It is rare to come across a restaurant that feels right from the moment you arrive. It’s like a neighborhood, a village, with beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces inviting you to explore. Around each corner, you’ll find a nook for sitting, dining, playing, relaxing, alone or with groups of friends. There’s an ice cream shop, a market, a bar, a restaurant, a splash pad for kids, misted areas, and all of it pays homage to the fact that it was once a historic citrus grove at 12th Street and Glendale Avenue in North Central Phoenix.
Though I did wander around it all with delight, the focus for me is the restaurant, Pomelo. It is the latest concept from the owners of the wildly popular Luci’s Healthy Marketplace at 16th Street and Bethany Home Rd. Pomelo at The Orchard, is a natural extension, the next step if you will, in their quest to provide neighborhood goodness richened from locally-sourced ingredients and with Arizona flare. For example, did you know there is a distillery in Prescott making excellent vodka, bourbon and rye whiskey? I did not, but I do now. During a sampling offered while I awaited dinner, I happily met one of the best ryes I’ve ever tasted – and it’s from Prescott. I know, I couldn’t believe it either!
You can dine inside or out, and even if you choose to dine in, the floor to ceiling windows let in the beauty of the natural setting. The staff is very friendly, and the light aroma of mesquite is present as you walk in. Everything is welcoming. Over the course of a few visits, here is what I had:
French Dip $16
(Thinly sliced prime rib, house aioli on a hoagie roll, served with au jus)
The menu description does not list that it comes with a choice of sides and I chose fries. It also doesn’t mention that the roll is lightly grilled over mesquite which adds a marvelous flavor and crunch even when it gets “wet” from dipping in the au jus.
For meat lovers, Pomelo serves French Dip all week long and also offers Prime Rib dinners on Fridays and Saturdays. This is a great sandwich, wonderful flavor, on delicious bread but my favorite part was the au jus. Most places over salt the au jus, but Pomelo doesn’t need to do that because all the flavor you need is already in the sandwich. The au jus just adds a little beefy juiciness to an already tasty meal. I like horseradish, and the aioli was a nice replacement. The fries were great too. You will love this.
Wood Fired Wings $11
(Cooked over Arizona mesquite, choose Pomelo BBQ or Louisiana hot sauce, served with
vegetable sticks and choice of dressings for dipping)
I didn’t want to choose between house made BBQ or Louisiana hot sauce, and sensing my discomfort, my server offered to bring me half and half, which was an excellent and much-appreciated idea. There was an ample serving of plump wings and a very generous portion of veggies. The wings were smartly cooked, with a nice char but not overdone. Both sauces had a bit of heat to them, and I liked them both, but if I were to be stuck on an island in the middle of Lake Pleasant, I would choose the Pomelo BBQ sauce because it is sticky, sweet and spicy.
Mexican Street Corn (GF) $6
(Grilled corn, feta cheese, spicy aioli)
Served on the cob and on a stick as street corn should be. Pomelo took the extra step of cutting it in half for sharing. There is lots of flavor here from the mesquite grilling, to the feta and the spicy aioli. There was a little kick to it, and some of the kick was to the wallet. Seemed a little pricey to me, but I can’t argue that they nailed this appetizer. Gone in a minute.
NY Cheesecake $9
There was no menu description, yet there it is before me. A very large slice of cheesecake on an equally large plate, golden and naked but for the drizzle of caramel it sat upon. I asked if they made it at Pomelo and the answer was no, but does it matter? It’s cheesecake, and it was creamy, smooth, delicious and of course, rich. I made it through half of it and this I took home. Would you believe it was breakfast the next day?
Mushroom Pizza $15
(Mozzarella, mushrooms, garlic cream, shallots, arugula, balsamic reduction)
All of Pomelo’s pizzas are wood fired, and you can smell that wonderful oven when you step onto the property. If you are like me, the smell of burning mesquite just activates my taste buds and I can’t wait to order.
You have to love mushrooms to have this pizza because there are plenty of them in all their smoked chewy goodness. The pizza crust has thin, burnt, crispy edges and the whole pie has been piled with arugula. There is a sensual mixture of sweet balsamic reduction and bitter arugula complimenting the melted mozzarella but what I really want to talk about is the pizza dough. It was so good that I chose not to eat the crust and here’s why:
Me: Do they use this dough in other items, like to make rolls?
Server: Yes! They make rolls and serve it with the Chef’s board, it’s like a sourdough, do you like it?
Me: Could I trouble you for some butter? I saved the crusts and want to see what they taste like with butter.
Server: I got you on this.
She returns with a dish of melted garlic butter, “Here you go.” It’s like she knew me. I finished my pizza that would have fed two people, and then dunked my crusts in melted garlic butter and finished that as well. The take home message? You won’t be taking any pizza home.
There were so many menu items I didn’t get to, but I’m not worried. Pomelo at the Orchard is easy to get to and with cooler weather coming; I can see myself taking advantage of the outdoor dining spaces and plan on returning. I didn’t get to the entrees or the salads, and they all look great. There are many gluten-free offerings, but because I am a “gluten” for punishment, tend to skip those but hear they are loved. I only poked my head into the ice cream shop (which appeared actually to be gelato) and briefly toured the marketplace which has its own restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wonder if they’ve thought of building apartments, so I wouldn’t have to leave?
Pomelo at the Orchard
7100 N. 12th St., Phoenix
Contact A. Noshman at