Make the Beaver Choice
With a name like Beaver Choice, this college-student-targeted restaurant review could write itself. Luckily, the Scandinavian eatery doesn’t require you to take it seriously — only that you love to eat and enjoy the absurd friendliness of its staff. Forget about pretension and ambience (and innuendos) at the door.
The family-owned business spent several years in Canada, growing from a lunch cart to a thriving restaurant before moving south to escape the cold. Now it’s located in a sliver of strip mall storefront on the southwest corner of Broadway and McClintock roads near ASU’s Tempe campus.
Beaver Choice isn’t perfect. It only sits 15 or 20 customers. They almost literally haven’t decorated the place at all. Prices are reasonable ($10-$16 for dinner entrees) but you can find cheaper grub around town. And a “Scandinavian bistro?” — isn’t Scandinavian food, like, weird and gross and fish-smelly?
Not at Beaver Choice. The cuisine here draws from Swedish, Polish and Canadian traditions, but the common theme seems to be a hearty main dish with a thick or savory sauce and many light, complementary veggie side dishes. (You can opt for French fries, too.)
Though open for just six months, word-of-mouth about the delectable offerings at Beaver Choice is already generating rave reviews and eager crowds. (No, that was not an innuendo. Remember? We’re serious about this place.) The Arizona Republic has already been inspired to write a rave restaurant review, and named the Chicken Schnitzel Cordon Bleu one of its top 10 most impressive dishes of the year.
The menu includes exotic-sounding options like Fylld Lövbiff and Pytt I Panna, but the more familiar standbys are delicious as well. SPM recommends the Swedish meatballs ($10.25), spiced with cardamon and served with gravy and mashed potatoes, and pork schnitzel ($11.25), the meat breaded and butter-fried and paired with a mind-blowing porcini mushroom sauce. Each meal comes with your choice of side dish and three “side salads” that range from green peas to tomato-basil salad to coleslaw.
There’s also the “Quebec Poutine,” which the restaurant’s website claims is ultimate French Canadian hangover remedy — a nosh of French fries doused with cheese curds and hot gravy. Exit hangover, cue heart attack.
Beaver Choice offers a reduced price lunch menu as well, most of its items holdovers from the enterprise’s humble lunch cart beginnings: falafel, wraps, sandwiches and the like.
Forewarning: The food takes a really long time before it’s served. You can interpret this a few ways: poor service, or a made-to-order kitchen committed to quality, which creates an annoying wait time or a chance to play catch-up with your dining partner(s). The BYOB rule and waiting staff’s hands-off approach mean you can easily kill that 30- to 45-minute wait for your loxburger or elk meatballs with a game of dominoes and a bottle of wine*.
This is evidence of the last great selling point for Beaver Choice: The place is quirky as hell. The staff — seemingly all members of the Gabrielsson family — has a collective Swedish plus French Canadian accent. Also, they only serve RC Cola here. Also, the dessert names, which range from Beaver Balls to Beaver Supreme, the latter being a multi-flavored meringue and whipped fruit fortress that looks and tastes like radioactive s’mores.
In conclusion: A new restaurant has moved to Tempe that lets you drink and play board games while waiting for their delicious, filling Scandinavian home cookin’. And the place is called Beaver Choice.
Like I said, this review writes itself.
If you go...
Beaver Choice 1743 E. Broadway Road, Tempe 480-921-3137, beaverchoice.com
*You laugh, reader, but when SPM visited the restaurant, two of its other five tables were doing exactly this. Forty percent is a large, vocal minority in support of the wine/dominoes time-killing method.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.