Crazy. Sexy. Cool. No, I’m not referring to the gals of the famed pop music trio TLC, but rather Scottsdale’s hottest new haunt—The Second Story Liquor Bar. This eclectic eatery is trending as the see-and-be-seen Old town Scottsdale hotspot, and with good reason. The vintage-inspired vibe and visionary victuals at this intimate dining and imbibing venue are as distinctive as they are delightful.
Perched atop The Gelato Spot, “SSLB” as it is dubbed overlooks the intersection of Third Avenue and North Scottsdale Road, and is just a short golf cart ride away from the kinetic nightlife in Scottsdale’s downtown entertainment district. The restaurant is owned and operated by the exceedingly engaging Tommy Plato, who can be seen nightly in the restaurant chatting patrons up tableside. Tommy and his father, Don, meticulously built and designed the location over a 3-year period—an effort that was not in vain.
SSLB boasts a chic and refined atmosphere all its own that’s as alluring as the avant-garde gastronomics it serves. When I first entered the eatery, I was struck by the lounge sensibility of the thoughtfully designed bar and dining space, which all wraps around a stunning crystal chandelier that adds the perfect note of elegance to the space. The cozy bar shares the restaurant’s open floor plan with four-tops and two-tops aptly positioned for privacy. Outside there is additional two-top balcony seating overlooking the busy street scene below.
Décor-wise, it’s apparent that every detail of the sophisticated interior, including staff styling, was instituted with intention. The wait staff dons lace, pearls and beautifully custom-embroidered aprons, giving patrons the sense that they’ve stepped back in time into a moody members-only club where they can kick back, enjoy a cocktail and stay a while. But, don’t let the old fashioned frocks fool you—the fare here is quite contemporary.
Speaking of cocktails, beverage service at SSLB also breaks out-of-the-box as fine spirits and fresh ingredients spun into both classic and signature concoctions are the backbone of this dining experience where “old school” bartending is reprised. Signature cocktails such as Corpse Reviver ($12)—gin, Lillet blanc, cointreau, creme de violette, and lemon juice—and Stay Nimble ($11)—Buffalo Trace bourbon, Aperol, grapefruit juice, honey syrup and mint—are conceived and served up by the ever-charismatic bar man, John Christie, who frequently leaves the bar to work his own charm on the rest of the room. And it works. Creative cocktails flow amid a lively atmosphere filled with modern music and eager anticipation for the foodstuffs to follow.
During my dinner visit I found the menu, which notably changes not only seasonally but every six weeks, to be delicious indecision. So, rather than opting for just one per-course selection, my party of three decided to share two 6-course tasting menus ($70 each) that would allow us to sample twelve dishes of our choice in total—nearly all of those offered on this adventurous iteration of the SSLB menu.
What an extraordinary decision this turned out to be. In perfectly timed intervals, Executive Chef Josh Bracher, formerly of Posh Restaurant and Capital Grille, sent out one painstakingly plated, expertly-executed dish after the other. These escalated from the lighter starters to the heavier meat-laden entrees. While each dish was a visual victory unto itself, even more impressive was Chef Bracher’s knack for turning a mélange of components into exquisitely balanced and layered combinations heeding both taste and texture. Collective favorites from our party’s dual 6-course tasting menus included Ahi Poke Asian Chopped Salad with honey ginger vinaigrette; Mushroom Flatbread with Fontina cheese sauce, skiitake and oyster mushrooms, caramelized onions and truffle oil; Duck Confit with spinach and ricotta gnudi, rapini pesto, golden raisins, brûléed cherry tomatoes and wild mushrooms; Sweet Corn Agnolotti with crab leg meat, truffle butter, lobster mushrooms and sorrel greens; Lamb Chop with goat cheese persillade, charred scallion risotto with caramelized parsnip, honey truffle beet and demi-glace; and Dry Aged Bone-In Rib Eye with miso butter, lemon verbena and honey caramelized turnip, tempura asparagus and Maltese hollandaise.
Although the three of us were sharing a tasting menu built for two, all of us were perfectly satiated by the eighth course as even the sample portions were generous. Even so, there was no choice but to press on amid the culinary drama and intrigue that was unfolding before us.
After gaining a second wind, attentions turned to dessert. In another fun twist that makes this SSLB distinctive, dessert here is “chef’s whim.” There is only one single dessert offering each evening, which is based entirely on what ingredients engage the imagination Chef Bracher at the market earlier that same day. For my visit, we were presented with a brilliant interpretation of a deconstructed blueberry cobbler.
Given my own experience at SSLB, I’ve no doubt this restaurant is well on its way to making an indelible mark on Scottsdale’s burgeoning cuisine scene. It’s certainly an essential itinerary item for any respectable foodie in the vicinity.
"The Luxe List" Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.LuxeListReviews.com. Follow her on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***