THE FOODBAR (Scottsdale)
Sorry for all-caps, but that is how they format the name...has anyone heard anything about this new place beyond what was written up in the New Times? (http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bell...)
My husband received an email invite for a preview and not only were we curious about the restaurant, but we were trying to figure out how the PR group got his email since he's probably on, at most, one restaurant email list.
My husband and I went to check out FOODBAR on Friday night. It is located across the street from Cowboy Ciao to what I think is the northwest. For anyone who remembers, it is on the site where Madison's used to sit.
FOODBAR is housed in a long rectangular space, and you can enter either side. On one end, you enter into the breakfast/coffee bar area, and on the other end you enter into the lunch and dinner area. Connecting these two spaces is a long hall-type space with seating. There is also a patio outside, and judging by the fans overhead along the front of the establishment, there will eventually be seating along the sidewalk.
The space was very airy, lots of windows and light. I was impressed with the materials used in the construction - dark rich woods, steel, glass...it had a modern feel with a twist of retro.
I don't know why, but from the few things I had read about the place, I expected it to be a full-blown sit down restaurant. It isn't. It has more of a market/cafe sort of feel, where you go through a line viewing options and placing your order along the way. As you enter the queue in the lunch/dinner area, you first encounter Chef Allan's Salads in a display case. The options consisted of Curried Chicken, Herb Buttermilk Chicken, Mediterranean Tuna, Classic Tuna, Moroccan Spiced Carrot and Currant, Pickled Seasonal Vegetables, Couscous with fruit (called the North African), Caprese (a cool twist – orzo, pesto, mozzarella, and “moon-dried” tomatoes), and the Tuscan. You can see pictures of the menu by visiting the link at the end of this post.
We were offered samples of everything so we tried the Moroccan, Buttermilk, and Caprese. I was most impressed with the Caprese. The Buttermilk was rather bland. The Moroccan was really interesting – my first bite was a blast of carrot and cinnamon and then cilantro kicked in. A few seconds later I felt the spice (not sure what it was, but it had a black pepper-like zing) while the cilantro went full force in my mouth. It was a very busy experience for my taste buds – there was so much going on! And then I got to some raisins and yet another flavor was tossed into the mix. I don’t know if I could eat an entire serving of this particular salad, but it certainly gave me something to think about.
Next up in the cases were more standard salads – field greens, a Caesar, etc.
After the salads you encountered a staff member at a register-type station. This is where you place your order for hot or cold sandwiches. It was a little odd because you don’t pay at this point – you just place your sandwich order and also indicate if you want any sides like mashed potatoes or roasted new potatoes, etc. Then the staff member punches your order in and hands you a number. You move on and pass the full dinner options – Spit Roasted Chicken, Pasta, Fish – and then as you swing back around in the queue you come to the desserts, and finally the beverages. After the beverages you end up at the register, where you would normally pay but because this was part of their “dress-rehearsal,” everything was on the house.
My husband had the Soft Shell Crab Po-Boy and I had the Chicken Panini. We ordered a slice of the Chocolate Pave to split. We left the register with our dessert and drinks (lemonade for me, melonade for my husband) and found a table. After about 5 minutes, our sandwiches were brought out to us. They were served alone on white plates. The Po-Boy came on a round plate, while the Panini was on an oblong plate.
After we each had a few bites of our own sandwiches, and a sample bite of each other’s, I asked my husband what he thought of his selection. He stated that it wasn’t bad, but he certainly wouldn’t order it again. I concurred. There wasn’t much flavor to the sandwich and all I could really taste was the sauce. The Panini was better, but not a standout from all other paninis I have had. I would simply describe it as, “good.” However, I did like the “moon-dried” tomatoes a whole lot. They were flavorful and manageable, not like when you have giant fresh tomato slices slipping all over your sandwich and making it hard to gracefully eat your sandwich. They were small like sun-dried tomatoes, but soft, juicy, and flavorful.
The dessert was a lot less dense than I expected – when I hear “flourless chocolate cake” (which, when used together, are my three favorite words in the world!) I imagine a very dense texture. This had a flaky brownie texture on top and was a little dry but it worked. The flavor was rich but didn’t overwhelm. There was also a light and airy puff of a marshmallow-tasting filling in little pockets of the cake here and there. I would definitely order this dessert again and NOT share. :-)
I can see the FOODBAR becoming the hot spot to meet for lunch or breakfast – not quite like LGO, but perhaps its streamlined and more contemporary cousin. FOODBAR sells merchandise such as kitchen textiles, bags of trail mix, bottled drinks to go and the like but it definitely doesn’t have the dedicated market area like LGO. And despite all the complaints about seating and space at LGO, FOODBAR is definitely smaller. The seating inside was geared towards parties of two, so larger parties will have to sit outside.
Beer and wine will be available, but they don’t have their license yet. We heard Chef Schanbacher talking to some friends and saying they will be opening on Monday or Tuesday of this coming week, but aren’t going to make a big deal about it or publicize it too much right now. He said the reason for this is because there is still so much construction in the area and it is summer. I guess he is approaching this more as a quiet and steady build rather than a big fanfare and fizzle.
If you have a chance, check out FOODBAR and have a piece of Chocolate Pave for me!
more pictures: http://www.flickr.com/gp/8854511@N08/...
Had lunch today with a friend and it was a treat. Funky design, a wide selection for fare (hard to order, actually, given the variety) and the staff was first rate... very friendly, helpful and... aware (is what comes to mind). They really want you to enjoy the experience, no matter if you're spending $2 or $20.
