Beaver Choice (Mesa, AZ)

As I begin to close out my reviews for 2013, I’ve got a review of possibly one of the most interesting (and most interestingly named) places I visited during the year: Beaver Choice in Mesa, AZ. Beaver Choice had been on my radar for a while—while visiting Arizona in August of 2012 for some “extreme climate testing”, I had checked out various review sites for something new and interesting, and Beaver Choice came up near the top of several East Valley listings, so I drove by to check them out (at the time, they were located on Broadway in Tempe behind Ted’s Hot Dogs. But they were closed, since they were in the middle of moving to a new location.

Well, that new location turned out to be Baseline and Extension in Mesa, in a spot I’m well familiar with, since growing up it contained the Ripe Tomato Cafe (now long closed). Especially since my parents had been there several times, we decided it was worth giving it a visit.

Beaver Choice has a very interesting combination of cuisines, with the majority of the menu being Scandinavian (mostly Swedish), but with a healthy smattering of Polish dishes (schnitzels, in particular) and even Canadian food (Poutine!). Basically, it’s a pan-national comfort food menu. They’ve got a really large selection of Scandinavian dishes, ranging from gravlax (cured salmon), to köttbullar (Swedish meatballs), to frikadeller (Danish meatballs, with a dill sauce), pytt i panna (basically a Swedish rendition of bubbles and squeak). Add in several Polish-inspired schnitzels, and a few gołąbki (cabbage rolls), and it’s really quite the assortment, especially when most dishes come with a choice of three different salads and a side dish of various potato dishes.

Starting off, we ordered some gravlax for the table, and this came out as an ample pile of gravlax served with both a small salad and some bread, and two different sauces. This was quite flavorful gravlax: tender, deeply marinated, and having a pleasant dill note. I’m not the greatest fan of gravlax, but this was quite nicely done and I wouldn’t mind having it again.

For the main course, I (and several other people at the table) opted for the Swedish Sampler, which allowed you to choose three of the Scandinavian items from the menu, to get a good variety. I opted for a combination of köttbullar, frikadeller, and pytt i panna, with a side of rosti. This turned out to be a very large amount of food, one of the more impressive platters of the year (I didn’t finish all of it, especially since the pytt i panna in combination with the rosti was a lot of starch). But I was very impressed with the quality of all the items. The köttbullar were very nicely flavored and moist meatballs with a nice crisp sear, and served up in a very nice cardamom and nutmeg cream sauce and a bit of lingonberry jam, reminding me of several of the great meatballs I had in Stockholm years ago. The frikadeller were similar, but with a very flavorful sweet and sour dill sauce. The pytt i panna was a nice hash, and the rosti was done to perfection: perfectly crisped potatoes and a fluffy interior. Add in a few nice side salads like tomatoes with basil and a great cole slaw, and this was quite the platter.

Several other people at the table got variations of the schnitzel (served up with the same array of side salad and potato options), and they were all pleased as well, with the schnitzel being tender and moist, the breading crisp, and the sauce pleasing (I had a bit of jealousy, since I haven’t had a great schnitzel since Adolf Wagner in Germany in 2012). Overall, a fine dish.

Finally, dessert. I have a weakness for both good pancakes, and lingonberries, and Beaver Choice offered up a very pleasant pannkakor: two thin and crisp Swedish pancakes filled with lingonberry jam and topped with fresh whipped cream. This was a great finish to a meal.

While feeling completely stuffed upon leaving, I really enjoyed Beaver Choice. The food quality was excellent over both the Scandinavian and Polish dishes, the service was really friendly, and, quite frankly, it adds some nice diversity to the available options in Mesa. I hope to be able to come back.

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