Located in the cozy-meets-cool Arcadia neighborhood, Chelsea’s Kitchen is a comfortable and delicious American eatery. The restaurant is owned by LGO Hospitality, which owns Le Grande Orange, Radio Milano, and Postinos, all unique and successful restaurants also located in this endearing district. LGO Hospitality’s proprietors include Bob Lynns, and Kris and Craig Demarco.
Upon arrival, it is evident that CK is dedicated to the spirit of Arcadia. While the restaurant has only been open since 2005, its interior design fits in perfectly with the 1970s-style Pueblo brick architecture of the building it inhabits. The parking lot is small, but sufficient and valet service is offered. There is a cute walkway, complete with honeysuckle flowers and a pond with a whimsical statue of a bear drinking from it. The exterior of the restaurant is Pueblo brick, with tall glass and panel doors, and contemporary light fixtures. There is a large front-porch-style eating area, where there is a group of about twenty five business men laughing loudly together as we enter.
We are immediately greeted with a warm smile, from the person who appears to be the host, but who, upon further investigation, we learn is the general manager, Darren Newell. He informs us of our wait time (20 minutes), and that the bar is open seating, if we’d like to get started by enjoying a drink an appetizer. CK takes very limited reservations, and only for groups of seven or more.
The interior automatically makes us feel comfortable. It is eclectic, a boutique-meets-industrial style, that comes together surprisingly well with the use of whimsical accents and good lighting. The ceiling has exposed beams, and there are large, well-chosen modern paintings hanging from the brick walls. The seating includes both tables and booths, with chairs made of dark whicker, booth seating made of chocolate brown leather, and tables made of a shiny medium wood. There is hip, edgy music in the background. The lit candles on each table add an element of romance.
There is a small, bustling bar, filled with mostly young professionals, who appear to have come straight from work. After snagging a seat at the granite countertop, we ask to see the wine menu, and learn it’s on the back of the regular dinner menu. The menu is simple, a one-page, laminated, tan paper, with clear and brief descriptions of each dish. There is a special section for children, and I smile at the home-town feeling I get when I see that kids eat free from 3pm to 5pm.
Like the menu, the wine selection focuses on quality, not quantity. There are 28 varieties to choose from, with an emphasis on flavor, not pretension. While deciding on a drink, the bartender kindly informs that while not featured on the menu, almost any cocktail can be ordered, all of which are made with strictly organic juices. I choose to go with a glass of wine, the Nelm’s Wood Merlot. Its smooth taste is very enjoyable, just a little spicy, with cherry and red-fruit flavors.
Upon the bartender, Gina’s recommendation, we order the Tuna Tartar with Guacamole. A generous sized portion served on a platter, the tuna is piled high, and topped with creamy guacamole. It’s served with large, crunchy, made-on-site tortilla chips. This mild and flavorful dish is given depth with a bold combination of rosemary and radish. The creamy homemade guacamole pairs well in both flavor and texture. The pleasantly intriguing flavors in our first selection pique our interest, and our excitement for what is yet to come.
We are shown to our table. Every seat in the dining room is taken. I look around and see a variety of diverse groups. There are many small tables of thirty-something friends drinking cocktails, a few families with small children, a spattering of more distinguished ladies gathered over wine, and a good amount of stylishly dressed couples sitting close to one another.
We continue our meal with Le Grande Orange Caesar salad. Presented simply in a contemporary white bowl, the portion size is a more than ample serving for one, or a perfect split for two. I find this delectable take on the Caesar to be surprisingly earthy. It features refreshingly crisp romaine lettuce, crunchy homemade croutons, and a simple olive oil and garlic dressing, all topped with thick slices of fresh parmesan cheese.
My next course is the Grilled Swordfish Tacos. Served on a large, oval platter, this healthy entrée even looks delicious. Small handmade corn tortillas are topped with a thin slice of swordfish, fresh, beautifully colored pico de gallo, and finished with just a bit of green, ripe, and creamy handmade guacamole. The tacos are served with black-and-white Louisiana Popcorn Rice and Beans. The first bite into my dish is delightful. A food lover’s dream come true, it’s better than in looks. The pico de gallo is fresh, tangy, and has the perfect amount of spice, as to add to the tacos, but not overtake them. The swordfish is warm, well seasoned, and tender. The guacamole adds the perfect amount of coolness to the dish. The Louisiana-style rice is mild and has a unique texture combination that goes well with the tacos. I finish this dish entirely, appreciating its healthy deliciousness.
My Partner has ordered what CK is most famous for: the Chelsea’s Short Ribs. This dish is an artistic sight to be seen! It features creamy mashed potatoes, topped with fresh whole baby vegetables, ribs piled high and, upon the server’s recommendation, topped with a fried egg. I find this dish to be fantastically comforting. When I take the first bite, the flavors are instantly nostalgic. It brings memories of Sunday dinners, and grandma’s cooking. The mashed potatoes are creamy and smooth, yet the chef adds a progressive twist with the addition of fried, thinly sliced fingerling potatoes. The mixed vegetables are cooked to perfect tenderness, and the short ribs are by far the most melt-in-your-mouth tender my partner and I have ever had. While every aspect of this dish is executed superbly, the Red Wine Au Jus is particularly endearing. It reminds me of slightly burned brown gravy, adding the perfect mild flavor to this traditional comfort food. The over-easy egg atop the pile of ribs adds flavor and an element of whimsy and charm.
At this point, we’re stuffed from the large portions and the fact that everything has been so delicious we’ve had no option but to finish every single bite of our dinner. However, the server’s, Alison’s, description of the Signature Key Lime Pie is enough to convince us we just have to try it. A big, thick serving of pie is presented on a medium-sized, round plate. The bottom is a generous layer of traditional graham cracker crust, followed by a thick layer of smooth, and bright, key lime custard, topped with an even thicker layer of white chocolate whipped cream. The plate is drizzled with a simple, sweet raspberry sauce, and finished with a few fresh, whole raspberries. The taste is divine. The crust is firm and delicious, with tangy, but not too sour, custard, and the whipped cream is mild and smooth, with just delicate hint of white chocolate. It is a perfect ending.
Before leaving, we give one last look around. Chelsea Kitchen is famous for its hidden, garden-style patio seating. Upon seeing it, we are immediately enchanted. The entire exterior of the patio is bordered by Chilean mesquite trees, and there are large fireplaces complete with roaring fires adding to the romantic ambiance. This is an Arizona outdoor eating space at its finest. We find it simply beautiful, and decide will request to dine there when we return.
This restaurant’s food and ambiance are fantastic. Chelsea’s Kitchen deserves the reverence it has earned. It’s the perfect place to showcase Arizona’s culinary diversity, so bring your out-of-town guests. And for those of us who are lucky enough to live here, repeat visits are a must.