The House At Secret Garden - CLOSED

2013 list of restaurants that have captured our love and admiration
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themis
Posts: 355
Joined: 7 years ago

6 years ago

All of us who love Phoenix want the people who visit here to love it, too, so we all carry a mental list of “slam-dunks,” places that will never fail to please our fussiest guests (ahem, my Mother-In-Law). “My sister pleads with us to take her there when she's in town,” says Lunchbox. The House at Secret Garden, clunky name aside, is one of those slam-dunks. And it’s not just the crowd-pleasing array of locally-grown lunch salads, nor their decadent plates of award-winning cheeses, nor the shockingly low bottle markup on their very smart wine list. It’s not just the way life seems a little easier when you’re kicked back on the gorgeous, sun-dappled flagstone patio shaded by orchid trees. No, because Phoenix really isn’t shorted on gorgeous patios serving up fresh citrus-muddled cocktails and good food. The House is special because it’s much more than the sum of its parts – it’s a true find.

The House was first opened in 2010 by Pat and Dustin Christofolo, best known around town for their popular Santa Barbara Catering company. They have also recently taken on management of the entire Farm at South Mountain property. I’ve never met Dustin; but I’ve heard he spent a couple of years in Parma perfecting his pasta technique. And I’d say; he has. Four times of five when I sit down to dinner, I don’t even crack the menu, I just ask for whatever pasta he’s doing that day. I know it will be perfectly al dente and sauced delectably. But there are also tender braised dishes like short ribs or osso buco to tempt, or comfort fare like shrimp & grits; yet, somehow, each dish is elevated far beyond the current tiresome trend.

And, aside from toothsome pappardelle or pillowy gnocchi, someone at the House has a truly masterful hand with a smoker. Smoked trout shows up on the menu in salads and rillettes; pulled pork makes an appearance during live music events, and their smoked brisket sandwich is turning heads and noses all over town.

For example, from Skillet Doux’s 10 Tastes of 2012:
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Smoked Brisket Sandwich @ The House at Secret Garden
I'm still smelling this thing in my head! Maybe also on my fingers. Man, was that smoke intoxicating. My only complaint was that it was a touch dainty for a smoked meat sandwich. Next time I'm going to tell them to double the amount of meat and charge me whatever. I want to get lost in it a little bit. Thanks for the heads up on this one, themis.
The devil is also in their details. The crostini is expertly marked on the grill, drizzled with a light olive oil, and kissed with a little salt – just right for that Crow’s Farm chevre or Humboldt Fog. Desserts take local and seasonal produce to a new, sweetly high plateau, from sweet potato pot de crème to dried berry bread pudding. Polenta fries, which ought to be a snooze, always succumbs to a center so creamy I can’t say no to an order.

So that’s The House at Secret Garden. One part fine dining, one part crowd-pleaser, one part al fresco gem – but above all of that, five parts crazy talent and compulsive perfection in the kitchen. With everything else the venue has going for it, why bother doing barbeque and pasta better than most of the places that specialize in such around town? I think I know why. It may be because Chef Christofolo is a FoodNerd. When I eat there, I think – this guy is one of us.

They transcend their own definition, they raise the bar. I have a standing offer out to the PFN that any time you want to meet up at the House, I’m in. And to me, that’s what I want in a FoodNerd Approved site – a place that any of us is happy to go to any time of day or night. It’s a no-brainer.

Web info- http://www.houseatsecretgarden.com
The restaurant is located SE of 24th St and Baseline -
2501 East Baseline Road Phoenix, AZ 85042
(602) 243-8539
For reference, here’s our regular House at Secret Garden discussion thread.
And, here’s the 2012 meetup thread.

Other mentions:
Nikki Buchanan’s happy hour report. Want to live life rock star, Tony Bourdain-style, with bone marrow luge shots? Call ahead for availability. Phoenix Bites gets their two cents in. Here’s the Pen and Fork preview. And, my favorite, Girl Meets Fork agrees that the brisket is tops.
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The House at Secret Garden Discussion Thread:
The House at Secret Garden

The House at Secret Garden
www.houseatsecretgarden.com
2501 E. Baseline Road
Phoenix, AZ 85042
602-243-8539
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BarbaraToombs
Posts: 1471
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Chandler/Tempe, Arizona

6 years ago

Absolutely stellar nomination. I had been wanting to go here for AGES, but it wasn't until the recent Foodnik Friday that I finally got around to it, and just loved everything about the place, from the setting to the food. I can't wait to go back! :)
M_L
Posts: 979
Joined: 7 years ago

6 years ago

While I have only been here once it was a pretty amazing visit and not just for the company or the fact that Barbara was so gracious as to pick up the check. For me it was the simplistic and effective delivery of sweet potatoes to my belly. Those crinkle chips are dynamite and even had everything else been rubbish which it most certain was not I would come back for those alone.

This place gets a cheer from me as well.
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Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
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6 years ago

I think this is a great nomination, and based on my admittedly limited experience, it certainly has my support for an FNA. Everything was done with skill, that brisket was freaking killer, and it's like a charming little oasis on the far south side. It's clearly a favorite of a great many people on the board, and I hope those who haven't posted about it in the main thread yet will do so before the discussion period ends.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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Christina
Posts: 386
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6 years ago

I'm a fan too, and was lucky enough to be with Themis enjoying lunch fireside on a sunny winter Saturday in her cheese picture above. I've only been three times, but if I lived closer, I'd be a regular at this spot - love the cozy main dining room, little 4-seat bar, and of course the lovely patio. Some favorites are the shrimp and grits, arancini, smoked brisket sandwich, and those addictive polenta fries.

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Lunchbox
Posts: 1073
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Location: Gilbert
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6 years ago

My sister gets into town on Friday for a weeklong visit... Guess what she asked me about tonight on the phone? Not about our brand new baby, or our 3 year old daughter, but about when we are going to get over to House at Secret Garden at some point during her stay... :mrgreen:

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think this is one of the most underrated restaurants in our fine city.
-- LBX

Instagram: @zachary.garcia

Twitter: @zach_garcia
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Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
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6 years ago

The House at Secret Garden has been named to the 2013 Food Nerd Approved list.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
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