Underage and Over-analytical

Some restaurants claim their fame thanks to their bar, but the food still needs to be good for those drinking water.
Photo by Emily Nichols

Is the party still fun when you’re the only sober one?

I tested this theory. Except instead of attending an actual party, I turned this experiment into a party for my stomach. I set out to three restaurants who boast about their bar to see whether or not they had a solid food menu.

So for my first experiment, I hopped in the car — logically, as the designated driver — and went out with my brother and his over 21-year-old friends to test my hypothesis.

I hypothesize restaurants are less impressive if you can’t drink their beer.

We had grand plans of going to Four Peaks Brewery in Tempe. Upon arrival, we were child-blocked from entering because I am not 21-years-old yet. Without my mommy or daddy, I could not enter under any circumstances. Although I know they pretended otherwise, everyone was irritated that “wittle Emiwwy” was underage.

Even though I was the one driving them around, my brother and his grown-up friends were taunting me like a little kid during the whole car ride. It was just like when kids on the playground used to victimize whoever was smallest and weakest.

Plan B: We went to Mill Avenue to try the legendary Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.

At Gordon Biersch, we were easily the youngest customers. Perhaps this was just the nature of our timing, or perhaps this was because it was election night and all of the youths of America were busy voting. Either way — we were in it for the food and beer — age was of no concern. Except for it was. Age is largely of concern when it involves alcohol.

Old people are not afraid to stare at you when you’re out of place. When I sat down with four older boys on the upper level of Gordon Biersch, I felt like I may as well have sat down naked.  It seemed like the business men and women around us couldn’t comprehend what shenanigans we must have been up to.

Those who are of-age each ordered specialty beers and I pulled the classic “I’m fine with water for now, thank you” line. After we scanned what I deemed the “election ballot of menus,” we voted on a ritzy appetizer of crab and artichoke dip served warm with quaint little toasted baguette slices called “crostinis.” It was easy on the crab and heavy on the cream.

When I bit into the first crusty crostini, I felt like a classy, upscale retired businesswoman who was smooth sailing on a yacht on the East Coast just because she could.

Gordon Biersch, an acclaimed brewery, passed the food test with flying colors.
Photo by Emily Nichols

For the main meal, I asked the waitress what her favorite menu item was, and ended up with two fresh fish tacos. Served with zesty black beans and simple steamed white rice, my shrimp and lobster tacos were the perfect combination of Mexican street and supper club. I was especially charmed by the fact that these loaded tacos had two tortillas — one crispy and one soft — so that when the crispy shell broke, the soft prevented spillage.

I can only imagine how fascinated I would have been if I were under the influence because my sober-self was way bewildered at the innovation of such tortilla utilization.

My brother ordered a classily named New York strip and tempura shrimp combo that was accompanied by some of the most tangy and delicious Gordon Biersch steak sauce and sweet soy dipping sauce I have ever stolen off his plate. Both the “sober me” and the partially intoxicated brother of mine were pleased with his surf and turf meal.

Following my theme of boasting beer joints, I made Angels Trumpet Ale House nearby the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus my second stop. I had heard this newly opened joint had a trendy vibe, so naturally I brought my mom with me to test it out.

The restaurant layout reminded me of some of the trendy happy hour joints I’ve been to in Hollywood, Calif.  The wide-open inside and big patio let fresh air flow through— which was much needed to suppress the subtle stench of fermented wheat.

From peanut butter, jelly and bacon sandwiches, to pizza with eggs, to crispy spam sliders with Sriracha mayonnaise — the menu had “sober me” in overwhelm. The food menu was only half as overwhelming as the beer list.

They have 31 types of beers available on tap, and the handfuls of young couples seemed less than flabbergasted at the amount of choices—while I was stunned. I have a hard enough time choosing whether or not I want lemon in my water, so I can’t imagine choosing from 31 beers. I certainly don’t speak beer language, so as my mom ordered her 6-flavor drink sampler, I zoned out to focus on the food.

My careful avoidance of the beer menu must have been obvious to the well-versed beer drinkers of downtown. I buried my head in the menu and tried to look as focused as possible so to avoid looking like too  much of a virgin.

Angels Trumpet lists the types of beer on a chalk board.
Photo by Emily Nichols

I ordered a seasonal menu item pizza that was topped with pork belly, mushrooms, two fried eggs, lava beans, olive oil and garlic. The radish salad I tried had roasted brussel sprouts, apple, radish, corn, blue cheese and torn basil. The concept of each dish was innovative, but the taste was average. The green goddess dressing that was on this salad needed zest and tang. I would suggest some lemon— but I am no master chef, and I certainly have no credentials.

Although both the pizza and salad were delectable, they certainly sounded way more outrageously tasty on paper than they turned out to be on my plate.

I hypothesize that after a few beers, I may have been slightly less analytical than I was.

However, I continued the tour by trying out a place that just opened up a few blocks from my apartment.

At The O Bar and Grill in Arcadia, I could have used a beer — or ten.

I quickly discovered this place was nothing like we anticipated. However, we were already seated, I was drinking my honorary glass of water, and I was working on deadline. We stayed.

All items on the menu were Mexican-inspired. We embraced the situation, and embraced Taco Tuesday. I ordered one chicken, one beef and one machaca taco, my friend ordered a tequila shrimp salad, and my mom ordered a chicken “roll-up.”

The O Bar had 12 different beers on tap. The bar area had fancy blue lighting, and I’m sure they owned a grill, but other than that their concept did not match their name. Seated at the bar area were three or four middle-aged couples who appeared to have been married for more than fifteen years and were trying to spice up their mediocre and monotonous lives. Trust me, if alcohol could spice up their evening, I trust it could spice up anything.

I am thankful that this image was as lame as it was. It helped me formulate my conclusion. I deny my hypothesis.

Restaurants are not less impressive if you can’t drink their beer. They are simply less impressive if they are not impressive restaurants.

 

Reach the writer at enjnicho1@asu.edu