Author Archives: Johna Hege

Johna Hege

About Johna Hege

After spending eight years working in the food and beverage industry up and down the east coast, Johna relocated to Arizona five years ago. She now sits behind a desk writing all day, but is still a chef at heart. When she is not writing about food, she is cooking or chasing her three year old trying to convince him to eat.

Floyd's Kitchen, Photos: Johna Hege

Floyd's Kitchen: Come For The Atmosphere, Happy Hour

When it comes to date night or an evening out with the girls, I love to find new locations that offer a unique atmosphere. I am even willing to sacrifice menu options if I feel like I have discovered a diamond in the rough. For a recent night out with my sister, I decided to check out Floyd’s Kitchen on N. Tatum Blvd. Is Floyd’s a diamond in the rough? No, but it could be a very nice pearl.

Floyd’s Kitchen is the kind of place you drive by everyday on your way to work and say, “We should really check that place out.” Deciding to do just that, we walked into Floyd’s around 8 p.m. on a Monday night. I was pleased to see an acoustic set underway and a few groups of people seemingly enjoying their time; the live music was quirky but sounded great. Apparently, every Monday night consists of happy hour prices all night and live entertainment.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and inviting. I immediately felt like I was out of Phoenix and in a small-town, hip hangout. As for the décor, it was a confusing mix of Hollywood movie star pictures and digital art. However, for some reason it works!

The menu offered a good variety of choices from comfort foods, such as meatloaf, to more sophisticated choices, such as Mahi-Mahi — all at reasonable prices. Floyd’s also provides a small but efficient wine list and a creative martini menu.

Our dinner included:

Appetizer — With a decent amount of options for appetizers, we chose the Maple Bacon Wrapped Shrimp ($12). It consisted of very large shrimp atop a roasted red pepper sauce. The shrimp was fabulous, and the portions were large. The red pepper sauce was a bit bland, but did not take away from the excellent taste of the shrimp.

Floyd's Kitchen, Photos: Johna HegeEntrée — We decided to sample two entrée options. The first was the Chicken Picatta ($11). The dish was comprised of lightly breaded, all-white chicken, topped with picatta sauce and served over mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. I would not recommend this dish. The picatta was missing the caper punch expected in a good picatta recipe. The vegetables had zero seasoning, and the mashed potatoes had an odd aftertaste. Overall, the dish was very disappointing.

Thankfully, we also ordered the Rigatoni and Meatballs ($12). I chose this dish because of the mozzarella-stuffed meatballs described on the menu. Served with marinara sauce and garlic foccocia bread, the rigatoni dish was a great choice. The meatballs were amazing; I would order this again.

Dessert — Oddly enough, I don’t believe that Floyd’s Kitchen serves dessert. We were not offered dessert, and the dinner menu nor the company website did not provide any details. Before I could ask, our check was brought to our table.

I would recommend Floyd’s on a Monday night for an interesting place to enjoy happy-hour prices, live entertainment and food. Don’t expect gourmet quality or unique pairings, but do expect a distinctive atmosphere that could easily become a neighborhood hangout.

Floyd’s Kitchen Rating:

Food: 3 out of 5
Service: 3 out of 5
Atmosphere: 4 out of 5

If You Go: Floyd’s Kitchen

12601 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
(602) 424-0275
floydskitchen.com

Seasons 52

Seasons 52: A Classy Biltmore Dining Experience

It’s not breaking news that I love food. I love to cook food, I love to read about food, I love to watch shows about food — I even write about food! However, when I hear the creak of the bathing suit drawer come open, I don’t love food. For this particular review, I went a bit off location to Seasons 52, located in the Biltmore Fashion Park. Specializing in fresh, natural ingredients, nothing on the menu is more than 475 calories (hallelujah!).

For an early dinner, I joined a friend at the bar. Seasons 52 has been recommended to me several times. However, in all of the rave reviews that I received, no one mentioned the amazing bar atmosphere that Seasons 52 provides. Semi-full for a Tuesday evening, we were entertained by the creatively placed pianist behind the bar playing jazz and taking requests. I highly recommend taking advantage of the unique, classy ambiance provided by the bar; it will surely add to your dining experience.

