Julian Wright of Tempe’s Pedal Haus Brewery and other popular local concepts like Canteen Modern Tequila Bar (formerly in Tempe,) is opening a new restaurant in Downtown Chandler in May. Las Palmas Cantina (95 W. Boston) brings the food, drink and relaxed coastal vibe of the Mexican Riviera to Chandler’s burgeoning downtown culinary scene. Renown Chef Michael O’Dowd is returning to Phoenix to lead the sand-to-table menu that he describes as “Yucatan-inspired cuisine with an emphasis on coastal dishes.”

After annual trips to Mexico exploring beach towns like Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, Wright had been looking for the best place to bring all the elements of the culture and lifestyle of this tropical region to his next concept.  

Las Palmas Cantina will make the most of its 5,000 sqft indoor / outdoor space with a mix of restaurant seating, two bars, and two patios – including a lively elevated deck area reminiscent of the region’s beach-side cafes. With the addition of garage-style doors in both the front and back of the building, it will be possible to see from the pedestrian-friendly Boston Street clear through to the elevated back patio for the first time in the history of this 100-year-old building.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of downtown Chandler and to bringing one of my favorite regions of the world to this community,” said Wright. “ I love that Chandler is still very independent. Everyone is still very much your neighbor.” 

Chef Michael O’Dowd is known as a culinary maverick who has created award-winning menu programs that celebrate authentic ingredients from indigenous cultures. As the driving force behind the culinary concepts for Kai at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, he was the first to merge Native American ingredients with global accents and earn Kai Arizona’s only AAA Five Diamond & Forbes Five Star award. 

Most recently, O’Dowd served as the Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona. He’s excited to come back to Phoenix and the chance to work with the rich heritage of the Yucatan region.

“I haven’t really seen anyone in Arizona exploring this type of cuisine or region,” said O’Dowd. “Being able to learn about the culture and history of the Mayans and create a way to pay homage to the past while creating new ideas, dishes and flavors is what I thrive on.” 

O’Dowd is focusing the menu and mindset on “sand-to-table” that harvests from the sea to the high country. With the freshest ingredients sourced locally and internationally, Las Palmas Cantina will offer Yucatan-Inspired Cuisine with Global Accents.

The menu will include lighter dishes, shared plates, and street-style bites. O’Dowd is working with local boutique purveyors like Chula Seafood for a range of ceviches that will highlight tropical flavors but also have hints of curries and gingers.

“As an Irishman, fishing and farming come naturally to me. They were two of the most important forms of livelihood in Ireland,” he said. “I love fly fishing and the Mar de Cortez has given me the opportunity to fish inshore species like triggerfish, pompano, flounder and snapper and to use these in our dishes.”

Shared dishes also play on sweet and spice. A “Shaken Greens” salad with spicy jerk chicken will also have sweet corn, date jam and local goat cheese. O’Dowd says even “heavier” items like the Cochinita Pibil will have that Yucatan jive and balance.

Specialty tropical cocktails and craft-brewed Mexican-style beers created just for Las Palmas Cantina round out the experience. The first offerings of specialty drinks feature tequila, mescal and rum and bring to mind Mexican agua frescas. Perfect for summer sipping. 

Las Palmas will open in May and is hiring up to 40 front and back of house positions. Those interested can apply in person at 95 W. Boston or online at LasPalmasAZ.com