprinkles - Welcome Chicken and Donuts happily serves them up.
But if your taste buds are a little more adventurous, why not try pickled grape and Parmesan shortbread, chocolate glaze with rosewater meringue and pistachios, Moscow Mule, or the ever-popular maple bacon. These donuts are unlike any other. From soft yeast to cake, there are no powdered or 'add water' mixes here. They're made every morning from scratch.
Operations director Wayne Coates said he leaves all of the doughnut flavor selections up to head baker Casey Hopkins.
"I really make an effort as to look at what’s happening and growing seasonally," she said. "And also if there’s a holiday coming up and nostalgic things that people really care about, desserts that they remember from their childhood, I try to reimagine and reinvent those on a donut."
But it's not all about the donuts. They make Korean-style fried chicken starting at 10:30 every morning. It's twice fried in an almost tempura-style batter, then served with a slaw and a plain hotcake doughnut, similar to cornbread or a buttermilk biscuit. They even serve beer so you can wash it all down.
It's probably no coincidence that Welcome Chicken + Donuts is housed in an old Kentucky Fried Chicken building. It's KFC reinvented - and finger lickin' good!
Welcome Chicken + Donuts is at the corner of Buckeye Rd. and 16th St.
MOWRY & COTTON
Even though it's located inside the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, don't feel like you need to don a pretentious Thurston Howell III inflection, "Lovey and I shall be dining at Mowry and Cotton at the Phoenician."
It isn't at all uppity. In fact, it's quite the opposite. It's laid back and comfortable, while the menu encourages you to share different dishes and nosh while you sip craft cocktails and catch up with family and friends.
It definitely has a local vibe, with roots firmly planted in the desert. It's named after George Mowry and James Cotton. They built and opened the first "high-class liquor establishment" in downtown Phoenix in 1872.
The menu is seasonal and regionally inspired with shareable starters like roasted squash flatbread, local citrus salad with dates and pistachios and crispy potatoes with chorizo.
If you're still hungry, your second round might include the green chili pork shank or the seared ahi tuna melt. The one item you must try - either as a starter or for dessert - is the Mowry Monkey Bread. I still dream about it.
Since we're talking brunch, we can't leave out M&C's fun cocktail twists. Our favorite was the flight of Fro-Mosas. It's three glasses of bubbly with a different scoop of frozen sorbet in each. We tried blood orange, mango and passion fruit. Remember, it's all about sharing.
Mowry & Cotton serves brunch from 10:30 to 2:30 on Saturdays and Sundays.
Garage-East may not serve brunch per say, but starting at 11 a.m., they do offer a unique "breakfast of champions".
"Here at Garage-East, we make something we call a Breakfast Wine," says co-owner Brian Ruffentine. "It’s really great; it’s fun. We take fresh produce...we fresh squeeze it, mix it with white wines, carbonate it, put it on tap if you want to enjoy it here, or you can take a can to go."
Located inside Barnone in Gilbert, right across from Agritopia Farm, Garage-East uses the seasonal fruits from the farm like grapefruit, orange and sometimes peach, to give a unique twist to the traditional Mimosa.
Garage-East serves up some light shareables as well as plenty of Arizona grown wine - on tap or in the bottle. Or you can come in later and still enjoy the Breakfast Wine.
"It’s not just for breakfast, you have it all day long." But Brian does have a warning: once it's gone, you'll have to wait until they make a new batch the following week.
THE UPROOTED KITCHEN
The owners of The Uprooted Kitchen describe their food as local, seasonal and organic. Chad and Erin Romanoff started out with a food truck, but have now truly put down roots inside Barnone in order to serve up farm-fresh and plant-based meals.
"We take things from the earth," says Chad, "fruits, vegetables, grains - and we really focus on whole foods that are nutrient-dense.”
While there is no meat on the menu, they do offer a pretty hardy veggie-burger. And Chad says customers are blown away at how filling all their food is. “The biggest reaction I get from most people is they feel good after they eat our food. They feel nourished, satiated in a really good way.”
One of the most popular items The Uprooted Kitchen serves is "sushi". It's your traditional seaweed wrap filled with quinoa, spicy slaw, carrots, maybe some sweet potatoes along with avocado and other veggies.
It's proof that brunch can be breakfast, lunch and dinner, all rolled into one.