The best part about a long, holiday weekend is not that I get an extra day off from work, but that I get to spend some extra time with J. Flying J. in from L.A. metro is always interesting because we shop around for the best rates. Sometimes, that is from Orange County Airport and sometimes it is from Ontario. If I am feeling really cruel, I will buy J. a ticket out of LAX.
This time, however, it was a quick flight from Ontario. Since it was one of the later flights, there was pause as to whether or not it will arrive at Sky Harbor on time. The last time J. flew in, the flight was 90 minutes late, so we ended up at Delux. This time, J.â€™s flight was on time, so we headed over to Ticoz Resto-Bar on 7th Street, just north of Camelback Road in Central Phoenix.
I had been hearing good things about Ticoz, especially from the CEO of my company who has raved about the food. By the time we got J.â€™s luggage and back to the Seth-mobile, we had plenty of time to get to Ticoz via the 51.
We pulled into the parking lot and the place was pretty full. I noticed right off the bat that the restaurant was broken into two distinct sections with the bar on the south end and the restaurant on the north end. We entered the restaurant and waited at the host station. We were seated at a four-top in the main dining room and there were still a couple of larger parties and a few couples lingering over their dinners.
Our waiter approached and offered to take our drink order. J. went with an Iced Tea ($2.25) and I had a Diet Coke ($2.25). We also requested water. Our waiter departed and we reviewed the menu, which had plenty of selections, but focused mostly on drinks, appetizers, burgers and Southwestern entrees.
Our waiter returned with our drinks and a bowl of round corn tortilla chips and a container holding three types of sauce: a hot sauce, a chunky salsa, and a fruit salsa. We said we needed a few more moments to decide what we would like for our meals and we munched on the chips as we read through the descriptions. The chips were, unfortunately, right out of the commercial bag. They werenâ€™t awful, but they were no different than anything you could buy off the shelf at Safeway or Fryâ€™s. The sauces, on the other hand, were good. The hot sauce was a smooth, tomato-based sauce with a garlic and fiery kick. The chunky salsa was cold and the vegetables still crisp. It also had a bit of spice. The fruit salsa was refreshing with delicious pineapple sprinkled with bits of red pepper flake. We like the hot sauce the best followed by the fruit salsa, but all were pleasing.
Our waiter returned and we were ready to order. J. decided to Ticoz Chicos Pollos ($9.50) with Goat Cheese but substituted with slaw and fried with green beans. I thought the Pork Torta Sandwich ($9.50) sounded to my liking. For our appetizers, we were intrigued by the Ticoz Lettuce Wraps ($9.50) and the Ticoz Spicy Queso ($8.00).
As we waited for our appetizers, I mentioned to J. that Ticoz had done a great job of keep the buzz of the bar away from the restaurant. You could enjoy the techno music from the bar and still have a conversation with your dinner guests. The interior of the restaurant was also relaxing with its soft lighting and dark tones. We found it particularly relaxing.
Our Ticoz Spice Queso arrived and I liked it right off the bat because there were deep fried flour tortilla chips on half the plate. J. was an instant fan of the crunchy jalapeno corn chips that had a hunter green complexion. The queso was in a small container in the center. The melted cheese and chiles along with the bits of tomatoes in the dip was a welcome beginning to our meal. J. did say the flour chips were â€œa bit greasy,â€ but I found them to be light and crunchy.
We had barely dug into the queso before the Ticoz Lettuce Wraps arrived. The entire production was very unique and creative. Instead of the boring Iceberg Lettuce leaves that usually grace the plate, there were long, cold stalks of Romaine lettuce on one side of the plate. On the other side, the filling of diced chicken, pepitas, dried pineapple, dried cherries, dried mangos and macadamia nuts was tossed with a very light passion fruit dressing. We each grabbed a leaf and filled it, rolled it up and took a bite. It was outstanding. This was a big gamble by the kitchen and it paid off well. We were very happy with the product. Savory, sweet, crunchy, and light; this was a big winner.
J. and I had finished up every scrap of the appetizers and were working on another round of drinks when our entrees arrived. J.â€™s Ticoz Chicos Pollos was two mini-sandwiches of grilled chicken breast on white buns. There were five ways you could top the sandwich. J. chose the tamarind, goat cheese, hearts of palm and roasted red pepper option (#5 on the menu). J. found the sandwiches to be excellent. J. noted the mixture of tastes and the moist chicken really made these sandwiches shine. J. also said the green beans that were substituted for the fries and slaw were well above average as they were tender crisp, fresh and topped with sliced almonds. The portion size of the green beans was also quite generous.
My Pork Torta Sandwich was perfect. The bread had been cooked in a Panini grill and was hot and crisp. The filling of the torta was a mix of shredded pork, goat cheese, tamarind, jack cheese and cilantro. The pork, tamarind and cheeses were a natural mix. The cilantro could have been ramped up a bit because I only got passing glimpses of that in taste. Still, this sandwich was wonderful. Hot, bubbling and satisfying. The slaw was thinly sliced cabbage tossed with a passion fruit dressing. The taste was more sour than sweet, which was fine by me. I liked it quite a bit. The waffle fries were exceptional. They were crisp on the exterior and soft on the interior with a slight spicy taste. I was amazed at how hot they were and had to eat those last to allow time for them to cool before attempting to handle them. I couldnâ€™t be certain, but I was pretty sure the ketchup provided for the fries was house made.
J. and I were stuffed by the time we took the last bites of our meals. Our waiter asked us about dessert and we declined. It was closing time for the kitchen, but our waiter told us to take our time and got us refills on our drinks. When he returned, he brought the bill, which was $44.32 including tax.
Service was super. Our waiter always brought fresh glasses of tea, Diet Coke and water before we even finished the ones on our table. He was attentive without being overbearing and I liked the fact that he was not rushing us once the kitchen stopped serving for the evening.
J. and I paid the bill and headed to the car. As we left, the crowd in the bar was rollicking and enjoying the dance music and the full service bar. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. J. and I also enjoyed ourselves as the food at Ticoz was top notch and the service quite grand.
The only thing better than dinner was having J. in Phoenix for the long holiday weekend.
5114 North 7th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85014
Dress: Casual on up.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday – 11 AM to 11 PM; Friday and Saturday – 11 AM to Midnight
Notes: Across the street from Burger Betty’s.
Alcohol: Full service bar. Focus is on Mojitos.