I checked out The Kitchen last night in the old Dish location at Doubletree and Scottsdale Roads in the Gainey Village Center. They made some changes, but it still resembles Dish quite bit. It's basically the same concept. Although the owners tried to open one in Sacremento (I think), this is actually their first location and their flagship. They want to open in other cities, and also have kiosks serving pre-made sandwiches and salads.
The middle of the very big room still houses the oval deli counter with pre-made salads and sides facing the entrance, deli meat on one end and entrees around the other side. Separate stations still make to order salads and sandwiches, and there is a wood fired pizza counter and hot main plates area.
On the back side of the deli counter is a very large cheese area that holds a really good cheese assortment for Phoenix. They plan to have over 300 cheeses there, and they already employ two cheese mongers who previously worked for cheese distributors. I missed the cheese mongers who work from 7 am to 7pm, but the selection there already is pretty impressive. I noticed many, many cheeses I've never seen in Phoenix, along with plenty I've never heard of (and I really like cheese). They treat it like a real cheese shop in that you can try anything (anything!) they have. Although they have many of the cheeses cut and wrapped, they will take the main block of any cheese and slice you off a nice taste of anything. In fact, as I was looking, two employees separately made a point of telling me I could try anything in the case (and they weren't even the cheese experts). This is how a real cheese shop works, and I have to tell you, it was great. I tried several cheeses and purchased three, including a Valdeon goat cheese, a firmer goat and one cheddar. The woman who normally worked the deli counter was very helpful, and she is obviously trying to learn the cheeses. I will definitely be back for the cheese.
In addition, they bake their own bread, cakes and pastries. They also carry several breads from Simply Bread, and those looked a little better than the in house products. I love Simply Bread though, so I may be biased.
Dish had several salads you could order, or create your own from a ton of ingredients. This has been scaled down considerably. There are 8 salads on the menu. You can substitute ingedients in and out, but I didn't see a create your own option. The salads range from $7-11, and you can add red bird chicken for $3, skirt steak for $4 or tuna salad for $2. I ordered the Chopped salad ($8) with romaine, blue cheese, ham, bacon, salami, tomato, basil, red onion, hazelnutes and blue cheese dressing. It was very good and fresh. I think it was smaller than Dish, but still plenty for one. They make the dressings fresh, including a pretty good one with mustard seeds.
I also sampled several of the prepared items in the deli case. I must say, they not only make samples available, they make a point of asking you if you want to try something, and encouraging you to sample. Everyone was very friendly and proud of their products. I ended up purchasing some of the curry chicken salad, a smoked salmon and pasta "salad" with a lot of other ingredients that was delicious and a panzanella salad. All were very good. They were around $7-9 per pound.
The other side of the facility used to be a restaurant. It is now a cafe/wine bar. Very casual with an open kitchen. They offer 31 wines by the glass. The retail wine area is open, although the options are somewhat basic with a few gems mixed in (I saw a 2006 Pax syrah). You can also purchase a bottle retail and drink it there for a $9 corkage fee. There are 20 beers available. The have the 4 Peaks 8th Street Ale, Chimay Blue Label, Dogfish IPA, Stella, etc.
The menu includes several small plates, including crab cakes ($12), thai coconut oven roasted mussels ($10) and bruschetta trio ($9). They also offer new world and European cheese plates ($17 and $16), as well as an artisinal charcuterie plate ($16). Larger plates include salmon and scallop osso buco ($15), rack of lamb ($17) and short ribs ($15). There are also 4 wood fired pizzas ($13-14).
There are also several racks of higher end grocery products and some interesting olive oils. They just opened a week or so ago, but everything seemed to be running relatively smoothly when I was there. The staff is very friendly, helpful and professional, and they seem excited to be there.
Prices are somewhat high, including the wines, but I guess you have to consider the area and the rent. The cheese prices were high for those I recognized and have seen locally. That doesn't bother me, though, because they offer a lot of cheeses you can't find locally otherwise, and they will cut you off whatever size you want to purchase. I'm pretty excited to have a "cheese shop" in town (in case you couldn't tell).
The food I tried yesterday was good. The quality (to me) was higher than Dish. They need to fill in their retail wine area, maybe offer more olive oils and other retail products, but they are off to a good start. The cheese alone will bring me back. It's a great concept, but a tough time to introduce it, especially in the same location that Dish failed. One employee told me that Dish execs didn't have true restaurant or grocery experience, while the new owners do. I hope they make it.
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