Story and photos by Rachel Verbits, December 2016 Issue.
At the risk of sounding biased, we’re adamant that Arizona has some of the best outdoor dining in the country – and, now that the temperatures have cooled, the seasonal migration from the element-proof eateries to Arizona’s best al fresco dining destinations is in full swing.
The first stop on our list was The Orchard Phx, a 2-acre restaurant and retail complex just north Glendale Avenue on 12th Street that’s most recognizable by its signature water tower commemorating the canal that first irrigated central Phoenix farms (and still runs behind the property today).
Created by the same team that brought us Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, The Orchard Phx is an outdoor dining oasis that embodies the five Cs that Arizona is known for: cotton, copper, citrus, cattle and climate (and we’d argue that cuisine is Arizona’s honorary sixth C).
The property, which built on one of Phoenix’s original citrus farms, is currently home to three unique dining experiences that are all intimately connected by the outdoor patio.
Just like its sister location, Luci’s at the Orchard (lucisorchard.com) offers breakfast, salads, sandwiches, specialty coffee drinks and select ready-to-go items. A few steps away, housed in the same space, Splurge (splurgephx.com) serves up creamy, fresh gelato. Go simple with a couple scoops, blend it up for a milkshake or even grab an “adults-only” root beer to enjoy outside on the picturesque patio.
If you’re in the mood for something a little more filling, make your way through the whimsical splash pad and tree-lined courtyard to Pomelo for an upscale, yet easygoing dining experience.
Upon entering Pomelo, my dining companion and I were immediately transported a century back in time. The overstuffed leather and velvet couches, ornate chandeliers and the warm, rich color scheme reflect the style of the 1900s, and era when The Orchard Phx was, well, just an orchard. And it doesn’t just feel vintage, it truly is. The structure is the very same Southwestern Territorial house that was built in the 1920s. And, while it’s been updated since then, original touches, such as the fireplaces and ceilings, offer a glimpse at its history.
Described as classic American food with an Arizona twist, Pomelo’s menu was carefully crafted to highlight the fresh, local ingredients the restaurant uses to create their elegant meals. For example, take Pomelo’s spinach dip, a blend of spinach, cheese, cream and artichokes served with crispy corn tortilla chips. I was skeptical to order an item that I had previously ordered in a countless number of restaurants. You try one spinach dip, you’ve tried them all, right?
Wrong. This appetizer was light, flavorful and bore no resemblance to most spinach dips that are heavy from too much cream and oil. Stuffed with ribbons of spinach and incredibly fresh artichokes, the ingredients weren’t masked by the creamy cheese, only complimented by it.
The crispy chicken sandwich was another delight for our palates. This sandwich, available on the lunch and brunch menus only, boasts a tender, golden buttermilk and cornmeal encrusted fried chicken breast on a toasted brioche bun. Offsetting the salty, crispy chicken was creamy homemade coleslaw and a thick slice of rich Gruyère cheese. Trust us, this is better than your mom’s fried chicken!
The menu showcases a wide range of selections without offering an overwhelming number of choices, which is great for indecisive foodies. Along with several simple, yet elegant salads, the tantalizing specialties are all classically elevated American dishes. From a burger made with brisket and locally grown beef and a spicy fettuccine featuring Spanish chorizo to pan roasted cod over paella rice and barbecue ribs, there’s something to please every palate at the table.
The main menu attraction, however, is the wood-fired pizzas. Local meats from Schreiner’s Fine Sausage and locally grown veggies make this pizza one of the best we’ve had in Phoenix. The house pizza, which comes loaded with spicy smoked Tasso and roasted Fresno chilies, seemed like an appropriate selection.
We all know the true mark of a great pizza is the crust, and Pomelo’s crust delivers. The dough here is made with Caputo flour, filtered water, sea salt and fresh yeast. When cooked in the wood-fired oven, the crust develops the perfect consistency, char and flavor as it cooks.
For anyone looking to pair wine with their pizza, Pomelo’s private wine cellar is stocked with a variety of vintages – just ask for pairing recommendations (my recommendation is taking advantage of the $20 pizza and bottle of wine deal all day on Mondays and Tuesdays)!
On the other hand, if you find yourself at The Orchard on a weekend, which is highly likely (let’s be honest), Pomelo’s brunch menu is available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It features a number of brunch favorites, such as omelets and benedicts, as well as Pomelo’s signature dishes – and, of course, Bloody Mary and mimosa specials.
While the food is the most obvious reason to visit The Orchard Phx, but the atmosphere and history are the reasons to stay.
Pomelo (at The Orchard Phx)
7100 N. 12th St., Phoenix
Hours: 11a.m.-9 p.m., Mon-Wed
11a.m.-10 p.m., Thurs-Fri
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat
10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun