Feathered friends amuse diners at The Perch Brewery SanTan Sun News

Feathered friends amuse diners at The Perch Brewery

February 5th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Feathered friends amuse diners at The Perch Brewery
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By David M. Brown, Contributor

You’ll find The Perch Brewery down a Chandler street that looks like an alley and sounds, with its with squawks, whaawks, squeaks and twitters, like an aviary.

Approaching its fourth anniversary on Valentine’s Day, the pub-style venue at 232 S. Wall St. is a refuge for 100 rescue birds. It also serves 40 beers created by Nick Sofranac and two associate brewers, (including Red42, honoring the fallen Yarnell hot shots) and covers guests with a green canopy of mature trees in a desert tropical garden flanked by colorful, well-loved caged birds.

Owned by Chandler residents Ken and Rebecca Lavenue and Edward and Suzanne Sechrest, The Perch also reserves space for second-floor parties.

It also schedules live music three nights a week on the rooftop bar, where hoofers of all ages are welcome and sports-minded patrons can watch TV.

Its house-crafted food seems to make just about everyone happy.

Directed by Chandler resident Chef Jason Bray, The Perch serves upscale pub food for lunch and dinner daily and a weekend early brunch on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 9 a.m.

Bray’s diverse menu includes items such as a low-calorie brick oven cauliflower and asparagus tips; the open-face brick oven tamale with green chile hash, fried egg, green chile sauce and guacamole; pig wings; pork shanks and a jalapeño marmalade; coastal-quality crab cakes packed with lump and claw meat in a cayenne and horseradish remoulade.

Diners also will find hefty burgers, a brick oven four-cheese mac and house-made beer-crust pizza from the brick oven in the newly expanded galley-style kitchen.

“We offer distinctive housemade food with a Southwest profile, food that works well with our beers or on its own,” said Bray, an Oklahoma native who landed at The Perch a year ago from Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Chandler. Before that, he was at Roaring Fork in Scottsdale, where he learned from James Beard-award-winning Chef Robert McGrath.

“Instead of comparing our food with other places, we want our guests to say, ‘You have to go to The Perch to get that,’” he explained.

Everyone has a reason to drop in at the Perch, including 65 employees, most from Chandler.

“Seniors and snowbirds really enjoy our beautiful garden, and others return every week for the rooftop nightlife,” Rebecca said. “People like to meet here for their first date and come back for their first anniversary. We had nine weddings here last year.”

Six years ago, the Lavenues and Sechrests found the location unkempt, a nasty nest.

“When I purchased the property, it had a bunch of aviaries,” Rebecca recalled. “I didn’t really know or understand birds, so I went to talk to AZ Exotic Bird Rescue and adopted a few birds. After that, I realized what wonderful personalities they have and I fell in love.”

Suzanne took to it, too. “I loved all of the trees; it didn’t look like Arizona,” she said. Both she and Rebecca grew up outside Chicago, without cactuses and cactus wrens.

The site had two of Chandler’s oldest homes, parts of which the couples retained in today’s structures.

The previous owner, who started the aviaries, had petitioned to rebrand the alley into what is now Wall Street.

This was a disparate lot: residences, an apartment area, a business selling rubber stamps and a farmers market.

“We opened a smoothie shop,” Suzanne explained. “We remodeled and worked very hard – and I don’t think we sold one smoothie in the first year.”

So, they drank some of the inventory, regrouped, dug holes, pulled up and reset brick pavers, built the bar and the brewery and constructed their take on the upscale neighborhood pub. They contracted with some local fabricators to build the classy gabion pillars at the entrance and the rooftop floor.

And, the couples turned the water on for the browning trees to green again. Today, the lush grounds include mulberry, bird-loving ficus trees and palms and brightly colored bougainvillea and purple-flowering orchid trees.

Of course, they flew in the wrong direction at times.

“We put some of the Amazon cockatoos in wood cages and came in one morning to find they had almost eaten their way out,” Rebecca said. “That was close.”

But they persevered, acquiring most of their birds by donation, with just a few purchased. “We asked for a bird from AZ Exotic Bird Rescue and they brought us 10,” Sue said. “They simply have so many whose owners can no longer care for them.”

“We took one bird because he’s a mixed breed, and the zoo didn’t want him. Our birds can’t be adopted out, so we’ve given them a good home. Most live a human life of almost 70 years, which is much better than their life expectancy in the wild. Some don’t like being house pets and prefer being in flock, so we accommodate that, too” she added.

“Every bird has a story, but remember, it’s not only fine feathers that make a fine bird, and the woods would be awfully silent without the birds singing,” said Tyler Odekirk, who works with Curt Scarberry at Scottsdale-based AZ Exotic Bird Rescue, founded in Apache Junction in 2007.

Queen Creek’s Matt Helm, who volunteers helping to care for the birds at The Perch, explained that many of the birds are threatened or endangered through habitat encroachment, predators and the illegal export trade in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia and others. “I just love the animals, and I bond well with them, well, most of them. They let you know.”

Here are parrots, lovebirds and parakeets, conures, macaws and cockatoos (even a rare albino), all in full palette and full-throated song: squeals, chitters, gurgles, whistles, chatterings and chirps.

Even common house sparrows enjoy The Perch, rummaging in and out through the cage bottoms to snatch what food they can and scurry out with their loot.

Mango is a multi-colored sun conure with spunk and flair: He screams and then says his name: “Squawk! Mango!” Cage mate Bebe, a quiet Moluccan cockatoo, watches from the back.

Next door is Bubba, an almost three-foot-long rare hyacinth macaw from eastern Brazil with a prodigious beak that looks as if it could pop open beer bottles, maybe even kegs.

“He’s got eyes on being the alpha here and has lots of attitude,” Sue said. His shtick: “His previous owners had a car lot, so he echoes the screeching of a car alarm.”

Center stage, though, is Luna, a gorgeous cream-white umbrella cockatoo that extends his tuft forward, dances and sings with the children.

“He gets the attention and plays to it,” she said.

None of the owner quartet has a culinary background.

“I don’t even cook at home,” Rebecca said, laughing. “I worked in hospitals, and my husband has a construction background, which has helped with building but not in the back of the house. As we evolved, we hired good people who knew more than we do.

“I just like to eat.”

On Saturday, Feb. 10 from 4 to 11 p.m., The Perch Brewery plans its fourth annual Mardi Gras/anniversary celebration, a few days before the New Orleans event.

The Lavenues and Sechrests will close down Wall Street and erect a stage for a number of local bands playing a variety of music, including New Orleans and bayou. They also are bringing in fire throwers, trapeze acts and stilt walkers. “We’ll have lots of beads, too,” Rebecca said.

Bray is preparing a number of specials for the party, including traditional Big Easy dishes such as jambalaya, po-boys, alligator, crawdads and a special bourbon-glazed salmon.

For dessert, expect pecan pie, bread pudding with a bourbon glaze and a multi-colored Mardi Gras cheesecake whipped up with egg nog and more bourbon. “No reservations are required, and you must be 21,” Rebecca added. “Ten bucks gets you in, including a beer.

“At the Perch, we have something for everyone. Craft beer drinkers love us. Children love the birds. Mothers like us because children love the birds. We even welcome well-behaved dogs in the courtyard.”

And, if you need a new tuft to perch in style, a hair salon is here, too.

The Perch Bar & Brewery is open daily for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the kitchen closing daily at 10 p.m. Parking is on an adjacent lot, on the street or in nearby for-free city structures. Groups of eight or more booking a rooftop area must call for reservations: 480.438.6998. Information: perchpubbrewery.com. To support bird rescue, see azexoticbirdrescue.com.

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