In the inspirational 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner stars as an Iowa farmer named Ray Kinsella. As a farmer, Ray has fallen on hard times. While standing in his corn field one day, he has a vision of a baseball field where part of his cornfield is. A disembodied voice (credited by IMDB to “The Voice”) tells him, “If you build it, he will come.” Ray then sets out to make the baseball field of his vision a reality. All the while, he is spurred onward by the voice urging him that if he builds it, “he” or “they” will come. To the initial consternation of his wife and friends, Ray builds the baseball field.
Ray’s friends and family were eventually won over to Ray’s vision when they began to see Shoeless Joe Jackson taking to the field along with the other seven Chicago White Sox players banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series. The scene culminates with James Earl Jones’ character, Terence Mann, uttering the oft-paraphrased words: “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up in your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door innocent as children longing for the past.”
Visit Matty G’s website and you’ll learn that “Matty G’s was born out of a similar leap of faith that inspired Ray Kinsella to carve a baseball diamond out of a corn field in Iowa.” Matt Gorman’s “Field of Dreams” is not a corn field, but a burgeoning family-friendly, sports-themed restaurants with a presence in several Phoenix area cities. To call Matty G’s a mere sports themed restaurant is akin to declaring the Mona Lisa just another painting. No matter where you turn at this pantheon of sports, you’ll experience the type of sensory bombardment sports fans love with signed jerseys, collectible Tops cards, photos and posters celebrating our favorite teams, players and games.
There are hundreds of pieces of sports memorabilia, many autographed. Sports fans can enjoy several large flat screen televisions in high definition. All of them are tuned to games or sports talk shows. All are strategically placed so you can see more than one game simultaneously. As a seasoned citizen of 39, I appreciated the appreciation of athletes of my youth–back when the team, not individual players were the brand; when players competed for the love of the game, not the love of fame and money; when you could count on your favorite players remaining with the team that drafted them. Matty G’s is my kind of sports themed restaurant.
In my research of potential restaurants to visit during our travels, I rarely add burger restaurants to my list. Knowing there are no burgers anywhere that can compete with New Mexico’s sacrosanct green chile cheeseburger, I’d just as soon not waste a visit. That changed thanks to Denise, who along with her husband Fred are the airbnb super host couple whose home in Tempe we rent every time we visit the Valley of the Sun. Denise raved about the burger restaurant owned by her sister Doreen and by Matt Gorman of the eponymous Matty G’s. Neither Denise nor Fred have ever let us down. She recommended we visit the brand new Chandler location in a site that once was home to The Local at 55 W. Chicago Ave.
Neither Matt, Doreen or any of the family was at the restaurant, but we were in good hands with Anneka (yes, blonde, beautiful and so friendly). Anneka was as much our server as an ambassador for Matty G’s. She told us the success of Matty G’s has been on account of the Gorman family creating a family atmosphere at their restaurants, but the Chandler location is thanks to a bit of serendipity. She explained that while visiting The Local in Downtown Chandler, Matt and Doreen had another Ray Kinsella moment. Charmed by the ambiance, they asked if the space might be coming up for sale. By sheer coincidence, it was.
The former home of The Local has charm to spend. It’s the antithesis of the formulaic bar and grill with a blend of modernity and venerable. Among the later is a fireplace near the garage door that opens up to an expansive covered patio. In warmer weather this promises to be a very popular spot. Regardless of weather, Phoenicians (an actual demonym for people who live in Phoenix) will come here for superb steak burgers and lobster rolls. Yes, lobster rolls! But first, I know you’re wondering what the difference between a steak burger and a hamburger is. A steak burger is actually a cross between a beef burger and a steak. Rather than using a beef patty for the burger, chefs use a steak patty for the meat.
The menu heading “Baskets” list four fries dishes: French fries, garlic fries and sweet potato fries while the menu heading “Street Food,” lists four other fries-centric appetizers: chili cheese fries, carne asada fries, pastrami fries and popcorn fries. Because both the steak burgers and lobster roll come with your choice of the basket fries, you might want your starter to be something other than fries. We learned it the painful way. Believing popcorn fries was solely about popcorn chicken, we decided to split an order. Actually, we could have split it with the Arizona Cardinals. Yes, the popcorn fries included fried popcorn chicken, but there was also diced bacon, shredded cheese and a mountain of fries topped with a drizzle of buffalo sauce and ranch dressing with a side of Matty G’s fry sauce for good measure. Fry sauce is a Utah thing, but Matty G’s has perfected this blend of ketchup, mustard and secret ingredients Anneka couldn’t divulge.
We had to force ourselves to stop eating the popcorn fries or we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy our entrees. My Kim will never pass up an opportunity to have lobster or lobster rolls. A rarity in the dessert? Maybe, but some of Matty G’s six locations offer not only steak burgers, but lobsta’ rolls. All lobsta’ rolls come in a six-inch hoagie with cucumber, daikon relish, spring mix, drizzled garlic butter and your choice of sauce (or you can have it naked save for the garlic butter as my Kim had it). There are four lobsta’ rolls on the menu. My Kim had the Redlegs (Lobsta’ salad, crab, shrimp) and listed it among the ever-growing reasons we should move to Phoenix. Her preference would have been for the lobster’s knuckle meat, tail and claws, but lobsta’ salad (likely lobster with minced vegetables and herbs) was quite good in its own right.
Under the “Signature Burgers” section of the menu, there are 27 burgers listed. Anneka understood very well the three times I asked her to come back while I studied the menu for a bit longer. Or was it four? Even the most decisive diners will be hard-pressed to decide which to order. Phoenicians apparently had an easier time of it in naming Matty G’s “Best Local Burger” in the East Valley Tribune’s 2022 “Best Of” edition. In honor of the 1984 Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears, I ordered the Monsters of the Midway (one steak burger patty, grilled pastrami, Swiss cheese, grilled onions, Matty G’s fry sauce and pickles). The steak burger was served at medium-well to well-done with thin strips of lean pastrami, crumbled bacon and Swiss cheese looking almost blended into a messy amalgam. With the sweet, tangy fry sauce and salty, sour notes of the pickle, there’s plenty of diversity of flavor to go around. Because the steak burger was prepared smash burger style, it was a bit on the thin side so should you order this burger, ask for a second patty. Matty G’s does offer burgers with Ortega chili, a California brand. It’s not New Mexican green chile, but it’ll do in a pinch.
Matty G’s has a number of dessert options. It’s rare that my Kim and I agree on what deserve to order (gentleman that I am, she always gets her way), but we did on The Black Mamba with vanilla ice cream. The Black Mamba, of course, is the nickname legendary NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant gave himself. His beautiful cross-over dribble isn’t nearly as pretty as the black mamba, a five-layer dark chocolate cake with creamy chocolate frosting separating every layer. If you’re not a fan of cloying desserts that decay your teeth just by looking at them, this is a dessert for you.
Matty G’s has caused me to rethink my position on adding burgers to my list of prospective restaurants at which to eat when traveling. On the other hand, with so many burger options on the menu, there might not be a reason to visit any other when visiting Phoenix.
Matty G’s Steakburgers & Spirits
55 West Chicago
Website | Facebook Page
LATEST VISIT: 29 December 2022
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: The Black Mamba with Vanilla Ice Cream, Monsters of the Midway, Redlegs, Popcorn Fries