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Chico Malo: Check Out This Bad Boy Before It Opens

Posted on: October 20th, 2016 by Taryn Jeffries 1 Comment

What does it mean to be a “bad boy”? The folks behind Chico Malo appear to have it all figured out.

Chico Malo: Check Out This Bad Boy Before It OpensThe concept is born from a collaboration of Culture Shock Hospitality, a conglomeration of individuals with extensive background in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The name represents the idea that they are all looking to upgrade our culture in ways that might shock some, in the best way possible.

This all begins with Chico Malo in Downtown Phoenix. The restaurant is set to open this winter and has been in the works since early this past summer. Culture Shock principal noted that as they start to see the space taking shape, the buzz and excitement is becoming real. I’ve seen so many stories about this new restaurant lately that I had to talk to the man himself, one of the principals Teddy Myers! I got a lot of great information and am ready to break down everything about Chico Malo.

What’s the story behind Chico Malo?

Like some of our favorite spots lately, we are finding that new restaurants lead with a story and this might be my favorite one. As a huge Breaking Bad fan, I was delighted when Teddy told me that one interpretation has to do with my favorite Juarez cartel distributor, Tuco Salamanca. We learn on Better Call Saul that he has an endearing soft spot for his Abuelita, lovingly making her tortillas and pico. Tuco is a loose cannon and, let’s be serious, a raging psychopath but when it comes to his Abuelita, he’s soft and cuddly as a teddy bear. Imagine that Tuco opened a restaurant as a tribute to her, and you get Chico Malo, minus all the meth and murder.

Breaking Bad Tuco SalamancaWhen Peter Bowden, the space’s interior designer, came in he expanded on that story and built it into the design. Imagine that the bad boy inherits a restaurant from his affluent father, something that used to be a steakhouse. He comes in and takes the swanky interior and installs his own street art and graffiti, immediately transforming the space and vibe.

The Design

Chico Malo is taking over what was previously The Counter, but by the time the rebuild is complete there won’t be much that is recognizable. The kitchen will be relocated and you’ll find a special area in which you’ll be able to see handmade tortillas being made throughout the day There will also be a window punched out where you can walk up and order breakfast and eat on the expanded indoor/ outdoor bar area. The space will allow for a fast casual experience for lunch, with shared seating at the neighboring Fractured Prune. When three o’clock hits and you’re ready for happy hour, there will be a retractable wall that will allow for a different and separate experience.

The Art

If you’ve driven by the space that will house Chico Malo lately, you may have noticed a rotation of art wrapping the building. This ever evolving temporary mural is a wheat paste indie art installation featuring a variety of bad boys, setting the stage and theme for the opening later this year or the beginning of next year. Some that have been featured are Michael Phelps, Danny Trejo, and Jay-Z. The interior space will feature a one-of-a-kind commissioned piece from Eduardo Recife, an incredibly talented Brazilian artist that has been featured all over the world.

The Menu

Chris Mckinley has a lot of history in the Valley and a stellar reputation for creative and inspired cuisine. Whether you were able to experience his food at Atlas Bistro or The Local, you know that he means business in the kitchen. After the closure of The Local, Chris kept busy consulting the likes of Sam Fox, Guy Fieri, and Rascal Flatts. When he came up for air, he was recruited by Culture Shock Hospitality and then the fun work began. Chris grew up in LA, so he knows a thing or two about Mexican fare, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to incorporate those distinct flavors and dishes into his menus. Until now. One thing that Downtown Phoenix has been missing is the representation of who we are, who our people are in this state. Chris worked hard with the other principals in the restaurant to determine what they were going to differently, how they were going to create familiar flavors and dishes along with some exciting items that aren’t being done, or done to death. The flavors of Mexico will be the star with some additional South American flavors being featured as well. The handmade tortillas will play a major role. They have been experimenting with yellow, white and blue corn, grinding it themselves, crafting their own masa and then hand pressing the tortillas. This attention to detail and care for the process will certainly shine through in their tacos. I have it on good authority that Chris’ fish taco will have people talking and coming back repeatedly. There will also be a stellar street corn on the menu, something that Chris is really passionate about and we cannot wait to try it out. The Peruvian sashimi will also be a standout, imparting familiar flavors in an unconventional delivery.

The Role of Chico Malo in Downtown Phoenix

With downtown Phoenix being a mecca for travelers, pleasure seekers and business people alike, Chico Malo will bring about a beautiful representation of South American and Mexican flavors to the area. While the Cityscape area is home to several notable restaurants, Chico Malo is going to fill an unnecessary void. With a vibrant and well thought out menu in addition to beautiful design and art installations, this is going to be the next hot spot and you’re going to want to get in early and often.

Is it weird that I am more excited about this spot than seeing my kids in their Christmas pajamas? Make sure to check them out on Chico Malo to stay up to date on the official opening. With the build-out and the holidays coming up, they don’t want to commit to a hard set date, but it’s coming all you bad boys and girls. It’s coming, likely in early April.


Chico Malo| 50 W. Jefferson St. | Phoenix | 85003

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© Taryn Jeffries 2016

About the Author - Taryn Jeffries

Editor and Chief Eating Officer of PhoenixBites, 2017 Food Writer of the Year (Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame) Taryn grew up in a small town in Illinois with a doting Grandmother who taught her the way around a kitchen and that food is representative of love. Her current quest is to find the love in local dishes and the chefs behind them. In addition to running all things PhoenixBites, Taryn is also a freelance writer, sharing her insight on the best dishes and where to get them each and every month.

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