Although considered a “chain” restaurant, Seasons 52 will not make you feel like you are eating in a cookie cutter, corporate establishment. The décor and atmosphere is what you would expect from a Biltmore dining experience.

Our dinner included:

Appetizer — I started with the Ripe Plum Tomato Flatbread with fresh basil, roasted garlic and melted Parmesan cheese. The flatbread was perfectly seasoned with enough of each ingredient to be satisfied and looking forward to the next dish.

Entrée — Goat Cheese Ravioli simmered in fresh tomato broth with roasted garlic and fresh basil.  I have to be honest; I look forward to the next time I get to eat this dish! It was a perfect blend of tomato and spices that tamed a bit of the often-overwhelming kick of goat cheese. If this dish is less than 475 calories, I may diet more often.

Dessert — Although I had enough will power to avoid most, I couldn’t resist trying the Mini Indulgences Desserts. They are served as individual servings in chilled shot glasses. I opted for the key lime pie option. It was a great ending to a great meal. I can’t say that it was a unique twist to traditional key lime pie. Nevertheless, it was very good.

The entire Seasons 52 experience was fantastic. The service was great, the food was fabulous, and the atmosphere was just right. Dieting or not, I will sing Seasons 52′s praises as a fantastic option for a nice evening out or a light appetizer at the bar.

Seasons 52’s Rating:

Food: 5 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5
Service: 5 out of 5

If You Go: Seasons 52

Seasons 52 at Biltmore Fashion Park
2502 E Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(602) 840-5252
seasons52.com

TK's Urban Tavern

TK's Urban Tavern: Fantastic Food In A Trendy, Sophisticated Atmosphere

I have to admit that when it comes to Kierland Commons, Scottsdale Quarter and CityNorth, I have a hard time keeping up with what is new and where it is located within the three similar destinations. A friend of mine recommended TK’s Urban Tavern located in Scottsdale Quarter, and I was looking forward to checking out the new hot spot.

Named after the founding owner, Tom Kelly, TK’s offers a comfortable atmosphere and an expertly placed patio, perfect for taking in the Quarter and enjoying cocktails.

Joining a friend for an impromptu Saturday evening dinner, we headed to TK’s to sample what they have to offer. The restaurant has a trendy, sophisticated feel with an open dining room. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, willing to confidently recommend their favorite dishes.

Initial observation of the appetizer and drink options revealed a nice balance of pricing and options without being overwhelmed by a 10-page menu. Warning: The description of the “You Call It” Smirnoff Vodka accompanied with your favorite mixer for $6.95 was not as it seemed. After commenting to the server that it was a great deal, my friend ordered a Raspberry Smirnoff and soda. It wasn’t until the bill arrived that we were made aware that we were charged much more for flavored vodka. Of course, it could be argued that we should have known. However, I feel it is the responsibility of the server to pay attention to what the guest is commenting on to ensure that they understand the menu appropriately. Aside from the vodka miscommunication, the drink prices were reasonable, and the options were plentiful and provided something for everyone.

A summary of what we experienced at TK’s Urban Tavern:

Appetizer: Housemade Mac & Cheese

With a good choice of unique appetizers, we chose to start with the Housemade Mac & Cheese ($7.95). Made with local white cheddar, elbow pasta and topped with panko bread crumbs, I found the dish to be a bit bland in flavor. Once we added some much-needed salt and pepper, the taste was actually very good.

Entrées: Shrimp Linguini and Rock Shrimp Corn Chowder

Although on the pricier side, there were great options available for our main dish. I chose the Shrimp Linguini served with tomatoes, garlic white wine sauce and lemon parsley ($17.95). I was blown away by this dish! The lemon and garlic complimented the shrimp beautifully. The portion was appropriate and overall fantastic.

We also ordered the Rock Shrimp Corn Chowder ($8.95). Unlike many types of chowder, the TK’s version wasn’t super thick and heavy. The chowder was light and full of flavor. We were also impressed by the amount of shrimp included in the chowder, making it an overall great choice when you visit.

Dessert: Root Beer Float

It brought a smile to my face to see a root beer float option for dessert — I couldn’t resist! Simply served with vanilla bean ice cream in a large chilled mug, it was a great way to end our meal ($4.00).

