When a brand new spot opens on the town, we’re desperate to test it out, let our preliminary impressions, share a couple of images, and dish about some menu objects. First Taste, because the title implies, isn’t a full-blown evaluate, however as an alternative, a peek inside eating places which have simply opened — an event to pattern a couple of objects and fulfill curiosities (each yours and ours).
Restaurant: GuacStar Kitchen & Cantina
Location: 920 East College Drive, #204, Tempe
Eats/drinks: Vegan Mexican meals and cocktails
Open: About two months
Hours: four to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, four to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
I’ve two large takeaways from GuacStar Kitchen and Cantina, the brand new mega-popping vegan restaurant in central Tempe. One good, one not so.
First, Rene Andrade places the chef in chef’s kiss. Andrade, the previous mastermind behind Ghost Kitchen and the star of our previous chiltepin coverage, is popping out dishes which are really glorious. Additionally, the service could be very attentive and sort. Now on to the unhealthy half.
In case you get takeout, you’d by no means know. However for those who dine-in, be ready. The environment is a large number.
The outside appears cool, all lit up on the second story in a brick-heavy purchasing plaza neighboring the Tempe Improv. You may hear music and laughing. It’s really inviting. However when you climb these stairs, the music is all you hear. A lot so that you could’t simply talk with the employees. You’re masked, your host is masked, and you might be shouting the way you’d love one thing on the patio.
I do know GuacStar is in main ASU nation over at College Drive and Rural Street. However can somebody inform them they’re nonetheless a couple of mile away from Mill Avenue? The nightclub vibe at GuacStar is … odd. The “spray-painted” brand on the east wall feels performed. The neon-lit bar feels misplaced. And the playlist isn’t a decent one. We heard every thing from Alanis Morissette to Garth Brooks to Stone Tempe Pilots to Bon Jovi.
However at the least we had been heading towards the patio.
Besides the patio was 4 tables on a sliver of a balcony. It felt utterly indifferent. Extra like we had been being turned out the again entrance than being seated. A “Deliveries Solely” signal could also be in plain sight over your eating companion’s shoulder. Additionally, every puck gentle is a dressed with a special coloured plastic piece for a multicolored aesthetic. Ours was (clearly) blue.
Okay, sufficient griping. On to the foods and drinks.
The cocktails listed below are all tequila-based, which is a implausible contact. Take what and do it exceptionally nicely. First, Mi Tia is a tropical drink utilizing tequila and all of the enjoyable Tiki elements (creme de coconut, pineapple and lime juice, vanilla bean extract). This drink sounded extremely up my alley, and whereas good and handsome, I’ve had a lot better (and stronger) Tiki drinks elsewhere.
Similar with the Funky Donkey, a tequila model of a Moscow Mule that will nonetheless be interesting to those that won’t love the odor and style of tequila (like my dinner companion). However the lime juice, mango puree, mint Demerara easy syrup, and Q Mixers ginger beer meant this burro was not lengthy for this world. Nonetheless, there are higher mules on the market.
However I do not have delicate phrases for the Tropical Warmth margarita. This was a wonderful cocktail. The chile de árbol was scorching, apparently six occasions hotter than a jalapeño. I felt that, however the speedy hit of the pineapple puree, blended with the God-sent avocado pit and cilantro-infused tequila, gave it nice stability. I might have had one other if I didn’t need to descend these brick stairs.
On to the meals.
Chips and salsa are exhausting to mess up, however GuacStar couldn’t come shut even on its worst day. The chips got here fast and scorching, clearly made about 20 ft away as all weren’t grocery-store good. Some had been caught collectively making a enjoyable mega chip. They might have used extra salt, however this could be nitpicking. And do not waste time debating which dip to attempt. Go straight for the trio — roasted tomato salsa, guacamole, and white bean puree. I demolished the salsa whereas my associate raved over the puree. Hilariously, the guacamole was the least favourite, although nonetheless excellent and principally eaten.
For entrees, a plate of three adobada asada tacos had been rapidly set in entrance of me (once more, the service is great right here). These had been three hand-pressed corn tortillas weighted with shitake and oyster mushrooms, corn nibblets, jalapeno fresno, and a squiggle of adobo sauce. All three had been heat, flavorful mouthfuls of well-prepared mushrooms. However that’s all they had been — mouthfuls. I used to be stunned at their measurement (fairly small) in comparison with their price ticket ($14). This plate may use one, even two, extra.
The Grilled Guac Pocket is eye-catching on the menu and plate. It’s a bit pressed flour tortilla filled with scorching queso, poblano pinto beans, pico de gallo, stringy mozzarella, anaheim chile, and an inconceivable meat mix —together with crimson enchilada sauce, guacamole, and avocado crema to make every chew malleable. It’s additionally implausible. Its first chew will remind you of Taco Bell, however in one of the best ways potential. Like the perfect late-night, drunk, freshest tasting Taco Bell you’ve ever had, although the star ingredient is that inconceivable meat mix. Large suggest.
Lastly, with mouths burning from the chile de árbol margarita (and my birthday approaching), I wanted cake. Tres leches cake. This was a stupendous dessert. One thing I’d return for alone. The a number of, moist little squares of vanilla cake had been fantastically topped with hand-torn mint leaf, diced strawberries, and whipped horchata cream. Unbelievable. We left comfortable.
Although I nonetheless mildly cringe at GuacStar’s eating room, in-house company (and there have been lots of them) did appear to be having fun with themselves. Nonetheless, whereas I’d suggest the meals to anybody, vegan or no, I don’t see myself being considered one of them once more.
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