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Jan 25, 2009 06:33 PM

Report: Tuck Shop (PHX)

Last night while casting about for not-so-heavy, not-so-expensive dinner options in Phoenix proper, we decided to give Tuck Shop a try. I'm glad we did.

Short story:

Comfortable "neighborhood place" vibe; reasonable prices; friendly service; high quality spirits, but fairly limited bar offerings; generally good quality food occasionally misses the mark, but the small plate format invites exploration

Long story:

The converted "ranch rectangle" of a house is a generally unassuming presence in a mostly residential area, so unassuming in fact, that I almost completely missed it while driving past on 12th Street. Despite its clean modern lines, the interior of the restaurant actually has a welcoming feeling. The "reading room", a waiting/seating area with easy chairs and a sofa, is separated from the main dining room only by a low bookcase, allowing those waiting to feel like they are part of the scene without being in the way. The kitschy lamps and vases give the reading room a true living room feel, making the wait a bit more relaxing.

We arrived around 7:30 on Saturday night and were told it would be a 45-minute wait for a table. We put ourselves on the list and retired to the reading room where we planned to enjoy some pre-dinner drinks. I opted for a girly concoction comprising Flor de Cana rum and the restaurant's housemade ginger ale and lemonade, while M decided to give the eponymous Tuck Shop Ale (from Four Peaks Brewery) a try. My cocktail was a bit of a bust, as I was expecting more ginger and lemon kick from the housemade syrups. The host/manager(?), however, did his best to salvage my non-standard drink order by adding more of the ginger syrup and rounding up some more lemon wedges for me. We were only about 15 minutes into our 45-minute wait when we were asked if we would care to dine at the bar. I never pass up a chance to watch a kitchen at work, so without hesitation, we followed the host to the end of the bar.

During our wait, we planned out our meal and decided we would start with the mixed greens salad with salametti, pickled shallots, fried goat cheese, and grapes. Very good. A simple mix of frisee and baby spinach perfectly dressed. We both agreed the salametti didn't add much, but the crisp crust and warm centers of the goat cheese balls were a great contrast to the cool tender greens and grapes and slightly tart shallot rings.

Next up was the clam cakes and corn chowder. Good, but didn't wow me. The clam cakes were puffy fritters, crisp on the outside, soft and eggy on the inside. I couldn't really detect much clam flavor, but the fritters made a good vehicle for the romesco-esque (romesque-o?) dipping sauce. The chowder, heavy with black pepper and studded with finely chopped carrot, had a texture and flavor much like creamed corn. The bits-of-bacon garnish helped offset my displeasure with creamed corn flavor.

For our main dish, we selected the grilled Pine AZ spiced skirt steak with lentil Parmesan mashed potatoes and mushrooms. Fantastic. The steak was perfectly cooked (rare - medium rare) with spicing that carried a bit of western Mediterranean vibe . The sauteed mushrooms were similarly seasoned and served atop the steak. We both wondered how the unusual combination of lentils and potatoes would work. Well, it would seem, as we both enjoyed the mix of silky, well-seasoned potatoes and toothsome pulses. We restrained ourselves about 2/3 of the way through, so as to save room for dessert. As a result, we ended up with nice snack for the following morning.

If it wasn't for my aversion to shaved coconut, we would have finished up with the chai panna cotta, but alas, we decided instead to go with a piece of the Irish cream "nearly flourless" chocolate cake, dressed with a spots of whipped cream and a chocolate ganache. We liked the flavor of the cake right off the bat, but the somewhat chewy texture took a while to grow on us.

While I didn't think every dish was a home run, I did enjoy the meal overall. The pre-tip tab for the meal, including 1 draft pint of beer, 1 large improvised cocktail, and 1 glass of wine ([Year?] C.G. Di Arie Primitivo, Shenandoah Valley, CA), came to roughly $72. Despite being harried, various members of the staff checked in to see how things were going and to chat us up throughout our visit. All in all, I'm glad we decided to give this new restaurant a try, and I'm sure we will return soon.

Tuck Shop
2245 N 12th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

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  1. Thanks for the detailed report. This restaurant definitely intrigues me. Coronado is steadily emerging as a dining district, but most of the restaurants are concentrated along the six-lane roar of 7th St. This seems a nice alternative in a more walkable portion of Coronado. The only thing I'm struggling with is the restaurant's name, which recalls a certain hygienic product. I'll either get over that or giggle my way through dinner when I try the place. Either outcome is a good one.

    1 Reply
    1. re: silverbear

      Yeah. Much like that product, the setting is positively soothing, especially compared to spots along the major arterials in that area. Definitely an option worth considering for a casual evening out.

    2. Thanks for the great report. I really want to try this place, especially after I read that they make their own tonic. Do they take reservations? I'm guessing no.


      2 Replies
      1. re: barry

        I overheard something that made it seem like they might take reservations, but I wouldn't swear to that. I think if a party of 4 or fewer were to arrive relatively early (6-ish) or relatively late (9-ish), the delay in being seated would be pretty minimal. At any rate, being able to linger over a cocktail at the bar or in the reading room takes some of the sting out of the wait.

        1. re: barry

          Oops. I should have checked their site before I answered. According to their FAQ page, they will take reservations, but only for groups of 6 or more.

        2. The cheese and chorizo stuffed dates and fried chicken are great.

          1. Thanks for the review. We live within walking distance and think that this is a great addition to the neighborhood. Comfortable atmosphere and friendly service. We also love the skirt steak , the dates and the nosh plate (cheese and salami).

            1. Tried it last night, thought they had happy hr-DO NOT!
              anyway IMHO really didn't see the great shakes on the spot, wouldn't go back there is definitely better deals and more exciting menus then what they offer- sorry for the negative review.

              I think maizies is much cuter and better food, I know a diff vibe but in comaprison they are quite similar.

              4 Replies
              1. re: drewb123

                No need to apologize for not liking it, but it would be nice to hear what you thought were hits (if applicable) and misses at Tuck Shop.

                So far, I get that you were disappointed by the lack of a happy hour and you think the space is not are not as cute as Maizie's. I consider cuteness to be an irrelevant criterion, but I would like to hear what you think makes Maizie's a better choice from a Chowish perspective.

                1. re: hohokam

                  Having been to both, I think Maizie's does a fine burger (esp. the inside-out ones), but most of the dishes there are rather bland -- make that, very bland. Especially the salads.

                  Also, I think it's a bit unfair to compare Mazie's with Tuck. The former is more akin to your typical bistro that offers a bit of everything (from hummus, to chili, to sandwiches, to pizzas). The latter offers a much more limited, focused menu that's designed to be shared and complemented with the wines on hand.

                  One thing on vibe and space -- I think Maize's is waaay to loud. The din at Tuck is much more comfortable and less hectic on the ears.

                  Kudos to both for offering a nice selection of wines by the glass, however.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I agree on Mazie's. We went this weekend and were underwhelmed. I hae a salad and it was pretty tasteles. We got desert., the ubiquitous cookie and ice ceam and amazingly neither the cookie nor the ice cream tasted like anything. It was truly bizarre. The fries were pretty good though.

                  2. re: hohokam

                    we had the pannini bites with proscuitto and it was ok just nothing that GREAT! I have been to maizies for their burgers and fries which I juist fell in love with and have been for breakfast which was equally as good.

                    From a chowish perspective I can't quite put my finger on it, I just think there is better, I prefer postino, fines cellar.I just wasn't excited by the menu.