Recreo in Downtown Chandler is now in session, tucked into the restaurant and retail strip center flanked by Buffalo and Boston Streets on Arizona Avenue. Diners won’t mind “returning to school” à la the most imaginative and delicious restaurant and bar that carries a year-round school playground and recess theme. Appropriately, Recreo means “recess” in Spanish.

You’ll know the fun you’re in for once you see the massive wall at Recreo’s hostess stand featuring 63 fully functional Etch A Sketch screens. Recreo boasts some of the most creative recipes that elevate favorite childhood foods to a more adult level, and with some unexpectedly delicious culinary twists.

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Every starter on the menu is worth trying, as the recipes and flavor profiles the culinary team has developed show incredible attention to detail. In fact, any of the kitchen staff is welcome to bring their menu ideas to the table and that is how some of the tastiest things wind up on the Recreo menu.

Photo by Lynette Carrington, AZ Big Media

Before discovering the food, check out the cocktails and mocktails. You can play mild or wild on the playground. Who doesn’t love a Dole Whip? The beloved signature drink made with pineapples and magic and served at Disney properties has been reimagined at Recreo. It can be served as the childhood favorite you remember, or the slightly more sinful version made with Mailbu rum, vodka, gin or just about anything else you’d like.

A variety of margaritas ($10-$11) are also available frozen or on the rocks including cucumber mint, strawberry, mango, prickly pear, peach or the blueberry jalapeno. All beers at Recreo are local and there is a generous assortment of wine on the menu, too. 

If you eat nothing else at Recreo, don’t leave without one of the zaniest starters – the Monkey Fries ($9.99). The super thick-cut twisted fries are kissed with sweet chili dust. The ketchup is finely blended with real banana puree, creating one of the most uniquely flavored starters imaginable. Reach back into your childhood where your flavor palate was a level playing field and your tastebuds will embrace this tasty and fun concoction.

The Shrimp & Crostini ($17.99) is another starter that is an easy size to share. The unbelievably tender large shrimp are bathed in a tangy lemon basil white wine sauce served atop sourdough crostini that is a perfect equation of soft and crunchy. Other notable starters are the Crispy Artichoke Hearts ($10.99) and the Hummus Flower ($11.99) with a savory house made hummus, hibiscus flower and microgreens arranged into a flower shape and served with endive and sourdough crostini.

Photo by Lynette Carrington, AZ Big Media

Dive into classics like the Recreo Cheeseburger ($15.99), Recess Salad ($15.99), The Grilled Cheese ($13.99) or the Bacon Hot Hot Burger ($16.99), so full of spice, it’s been named twice. The star of the Classics menu is the Fried Georgia Peach ($15.99), a massive crispy chicken breast topped with smoked gouda, caramelized peach glaze, lemon mascarpone and arugula on a soft potato bun. Dare I say that this is one of the best and most unique crispy chicken sandwiches to be found in the Valley.

Large entrees include Shrimp Alfredo ($23.99), Brussel Bowl ($6.99) and the Ribeye-N-Mac ($16.99) with seared ribeye, garlic and shallots, cavatappi and three cheeses, plus gorgonzola, Fresno chile, red onion, balsamic glaze, fried leeks and micro greens. This is definitely not your kid’s mac-n-cheese, and you’ll love every last bite.

Recreo includes front patio seating with roll-up garage doors that open into the main restaurant, plus a back patio “playground” that includes couches and tables, a staffed bar with suspended rope swing seating, Connect Four board, ping pong table, cornhole and the back end of a real school bus. Check out the clever way a repurposed shipping container has been suspended over the back patio area for shade and playful design character. Even better, Recreo has its own garden in the back where items like mint, cilantro and turmeric are cultivated for use in the restaurant.

Just like any cool school, Recreo also has special things happening every day. Any evening, you will probably find bartender, Tom, dancing or shaking his groove thing to songs by Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. There are cocktails and entrée specials daily, so check the chalkboard next to the bar.

There is live music Saturdays and Sundays 1-4:00 p.m. and a DJ Fridays and Saturdays 7-11:00 p.m.

Recreo is getting into the swim of things by celebrating Shark Week July 24-July 31 with Margaritas and Palomas ($7), Hammerhead Punch, Blood in the Water and other themed cocktails ($7-$12).

Swing on over to Recreo to indulge only your fondest memories of playground life.


Location: 28 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler

Hours: Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-12 midnight, closed Monday and Tuesday

Phone: 480-590-0009