By Patty Talahongva
When you have a restaurant close to a bike path and you want to encourage your customers to ride their bikes rather than drive a car, it makes perfect sense to give your eatery a bicycle theme. A little more than two years ago the owners behind Timo Wine Bar purchased a building nearby, did a little remodeling and then opened Spoke & Wheel Tavern and Eatery at 8525 N. Central Ave.
Those owners are Mercer Mohr, who now lives in Sedona, and Heinrich Stasiuk, who now lives in California. The two own Wild Thyme Restaurant Group and have four restaurants in Sedona and the two in North Central Phoenix, as well as locations in Utah, Colorado and Nevada.
The partners hired Jason Towne as operations manager to run the restaurant and be the visionary behind new items, new partnerships and new events.
For instance, Towne hired Glass King to recycle the thousands of glass bottles Spoke & Wheel uses each month. “Restaurants generate a lot of trash,” he points out. Since the first of the year the eatery has recycled 13,000 glass bottles.
Towne says the goal is not only to be eco-friendly but family-friendly as well. The eatery encourages people of all ages to ride their bikes there, and offers plenty of bike racks, including on the spacious, dog-friendly patio that really gets hopping when the weather cools down.
The menu also offers selection to appeal to all ages and all palates. Topping the menu is a dish that’s a throwback to the days of grandmas and community picnics: deviled eggs, topped with pancetta bacon bits and capers. “That’s one of our top selling appetizers,” Towne says. “Everyone seems to love them.”
Another type of comfort of food is the buttermilk chicken and biscuits. “That is probably our No. 1 selling entree,” says Towne.
Spoke & Wheel also offers bacon onion soup, chicken pozole for those who like things a little spicy, burgers, wings and fish. Spoke & Wheel kitchen staff grinds the meat in-house and bakes their own bread.
On Friday and Saturday nights only you can get a prime rib dinner for $24.95.
A popular seller is the street tacos, featuring three tacos of your choice—fish, steak, chicken chorizo, or veggie—on house-made corn tortillas for $9.95. Come during happy hour and get them for $7.95.
Children 12 years and younger have a menu featuring buttered noodles, chicken fingers, cheeseburgers or grilled cheese. Those dishes are $5.95 or less.
Among the dessert offerings, the dessert banana churro seems to be a big hit. “I think the banana churro is my favorite,” admits Towne. He credits Antonio Gordillo, the head chef, for coming up with the idea of putting a banana inside the churro.
Of course, Spoke and Wheel also offers a full bar with local beers and signature cocktails with syrups that can be made with alcohol or alcohol free. “Those are just kind of fun, you can make your own soda,” he says.
As a bonus, happy hour pricing is available all day for those who pedal in. For all others happy hour food is served 2-6 p.m. and drinks 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For reverse happy hour you must have a seat at the bar to get the reduced prices or again, just ride your bike. Other than the street tacos, popular happy hour selections include the Sonoran hot dog, and black mussels.
“We’re located right on the canal,” Towne says, so it’s convenient for many people to ride their bikes. “We have a number of bicycle groups that come through,” he adds. Thursday and Saturday nights have regular groups that ride to the restaurant.
There are two extra rooms in the restaurant that are used for overflow and special events. Towne says a few Meet Up groups come in regularly. There’s no rental fee but he asks that each group spend $10 per person on food and drink. The large room seats 60 people and the smaller one holds 16 people.
Spoke & Wheel will cater your event, if you come and pick up the food. It’s a nice option for the football season, or you can bring your party to the restaurant. On Sundays the flat screen TVs feature NFL games and there is a brunch menu available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tuesday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. are packed with patrons enjoying Trivia Night. “It became popular very quickly,” says Towne. It was in such demand he added a Saturday Trivia Night from 7 to 9 p.m. Contestants are on the honor system to not use their smart phones during the contest.
Start planning your Halloween costume because there will be a costume contest on Friday, Oct. 30. A DJ will provide the dance music and there will be drink specials. Prizes for the best costume also will be given out. Towne laughs at the memory of 20 people all dressed like beagles come strolling in for the party one year.
Spoke & Wheel is open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the bar stays open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the bar staying open until 11 p.m. Call 602-870-8843, visit www.spokeandwheeltavern.com, or follow them on Facebook.