By Judi King
With an adult game room and innovative menu, Ginger Monkey has made its mark on the Chandler restaurant scene in a month. Co-owner Jackson Armstrong realizes, though, that not everything has to be perfect from the starting gate.
“We are excited about the community response,” Armstrong said. “We are still working out the kinks. We hope to be open for lunch soon, and will eventually expand the patio even farther and possibly have live entertainment on weekends. It is evolving as we go.”
Ginger Monkey is the result of Armstrong and partner Doug Collins’ cumulative experience. The two friends managed and opened restaurants for decades in San Diego and Arizona. Collins recently sold his local restaurants, Tavern on Mill in Tempe and Public Garage House in Ahwatukee.
For Ginger Monkey, the two restaurateurs renovated the former space of Whiskey Rose in South Chandler to create their vision of a fun place to dine, wine and play. They tore down walls, added a playroom with a pool table and arcade games for adults, and the “kiddie jail,” which includes bean bag chairs, a streaming movie and several children’s games to entertain the youngsters while their parents dine nearby.
The building’s front walls were removed in lieu of windows that open to an indoor-outdoor 3,000-square-foot patio. Patrons can play board games, enjoy the ambience at a fire table or watch sports on a 104-inch projector screen. Plans include kid and adult movie nights that pair wine and beer flights with classic movies like “Casablanca.”
The patio also offers dog lovers a place to dine with their best friends. Named after Armstrong’s dog, Elway’s Lounge features a dog-sized waterfall drinking fountain and a special menu that includes dishes like the hambarker helper and bark bowls.
“Our goal is to cater to all crowds—sports enthusiasts, couples, families—and give them a place to go where everyone enjoys the experience,” Armstrong said.
The attention to detail is what makes Ginger Monkey stand out. Armstrong said that they went to great lengths to make every part—including the bathrooms—memorable.
“I wanted my bathrooms talked about,” he said.
The men’s room is boldly decorated in red and black and is masculine and classy. Feminine and elegant, the women’s side has bidets, complimentary toiletries, and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling adorned with clouds.
Armstrong calls his kitchen staff talented. Working in a 2,000-square-fot kitchen are a slew professionals that includes executive chef Megan Knowles, a graduate of Scottsdale Culinary School and former chef at Roy’s, and sous chef Mark Coakley, a one-time executive chef at Rigatoni’s. Both came to the Ginger Monkey from the recently shuttered Manhattan Vine in Queen Creek.
“I offer a few suggestions,” Armstrong said. “But, it is Megan’s menu. Both chefs have a flair for creating innovative comfort food.”
Some of the inventive appetizers include pesto deviled eggs with crispy pancetta ($6) and surf and turf nachos with blackened grilled shrimp and shredded short ribs ($14).
Entrée novelties include the meatloaf TV dinner with garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed corn and a mocha brownie, served in a divided, metal tray ($11) and crabby patty, a jumbo lump crab cake with lemon chipotle aioli ($14).
Brunch is served on the weekends and includes 14 choices ranging from $6 to $11 including specialties like the Benedict burger with an Angus beef patty, pancetta, fried egg and hollandaise sauce on a brioche bun with season fried ($11) and chicken and waffle sliders with a side of creamy hash brown bake ($9).
The restaurant’s name is just as creative
“As best friends, Collins and I have nicknames for each other,” Armstrong said. “I call him ‘monkey’ because of his lively personality and he calls me ‘ginger’ because of my red hair. We always said that if we opened a restaurant together, we would name it the Ginger Monkey. And, here we are.”
135 W. Ocotillo Rd.