By Marjorie Rice
It’s mid-September and re-opening day at the Vig Uptown, adding a lively note to the culinary concert that is the intersection of 16th Street and Bethany Home Road.
During the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Vig co-owners Tucker Woodbury and Jim Riley, and new Executive Chef Jeremy Pacheco took advantage of the down time to revamp some of the interior – including moving their Genuine Concepts home office into new headquarters, carved from part of the patio. Tables were separated and Plexiglas partitions were installed between the booths.
And Pacheco took the lead on updating the menu.
“This space is about fun and gathering,” he said. “I wanted a menu that reflected that, with shareable items, where you come in with a group of friends and order several items that can pair well with mixed drinks.”
On this day, guests are sampling some of the new dishes, including Himalayan salt-seared tuna – slices of sushi-grade raw tuna served with pickled onions and a savory/tangy sauce of yuzu-soy, lime juice, onions, garlic and ginger. It’s served on a platter with a soapstone slab heated to 500 degrees F.
Pacheco calls it an “interactive” dish – diners put bits of tuna on the stone, top it with onions and chili threads then pour on the sauce so it sizzles. Then it’s wrapped in discs of paper-thin jicama, replacing the more traditional thin pancakes of Asian cuisine.
It’s delicious with the Desert Dove cocktail – Herradura Silver tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and Q Mixers grapefruit soda.
And that pretty much wraps up the new Vig – spiffy yet understated industrial chic interior, bar food that’s been ratcheted up but still honors its roots, with great hamburgers (and a standout lamb burger in housemade pita), salads and tacos. Toss in starters designed to share and nibble with a tempting array of cocktails, spirits, beers and wine from the spacious bar, and you have a great neighborhood spot for gathering with friends to linger and savor.
One favorite from the starter menu: sizzling housemade thick peppered bacon, served on a hot fajita platter with a drizzle of maple syrup and sherry vinegar and grilled country bread. And don’t skip the mussels – a full pound – braised with beer, chorizo, poblanos, garlic and butter, served with grilled bread from Noble bakery (Pacheco sources local whenever possible) and topped with fries. They’re on the main dish menu, but would be great at the bar as well.
Another local-based favorite is the Sonoran Pasta Co. pasta – bucatini with wild shrimp from Rocky Point, cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano and Parmesan.
“It’s real simple, and one of my favorite dishes,” Pacheco said. “I could eat that every day.”
Pacheco formerly was at Lon’s at the Hermosa, and when the pandemic caused it to close, came to The Vig as a consultant. The partners asked him to join their team as executive chef, and he’s been working with them to update menus at all the Genuine Concepts locations: five Vigs, Ladera Taverna y Cocina in North Central, The Little Woody at 42nd Street and Indian School Road, The Womack at Seventh Street and Bethany Home Road, and The McMillan on Route 66 in Flagstaff.
All but the Womack, where some remodeling is ongoing, were scheduled to reopen by the first of October. And look for a new Vig in south Tempe, possibly in the next year, depending on COVID-19 and other variables.
Woodbury came to the restaurant business via a stint in advertising for the wool industry in New York, then taking a turn to the bar business in the Valley, running a wrap/sandwich store, then back to advertising. Taking another turn, he opened the first Vig, at 4041 N. 40th St., with Riley. That location turns 14 this year. The Uptown location was second.
A friend told Woodbury he should meet Riley, so he did, and within a couple of days they became partners. Woodbury is the concept/creative guy and Riley is the one who makes the trains run on time.
The Vig Uptown, at 6015 N. 16th St., is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call 602-633-1187 or visit thevig.us.