taste of Arizona: The Doughbird has landed!

Atop the site of a former decrepit Circle K, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, sits the newest creation from Fox Restaurant Concepts, Doughbird. If you have followed me on my journey through Valley restaurants, you already know I’m no fan of the focus-grouped, corporate-structured dining experience. (Shiver!) However, these Fox Concept guys have never let me down – and I’m telling you right out of the gate that they’ve got another winner on their hands.

Doughbird calls itself a “Pizza and Rotisserie” restaurant. All I know as I walk in is that chef Clint Woods is a man who knows his way around dough – and dough is the first thing you see when you come in around lunch time. Someone in the open kitchen is hand-shaping balls of dough to be baked as the bread for sandwiches. You can smell the yeast and it reminds you of your mama’s kitchen. Gone already are my corporate fears as I belly up to the counter.

The kitchen is laid out so that you can see everything. I see the giant floor mixer working on a new batch of dough. I watch the rotisserie turning chicken and prime rib over and over. The flames of the open-hearth, stone pizza ovens are in view. I spot the salads, the sandwiches, the pizzas, along with the vegetables in their sauté pans. I also witness the most people I’ve ever seen working together in a kitchen to make it all come out deliciously seamless.

I think you get hired at Doughbird for your communications skills and much as your culinary expertise because employees are all good talkers. Just about everyone who works there comes by for conversation – and it’s not corporate speak. It’s one of those places where it doesn’t matter who your server is; they all do everything for each other so that you get the best experience.

It is packed on a Wednesday night – a good sign. I do my “research” over several visits. Here is what I had:

Indy School Mule $10
(Kettle One vodka, dried five spice, lime, ginger beer)

I was introduced to Kettle One by a nurse with a personalized martini shaker in a bar across from the Alamo. Sounds like the opening line from a novel, but I’ve been a fan ever since. It’s a high-end vodka – not the most expensive, just nice. The five spice gives this cocktail a kind of holiday flavor and the lime juice is freshly squeezed, so overall it is refreshing and quite effective.

Cast-Iron Shishito Peppers, Umami $9

Eating shishito peppers is a little like playing Russian roulette. For the most part, the ones in this appetizer are mild and the crispy skin adds a delicious charred, smoky flavor. But every now and then, you get one that packs a bit of a punch and is just plain hotter than the rest. Not scorching, mind you, but a real reminder that you are eating peppers. This dish is paired with an outrageous umami dipping sauce that I think is made of yeast, miso, garlic and parmesan – so good that I drank the leftover sauce (made sure no one was looking first). All of the signature sauces can be added to any meal for $1.

Wild Mushroom Pizza $15
(Black truffle, Swiss chard, fontina, rosemary)

It’s going to be pizza for me this visit. I make my selection and wait while sipping my cocktail. The menu says it’s made with Bianco DiNapoli organic tomato and Central Milling Company organic flour. All I know is I want it to be delicious and I’m counting on that Clint Wood dough to come through for me. The pizza is a nice size for one very hungry person; two could easily split one if they also shared a salad or an appetizer.

The mushrooms were excellent: earthy, plentiful and a textural delight. I sat thinking whether I liked it or loved it when I realized I had eaten the entire piece, including all of the crust – and I rarely eat the crust. Once I’m through the cheese, sauce and topping, I set that little tail piece down. Not tonight. This is a sign of excellent dough. It is so flavorful that it doesn’t need anything on it. Love the price, too, considering the quality ingredients.

Macaroni and Cheese $5

Another side dish I had to try. I watched as small batches were carefully prepared to order; nothing seems premade. It’s very good, creamy, not too rich and served hot. It also appears on the kids menu as an entrée.

Small Caesar Salad $5

You can watch the salads being individually crafted with fresh ingredients. The dressing has a nice, tasty zest. The romaine was fresh, but the best part was the house-made croutons. That dough appeared again in the form of a nicely seasoned and garlicky, crunchy chunk. Loved that.

Creekstone Farms Prime Rib $27
(Served medium rare with a side and sauce)

I wasn’t planning to order prime rib at a pizza and chicken restaurant and when I smugly stated this fact to my server, she said, “Oh, but it’s made in our rotisserie like the chicken and that constant movement makes it tender and juicy.” Sold! I’m such a pushover and I’m glad I got pushed. It was as she said: tender and juicy with a very nice flavor. I thought it was more medium than medium rare, but I was happy with it and wished I had ordered the 14 oz. instead of the 10 oz. It came with a very nice au jus for dipping.

I selected potato wedges as a side and they were surprisingly good. Nicely seasoned, crispy, golden brown and just-made hot. They brought ketchup, which I think was their own concoction; it all worked well together. A nice price for an excellent dinner.

Rocky Free Range Chicken $17

This entrée also comes with a side and a sauce. I chose asparagus and broccolini and the house-made chipotle barbeque sauce. My half chicken with golden brown skin looked great nestled between veggies and sauce. The chicken did not disappoint. It had a sweet, wee bit of spice rub on it as it rotated gingerly that afternoon. The veggies were perfectly cooked, with great color, a little bit of crispness and some salt and garlic. The barbeque sauce was nice but didn’t really enhance the chicken. Now I’m kicking myself for not ordering that umami I drank down during an earlier visit. There are nine different sauces to choose from and at only $1 each, you can work your way through them on future visits – because you will be back. I thought $17 was a little pricey for the half bird (four pieces), but everything else was a great value.

Warm Butterscotch Cream Cake $7
(Vanilla Bean Gelato)

It was as advertised – warm, creamy, sweet – and I love the cold ice cream on top. The desserts are not particularly large. My advice if you are with a dessert lover: Get two.

Old-Fashioned Peach Streusel Pie $7
(Vanilla Bean Gelato)

The gelato makes a reappearance, but this time it is atop a most heavenly looking, generous slice of house-made peach pie and I can’t wait to dive in. The pie crust is fantastic – why wouldn’t it be? It’s dough in the hands of a master. The peach filling is sweet, with hints of cinnamon under a wonderful, crunchy top. I also ate from the back of the pie just so I could have a forkful of crust only, implementing my pizza theory on the pie: If you love the crust without anything on it, it’s a great slice.

Doughbird is definitely a hit and the best use of old Circle K land I’ve ever seen. The service is excellent, but the food takes a while to come out – and that’s because it hasn’t been made until you order it. You can see them stretch the pizza dough before they begin constructing and cooking, which is how it is with everything they prepare. The Doughbird has landed. You should try this sweet Arcadia neighborhood experience.

4385 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix

Contact A. Noshman at [email protected]

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