Palma in downtown Phoenix offers festive brunch vibes and fried chicken
I’m too sober for that, I thought, seeing the hedonistic scene that is Palma, and for the first time in my life, I wished I hadn’t anticipated my brunch.
Owned by the Nebraska-based Flagship Restaurant Group, the restaurant is part of a larger complex that includes a nightclub the Châm Pang Lanes bowling alley and the famous Ghost Donkey agave cocktail bar. The lively restaurant party inside the triple-concept adult playground can be surprisingly easy to miss when walking around, so it’s important to use your trusty Google Maps to find this tropical watering hole nestled in a side street of Roosevelt Row.
What to expect at this festive brunch spot
When I reached the host stand, I got the distinct impression that I had stumbled upon an oasis and was watching the looters take part in its spoils. There was club music blaring from the palm trees and tattooed bartenders in overalls pouring fruity cocktails from Chinese take-out boxes for large tables of women dressed in patterned outfits. It was as if there had to be a swimming pool nearby.
Tables were all reserved, but the patio’s many lounge chairs arranged around mini fire pits were first come, first served. It turns out that two were available.
This turned out to be an optimal seating arrangement, as the lack of table structure allowed us to focus our attention on the elaborate people watching, perfectly manicured plates of trendy Asian-inspired breakfast dishes and Bloody Mari sriracha tinged with light wasabi whips. .
Meet the neighbors:Ghost Donkey and Cham Pang Lanes bring serious spirits and party vibes
What’s on the menu in Palma
At night, Palma dives further into sushi territory with a list of mouth-watering rolls like the panko-breaded Crunchy LA with spicy crab medley and the Green Goddess maki made with spicy vegan tuna. The brunch menu draws inspiration from various Asian countries, bringing them all together under the umbrella of egg-based breakfast dishes.
Peking pork mince is served with fresh cilantro and jalapeños and a chicken waffle with a sweet chili “dragon sauce”. The avocado toast is garnished with yuzu and furikake and green onion pancakes are served with scrambled eggs and kimchi.
Our server recommended the breakfast noodles, which wouldn’t have been my first choice at 11am, but somehow seemed unmissable once they were offered.
The resulting plate was a nice stack of thick, curly wheat noodles dressed in a crispy chili sauce and piled high with bacon, peanuts and a runny poached egg. I can’t say the sauce tasted like something you’d get at a Chinese noodle shop, as the soy flavor needed a little more sweet punch, but the noodles themselves were of high quality.
The bulgogi breakfast wraps were made with thick chive pancakes of the Chinese street food variety that were stuffed with a simple dollop of scrambled eggs and prime rib. The plate was garnished brightly with cilantro and shredded purple cabbage along with a mound of cubed breakfast potatoes. Everything would have been dry without the assertive gochujang mayo that came on the side.
You might be inclined to order one of the many “Phx fried chx” dishes to share. This segment of the menu reads like a survey of fried chicken’s greatest hits, with crispy chicken sandwiches, bubble waffle fried chicken plates, and popcorn chicken.
I ordered the latter, which arrived smothered in a Thai lime curry with kewpie mayonnaise that tasted distinctly like ranch dressing. The dough was maybe a little heavy for the amount of meat inside, but it was a nice plate to choose from. No chopsticks needed.
Or: 903 N. Second St., Phoenix.
Hours: Monday to Wednesday from 11 a.m. to midnight; Thursday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight.
Price: Brunch plates $13 to $19; salads $9 to $18; fried chicken plates $11 to $52.
Details: 602-580-0000, palmaphx.com.