Nestled in a charming bungalow-style converted home off of 7th Street, is the Coronado PHX- a vegetarian eatery that also offers coffee drinks and alcoholic beverages. I had driven by that place often, and it wasn’t until early this month, that I finally stopped in to satisfy my culinary curiosities. The interior was quaint, with multiple small dining rooms, an outdoor patio, and the ordering area (bar and bakery case included). During my first dining experience, I tried the Monte Vista Torta and fries, while washing it down with a chai latte. Ok guys, I hate to admit, but after the first bite of that torta, I literally had a “When Harry Met Sally” moment. The masa battered zucchini, mixed with fresh tomato, romaine lettuce and vegan mayo, was just BURSTING with flavor! The hand cut fries that came with the torta had just the right amount of crispiness. I dipped them in the housemade ketchup, that also had a joyous amount of zest. The chai, which is sourced from Maya Tea in Tucson, was also delicious (and even had a subtle spicy kick to it).
During my second visit (of many to come), I had the pleasure of meeting the owner- Liam and his wife, Emily. I was able to sample a few of the restaurant’s best-selling dishes and also chat about Liam’s history in the culinary industry and how that transitioned to his current project, that is- the Coronado PHX.
LAFS: Tell me about how you got started in the culinary industry, as well as the vegetarian side of it?
Liam: I’ve been in food service for most of my adult life. I was a barista at Jobot, when a friend of mine, Dom Fasano, who was the chef at the time, suggested that I look into it; so I attended Le Courdon Bleu in Scottsdale while working at Jobot. Going to culinary school actually helped make me a vegetarian. In French cooking, they teach you to use every bit of the product in front of you to show respect to the person who worked to bring it to you, and also to the product itself. So, you save you onion skins for making stock, but that’s also why they make things like liver pate, sweetbreads, and so on. Something about being vegetarian always seemed right to me, I had been vegetarian on and off my whole life, but I never really had an understanding as to why I felt that way. I realized that if I could not eat the liver pate and such because I thought it was gross, then clearly I wasn’t respecting the effort someone put in to it, or the animal themselves. Around the same time, my brother got sick with Lymphoma, so I started wanting to try and be more healthy, it was kind of a perfect storm, and I’ve been vegetarian since then. Very quickly my wife, Emily, and I realized there weren’t very many vegetarian options, and started planning a restaurant with a friend. We opened Bragg’s Factory Diner, a full vegan/vegetarian diner, we busted our butts and even racked up a few awards in the short 2 1/2 years it was open, but it was an uphill battle from day one, and I guess just wasn’t meant to be. Around the time that closed (last year), I opened the Coronado PHX, and it’s back to busting our butts and trying to push ourselves and what we can do.
LAFS: What inspired the name the “Coronado PHX?”
Liam: When I first moved to downtown, the Coronado Cafe was in the spot that we are in now, and they had been for years. Downtown was just starting to really blossom. There weren’t a ton of funky restaurants in old houses and stuff, Coronado Cafe kind of blazed that trail, and stuck their neck out before anyone else really was. So when the opportunity came up to move in to this location I thought it seemed only appropriate to name it the Coronado PHX as a kind of shout-out to the previous owners and the city.
LAFS: Where do you source your fresh ingredients?
Liam: We try to focus on local at the Coronado, we get our bread from MJ breads, our coffee from local roaster Xanadu Coffee, we get veggies for our FarmYard Scramble from a local CSA called FarmYard who literally farm in peoples yards and then bring us a basket or 2 every week, we get our goat cheese from Crow’s Dairy in Buckeye, and our milk from Danzeisen. The list goes on and on. We carry local wines, liquors and beers, but those are on rotation to try and give everyone some love.
LAFS: What inspired the restaurant’s decor?
Liam: The space when we got there had been painted kind of monochromatic in shades of greenish-brown, the house itself is so beautiful, so we wanted to try and perk it up a bit. My good friend Liz Tavarez, from Grey House Designs, was working on building her portfolio, so she helped us out. Initially when she said to go black and white, I was hesitant, like it would be too plain and too easy to get dirty and maybe I was just a ball of stress at the time, but I eventually relented and I’m glad I did. The place is so inviting and warm, people assume all the time that we’ve been open for years because it just feels great, and not too “new”.
