Have we reached peak food truck? That’s a question various culinary pundits have been asking for the past few years. Locally, the popular Food Truck Friday event at the Phoenix Public Market was quietly discontinued last year. If food trucks don’t seem quite the craze they were a few years ago, maybe it’s because some aspects of their approach have found their way indoors with small-scale restaurants now serving the type of fare normally associated with mobile operations. The Dressing Room, a self-proclaimed “micro-restaurant” on Roosevelt Row, fits this description.
The Dressing Room is found at the east end of the Monorchid building, a multi-use facility that showcases local art, hosts specials events, and houses a bit of retail. The restaurant takes its name from a prior use of the space, when it was where performers at a drag bar next door, since demolished, would change costume. Monorchid is three blocks east of the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. Although the building does not have its own bike rack, the neighboring apartment building has a shaded one with a view of the colorful mural on the restaurant’s east side.
The restaurant’s main entry is on Roosevelt, but it can also be reached from inside Monorchid, where the space generally flows smoothly from one tenant to another. At first glance, the restaurant does appear small with only a handful of tables and a counter facing the open kitchen. A portrait of Boba Fett is the dominant feature in the diminutive dining room. Nevertheless, a patio in the rear adds more seating, and the shade provided by a centrally-located tree and the apartments next door keeps the outdoor part of the Dressing Room comfortable at most times.
Despite its small size, the Dressing Room functions as a full-service restaurant. Arriving customers almost always receive a prompt greeting from the gregarious staff. The all-day menu is a one-page list of “global street food” with almost everything under $10 and many items suitable for eating by hand. It’s easy to imagine most of the menu coming from a food truck or a beach shack, and the kitchen is barely larger than most galleys. Amazingly, the compact space fits several cooks who work efficiently around one another, ensuring prompt fulfillment of orders.
The All Day Burrito is the kind of breakfast that one might want well into the afternoon and evening. A flour tortilla is crammed full of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, melted cheese, avocado, and pico de gallo. Burgers come in two varieties: The classic model is topped with tomato, lettuce, red onion, mayonnaise, pickles, and American cheese. The RoRo Burger, named for the neighborhood, takes a few more liberties with butter lettuce, gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, and spicy Russian dressing. Both are served in English muffins rather than buns.
Both burgers excel due not only to their high-quality ingredients, but also the fries served on the side. The Dressing Room flavors its fried potatoes with Tajin, the Mexican blend of chile, salt, and lime. The fries are available a la carte with a choice of dipping sauce, and they serve as one half of the restaurant’s shrimp and chips entree, which is energized with a seared lemon and a side of malt vinegar aioli. Fried seafood also appears in the TJ (as in Tijuana) tacos, with two generous slabs of fish, each one in a tortilla with shredded cabbage, avocado crema, and pico de gallo.
For a lighter approach to seafood, the Peruvian ceviche salad offers marinated white fish with a varied mix of textures from soft sweet potato to crunchy toasted corn. For pure meat goodness, the Korean yakitori includes two skewers of marinated ribeye served with a slaw over butter lettuce. It’s a hand food that can be eaten as a wrap once the skewers are removed. For a meatless entree, the cold soba salad pairs Asian noodles with avocado, carrots, cabbage, snap peas, cucumbers, soft-boiled egg, seaweed, and sesame seeds all in a miso vinaigrette.
Or course, vegetarian entrees don’t have to be light, and the other meatless choice, the veggie tacos, are built with fried Oaxacan cheese as the main ingredient. With additional components familiar from other dishes on the menu — sweet potato, corn, cabbage, avocado crema, and pico de gallo — within two corn tortillas, these tacos are a satisfying departure from veggie tacos based on beans and garnishes. There’s also a quesadilla available, but it’s only on the unprinted children’s menu, along with a small version of the classic burger and a few other kid-friendly items.
For dessert, there’s only one item on the current menu, a sort of ice cream sandwich fashioned with a scoop of vanilla between two pretzel-shaped churros. When sampled, the top churro was yielding, but the bottom one was brittle. The contrast in textures does not compromise the flavors, but it does make this a challenging dish to share. For additional dessert choices, the enormous cookies and apple fritters found next door at be Coffee + Food + Stuff, a coffee house operated in Monorchid by the same team behind the Dressing room, are only one room away.
Unlike actual food trucks, the Dressing Room has a liquor license. A list of original cocktails includes drinks as straightforward as a combination of bourbon, honey, sage, and rosemary and as exotic as Puerto Rican rum with chai and coconut milk. Beverages without alcohol include a tart house-made lemonade, a pineapple ginger agua fresca, and a purple Peruvian corn drink. Although the cuisine says truck, cart, or stand, the Dressing Room is a full-fledged restaurant. Food trucks may not come around as much as before, but the food they inspire is available inside.
220 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix AZ 85004
Roosevelt / Central Station