Ingo's Tasty Food
Restaurant in Phoenix
Gourmet Food Stand Restaurant
Ingo's Tasty Food makes familiar favorites taste like the first time you've tried them.
With most Phoenix establishments, the best ones are those that hide in plain sight. This rule does not apply to Ingo's Tasty Food. The self-described “food stand” more resembles a cylindrical spaceship touched down on a shady corner of Phoenix's Arcadia neighborhood.
The crowd arrives, as if by appointment, at precisely 12noon, bottlenecking the circular interior and smothering the outside patio like gourmand pigeons. Businessmen, housewives, students playing hooky, and all the disaffected youth who are just starting their day. And what better way to start it, really, than with a batch of Ingo's shattered potato chips – indiscriminately sliced rounds that resemble a natural shale wall, freshly crisped and dusted with parsley. Their irregular thickness makes each bite an unpredictablefusion of crunchy and soft, served with a cloud of chivey lebne and, if you ask for it, the house's fermented jalapeño salsa.
At barely 500 square feet in size, the restaurant's bar seats are prime real estate; Ingo's solves this simmering social conflict with numbered waiting stations against the back window, where latecomers stand in the order that they arrive. If you don't fancy being mistaken for some random diner's valet, however, it's best to get there early. You'll also have a greater likelihood of scoring the 1-hour special, Ingo's egg salad, available only from 11am to 12pm.
If you miss it, you'll find ample consolation in the Post-It special, a fresh invention from chef Hunter Ryan. It started, he tells me, with the loup de mer sandwich, a refreshing spin on fried fish and tartar sauce. The loup de mer is now a menu stand-by; new Post-Its include ingenious salads and curious takes on Ingo's legendary burgers.
Ground three times a day from Strauss Family Farms beef that are, Hunter tells me, grass-fed from start to finish, the burgers are Ingo's best-known offering, though they are no slouch in the plant-based side of the menu. The veggie burger is made from protein-hearty grains and cashews, which lend it a richer flavor. The house salad is a tangle of crinkly kale ribbons, pebbly golden quinoa, slivered Manchego, and innumerable other diced things. Everything on the menu benefits from the addition of the aforementioned salsa; the condiment is less noticeable for itself, than for the way it propels flavor from everything it touches. I notice this particularly with the egg salad, which according to Hunter's direction, I order with all the extras: white anchovies, sliced peppadew and crisped La Quercia pancetta. Painted with mayonnaise, served open-faced on an English muffin from neighboring La Grande Orange, the egg salad comes out looking like modern art, but defies my attempt at daintiness; Hunter advises me to eat it with my hands.
I've never seen a burger joint that rivaled Ingo's compelling beverage selection. Where else are you likely to see sunburned men in muscle tanks sipping German herbal soda alongside their burger? Along with a curated mix of international curiosities – Almdudler soda, Topo Chico water, the much-coveted Mexican Coca-Cola – Ingo's offers a few influential beers on tap (IPA from Stone, pilsner from North Coast Brewing), several worthy wines, and house-made rooibos sangria. Ask your server to recommend the best match for your burger.
...Oh, the burgers? Like most voluptuous pleasures, words mostly fail in comparison to the actual experience. Suffice it to say that as with everything emerging from Ingo's kitchen, all the expected elements are present, but retooled for a taste that's familiar and unexpected, all at once. The Paris, Texas burger is their top seller, layered with sharp Wisconsin cheddar, La Quercia ham, and their house-made apple barbecue sauce. I was particularly intrigued, however, by the Farmer's Daughter, whose combination of sauerkraut, Dijon sauce and fol epi cheese is worth the toll it takes on your breath. (Ask for it “Adam and Eve” style.)
And just in case you thought you'd seen it all, don't be surprised to find customers reaching into the cookie jar on their way out. The chocolate chip cookies, offered gratis at the bar, are buttery clusters of brown-sugar dough flecked with fleur de sel. They are the final word in Ingo's campaign to make you taste familiar favorites as if it were the first time you'd tried them.
Chelsea Batten is an itinerant journalist and photographer
Photographs by Chelsea Batten
|Reviewer's Rating||★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Clientele||Neighborhood locals, students, hipsters, business people, families|
|Restaurant good for||Couples, Families with children, Small groups, Meeting up with friends, Outdoor seating|
|Cost per head||Medium|
|Dining Options||Lunch, Dinner|
Casual, outdoorsy and lively.
Starters from $4, Main dishes from $8, glasses of wine glasses start from $7, bottles from $21.
Last updated on 02-06-2014