In 2008, Liberty Market barely made my ranking of the year’s top 10 new East Valley restaurants, just sneaking into the No. 10 spot. But if I had to rank the same group of restaurants today, Liberty Market would vie for the No. 1 honor.
It’s due not to any “improvements” in food or service at the renovated 75-year-old Gilbert market, but simply to how it has evolved.
From the day Liberty Market reopened its doors in October 2008, I loved the seven gourmet sandwiches and half-dozen varieties of 11-inch pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven.
But I wondered if the menu would provide enough variety for customers. And would it appeal to those accustomed to more traditional dinner entrees?
Beer and wine lists were among the first additions. The former is a nice selection of 15 microbrews by the bottle; the latter, 18 reds and whites from around the world available by the glass or bottle.
Chef David Traina’s resume includes a stint at Phoenix’s acclaimed Delux so I wasn’t surprised when the Tower Burger ($9), served with kettle chips and a trio of dips, made its debut. But I was surprised how quickly it became one of my favorite burgers in the entire Valley.
It soon was joined by the boldly named Best Chicken Sandwich ($9, pictured above). The grilled breast topped with Monterey Jack, a spicy avocado spread and a chipotle vinaigrette just may live up to its moniker.
In August, a half-dozen dinner entrees were introduced, including a delicious Mr Pibb-marinated flatiron steak with a chimichurri sauce ($17, pictured below) and lip-smacking apricot-glazed chicken ($14).
The market even started a seafood special — usually braised mussels in an ever-changing “broth of the day” — every Friday and Saturday evening.
Desserts are especially hard to keep up with. The menu, updated just last month, doesn’t even list several of the most popular, such as ice cream sandwiches made with two giant chocolate chip cookies ($5 and big enough for four to share).
Last week saw the introduction of Salt River Bars ($3) — featuring layers of sweet dark chocolate and salty crackers — and Chocolate Coca-Cola cupcakes ($3).
I’m not saying the market has nothing to work on. I still consider a few menu items, such as the Sloppy Joe ($7, served in a bowl) and most of the cold-case side dishes, to be underachievers.
Speaking of cold sides, I’ll never understand why nearly two cups of hummus comes with just three bites of dry toast.
And those people certainly won’t be doing it on empty stomachs.
Where: 230 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert (between Guadalupe and Elliot roads)
Open: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Prices: Salads $6-$10, sandwiches $6-$12, pizzas $5-$11, entrees $8-$17, desserts $3-$5
Info: (480) 892-1900 or www.libertymarket.com
(Photos by Ralph Freso, East Valley Tribune)