Overall, the visit was enjoyable. The look and feel of TK’s makes it a good choice for an evening out in Scottsdale if you are willing to spend a little more than normal for a relaxed meal. I was happy with the quality of the food for the price I paid, but would not recommend it as a regular stop for anyone on a budget.

TK’s Urban Tavern Rating:

Food: 4 out of 5
Service: 3 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5

TK’s Urban Tavern
15037 N. Scottsdale Rd., #J-195
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
(480) 664-0873
tksurbantavern.com
Blanco

Blanco Tacos + Tequila: Great Patio, Service And Margaritas

Trendy décor, hip staff and good food — the usual check list for a Fox Restaurant Concepts have all been met at Blanco Tacos + Tequila.

If you desire a great patio, good service and some creative margaritas, Blanco will satisfy your craving. Located at the Borgata in Scottsdale, Blanco offers a truly unique array of menu items to spice up your evening.

I visited Blanco during its happy hour as I have been told more than once that even in the middle of the week they have a wait — a good sign.

Esthetically, Blanco is a winner. The décor is fantastic, and the large bar and open kitchen give guests plenty of action to observe during their visit. The patio area is gorgeous and can accommodate many, something that is a bit of a challenge for many restaurants these days. I was a little disappointed in the happy hour drink choices. I am not a margarita or beer girl — gasp! However, I am a wine and every-other-liquor-than-tequila girl. Unfortunately, the half-off happy hour prices were only good for beer and margaritas. I paid full price for wine, but my husband thoroughly enjoyed half off the mixed berry and blood orange margarita. The margarita choices were festive and unique, and if tequila and I got along better, I would have ordered a few for myself.

In true happy hour style, we ordered a few appetizers to take advantage of the great deal:

Queso Fundido: $9.00

Chorizo, caramelized peppers, warm flour tortillas
We started with the Queso Fundido. It was fantastic! A perfect mix of sweet and spicy, the fundido was served on a hot skillet with warm flour tortillas on the side. A great appetizer to share, I would encourage everyone to order this as the start of their meal.

BlancoNachos con Queso Blanco: $9.00 (Add ground beef or chicken for $12.00)

Served with avocado, crema fresca, black beans and pico de gallo
Any chance of having additional food was shot after we were delivered our nachos. We chose to add beef to our dish, and the serving was huge. As with the fundido, the nachos are a great appetizer to share with a group.

Hot Fudge Sundae: $5.00

BlancoThis is not your average hot fudge sundae! Although the presentation looks a bit rough, the actual sundae was great. Served with candied almonds, bananas, hot fudge and whipped cream, the sundae was a perfect ending to our happy hour stop.

The service at Blanco was excellent. The server was knowledgeable and full of suggestions for our visit. The hostesses were friendly and did their best to accommodate the growing crowd. A unique touch was that our drinks were also run by the entire staff. It’s common to have someone bring out your food, but the team work extended to the bar to ensure that we didn’t have to wait for our server to be free. We got all of our drinks quickly — an important element to ensure happy guests during happy hour. It was evident that everyone pitches in at this location.

Full-priced wine aside, our visit to Blanco was great. The atmosphere is suitable for all ages. I look forward to sampling what they have to offer during its dinner menu. However, I now have a perfect spot to visit after work or as a place to start our evening out with friends.

Blanco’s Rating:

Food: 4 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5

If You Go: Blanco Tacos + Tequila

The Borgata
6166 N. Scottsdale Rd., #601
Scottsdale, AZ 85253
(480) 305-6692
foxrc.com/blanco

 

Wolfley's

Steak And The Game At Wolfley’s Neighborhood Grill

By now it no secret that I am a food junkie, but let it be known that I am a sports junkie as well—  and I am excited that the Phoenix Suns are in full swing! I’m not going to start any arguments regarding their record or skill this season because regardless of how they are playing, there are few things I enjoy more than a sports bar full of local fans — good food and great service. Sound too good to be true? Look no further! Wolfley’s at Desert Ridge has all of this and more.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I like the small, family-owned corner joints as much as the next person, but Wolfley’s offers a fun, family-friendly atmosphere for all to enjoy — not to mention a large, trendy patio equipped with cornhole for friendly competition.

