By Rachel Verbits, August 2017 Issue.
Without a doubt, some of the best summer memories involve the outdoors: from pool parties with friends and family cookouts to taking in 4th of July fireworks displays and even maybe getting out of town for a camping trip or a picnic in the pines.
Because firing up the grill and perusing the options at an outdoor potluck are more like punishments when temperatures sail above 110 degrees, we’ve found a near-perfect solution for beating this heat .
The Park Street Food Bar and Beer Garden, also known simply as The Park, opened in February. This new downtown Phoenix eatery combines almost all of your favorite summer memories under one air-conditioned roof (er, treeline).
Located in downtown Phoenix’s Collier Center (at 3 S. Second St.), and just a foul ball away from Talking Stick Resort Arena and Chase Field, The Park truly lives up to its name by bringing the outside in.
Designed to look like an outdoor park, 20-foot trees provide a canopy of “shady” foliage above the picnic-inspired seating area, creating the feeling that you’ve arrived for an outdoor cookout, but with all the comforts of the indoors (and then some).
Upon entering, you’ll quickly realize that The Park serves up more than just a typical restaurant experience. The 11,000 square-foot multipurpose space – which features everything from countless big-screen TVs showing local games to pingpong and shuffleboard tables – serves as an urban gathering ground for both food and entertainment. After dinner, those ages 21 and over are invited to stay for live music, DJs and a variety of other themed events.
The star of the show, however, is The Park’s self-serve beer garden. This unique feature invites guests to pour whatever beer they please at the very moment they want it (which is a great compliment as the service can be slow depending on what’s going on downtown on any given evening).
So how does it work? Once you receive your beer card, you can choose from the offerings on tap, carefully pour your desired amount and pay by the ounce. Asking your server how the process works is a good idea for newcomers, as their instructions and recommendations will be helpful as you navigate nearly 30 options.
I kicked off my experience at the beer wall with SanTan Brewing Company’s Mr. Pineapple. The award-winning wheat beer with a tropical personality – thanks to the Costa Rican pineapple juice its infused with – made for a near-perfect summer sipping selection.
If beer isn’t your thing, there are plenty of cool, craft cocktails boasting all the favorite flavors of the season, such as the Mango Tango and Eugene Sweet Tea.
While the beer wall is enough to pique your curiosity, the food is what will keep you coming back to The Park. The rotating menu is inspired by local food trucks that partner with the restaurant to bring their mobile eats indoors, creating an endless culinary adventure for customers. The community-style kitchen allows guest chefs to whip up their creations to add to The Park’s classic fare, and believe me when I say there’s more than enough to satisfy everyone’s cravings!
If you’re stopping at The Park before you take in a D-backs or Mercury game this season, my recommendations are to, first, arrive with plenty of time and, second, to take full advantage of the menu by mixing and matching a variety of appetizers for a broader sample of what makes this place special. (Fair warning: The rotating menu items will inevitably leave you heartbroken at some point in time. It’s worth it, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Along with all the sporting event classics – pretzel bites, beer battered fries, chicken tenders – The Park also offers more unique selections that range from slow-smoked short ribs and calamari to a variety of southwest favorites and even picnic BBQ sandwiches.
On our server’s recommendation, my picnic date and I started off with the Pedal Haus Beer Battered Chicken Wings, which are basted with Pedal Haus beer and rubbed with a special spice blend before frying. This order of 10 wings came out crispy on the outside and perfectly tender and juicy inside. Unable to choose just one sauce to accompany them, we opted for a combination of honey Sriracha sauce and sweet chili hoisin, which left our mouths watering even after our fingers were licked clean.
Speaking of mouth-watering, it’s no secret that few things pair better with summer and baseball quite like a rack of smoked ribs on the barbecue, and The Park’s recipe is nothing short of a grand slam. The four-time pecan-smoked ribs are (of course) smoky, but also sweet and practically fall right off the bone. At just $12, the half rack is an unbeatable deal, and is served with some of the best beer-battered pub fries this potato connoisseur has ever tasted. Ever. (Read: This is our must-try recommendation here.)
If you’re in the mood for barbecue, but looking for a slightly lighter option, the Crispy BBQ Chicken Wrap was also on our batting order. The tender chicken, tossed in a subtly sweet honey BBQ sauce, with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions and crispy bacon cheddar cheese and ranch dressing are neatly wrapped up in a flour tortilla – perfect for a bite on the go (good luck smuggling this into the ballpark though).
Because more of us are trying to keep that summer bod that we’ve worked so hard for and also because Phoenix has a tendency to get too hot for hot food, we celebrate the “Greens & More” salad menu! Here you can choose from a variety of fresh salads, including soup and salad combo (for the brave ones).
I ordered the Southwestern Chicken Salad, a bed of mixed greens topped with the perfect blend of roasted corn, black beans, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onions and jerk chicken. Sage cheese cubes and avocado ranch dressing take this salad to the next level, making it familiar with an indulgent twist. As with the ribs, I ordered a half size, and was once again delighted by the generous portion.
Thankfully, The Park doesn’t cut corners when it comes to their sweet treats, because no summer picnic would be complete without dessert. Order a delightfully fluffy Park Waffle with ice cream and strawberries – add some whipped cream for extra indulgence – and you won’t regret it. Trust us!
The Park’s food and beer schedule is always changing due to their food truck partnerships, so keep coming back to explore an ever-changing menu.