Highly anticipated restaurant and nightlife concept Anoche Cantina is a perfect example of “right place, right time.” The first Arizona concept for Washington state-based Ascend Hospitality Group, Anoche opened on August 18 in the heart of Tempe’s Mill Ave., when the neighborhood was needing it most.
“We’ve had our eye on Tempe for a while, and when the opportunity arose for us to take prime real estate on Mill Ave., we jumped at the chance,” says Elaina M. Morris, AHG CEO and president. “We couldn’t be more excited to bring what we call the ‘AHG Difference’ to the Valley and join such a thriving community.”
Anoche, meaning “last night” in Spanish, is a modern cantina with an innovative food and beverage program separated into “Loco” and “Classico” categories, along with Arizona’s most Instagram-able, interactive, build-your-own margarita bar. The restaurant consists of 5,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor dining, with an expansive patio adorned with booths to allow patrons to enjoy the best of Arizona weather. By day, guests savor fresh, Latin-inspired dishes and sip craft cocktails in a sexy atmosphere, and then, after the sun sets, revel in an elevated nightlife experience, backed by top-of-the-line sound, lighting and VIP bottle service.
For AHG — a Black-and female-led, independent restaurant group based in Bellevue, Washington, with other locations in Washington, Oregon, and Utah — Anoche is not only its first concept in Arizona, but its first to be co-created by the company’s director of marketing and brand design, Shelby Elmore.
Anoche’s inventive bill of fare covers a wide variety of flavors, ranging from familiar to avant-garde. Shareables start out the menu with appetizers like Dirty Queso (melty skillet queso, pico de gallo, chorizo), and Crudité & Tajin (carrot, cucumber, jicama, lime, tajin-spiced black bean dip), while the Classico and Loco options shine in the Center of Attention section, which invites guests to select a protein base like Classico Al Pastor or Loco Korean-Style Beef to be served as a choice of tacos, burrito, bowl or salad. Where the culinary team’s creativity shines the brightest is in the Taquitos Loco section, which features flavors like pizza rolls and buffalo chicken, reimagined as craveable taquitos.
Margaritas are the focal point of the drink menu, also as Classico and Loco categories, like the Classico Spicy (jalapeno-infused tequila, lime, triple sec, agave, jalapeno slices) and I Don’t Wanna Grow Up (sour candy-infused tequila, lime, triple sec, simple syrup, pop rocks rim) from the Loco menu. The star of the show, the Build Your Own Margarita bar, allows guests to customize their cocktails, starting with a base of blanco or reposado tequila, mezcal or vodka, then a selection from toppings like dried fruit or sour candies, rim options like tajin or pop rocks, and mix offerings like house or fruity.
At the foundation of Mill Ave.’s resurgence, Anoche is intent on bring an elevated experience to the community, with carefully crafted eats and one-of-a-kind nightlife to breathe new life into the area.
640 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Carnitas Banh Mi
Carnitas, pickled onions, cilantro straw, jalapeno
Slow-roasted pork, tomatillo salsa, cilantro slaw, pickled onions, served with salsa verde
Pollo Tinga Taco
Shredded chicken, sliced jalapeno, cilantro straw, pico, cotija
Erin James is marketing and media manager for Ascend Hospitality Group, a Black- and female-led, independent restaurant group based in Bellevue, Washington. The restaurant group is a collection of concepts ranging from fine dining to fast casual, and proudly employs more than 600 people in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Arizona. Committed to elevating the communities it serves, AHG invests wholly in both its team members and its guests.
Photos courtesy of Ascend Hospitality Group