By Chelsea Young, November 2015 Issue.
When I first heard about Cornish Pasty Co., I thought the person who told me about it had mispronounced the word “pastry.” Come to find out, a pasty (pronounced pass-tee) is, in fact, a British delicacy originating from Cornwall, England. It was especially popular with mine workers because of its convenient hot pocket-like structure (i.e. could be eaten hand-held).
So, what is a pasty, you ask? Imagine your favorite dish – from classic comfort foods (chicken alfredo, shepherd’s pie) to more exotic flavors (chicken tika masala, Carne Adovada) – enveloped in a flaky pastry crust. That is a pasty. Though, I’d recommend eating it with a fork and knife versus your hands.
As the vision of Cornwall native Dean Thomas, Cornish Pasty Co. opened its first location in Tempe in January 2005. Since then, Thomas has added locations in Mesa, Scottsdale, Las Vegas and, by January 2016, Phoenix. The Phoenix location, which will occupy the spot that once housed Monroe’s Wine and Spirits, is currently under renovation.
My dinner date of one ended up turning into a group of five for a Saturday dinner at the Old Town Scottsdale location. As we approached, we were welcomed by the restaurant’s expansive patio that features an impressive indoor/outdoor bar as well as misters and heat lamps with a Jameson whiskey barrel as the base to accommodate year-round dining.
While each of Thomas’ restaurants has its own unique feel and inviting atmosphere, the Scottsdale location – once two individual houses – offers an expertly crafted mix of cozy British pub meets modern neighborhood bistro.
Once inside, the hostess guided us past a couple different dining areas to our table – a longer, community-style table facing the bar. Part of the authentic charm here is the picnic-tables-and-bench seating, both on the patio and in the dining room. The rich wood grain contrasts the causal seating arrangement for an unmistakably European feel.
We were promptly greeted by our server, who offered me a sample of an English pub ale called Boddingtons. The creamy, blonde Guinness-like brew didn’t hit the spot for me, so instead I went for an amber-colored Levity brew from O’Dell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colo., to pair with my dinner.
For starters, we ordered the Scotch Egg, a hard boiled egg cut into four pieces, each wrapped in sausage and served with a mustard dipping sauce. This secret gem was to die for. The sausage was almost like a crust for the egg and the sauce sealed the deal. It’s a must-order specialty, in my opinion.
We also ordered a side of the oven chips with garlic (jalapeños are also available). Remember that “chips” in England are actually French fries. These chips take about 15 minutes to cook, so they ended up arriving with our pasties.
As a party of five, our goal was to strategically select a variety of pasties, in order to sample as many of these culinary creations as possible. We decided on The Pilgrim, the cottage pie (like shepherd’s pie but with beef instead of lamb), the chicken potpie, The Reuben and the chicken tikka masala.
To our delight, The Pilgrim is a mash-up of everything Americans love about Thanksgiving – leftovers, only better. We’re talking roasted turkey and chicken, sweet potatoes, stuffing and grilled onions served with red wine gravy and cranberry sauce for dipping. The Pilgrim was the clear winner at our table.
The more traditional cottage pie and chicken potpie pasties did not disappoint either. The cottage pie had layers of seasoned ground beef, grilled onions, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese accompanied by red wine gravy for dipping. The combination of mashed potatoes, cheese and gravy offset the slightly detectable dryness of the meat. Similarly, the potpie pasty included chicken, carrots, red potato, green beans and celery in a thyme and chicken gravy. These two were everything you’d expect from comfort food – warm, rich and filling. In spite of the triple-digit temps (on my visit), creations like this make me excited about the holiday season ahead. But the best part of all, these are available all yearlong.
Then there was the Reuben, with its chunks of pastrami and corned beef, homemade sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing for dipping. The meat and flavors were bold and the pasty crust gave this classic sandwich a tasty twist. Last but not least – and for exotic flair – the chicken tikka masala. The flavor combination of the red curry, green peppers and potatoes, with a side of mint yogurt dressing (or tahini), was nothing less than you’d expect from a great Indian restaurant.
And, for non-meat eaters, there’s a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options, such as the eggplant Parmesan and a veggie take on the cottage pie.
Be advised: Each pasty arrives solo on a plate with no side of any sort (other than dipping delights). It’s a no muss, no fuss dish that doesn’t attempt to be anything other than what it is — comfort food done right. And for the size of each pasty (two generous halves), I’d say this is A-OK, especially for the price, which averages around $9.
Of course, since we ordered so much, we were left with little room for dessert, so on my list for my next visit is either the apple caramel pasty, basically an apple pie filling inside their signature pastry, and the chocolate bread and butter pudding, which comes with crème anglaise or ice cream.
From the atmosphere and the service to the food and beverages, everything about my first visit to Cornish Pasty Co. was outstanding. I’m looking forward to a return visit, and even mentioned to one of my dinner companions that The Pilgrim pasty would be a fine – not to mention economical and efficient – way to celebrate Thanksgiving one of these years.
Cornish Pasty Co.
Mesa: 191 W. Guadalupe Road | 480-838-3586
Scottsdale: 3800 N. Goldwater Blvd. | 480-945-1220
Tempe: 960 W. University Drive | 480-894-6261
Phoenix (coming soon): Southwest corner of Central Avenue and Monroe Street
Hours: Mon-Sun: 11 a.m.-midnight (all locations)