On the north side of downtown Phoenix, Fillmore Street hasn’t always gotten much respect. Like the antebellum one-term president it is named for, Millard Fillmore, the corridor has sort of just been there. Fillmore acts as a collector street halfway between better known Van Buren and more trendy Roosevelt, but it hasn’t had much of an identity of its own. That has started to change with new protected bike lanes east of Central Avenue, and newly constructed apartment building joining the popular Vig Fillmore restaurant along the street’s western segment.
The Vig’s location is the Cavness House, an historic building at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Fillmore. The restaurant is equidistant from the Roosevelt and Van Buren light rail stations — about half a mile from either one. Bike racks on the west side of Fourth Avenue stand by the restaurant’s entrance with an outdoor host station providing access to the modest interior dining room and the much larger shaded patio where most customers are accommodated. The outdoor space is not only cool and comfortable but also includes setups for games like cornhole.
The Vig Fillmore is one of four locations under the umbrella of Genuine Concepts, which operates restaurants and bars of several brands within the Phoenix Metropolitan Area..With that kind of backing, The Vig was able to fund an extensive renovation of the Cavness House when it moved in back in 2013. The structure’s historic character is intact, but the space now boasts a much larger kitchen and two bars, resulting in food and drink output that can keep pace with peak crowds both indoors and outdoors, something that was a problem for previous tenants.
Although the Vig is family friendly and offers a kids menu, each location is as much a bar as a restaurant, so the small chain therefore keeps its approach relatively accessible. With the arrival of new head executive chef Jeremy Pacheco in 2020, the Vig began a reboot of its menu that now seems halfway done. Some newer items like a scampi made with crustaceans from the Wild Shrimp Company and noodles from Sonoran Pasta Company mix bolder flavors with local ingredients as part of the refresh; others like a plain turkey club sandwich are basic bar food.
A great deal of the menu is designed for sharing, and many items put slight twists on the familiar, often with a Southwestern influence. A hummus plate is assembled with marinated olives, fresh vegetables, and grilled Noble country bread. Another Noble product, a giant pretzel, is paired with melted cheese and mustard. Nachos, fried cauliflower, shishito peppers, chicken wings, chips with salsa, a charcuterie board, and truffle parmesan fries are all among the appetizers, and they’re generally good takes on items that are ubiquitous on local menus.
Among the entrees, the fish and chips is a strong choice with a light tempura-like batter and a roasted lemon and jalapeño tartar sauce on the side. Grilled salmon and steak frites are comforting classics. Among the handheld items, the Vig offers burgers, as well as its own version of the inescapable hot chicken sandwich. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich is available on its own or a part of a combination with a creamy, tangy tomato bisque. All burgers and sandwiches come with a choice of crisp skin-on fries, sweet potato fries, or a side salad.
Beyond traditional sandwiches like burgers and a club, the Vig shows a Southwestern influence with its street tacos, available in platters of three with fillings of shrimp, roast pork, blackened rockfish, or black beans and vegetables. A big bowl of posole is full of hominy and tender pork in red chili seasoning. The broth has a bit of surreptitious spice that becomes more perceptible after a few spoonfuls. An all-American touch is found in the creamy mac-and-cheese, built around curly cavatappi noodles and customizable with chicken or pork as added proteins.
Entree-sized salads include seared tuna with green beans and fingerling potatoes in a variant of a Nicoise. The Southwest chopped salad features romaine, black beans, roasted corn, watermelon radish, cherry tomatoes, cotija cheese, pepitas, tortilla strips, and avocado. A Super Salad is an assemblage of trendy, nutritious ingredients like kale, quinoa, blueberries, pistachios, sweet potatoes, and dried cherries. These can all be augmented with the addition of shrimp, chicken, salmon, a black bean patty, or flat iron steak for an additional charge.
Weekend brunch is popular here since the expansive, well-shaded patio provides a pleasant setting for outdoor dining. There’s even a bocce court off to the side for recreational use before, during, and after the meal. The brunch menu has classic favorites such as eggs Benedict, buttermilk pancakes, and a bagel with lox, as well as Southwestern items like chilaquiles and a chorizo burrito. Alongside these breakfast-oriented foods, there’s a limited selection from the lunch and dinner menus, adding some more options for those who want something savory.
Since the Vig has two bars, expect tap handles for craft beer and cocktails like the Genuine 75, a summery drink of Tanqueray 10 citrus gin, sparkling wine, lemon juice, and macerated fruit. Desserts are large enough for sharing with the bread pudding and the brownie sundae being leading contenders. The 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore, may not have been the nation’s best most memorable leader, but the Vig Fillmore has been an early step in a continuing progression of events giving new life to the Downtown street bearing his name.
606 N. 4th Ave., Phoenix AZ 85003