Great food doesn’t have to be complicated if you make it with care.
We’re quick to marvel at creative cuisine and swoon over homey heritage recipes from unfamiliar places, but a simple takeout joint for fried fish and chicken can be something special if it’s unusually good.
Flavorz Fish & Chicken is unusually good.
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This is the kind of place you could drive by a dozen times before you notice it — a quick-service pick-up and drive-through for wings and fried seafood on a busy Sunnyslope thoroughfare. And if you heard that it opened on the other side of town, you probably wouldn’t feel compelled to go out of your way for it.
If you’re looking for a great piece of fried catfish, though, you might want to reconsider.
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How Flavors brought St. Louis to Sunnyslope
Chiquila Mack and Lamont Turner wanted to bring St. Louis to Arizona.
The husband-and-wife team moved to east Mesa from the Midwest about two and a half years ago, and while they didn’t initially set out to open a restaurant, their background may have made it a foregone conclusion.
“I come from a long line of chefs and catering folks,” Mack explains. “Back in St. Louis we had a food truck, and we did that along with some catering. So it’s kind of always been what we’ve been accustomed to.”
Though the restaurant business wasn’t what brought them here, the couple quickly noticed a lack of the foods they loved. And unlike most expats, they were in a position to do something about it.
“I just think there’s a niche for our type of food, the food that we had back home,” Turner says. “The concept that we put together is the St. Louis style that we have, where you’re able to get fish and chicken to go. That’s why we have it like a carryout. You have the option to eat in, but mainly it’s just pick up and go.”
Through friends back home, Mack and Turner connected with Brian Turner (no relation to Lamont), who they brought in as a chef, and Jeronica Allen, who does all of their baking. And together, the crew of four carved out a little piece of St. Louis in Sunnyslope, opening in mid-July.
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Why you don’t want to skip the chicken wings
Though the menu is a collaborative effort, Mack’s family history figures heavily in its design.
“Most of everything is going to be things that my great-grandmother created,” Mack says. “We just kind of added our own spin or twist to it.”
If you make a good wing, Phoenix will love you, and these wings are great. They’re whole wings — flats, drumettes and tips — dredged and fried to a deep, crunchy golden brown with a wildly craggy, chaotic texture. They’re fried so dark you figure the interior has to be overcooked, but not so. The meat is juicy, sweet and very nicely seasoned.
“Everything is cooked with love, it’s cooked fresh, it’s cooked to order,” Lamont says.
Alongside the wings you can get thick, fresh-cut french fries, a tub of creamy cole slaw or a cup of hefty baked mac and cheese — worth the modest upcharge. And I’m a little in love with Mack’s house “sticky sauce.” A kind of liquory sweet concoction with a tart bite and a slow, spicy burn.
Here’s what else is on the Flavorz menu
The sticky sauce works equally well atop fried shrimp — plump, butterflied specimens with a nice bite and a golden crust.
I wouldn’t put it on the catfish, however. The catfish is too good on its own.
You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to find a good piece of fried catfish, but the plate I tried really stands out from the crowd — two giant lobes of steaming, juicy, fresh fish encased in a delicate cornmeal crust hit with just the right amount of salt and spice.
Flavorz offers fried swai as well, and I think the thin, curled filets with crispy edges are particularly well-suited to a sandwich, splashed with mustard and hot sauce and stacked between two slices of white bread with onions and sweet pickle chips.
If you dig the pickles — and you will — you’re in luck. They’re sold by the jar and made in-house.
So too are the sweets, and they’re straightforward, simple and good. The cream cheese pound cake has a faint, creamy tartness and a whiff of citrus, but I’d be hard-pressed to pass on the caramel cake — a light and tender wedge of yellow cake enrobed in thick, rich frosting.
“Bringing the flavor that we have to Arizona, that was our mission and we completed it,” Lamont says. “So now we’re just trying to make sure that we push forward and do everything right.”
They’re off to a fine start.
Flavorz Fish & Chicken
Where: 9706 N. Seventh St., Phoenix.
Offerings: Takeout, drive-through, delivery and dine-in.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays.
Price: Chicken plates $8.49-$10.49; seafood plates and baskets $10-$12.99; sandwiches and burgers $7.99-$9.99; desserts $3.50.
Details: 602-334-1844, facebook.com/FlavorzAZ.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: This tiny Sunnyslope restaurant is Phoenix’s new destination for wings and fried catfish