Helio Basin Brewery
3935 E Thomas Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018 www.heliobasinbrewing.com
With the fast-moving revamping of so many Arcadia shopping plazas, it is easy for places to get lost in the shuffle. Locals who drive past the southwest corner of 40th and Thomas may not realize that there is an actual brewery in their midst, right across the parking lot from Planet Fitness.
Helio Basin Brewery opened last August and has already garnered a following in the area. The most noticeable element of the brewery is how large a space it is. It is hard to imagine a scenario where any group of people would have trouble getting a table at Helio. The beer brewing equipment is visible on the back right side of the restaurant and board games are laid out for visitors to play in the room on the left side.
At Helio, the food and beer appear to hold the same level of importance to the staff, with attention to detail given to both. The design is actually for the two to go hand in hand, with a suggested beer pairing set next to each offering on the menu.
The menu clearly aims for a southwest angle, with Arizona ingredients littered across almost every dish. Helio’s signature appetizer is a Seared Banana Cornbread and it’s easy to see why. The cornbread is baked until the bottom and top parts are crispy, with a cracked pepper honey butter adding to the sweetness of the bananas. One of the most unique items on the menu is the Sopressata Chips. A kind of Italian dry salami, the chips are very crisp and covered with crusted sesame seeds. The seasoning is spicy on these, and the jalapeno pepita dipping sauce surprisingly ends up giving a cool balance to the heat.
The main courses are full-on meals, so diners need to be hungry when they order. The Helio Bowl is a protein dish filled with hand-selected vegetables and greens, tepary beans, wheat berries and a toasted chili sauce. The raw vegetables do a good job of texturally complimenting the beans, keeping the dish from being mushy. A sunny-side-up egg is laid on top, adding some desired richness, and a protein can be added as well. Tri-tip and chicken are available, but the adventurous choice is the wild game sausage, which changes depending on the season. Elk is the current listing, and the flavor is unique without being overly gamey. Helio will warn you that the chili sauce for this is very spicy and they aren’t kidding. Other dressing options are available for those who aren’t up for the risk.
Tacos and hot dogs are familiar staples for bar food, and Helio has a unique take on both. Coffee-Rubbed Tri-Tip tacos include onions, jalapeno, menonita cheese and mustard-balsamic mushrooms. If you order the Sonoran Dog, you will not be eating it with your hands. It’s a mountain of food, the dog itself almost completely hidden under a smothering blanket of smoked bacon, pickled fresnos, onions, pico de gallo, mustard, duckfat beans, jalapeno pesto, cotija and creama, all held in a fresh bolillo roll.
The beers are the main event for most people attending a brewery. Helio offers both core beers, which aren’t leaving the menu, and seasonal ones. Of the core beers, the Blackberry Wheat and Hoppy Amber stand out. The Blackberry Wheat has a clean body, with the fruit flavor coming across very subtly. This one pairs very well with the Seared Banana Cornbread. The amber instantly gives off strong caramel notes, with hints of toffee and citrus. Those who think they don’t like amber beers might want to give this one a shot. The beers here are very reasonably priced and beer flights are offered to those who want to sample more than one. The six flights are presented on a wooden board in the shape of Arizona, reminding visitors that for both food and drink, the unique elements of our state is the theme that runs throughout.