Picture the dark, smoldering, partying vibe of the Great Gatsby era pairing with fresh, lighter, healthier fare to nosh on between sips of old school cocktails and you have the second chapter of Second Story Liquor Bar in downtown Scottsdale.
This hidden gem (as all good speakeasy’s are) perched above the Gelato Spot has always had an atmosphere I adore. The intimate dining room is moody-like a complicated woman-adorned in dark wood panels, chandeliers and waitresses attired in LBD’s dripping with pearls. Unfortunately, in the past the menu was also complicated-fussy, heavy fare that seemed like it was trying too hard on our first date to impress me.
That has all changed. With the installation of Jason McGrath (yeah, a direct descendent of The Big Ass Burger creator) as executive chef, Second Story finally has a menu that I love as much as the restaurant itself.
When owner Tommy Plato told me a few months ago that he was chef hunting and the goal was to find a strong chef who could lighten up the menu, while still maintaining creativity, The Travel Diet couldn’t have been happier. I’ve been waiting on pins and needles to see the results and last week finally got to taste the new menu.
With a glass of bubbly in hand, a quick perusal of the menu shows me that Second Story has done a 180. The first time I was here, I struggled to find something healthy on the menu, this time five things jump out, not only as healthy, but intriguing. My second date with Second Story is going well! Thankfully, Chef Jason wants to do small bites of many things, so I don’t even struggle to decide which dish I want more.
One that I wouldn’t have chosen initially was the Birch Tree Bread, but boy am I glad Chef insisted (Note: Trust the chef, trust the chef!!). This low gluten bread is literally made from birch tree bark. The kitchen team grinds the bark using a mortar and pestle to form a flour. The bark has cancer fighting properties and is paired with a super green butter that is made from the leaves of the moringa trees. The tree’s leaves have four times the calcium of milk and four times the Vitamin A of carrots. Ayurvedic medicine associates the moringa tree with the cure or prevention of 300 diseases. Pass the butter please!
In the old menu, meat took center stage, but on the new menu, veggies are the shining stars. The Red Asparagus is too head scratching not to try. Lest you think some crazy GMO scientist is at play, the red color comes from infusing the asparagus in beet juice to give it its unique color.
“We like to challenge normal thinking and make food fun,” said Plato.
My favorite dish of the night was the Daily Local Selection. As the name implies, it changes daily based on what the chefs find at the local farmer’s markets. While Chef McGrath tries to source locally for all the dishes on the new menu, this is the one dish you can count on to be 100% Arizona grown. On the plate were roasted sweet potatoes, Japanese eggplants, beans, caramelized figs, and candied pecans sitting on a bed of prickly pear sauce. I’m always amazed at just how damn good vegetables can be when they’re fresh, local and cooked simply.
I round out the tasting with the pan seared trout with white seafood posole and an apple crumble dessert that was good, but didn’t seem up to the creativity of the rest of Chef McGrath’s menu.
Depending on your poison of choice, the menu pairs nicely with the classic cocktails Second Story Liquor Bar is known for, or the rosé bubbly I like so much, I stick with for the entire meal. Champagne goes with everything remember!
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, but I disagree. My second date with Second Story far eclipsed the first. I think we might have a LTR here….