Who: The Handlebar
What: Restaurant and bar with outdoor patio (amazing place to watch a football game!)
Where: 680 South Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
When: Every day: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Happy Hour (every day): 3 p.m.-6:30 p.m.
Why: I’ve been trying to get to The Handlebar for quite awhile now. I saw the funky exterior, industrial door, interesting customers, and exciting atmosphere and was instantly struck at first sight. I finally got the opportunity to visit this funky joint while I was on my way to the PAC-12 championship game (supporting ASU, of course). I heard they had a great beer selection, but not much about the food. I brought my appetite though and was more than satisfied with the presentation and taste of the eats.
After ordering the bakery fresh pretzels, I was surprised at how elegant the “bar food” at The Handlebar was. The pretzels, stone ground spicy mustard, and beer cheese were cleanly organized on the plate, appetizingly displayed, and easy to pick up without making a mess. For an establishment where most of the food is handheld, it was refreshing that they put so much effort into plating.
I ordered the classic burger with sweet potato fries. Two dipping sauces were included and from the many tantalizingly tasteful choices I picked Sundried Tomato Basil Aioli and Thai Ketchup. Each paired perfectly with the sweet potato fries and were much more satisfying than plain ketchup. I was expecting the Aioli to taste mostly like ketchup, but was startled when it tasted exactly like sundried tomatoes mixed with basil and not even close to ketchup. The Thai Ketchup was a spicy take on the traditional food lube, but was also far from the boring and traditional ketchup taste. I recommend either for the fries and I’m sure any choice of side condiment is a good one here.
As far as the burger is concerned, the bun was soft and ideally toasted while the meat was cooked exactly to medium like I ordered. There was so much juice on the burger it continually ran off until I finished the last bite. That’s a sign of a great burger; even when you have one tiny bite left, it still has a bunch of juice that your tastebuds can enjoy. Aged cheddar was an excellent choice for this classic burger and it melted right into the meat and bun; just the way I like it.
I decided to forego the blue cheese bacon dressing as it’s not my most favorite burger topping, however, I bet it matches well with the burger just as the other toppings did. A burger, fries, and pretzels are all typical bar foods, but at The Handlebar, their ability to make the meat so succulent, the fries entirely crispy, and the pretzels hot, wheat-y, and toasted took me aback and made me rethink the quality that bar food could have.
There were many other items such as the grilled cheese, the southern fried chicken sandwich, and the Southwest Smoked Turkey Sausage that I would love to try on my next visit. I also enjoyed several Weihenstephan Hefe-weise beers from Germany, which I loved and plan on trying many of their other beers in the future. I also saw “the manliest drink” at the bar (which is the first picture in this article), the Paper Route.
My waitress mentioned there was a customer the other day who asked her to bring him the manliest drink on the menu; she brought him a Paper Route: a PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon) can, a shot of Jameson, and an unlit cigarette. I’ve never seen that on a menu before. The strike of genius and ingenuity it took to come up with such a classically manly and American drink should be rewarded at every bar. I think that also shows the quality and personality of the staff and owners at The Handlebar. Having the privilege to enjoy an establishment that honestly cares about the quality of the food and staff, the cleanliness of the restrooms, and the overall dining experience only solidified my love for locally-owned businesses.
I watched another football game at The Handlebar before I went off to the PAC-12 championship and the atmosphere was abuzz with enthusiastic football fans young and old, college kids, and those just meeting for casual drinks. Going for a game? Going for a good time with some good food and drinks? Trying to find an honest-to-goodness excellent hangout spot or after work drink spot? I enthusiastically suggest The Handlebar; it will deliver far above your expectations. I plan to make many trips back for the amazing beer selection, luscious eats, and eclectic/electric atmosphere.