For years now, people have been telling us to check out NOCA restaurant in Phoenix. “It’s food for foodies,” they told us. Which, unfortunately, is often code for pricey, pretentious and not filling. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good fancy-pants dinner brimming with exotic ingredients. Raise your hand if you’ve savored braised pig’s knuckle or sous-vide-cooked squab (aka pigeon). However, truth be told, here at Scoop Factory HQ, we’re just as likely to be ‘thinking Arby’s’ as we are thinking locally-sourced greens and organically-raised meats.
So when we finally decided to check out NOCA, we were shocked by how much we loved it. Launched in 2008 inside the small shotgun space at 32nd St and Camelback that used to house Eleve (and the original Blue Burrito Grille before that), NOCA is the brainchild of local foodie, Eliot Wexler. According to the Arizona Republic, Wexler wandered the earth, eating and seeking the ultimate chef to execute his vision for a food-forward eatery before settling on the up-and-coming, Chris Curtiss. Since then, this talented duo have wowed everyone from the Republic‘s Howie Seftel and Eric Eats Out, to the prestigious James Beard Foundation.
However, we’re happy to report that NOCA feels anything but stuffy. The room is warm and invitingly open, and, if you listen closely, you’ll notice the background music is mostly indie rock. We went for the ever-changing tasting menu, so we won’t bore you with details of intricate menu items that probably won’t be available when you show up. (Instead, savor this slideshow of NOCA’s stunningly-beautiful presentations.) However, be sure to save room for the complementary cotton candy that concludes each meal, a classy touch that Wexler may have spotted at the kitschy-cool Rustler’s Rooste.
And best of all, thanks to our pals at Arizona Restaurant Week, through this Sunday, you can experience a three- or four-course NOCA feast for only $29 or $39, respectively. Prime Skirt Steak with Bleu Cheese Crema & house-made donuts, anyone?