Skeptical Chymist celebrates ‘exploding’ culinary scene
By Katie Sawyer and Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Irish pub and eatery Skeptical Chymist is putting a culinary twist on bar food and traditional Irish fare in the Airpark.
The eatery is known for updating its menu seasonally, and co-owner Matt Brennan says the offerings are lighter.
The restaurant and pub have been serving comfort food and brews for over 13 years, alongside a sister restaurant Fibber Magees in Chandler. Since its fresh menu debuted at Skeptical Chymist, the response from customers has been staggering.
“The responses both in the dining room and on social media are overwhelmingly positive,” Brennan says. “People really seem to be enjoying some of the new menu items, especially the poutines, the ‘Paddy’ melt burger and the sorbet dessert.”
The latest menu incarnation continues with poutine—Irish; prime rib Philly; royale; Reuben; beef stew; buffalo chicken and curry shrimp. The poutine royale has classic crispy fries, roasted pork shoulder, crumbled bacon, mustard onion demi-glace, and goat cheese ($13); while the Buffalo chicken poutine comes with crispy fries, shredded chicken, buffalo cheese sauce, crumbled bleu cheese, shredded carrots, chopped celery and ranch drizzled on top for ($13).
“It’s been killing it since we put it on the menu. It’s a take on the French-Canadian dish but made with Irish ingredients.”
Though most Americans eat fries with their fingers, Brennan advises using a fork for these, as they can get pretty messy.
“With the gravy, it gets a little sloppy. You can certainly use your fingers, but we’d have to get you a bib,” he says with a laugh.
Four new hamburgers, including the Scottsdale turkey burger, were added to the menu. That entrée has a “somewhat healthy”—as he says—turkey patty, goat cheese and Romaine lettuce, instead of iceberg.
“If you’re going to do a turkey burger, this is the most upper crust you’re going to get,” he says with a laugh. “We had to make sure it’s worthy of the Scottsdale name.”
Part of the menu clean-up involved deepening the desserts. It now boasts Twix bar deep fried s’mores; Bailey’s bread pudding and Ghirardelli and Derry milk stout brownie.
“The Twix bar is a really big hit and was created in an unconventional way,” he says. “One of the first trips my wife and I took together was to visit her brother who lives up north. He said, ‘Let’s do s’mores. Here I imagine plain Hershey bars and they’re picking up Kit-Kats, Reese’s, Butterfinger—all kinds of candy bars.
“You can make s’more with any kind of chocolate candy. I tried 10 different candy bars in making that dish. Twix we all uniformly liked the best.”
As an Irish pub, Brennan strives to live up to the genre with as much traditional food, culture and drink that he can. That includes looking at what the chefs are doing in Ireland — which is a lot in recent years.
“The culinary scene in Ireland is exploding,” he says. “They’re on the forefront of some of the most creative stuff that’s going on right now. We’re really trying to make traditional Irish food as high a quality as possible using really high-end ingredients taking our time and making it right.”
It helps that the two co-owners with Brennan, Trevor Kingston and Stephen Fuller, are Irishmen, who bring their own recipes to the dining table.
One of their traditional Irish meals is the full Irish breakfast, which comes with two eggs cooked to order, rashers (bacon), Donnelly’s Irish banger and puddings (sausages and a savory pudding), Heinz beans, grilled tomato wedges and house-baked brown bread for $15.
It’s this last ingredient that truly makes the dish authentic. The recipe was passed down from the co-owner’s mother. Brennan likens the dish to something a person might have as a Sunday brunch in Ireland.
“I can tell you the reason I’m confident we’re doing the job properly is that when we do get Irish customers, people who are from Ireland born and raised, that’s what they go to,” he says proudly. “We always get really high marks. We get a lot of praise for the quality of our Irish breakfast.”
Getting complimented on cuisine by a person familiar with the tradition is arguably the highest praise a restaurant can receive, and this isn’t the only traditional meal they’ve been praised for.
Its fish and chips, a classic dish in England and Ireland, is a popular staple on the menu. The cod, crispy French fries, tangy coleslaw and tartar are $12 for lunch and $15 for dinner.
To accurately read guest preferences for menu changes, the Skeptical Chymist team is always noting the success of different dishes. Brennan says it’s also important to him to gain his team’s insight when making these updates.
“It’s a collaborative effort, I want everyone to have input and say,” Brennan says. “We track sales to see what’s working and what’s not and it tells us what needs to be removed. Together, we worked on ideas and replaced those items with the goal of coming up with fresh and light foods. The Tuscan chicken sandwich, for example, came together with the help of our kitchen manager, Kacie Whittington.”
Whittington, who recently took the reins in the kitchen, says she loves showcasing her creativity the Skeptical Chymist’s chef.
“Just about everything we send out of that kitchen is made completely from scratch,” Whittington says. “My staff takes a lot of pride in the recipes that have been created and we always strive to be as authentic as possible.”
Brennan let her experiment a bit, though, too.
“Kacie is from the south,” he says. “She brought southern sensibilities to our menu like corned beef fritters. She also wanted avocado toast, which is all the rage everywhere you go. This one is so great, though. It has housebaked Irish brown bread as a base. When you start with bread that good, you can’t go wrong.”
Brennan maintains the most important part of their food is the way customers feel when they eat it.
“I try and shy away from the term ‘gastropub.’ For some people there’s a certain amount of pretension to that term and it’s certainly kind of little blasé at this point. (We do) classic pub food, classic comfort food — which is the basis of most Irish cooking anyway — but taken to the next level.” ν
15689 N. Hayden Road, Suite 125, Scottsdale