One of the cliches often heard about Phoenix is that every watering hole around town is a sports bar. The reality is quite different with so many beer gardens, wine bars, and cocktail lounges to be found along the light rail line and elsewhere in the metropolitan area. If there’s one place where a sports bar absolutely fits, though, it’s within the confines of a Major League Baseball stadium. With that congruence of mission in mind, Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers seems an obvious match for the location it has recently opened inside Chase Field in downtown Phoenix.
Chase Field, which is located just a block or two from the Third Street / Washington (westbound) and Third Street / Jefferson (eastbound) light stations, is most often thought of as the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s also a concert venue for acts like Billy Joel, Bad Bunny, and Elton John, all of whom graduated long ago from packing arenas to filling stadiums. Nevertheless, baseball is still the essence here, so a restaurant with a view of the field, as well as a multitude of screens carrying other sports programming, makes sense in this situation.
CB & CB operates at this site with a motto of “game day + everyday,” signifying a commitment to functioning as a downtown restaurant even when there isn’t a major event inside the massive edifice it occupies. That seems to be working so far with lunch crowds from nearby offices occupying seats during the day. Of course, when there is a game or a concert, things change with a per-person food-and-beverage minimum and a streamlined menu for efficiency. Outside of those times, this restaurant functions like any of the other locations of this local chain.
During the vast majority of the time when something big isn’t happening inside the ballpark, there is one specific way to find the restaurant. Look for the entrance on Jefferson between Fifth and Fourth streets. There is a bike rack next to a bright red awning and prominent signs for CB & CB. Walk inside the lobby and immediately take any one of the elevators up to the restaurant. Don’t worry about which floor to choose; there’s a button clearly labeled for CB & CB. Upon exiting the elevators, follow a hallway and an accessible ramp that leads up to the host station.
There is a huge bar that defines the entire front half of the restaurant. That’s the best location if the desired view is tap handles or television screens. Beyond the bar is a split-level dining area which overlooks the baseball field itself. When the ballpark’s retractable roof is open, these seats also have a bit of an outdoorsy feel, something lacking in the otherwise enclosed space. Lengthy menus define both the “cold beer” beverage choices and the “cheeseburgers” food offerings, both of which offer a broad selection of items well beyond their namesake items.
Starters are mostly in predictable territory with choices like soft pretzels, chicken tenders, and hummus with vegetables and pita bread. One slightly more innovative item is the Buffalo chicken egg rolls. Tangy, spicy shredded poultry is combined with crumbles of bleu cheese and encased in a crisp wrapper. The final result is then sliced with a bias cut and presented with a side of chipotle ranch for dipping. Bleu cheese and Buffalo sauce also play a prominent role in the Hell Fire chips, where they join with sliced scallions on top of housemade potato chips.
The core of the menu is, of course, burgers, most but not all of them with cheese included in their toppings. There is also an opportunity to create a customized burger as desired. Unexpectedly, there is nothing identified simply as a cheeseburger. Nevertheless, the All American burger seems to fit this description with toppings of American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle slices. The restaurant’s eponymous CB & CB adds a bit more umami flavor with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and garlic aioli as toppings for the half pound beef patty.
The list of imaginative burgers includes the Ring of Fire with a big onion ring and layers of spice added by pepperjack cheese and jalapeños. The most over-the-top creation, unique to this location, is the Big Unit, inspired by former Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson. It involves a burger bookended by two entire grilled cheese sandwiches in lieu of the usual bun. Of course, there are slightly less indulgent items to choose from, including a Reuben, a vegetable burger. and several chicken sandwiches, including a spicy one.
All burgers and sandwiches come with chips as a default side. It is possible to upgrade to fries, onion rings, a side salad, or tots in both regular and sweet potato varieties. Other entrees include bowls of mac-and-cheese, either pre-configured as in the Hot & Smokey with bacon, asparagus, jalapeños, and bread crumbs or in a build-your-own option. There are also entree-sized salads. The Asian chicken version had an appealing flavor when sampled but the overcooked poultry was an unwelcome struggle.
For anyone with room for dessert, CB & CB stays in its comfort zone with shakes, and skillet cookies, and tableside s’mores. As for the “beer” part of CB & CB, that is more than fulfilled by a large array of draft choices, both macrobrews and local craft choices. There is also a full bar for cocktails. As an unabashed sports bar, Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers’ kitchen may not hit a home run every single time, but the food is generally consistent and worthwhile, especially when paired with a view of home plate.
401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix AZ 85004