PHX - Jug 'n Barrel (N. Glendale)
Since we moved to AZ a few months ago, I've been hoping to find a casual, cozy neighborhood restaurant with great food and a friendly staff where "everybody knows your name" (yep, I'm from Boston).
We absolutely LOVE this place and visit at least once a week. I had heard about Jug 'n Barrel but thought it was a casual pub with live music, and for some reason thought it was in downtown Glendale. When we were out with ArizonaGirl and her husband a few weeks ago at Voce, they convinced us that it's nothing like that. In fact, it's a wine shop and restaurant with an excellent menu, that we would love it, and it was actually just a few minutes away from where we live off of Happy Valley.
The first time we stopped in, it was after dinner at a nearby Asian restaurant, for a glass of wine. It's located in a strip mall, but has a nice L-shaped patio surrounded by misters. Immediately walking in, we were struck with how cozy and warm this place feels - wine casks decorate the wall behind the small bar, and there were votive-lit tables scattered throughout the room, along with a couple sitting areas with leather sofas and low tables. The staff was so friendly, Paul, who chose some wonderful wines for us, and Chef Strobel, both of who have worked at Tarbell's, that we immediately made plans to come back for dinner the following night.
Since then, we've returned many times, and the rest of the staff is just as friendly and welcoming - Dave, Tricia, and Kevin, and the sous-chef John. The menu has something that appeals to everyone - from creamy hummus served with crispy baked pita to a hearty filet with blue cheese and mushroom risotto to comfort food like pasta bolognese. The chef has told us everything on the menu is something he loves to eat himself. Great for us! Some of our favorites include the mussels -so plump and so flavorful I asked if there was seafood stock in the broth, but the chef said it's just the classic balance of white wine, shallots, garlic and sprigs of thyme. After tasting the fries as a side dish to a sandwich, we now enjoy these as moules frites and ask for a plate of fries with our order of mussels. The fries are amazing - crispy thin fries with bits of skin, dusted with grated parmesan and minced parsley, served with a delicious lemony aioli. Other favorites on the menu include the classic French Croque Monsieur (Black Forest ham and swiss sandwich with bechamel), though I order it as the Croque Madame, topped with a fried egg, the BMT (apple-wood smoked bacon, mozzarella and tomato on ciabatta), and any of the weekly seafood specials. Two recent highlights were the ahi tuna with ginger aioli and napa slaw, and this week's Alaskan halibut with white asparagus, pattypan squash, and English pea-goat cheese risotto.
On our last visit, the chef sent us out one of his favorites that he makes for his family - toasted slices of crispy ciabatta bread drizzled with rosemary-infused caramel, topped with crumbles of creamy Laura Chenel goat cheese. WOW. I'm a fan of savory-sweet combinations and this was just delicious. It's not on the menu yet because the manager isn't sure it would be popular, so I urge to start off your visit to this great little wine bistro with an order of this along with a suitable wine pairing from Paul, while you peruse the menu and enjoy yourselves.
Jug 'n Barrel is open Wednesday-Saturday, has live music on Thursdays and Saturdays, and very popular wine tastings Thursdays 6:30-8:00. Last night's was a blind wine tasting which was a lot of fun. They also have a nice selection of wine in their retail shop. On an earlier visit this week, I asked for a local AZ wine and really enjoyed the Echo Canyon 2003 Estate Syrah that Paul chose for me.
Jug 'n Barrel
18555 N 59th Ave, Glendale, AZ 85308
I agree, it's a nice neighborhood gem. I think I've posted about it before; I don't remember. I like that it's a chef-driven wine bar and they do think carefully about pairings. Their desserts are also to die for. I don't know if their pastry chef is also in-house, but someone is doing good work with that area.
Good selection and great deals to be found when they're liquidating cases. And, if you're not so into the wine and the talking about it and the whole culture, you can still stop in and have a glass of sangria and some great eats. And on a gossipy note, we heard from one of the servers one night that the crowd in the corner was a swingers' club that meets there sometimes. After she said that we kind of noticed our group as well as the house staff were kind of eyeballing them for overt signs of licentiousness or whatever. Well, nothing untoward went on, but it was interesting just the same. Swingers in Arrowhead; who knew? Three cheers for diversity.
disclosure -- I'm friends with one of their live acts, plays every other Saturday or so.