Friday Bites with Kyle Mason
To say that Kyle Mason has been a busy man the past year would be an understatement.
On the personal side, he both got engaged and welcomed a new baby daughter into the world in 2015.
On the professional side, the mixology master won last summer’s “Bar Brawl” series at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain and then took over as general manager of La Bocca Urban Kitchen + Wine Bar on High Street in North Phoenix in the Fall.
Then just in February, Kyle Mason joined fellow Jade Bar alumni Micah Olson, Jason Asher, Clint Spotleson, Jillian Vose, and Tyson Buhler for a reunion during Arizona Cocktail Week and induction to the venue’s coveted Hall of Fame.
“Back in college, I played pitcher for the University of New Mexico,” said Mason. “If you told me then that I would be ‘getting my number retired’ for highballs over baseballs, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Mason, who grew up in Chandler, actually got an early start in the restaurant business, working for Outback Steakhouse in high school. Though he took a break from the industry to focus on playing baseball and studying business in college, he never quite got over his love of it.
So much so, in fact, he would get right back into it after graduation, eventually making a name for himself both working as a bartender and running the bars (not to mention some of the dining venues) at the Sanctuary, Hotel Valley Ho and Montelucia over the past decade-plus.
With his move to La Bocca, he hopes to bring the same camaraderie and spirit of innovation he enjoyed for so many years to the restaurant, which also includes a sister location on Mill Avenue and planned third location in Chandler this summer.
“We already have a lot in the works, including new wine and cocktail programs which are both launching this spring,” said Mason. He adds that in addition to his hiring that the restaurant’s parent company has invested in a who’s who of USBG and wine industry superstars including sommelier Ty Crandall, USBG Spirit Professional JT Tillman, resident “beer geek” Nick Nitz and USBG bartender Tony Pharis.
So, while planning a wedding, waking up in the middle of the night for daddy duty and re-imagining his restaurant’s menus, we were thrilled he took some time to sit down with us and share some of his favorite spots in the Valley.
Friday Bites with Kyle Mason
Best Seafood| Yasu Sushi Bistro
While the word “sushi” is in the name, this is one of the best all-around seafood spots you’ve probably never heard of. It’s tucked into the Target shopping center on Cactus Road near Paradise Valley Mall and is completely unassuming, but their cod, scallops and sumibiyaki, which refers to skewers of meat, poultry, fish and vegetables grilled over mesquite, are out of this world. Plus, it’s nice to get a little sushi as a start or on the side. I definitely recommend the yellowtail if going that route.
Best People Watching| Shady’s
This is very much and “industry” spot, so the diversity is really something to see. There, you can expect a nice mix of hipsters, seasoned industry professionals and up-and-comers shooting pool and enjoying a nice $4 Maker’s Mark most nights of the week.
Most Unique Dining Spot| House of Tricks
House of Tricks is all about ambiance. When my fiancée and I take time away from the kids for a date night there, we always feel like we’ve been transported from the Valley to a bed and breakfast or small town for the night. We both love to sit outside under the lights when the weather is nice.
Adventurous Eating| POSH
I am going to go out on a limb and say Josh’s POSH is a popular answer to this question. I actually met Josh right when he was starting up several years ago – I worked across the street at the time – and didn’t get the concept right away. But I have been converted and am a huge fan. I’ve never once not been there and not had an adventure.
First Date| La Bocca North
I have to say us, but more because of the types of first dates that come in, not just to brag! Given our location in more of the suburbs of Northeast Phoenix, just a few blocks from Scottsdale, we get people of all ages and from all sorts of backgrounds. We get so many first dates here, in fact, that we are investing in a Coravin Wine System, which will allow us to offer expensive and rare wines usually just available by the bottle (and upwards of $200-500) by the glass at a more feasible price point. If anything, it will make for a great ice breaker for them!