If there is one thing the Phoenix foodie scene has going for it, it’s chef Aaron May. The notorious Valley chef responsible for hot spots like Mabel’s on Main and the now shuttered Vitamin T and Iruña tapas style restaurant may have finally struck the right chord with his latest venture, Praying Monk. Though on the surface, the restaurant-bar looks and feels familiar, Praying Monk is anything but. A seat at the concrete-topped bar will bring that to light.
The American fare, pub-style eatery opened last month just off Scottsdale Road in Old Town Scottsdale in the same space that was once Iruña. From the name, an ode to the rock formation on Camelback Mountain, to the rich colored woods and simple décor, Praying Monk has a warm and rustic appeal that creates a great environment for lunch, dinner or drinks.
The space is versatile. During the day the no-frills environment and numerous flat-screen TVs make Praying Monk a great place to watch the game and have a beer. At night, what once was a casual, come-as-you-are space transforms into an intimate setting perfect for drinks and good conversation. The lights are dimmed and candle light flickers to the tunes of some indie rock favorites. Wooden tables fill the spaces between long plush leather booths and when the weather is nice, the outdoor patio makes for a great place to hang out and mingle with other patrons.
The Praying Monk bills itself as a "familiar-meets-fun ode to American food and boutique beer.” The menu features a long list of craft beers –18 on tap and 39 available by the bottle – including local brews from Four Peaks and SanTan. Beer lovers can rejoice in the fact that the draft beer selection features some unique options like Chimay, Monk’s Cafe Sour and Left Coast Asylum.
As far as the food goes, the entire menu looks appetizing but certainly isn’t typical bar grub. May has turned some all too familiar foods into culinary classics and at not too steep a price, which is a foodie’s dream come true.
Take for example the “F” This PB&J appetizer, which is a homemade peanut butter and blackberry jam served in layers in a jar with a few slices of toasted brioche on the side. Though tasty, it’s a bit messy of a dish. Much like the PB&J, a lot of the items on the menu are served up like novelties; items such as the grilled cheese salad and the crispy pig ears with rocoto chili. There are plenty of other dishes to entice the less daring, such as the Paia fish sandwhich or the triple decker clubhouse sandwich and homemade pasta with lobster that sounds delectable.
For a Scottsdale eatery and bar that caters to food and beer lovers, Praying Monk is far from pretentious. May created an approachable concept restaurant that welcomes those with a more refined palate but doesn’t shun those who just want to sit at the bar and enjoy a beer after a long day of work.
Guests can enjoy half-off select appetizers, $3 New Belgium Blue Paddle, $3 Monk Pale Ales, $4 wells and $5 Pinot and Chardonnay during happy hour every day from 3 to 7 p.m.
Praying Monk, 7217 E. First Street, Scottsdale, 480.398.3020