LAFS: What do you think sets the Coronado PHX apart from other vegetarian restaurants?
Liam: I think what sets us apart, is that we try to make sure we are set apart. I’ve tried to focus on creating a menu that isn’t on someone else’s menu. I want to make food that is representative of the southwest, and that is approachable, but I’m also an artist and musician, so I want to be as creative as possible with it. I don’t do much in the way of veganizing, I try to let the vegetables, fruits, grains, spices and so on do the work. All the time I hear “I hate cauliflower, but I LOVE those cauliflower tacos.” I also have a family, and so it’s REALLY important to me that our menu be affordable. I can’t tell you how many times (especially when I was in school) we would be excited to try something, then go home and eat more because we couldn’t afford a big meal out on our budget. We’re never gonna be the cheapest thing in the world, we’re not Taco Bell, but just because we’re making healthy food with fresh ingredients in house, doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable too.
Speaking of the Cauliflower Tacos, that was one dish I tried. It was definitely a hit in my book. I loved the flavor of the masa based beer batter that the cauliflower were fried in. “The Cauliflower Tacos are, hands down, our number one seller. we get our fresh tortillas from Ranch Market everyday. We pick them up warm. We use a masa based beer batter and fry the cauliflower and that goes with guacamole, organic spinach, pepitas, our creamy Avocado dressing and limes on the side. It gets compared a lot to a fish taco, without all that fishiness.”
The next dish was the Jalapeño Marmalade and Goat Cheese Quesadilla. You guys….I’m still dreaming about this dish. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first, like, were the jalapeños going to be super hot, etc. Completely the opposite. It almost tasted like a mild green chili paste that also had some sweetness to it. The flavor of the goat cheese with the jalapeño marmalade really mixed well, without being too overpowering. I’ve had many quesadillas in my life, but these have risen to number one for my taste buds. Be prepared to bring something to wipe your hands with, as the marmalade gets a little sticky. But otherwise, be prepared to be WOWED. “It’s definitely not a traditional quesadilla. I actually made this as a special at another restaurant I worked at, but the owner didn’t go for it, so it’s been sitting in my back pocket for years waiting to see the light of day. We used Crow’s Dairy Goat Cheese and house made jalapeño marmalade, then dust it with a little smoked paprika and cilantro.”
The last dish on the list was the Street Corn. I’m not a huge fan of the traditional street corn that is normally found at flea markets and such, but this dish was different. The corn-on-the-cob was fresh, while the vegan mayo, cayenne, cilantro, Cotija cheese, and lime mix felt light, and looked (and tasted) healthier. “The Street Corn we do is just a classic street corn. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Fire roasted corn, coated with Just Mayo (a pea based Vegan Mayo instead of a soy base), Cotija cheese, cayenne, cilantro, and lime. Hold the cheese and it’s vegan!”
I also had a Funfetti Scone, which was so tasty, that it didn’t need butter or other dipping sauces; just the chai to finish off the desert.
Check out more behind-the-scenes…
The Coronado PHX is open: Sunday – Thursday: 6am – 10pm, Friday & Saturday: 6am – 11pm,
Happy Hour: 4pm – 7pm.
2201 N 7th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Be sure to check out their WEBSITE and FACEBOOK for local happenings and such.
Liam: We love hosting community based events. Craft and Charity nights every third Friday of the month, where we pair a local brewery with a local charity. The brewery takes over all our beer taps and then a portion of the sales from the night go to the charity. We host an event called Vinyl Voices, which is part story telling, part DJ night. Participants bring in a vinyl record, tell a story of that record and then we’ll play a track. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s intense, or sad or whatever. Being a musician myself, it’s so fun to hear people’s relation to music and how it shapes significant moments in their lives. We also host a Simpson Trivia Night, poetry readings, acoustic music, board game nights, and anything we can think of, really.
NOTE: I was given complimentary food in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.