As mentioned, we had a tough time choosing - they serve breakfast fare until 2
(don't quote me on that) so there were some nice quiches and a bread pudding/french toast dish that looked decadent. Pot pies, paninis, cold lamb - it all looked good. I was intrigued by the salad/sides and was told I could order a trio for $8 or $8.50. I also ordered a coke, which turned out to be imported (MX).
My order was 3 heaping scoops of:
- Curried chicken salad. Not spicy hot but had a nice Indian flavor
- a traditional red potato salad
- a nice roasted eggplant/sun dried tomato/veggie mix
I only managed to eat half and brought the rest home for my next day's lunch, thus it'll work out to be around $6 per meal.
The only negative I forsee is the odd seating. It's a long, thin eatery and most of the inside tables are 2-seaters with a few 4-seaters and a little bar. We sat outside by choice (under misters) where they have a row of booth-like enclaves that can either seat 6 or so spread out, or two parties of 3, very close. As it stands, I wouldn't try to go there with a group - but it seems a great choice for a nice meal with a friend or 3. And to be fair, it's part of a big development still half built so they might have more seating options as things develop. Thus check with them and don't treat this review as definitive. It's an evolving new place and one that you should try if a foodie.
We did foodbar today and enjoyed it. They have a killer, killer sandwich on a thin baguette with brie & proscuitto. That was pretty much the universal favorite. I could eat that sandwich about 3 times a week. We also enjoyed the risotto cake, salmon cake, Tuscan bean salad. The chicken milanese was also good as well but seemed a bit bland after several bites – maybe that’s just chicken milanese though – I still liked it. Ribs were pretty good too.
The staff was very nice & helpful, the manager especially so. Got some other strong recommendations from them that we will go back & try (Cobb salad, tomato/pesto sandwich on ciabatta, sounds like they do specials/tastings with reasonable priced good selection of wine in the evenings too).
Really neat decor. The only thing that is a bit tough is the seating, as has been mentioned. With 4 of us and 4 toddlers/infants/a stroller in tow we couldn’t fit inside and though they have a nice misting system set up, it’s still too dang hot out. They have a patio which is going to be super nice once it gets a bit cooler and once they finish the surrounding construction (a couple of which being Peter Kasperski’s restaurants, Digestif & Mexican Standoff).
I got to try the FOODBAR this weekend. My reaction: mixed; there's some potential here, but some things need to change.
First, the food: My wife and I ordered a salmon cake, a risotto cake, mashed potatoes, and the soup of the day, a vegetable pistou. The cakes, both salmon and risotto, were both quite good, surprisingly so since they were not made to order, but instead reheated from the stock in the display counters. The mashed potatoes were also good. The soup was a generous portion full of lots of beans and vegetables, but it had two shortcomings: 1) While it was not excessively salty like so many soups, it could have used stronger flavors from basil, garlic, or other common flavors used in a pistou. 2) There were pieces of ham (I think) in the soup. I realize that it's common to flavor predominantly meatless soups with ham hocks, bacon, etc., but I think that should be stated in the description of the soup since I don't think I'm the only customer who might have expected a completely meatless soup.
Second, the service: Okay, nothing strongly good or bad here. Staff were friendly but seemed as confused as the customers about the odd layout of the restaurant, which brings me to...
Third, the decor and layout: Here's where the biggest problem lies. There's been some buzz about the design of this restaurant. I'll be blunt in saying that this restaurant's design is attractive but utterly dysfunctional. The first issue is that a fast casual service model (order at the counter; servers bring food to your table) does not work well in a space like this. Fast casual works best in a square space such as the typical Pei Wei outlet. Here, there are two entrances with a narrow seating area in between. The restaurant is shaped like a dumbbell. Once one figures out which end of the dumbbell to go to, there are several counters where food orders can be placed. In some cases, it's unclear which counter is for which food, resulting in needless questions such as "Is this where I order a sandwich?"
After one pays, the next challenge is the seating, which is downright bizarre. The seating area resembles a regional jet. It's long and narrow with tables for two on one side of the aisle and bench-style seats on the other. The bench seats don't work. They require that diners sit at 90 degree angles to their food, and without exception everyone who sat in them looked awkward and uncomfortable. The owners would be well advised to remove the benches and replace them with a counter facing outward toward Stetson.
No matter how the seating is configured, though, the narrow aisle presents a challenge. It takes just a few high chairs, strollers, or shopping bags to block the aisle, and if customers and staff are shuttling back-and-forth between the food area and the bar area, traffic could get really congested.
My conclusion: It's an acceptable choice if one is doing errands in the area, but not worth a special trip. The food was good enough given the price of approximately $10 per person, but the significant design flaws make this place difficult to enjoy.
I would definitely keep this on your list. I went with ccl this weekend (his sister), and while I wasn't floored by anything, I like the concept, the food is fresh and tasty, the staff was really refreshing - truly concerned about what you thought, and according to Dan (manager) constantly evolving their menu until they find their groove. The barista asked my sister-in-law if she liked her coffee. She was a bit hestitant when he said he made it, but she commented that she liked her coffees a bit stronger. Totally unoffended, he said, "I'll remember that for next time."
Very pleasant in general. Another time the manager went in to get brother a bottle opener without hesitation. Liked the caponata, tasted the crab salad, swiss butter cookies were yummy, fruit salad (ordered for the kids) was plentiful and made with sweet/fresh fruit. I will definitely be back.
On the outside seating - think Paris cafes but with slightly bigger chairs and tables. I like the funky indoor built in seating too, but don't know how functional it would be for our mass of kids we generally travel with.