The Toasted Cork: come for the wine, stay for the grilled cheese

0826Ns Entertainment (Toasted Cork)

The Toasted Cork bacon guac grilled cheese sandwich. (Submitted photo)

The Valley food and drink scene is on the rise in a big way – especially when it comes to cool, new wine bar concepts.

And as far as wine bars go, The Toasted Cork is something special.

The two-story modern American wine bar in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale’s Entertainment District – with completely unobstructed views of Arizona’s picture-perfect sunsets – boasts an expansive, dog-friendly patio, impressive listing of 150-plus wines by the bottle as well as 30 craft beers, and regionally inspired cocktails with a sense of humor. Among the current menu highlights:

  • Kick Like a Mule, a combination of New Amsterdam red berry vodka, Cock ’n Bull ginger beer and lime juice.
  • Typical Ginger, a combination of St. George Green Chili Vodka, Giffard Ginger of the Indies, lime juice and pineapple.

The owner, Scottsdale resident Michael Stein, is as approachable as the bar and menu itself. Easy going yet wise beyond his 29 years, Mr. Stein has the experience of someone twice his age. Perhaps that is why The Toasted Cork is appealing to young professionals, Baby Boomers and everyone in between.

“I got my start at clubs and lounges in Las Vegas and New York City, but my dream has always been to own something of my own,” says Mr. Stein. “Scottsdale is The Toasted Corkbecoming such an important food town, and I wanted to be a part of it. Not to mention, Arizona is all about small business owners who want to focus on supporting local like me. That means something.”

True to his word, Mr. Stein’s menu features severally locally sourced ingredients as well as a rotating list of Arizona beers and wines. He also works with local musicians to schedule live, local music Thursday to Sunday each week.

In addition to the Arizona wines and the more than 150 other bottles to choose from, The Toasted Cork also offers wildly popular tasting flights, which can be customized, starting at $15. And if people like what they taste, there is also a retail side of the business, where guests can build their own six packs of beer or purchase a bottle or two of something special to take home with them.

Mr. Stein also features a regular “Vino 101” class the second Saturday of each month for $35 per person.

“The classes change monthly, and are all based on our guests. If we have newbies to wine, we focus on the basics. If we have more experienced wine drinkers, we try to give them a little something a little more sophisticated, but still easy and fun,” says Mr. Stein, noting each class features signature food pairings and advance reservations are required.

And then there is the grilled cheese.

“When I was in New York, my team and I got the wild idea one night to dream up a grilled cheese menu,” says Mr. Stein. “To say it was successful was an understatement. I couldn’t wait to bring the concept to Scottsdale.”

Served with house-seasoned kettle chips or creamy tomato basil soup, highlights from Mr. Stein’s grilled cheese menu include:

  • The Bacon Guac: Pepperjack, aged cheddar, Hass avocado and Applewood smoked bacon
  • The Glazed & Confused: Sharp cheddar, honey glazed ham, grilled pineapple and sweet teriyaki sauce
  • The Millionaire: Gruyère, fontina, organic Portobello mushrooms, spinach and truffle glaze

“Food and wine should be fun and easy,” says Mr. Stein. “We want everyone to leave The Toasted Cork with a smile – and maybe a bottle or two of wine.”

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Ms. Bailin is a volunteer correspondent at the North Valley Office of Independent Newsmedia.

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