Owner, Ron Wolfley, is a four-time Pro Bowl player, sports talk-show host and commentator for the Arizona Cardinals. He has done a great job of combining the enjoyment of 27 HD screens with the modern décor Phoenix clientele have come to expect. Even if you are not a sports fan, Wolfley’s has enough charm to win you over.

Décor and atmosphere, check. Now on to the food. As many of you know, when it comes to sports bars, you often have to choose between the right atmosphere to enjoy the game and food quality. It is rare that a restaurant can provide both, but Wolfley’s has done just that.

We visited on a Monday night during happy hour. They provide a nice selection of $3-$5 dollar options with both food and drink options. Additionally, we found out Monday is their 20 percent off of any steak special. I have to also mention that their menu is very robust. They offer things from your typical appetizers to family platters, build your own burgers and pizza.

Appetizer

In true bar food fashion, we started with the basics: artichoke dip ($8.75) and wings ($8.95).

The artichoke dip is what you expect. It was hot, the chips were fresh, and the taste was good. The wings were a step above the norm. We ordered the honey gold and mild. The wings were large, and the sauce was great.

Entrée

I decided that I would take advantage of the steak special. I ordered the New York Strip ($19.95). The steak was good. I can’t honestly say that it was better than others elsewhere; but it was cooked perfectly, and the accompanying vegetables and side salad complemented everything nicely.

Dessert

Sorry folks, happy hour drinks, two appetizers and a steak had me wanting to sneakily unbutton my jeans! Both the server and bartender did a great job of describing their dessert options and suggested their favorites.

All in all, it was a great visit. The vast menu is a plus for the customers but did seem to be a bit overwhelming to our server. To her credit, the answers that she didn’t have she quickly found out for us. I would recommend Wolfley’s for a night out with friends or a good option when you want to catch the game and bring your children at the same time. Now, if I could just get better at cornhole …

Wolfley’s Rating:

Food: 4 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5

If You Go: Wolfley’s Neighborhood Grill

21001 N. Tatum Blvd., Phoenix
Desert Ridge Marketplace
(480) 515-2424 ‎
wolfleys.com

Bobby's Restaurant

Bobby’s Restaurant And Jazz Lounge: A Happy Hour Hot Spot

It’s always a challenge to stay motivated at work the week after the holidays. The cure: mid-week happy hour! To help me through my hump-day blues, I joined a friend at Bobby’s Restaurant and Jazz Lounge at Kierland Commons for a drink and a few appetizers.

At first thought, the perception of Bobby’s would be that it would be a bit pricey for a quick drink after work. However, its happy hour menu offers a great variety of food with even better pricing.

Available only in the lounge, the appetizers range from $3.50 to $8, and cocktails start at $4. In addition to the food and spirits, there is also live entertainment every night of the week.

When I entered into the restaurant and headed up the ornate staircase, I was slightly concerned that I was underdressed, but I was wrong. Once I entered the lounge, I immediately felt like I was in a local jazz bar — but with much better décor. The service was friendly and prompt; the lounge was almost full, and the live jazz music was about to start.

We surveyed the menu and decided on the following:

Kalamata Olive Hummus

Bobby's Restaurant: Kalamata Olive HummusServed with cucumbers and gluten-free rice and seed crackers, the portion was large, and the hummus had just the right amount of kalamata to make it unique. However, the rice and seed crackers had such a strong flavor that it almost overpowered the taste of the hummus. When we received the bread served with the dinner, I was able to enjoy the hummus with the more mild bread. I would order it again but ask for a different choice of cracker.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Served with a light tomato sauce, tomatoes, butter, parmesan and sage, this appetizer is amazing. The mix of the squash and sage was more unique than any butternut squash recipe I have tasted. I would order this dish over and over.

Bruschetta

Bobby's Restaurant: BruschettaBobby’s version is served with a large portion of diced tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and Italian bread. Like all of the other dishes, the bruschetta portion was large enough to share with more than two people. The tomatoes were full of flavor, and the basil was fresh. The bread was drizzled with just enough balsamic to compliment the rest of the ingredients. Although it was a simple dish, it was done well.

Mac and Cheese

I wanted to sample something more traditional and ordered mac and cheese — my trusty comfort food of choice. It was what you would expect in a mac and cheese dish. It had a great, sharp cheese flavor and was served with spiral pasta. It was a great accompaniment to the rest of our order.

