While it seems many disagree on what exactly defines a place as a “gastropub,” we’re going to stand behind the “not quite a restaurant, not quite a bar” interpretation. So here are the Top 5 gastropubs in Phoenix — places we’d feel perfectly at ease ordering just food, just drinks, or both.
1 Culinary Dropout
Culinary Dropout is a feast for all the senses, not just your taste buds. And as its name would suggest, the venue's menu items, cocktails and aesthetics have touches of nontraditional concepts and tongue-in-cheek humor. Fox Restaurant Concepts calls the restaurant its little "rebel child" that breaks all the rules with its uniform-free wait staff and modern (slightly shabby-chic) decor yet über-relaxed atmosphere. Picture rustic wood flooring and worn, overstuffed leather benches and patterned velvet chairs beneath ornate purple and green chandeliers. On the menu, you'll find pub-type appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees, but they've all been brought up several notches, featuring quality ingredients and hard-to-find meats, cheeses and vegetables. The drink list includes more than three dozen brews from Arizona and other states, as well as a variety of champagne and wines, available by the glass or by the bottle. Culinary Dropouts most popular cocktails include the Bacon-Infused Bloody Mary, the El Matador, the Smashed Irishman and the Between the Sheets.
7135 E. Camelback Road, Suite 125, Scottsdale, AZ 480.970.1700 web
2 The Vig
Originally established in the Arcardia neighborhood of Phoenix, The Vig is a modern tavern that stays open until 1 a.m. every night (with the bar closing at 2 a.m.). With a second location in Uptown having opened just recently, both Vigs serve a large selection of libations at a range of price points. They’ve already conveniently divided the wines on the menu for you according to intensity, and they also offer a bevy of premium imported and domestic brews; some good choices on tap include Stella Artois, Four Peaks’ Kiltlifter, Hoegaarden Belgian White, Odell 5 Barrel Pale Ale, and there are usually a few seasonals at any given time. You'll find champagne and sparkling wines available by the bottle. To nibble on, we're fans of the crabmeat and artichoke dip appetizer, and we're, well, in love with the Love Me Tenderloin Sandwich, comprised of pan seared pork, tangy gastrique onions, smoked mozzarella and dijonaisse on a pretzel bun.
Multiple locations web
3 Spitfire Grill & Tavern
Spitfire Grill & Tavern is a laid-back neighborhood gastropub that strives to combine classic European ambiance with outstanding cuisine that emphasizes in-house preparations. They also pride themselves on the fact that they use all-natural meat from ranchers who never use antiobiotics, steroids or hormones, and all the seafood served is sustainable. The fare can best be described as modern global dishes with Southwestern flair. Our favorite appetizers include the seared Ahi tuna tacos with jicama, Asian slaw and cilantro lime yogurt, and the fresh jumbo lump crab cake with habanero and green apple tartar sauce. For your entree, the green tea noodles are a hit, as well as the clams casino-style flatbread with applewood bacon, peppers, onions and Manchego. Choose from 18 beers on tap and 30 bottled beers (some even organic and gluten-free), as well as an international selection of red and white wines.
1706 E. Warner Road, Suite 3, Tempe, AZ 480.897.1000 web
4 Citizen Public House
Located in Old Town Scottsdale, Citizen Public House is a quirky but charming place run by chef Bernie Kantak and mixologist Rich Moe. The house serves craft beers, classic and contemporary cocktails and ramped-up pub dishes in an intimate setting that includes a patio, a private upstairs dining room, and a semi-private 12-seat dining alcove, outfitted with mahogany accents, leather booths and a stainless steel-topped bar. Bar snacks include a Four Peaks Kilt Lifter fondue with hunter's sausage, pear and toasted country bread, tenderbelly bacon fat heirloom popcorn, and more. But for an entree, what we really want to sink our teeth into is the lamb burger, with pickled cucumber onion salad, tzatziki sauce and housemade ketchup served on a Serbian lepijna roll and fries on the side.
7111 E. Fifth Ave., Suite E, Scottsdale, AZ 480.398.4208 web
FnB describes its dishes as a "collection of craveable but sophisticated, addictive yet comforting" selections. The menu is built around seasonal ingredients sourced from local farmers, and the wine list is comprised entirely of superior vintages produced right here in Arizona. The setting, meanwhile, is definitely intimate, with a 14-seat dining counter, a very limited number of dining tables, and a private dining room for small gatherings. Chef Charleen Badman and maitre 'd Pavle Milic keep guests satisfied with excellent food and excellent service, sending forth from the kitchen such fantastic dishes as pasta with duck confit, butternut, spanish lentils and crumbs; crispy roast jidori chicken with spaetzle and bloomsdale spinach; california grouper with sunchokes, fall mushrooms, iitoi and celery; and more. Saturday nights industry members can order $2 cans of Modelo Especial and nibble chilaquiles with pinto beans; fresh chips and salsa; pho; gourmet mac 'n' cheese; and other satisfying dishes. Every week is different.
7133 E. Stetson Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 480.425.9463 web