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Dine the Valley

Mesa’s Strip Mall Scandinavian Hit And Miss

Pork schnitzel cordon bleu.

A year and a half ago, I started to hear whispers of a tasty Tempe hole-in-the-wall that, to me, didn’t seem like a real restaurant. How could it be?

First of all, I’ve lived in Tempe for the last seven years. I consider myself pre-taay attuned to this sort of thing. If it was there, I was bound to know about it. Secondly, its name was Beaver Choice. I mean, c’mon.

Quebec Poutine.

Quebec Poutine.

Since then, Beaver Choice has put on its big boy pants and transferred from its florescent-lit, counter-service-only Tempe spot to a shiny (if not aesthetically sterile) location just outside downtown Mesa. It’s still a strip mall kind of joint, but the restaurant has come a long way.

First impressions

We arrived on a Saturday evening around 6:15 p.m. to a half-full dining room. Though the restaurant didn’t seem very busy, both servers were already apologizing for late orders to other tables.

By the time our friendly server got to our table to take a drink order, we already had our entire meal planned out. We thought it would speed up the process. Instead, she decided to take our drink and appetizer orders, then come back for entrées.

Crab cake.

Crab cake.

We compromised on two appetizers. First came the Quebec poutine—a classic combination of French fries, local curd cheese and roast beef gravy. While the fries didn’t have a freshly fried taste, the savory gravy more than made up for bland fry flavor. So far we were off to a decent start.

Then came the crab cake. Without hyperbole, it was the best crab cake I’ve ever had. Topped with a tomato and cucumber slaw, it was crispy on the outside and fresh and hot on the inside.

The second act

Entrée orders were finally taken. I opted for what the menu called the restaurant’s signature dish—the pork schnitzel cordon bleu—while my dining companion went for Swedish sampler plate, which came with a choice of three items. One of his items had been 86’ed, so he chose another.

Appetizer plates were taken away and we waited. And waited. And waited. Our waitress continued to apologize for the wait, but with each apology the time seemed to pass slower. Then she informed my companion that another of his chosen items had run out. She suggested he swap it out for a cabbage roll, which wasn’t as much a suggestion as “This is what we have. Take it or leave it.”

Forty-five minutes passed before we saw our meal. For me, it was worth the wait. My pork schnitzel cordon bleu was crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, stuffed with ham and brie with a side of mushroom gravy. Super tasty.

The show that doesn’t end

Pork schnitzel cordon bleu.

Pork schnitzel cordon bleu.

I was happy. After all, my meal came out exactly as I ordered it. However, the other entrée came out as a shadow of what we ordered. Two of the Swedish sampler plate items were swapped out and the entire entrée came out cold.

We had been there for nearing two hours, but we weren’t about to skip the promise of the flourless lava chocolate cake.

It might have been flourless, but it didn’t taste like it. It was slightly bitter and dry. The chocolate syrup on top and whipped cream to the side helped with moisture, but I wouldn’t suggest ordering it unless you have some sort of oddball taste for mediocre cake. To each their own.

Still, I can’t help but want to go back. Beaver Choice has several kinks to work out, but give it time. In a few months it’ll really be worth the trip.