From start to finish, Bobby’s was a great choice for happy hour. It is a perfect location to start off a date or meet your significant other after work. The elegant décor and live music gave it a classy feel without going overboard. The bartenders are friendly, and the service was great. Aside from their weekly happy hour, they also do a Ladies Night every Tuesday in the lounge offering discounted cocktails.

If you need a little mid-week fun, Bobby’s could be the right spot for your next outing.

Bobby’s rating:

Food: 5 out of 5
Service: 5 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5

If You Go: Bobby’s Restaurant and Jazz Lounge

7122 E. Greenway Parkway
Kierland Commons
Scottsdale, Arizona 85254
(480) 556-0770
mancusosrestaurant.com

Olivy and Ivy dining review

Olive and Ivy Restaurant: A Comfortable And Sophisticated Eatery

Local foodies know that if you want to visit a trendy, happening spot, you usually can’t go wrong with a Fox Restaurant location. Monday, being the stressful day that it is, put me in the mood for a good lunch in a great atmosphere. I decided to join my colleagues for lunch at Olive and Ivy Restaurant and Marketplace at Scottsdale Fashion Square.

When you enter into the restaurant you immediately feel as if your “cool” meter went up a few notches. The atmosphere is beautiful and modern. The bar area is large and comfortable, and the multiple dining areas offer sophisticated, roomy seating.

Unfortunately, it was raining when we arrived, so the patio was unavailable. Overlooking the Scottsdale Waterfront, the patio is a perfect area for a girl’s night out or a first date; sorry guys, the patio is probably not your scene unless you are looking to impress your girl. Additionally, as a parent of a three year old, I’d tend to keep my child at home and save this location for date nights and grown-up meals.

There are two options for dining at Olive and Ivy. You can dine in or order from the Marketplace, which is like a chic neighborhood market — think baked goods, cheeses and other fancy-feeling food.

As enticing as the Marketplace side of the venue is, we chose to dine in. The dining room was full and bustling with a variety of clientele offering a pleasant, adult atmosphere. The wait time was short, and the service was courteous and timely.

We ordered from the lunch menu. I chose the bruschetta, chopped chicken salad, a cup of tomato soup and cheesecake. We were also served bread and house pesto, which was a great-tasting way to pique our appetites.

Bruschetta: Choice of three for $11

We chose the Prosciutto-Fig, Apple Caponata and the Funghi. The portions were sufficient, but the menu — or rather the server — lacked appropriate descriptions. I was disappointed that the Funghi was not described as cold. I love mushrooms, but prefer them hot rather than cooked and cooled.

However, the Apple Caponata was a nice alternative to the traditional apple-and-brie on many bruschetta menus across town. Although two of the three were interesting, I think Phoenix offers better bruschetta in other venues, so I would most likely pass on Olive and Ivy’s version on my next visit.

Chopped Chicken Salad: $11

I am now in love with this salad! It was a mixture of chicken, blue cheese, bacon, avocado, buttermilk dressing and granola — yes, granola. Olive and Ivy really took the basics of a chopped salad and elevated it with a sweet, unique twist. I decided to split this dish with my co-worker, and there was plenty for both of us.

Tomato Soup: $4

Let’s face it; tomato soup, done traditionally, is either good or bad. This version was robust with flavor and perfect for the chilly, rainy day of my visit.

Cheesecake: $5

This dessert was described as having a brown butter crust with seasonal fruit. It was delivered in a mason style jar with no crust as described on the menu. It was simply a jar of cheesecake, and the cranberry topping was too tart to compliment the sweetness of the cake. Once I realized there was no crust involved and scraped off the topping, the cheesecake was the same as any other that you would find on a dessert menu. I would not order this dessert again.

Overall our lunch was a good experience, meeting the expectations that I have come to expect from a Fox concept. I would recommend Olive and Ivy for any social dining date or business lunch. They also provide an impressive wine list and private party area that could be perfect for your next corporate event.

Olive and Ivy rating:

Food: 3 out of 5
Service: 5 out of 5
Atmosphere: 5 out of 5

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If You Go: Olive and Ivy Restaurant

7135 E. Camelback Rd., #260, Scottsdale
(480) 751-2200
foxrc.com

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