So many stereotypes about downtown Mesa have begun to fade in recent years. The first is that the city center does not have worthwhile restaurants at all. That misconception has been invalidated as numerous new arrivals have joined a few long established favorites on Main Street. The second is that because of the Mormon influence in Mesa, it is hard to get a drink there. Anyone still clinging to that notion would be surprised that downtown Mesa is not only home to diverse and lively places to eat, but also a growing number of tap rooms and breweries.
12 West Brewing, named for its address on Main Street, falls in both categories. It is both a functioning brewery producing a sizable array of specialty beverages and a full-service restaurant with food designed to complement its lineup of craft beer. The location is across the street and less than half a block west of the Center/Main light rail station, near both the Mesa Arts Center and Mesa City Plaza (city hall). Clusters of bike racks are found in front of those two buildings, as well as scattered locations along Main Street between Center and Country Club.
The vintage building 12 West occupies is well-suited for brewing with tall ceilings that accommodate the necessary tanks and equipment in the back of the space. A shaded patio with mist and fans greets customers as they enter from Main Street. The cavernous room inside is full of high-top tables with a long bar on one side and a retail area for canned beer and branded merchandise on the other. There is additional seating upstairs that is sometimes available during peak times, and a spot near the front serves as a stage when there is live music.
12 West’s selection of beer begins with popular, light brews like Zona pilsener and Blap! Blap! wheat beer infused with blood orange puree. There are multiple IPAs, which vary from the West Coast style of Frontside to the New England essence of Cirrus Haze. Hazy IPAs made with specialty hops include Digital Sea and Lo-fi Beats. The brewery also ventures into sour territory with seasonal brews like Imaginary Penguin, distinguished by its fruity essence and red hue, and Tommy’s Lullaby with intense lemon-lime flavor and maybe a little too much green color.
The beers change frequently and always have imaginative names. The food, while also exhibiting creativity, is more stable with several menu favorites having remained in place since the brewery’s opening. The theme is pub food designed to go with beer with some creative influences from both Southwestern and Pacific Rim cuisines. There’s an all day menu in place throughout the week with some additional brunch items added on Saturdays and Sundays. Some of the more popular appetizers are discounted during happy hour and all day Sunday.
Those shareable starters include a Southwest avocado hummus tinged with just a bit of spice and topped with pico de gallo and a “bretzel,” a big Bavarian style pretzel warm from the oven and dusted with coarse salt. Another item situated on the appetizer menu, a chicken katsu bento plate, seems better suited as an entree for one person, but it’s one of the standouts on the menu. A tender breaded and fried chicken thigh is sliced and artfully presented with a cone of rice, a bed of shredded cabbage, a dusting of sesame seeds, and a drizzle of tonkatsu sauce.
The same katsu cutlet is also available served in a bun with slaw and aioli. It joins two burgers, one a straightforward Angus patty and another that mixes Wagyu with wild boar, elk, and buffalo meat to result in a creation aptly titled “the Beast.” Another beefy selection is a steak sandwich accentuated with chimichurri, arugula, pickled onions, and Dijon mustard. Concluding the sandwich section of the menu is a hefty grilled cheese on sourdough served with a bowl of tomato soup. All items except the grilled cheese come with a choice of fries or side salad.
Tacos offer a choice of steak, chicken, or breaded fish as fillings for the ample corn tortillas. An avocado cilantro crema, shredded cotija cheese cheese, and pico de gallo are the standard toppings in each of the two-taco plates. Another Mexican-influenced entree is the breakfast burrito, offered all day since 12 West is never open before noon. A grilled flour tortilla is stuffed full of crisp pork belly, two eggs, pico de gallo, tater tots, and beer cheese to create something that seems like a blend of a surfer’s California burrito and a Southwestern breakfast favorite.
Salads and flatbreads offer additional choices with options like the Downtown Caesar in which the usual romaine is enlivened with bits of radicchio or a bacon jam and fig flatbread with goat cheese. A poke bowl and loco moco, a brunch entree on weekends featuring a burger patty over rice with brown gravy and an egg, provide a Hawaiian theme seen occasionally on the menu. Currently there is one dessert: a churro sundae easily shared by two or more people. Other desserts such as pie made with chocolate and peanut butter are sometimes featured.
In addition to its own extensive craft beer selection, 12 West has a full bar that offers wine and cocktails. If there’s one stereotype of downtown Mesa that is still somewhat true, it’s that it can be hard to find a good meal there on a Sunday, especially after dark. 12 West breaks with that norm not only by staying open for dinner service on Sunday, but also by offering live music then. Downtown Mesa has long been a more interesting dining destination than its detractors have acknowledged, and 12 West is doing its part to retire lingering outdated images of the city.
12 W. Main St., Mesa AZ 85201