In 2004, Scottish band Franz Ferdinand created a sensation with its self-titled debut album. A year-and-a-half later, the band returned with a good but not great follow-up, ironically titled “You Could Have It So Much Better.” The title captures the essence of many sequels: It’s nice to see an encore from a good act, but it’s seldom quite the same as the first time around. Moving from music to food, the people behind Sam’s Cafe, the Arizona Center’s longest enduring restaurant, have attempted a sequel with 1130 the Restaurant, named for the suite number it occupies rather than its hours of business. 1130 feels a lot like Franz Ferdinand’s second album. It’s a solid, inoffensive choice for anyone looking for a meal at the Arizona Center, but it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the restaurant’s customers could indeed “have it so much better” if 1130 sharpened its focus.
1130 occupies a prime spot in the Arizona Center, located roughly halfway between the Van Buren / Central Avenue (northbound) and Van Buren / 1st Avenue (southbound) stations and the 3rd St. / Washington (westbound) and the 3rd St. / Jefferson (eastbound) stations. It’s at the east end near the parking garage and sees a lot of pedestrian traffic. The restaurant has a stylish look both inside and outside. Near the main entrance, there are couches and lounge-style seating. Inside, a bar divides two different dining rooms. There’s additional outdoor seating on a L-shaped patio. The furnishings are contemporary and brick and wood interiors keep the place looking current.
The look promises a little more than it delivers. The sofas outside suggest the ideal venue for casual noshing on small plates and wine by the glass. Unfortunately, these couches are often used merely as a waiting area, and the appetizer menu emphasizes fairly heavy items that seem at odds with casual patio dining. The starters are an amalgam of the slightly adventurous (mussels ) and the familiar (calamari and chicken wings). Some of the first courses show real promise in their execution; the calamari blends sweet and spicy tastes in a presentation dappled with sliced banana peppers, and a simple green salad accentuated with pecans is surprisingly effective. Still, most here does not fit with the restaurant’s stated emphasis on health-conscious preparations. Maybe the idea is for customers to indulge in appetizers and then make up for doing so with lighter entrees.
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