Recreo, a new downtown Chandler restaurant-bar, is a whimsical nod to our school days

Recreo, a new restaurant in downtown Chandler in the space formerly occupied by El Zocalo Mexican Grill, brings back the fun vibe of our earlier days. –Photos by Nicole Greason for

By Nicole Greason, Special for

- Advertisement -

Recreo bills itself as a space for youthful remembrance of a lighter time in the school yard.

If only our school days and school yards could have been like this new restaurant and bar in historic Downtown Chandler – a chic indoor-outdoor bar combined with upscale dining and a laid-back patio that welcomes hipsters, tipsters, moms, pops, kiddos and anyone who wants to eat, drink and have fun.

Walk into Recreo and the first things that hit your senses are the bright-green color of the banquets against a long wall, upbeat music and low lighting from a whimsical chandelier made of jump ropes.

All of this adds to the restaurant’s school yard/playground-theme that includes an outdoor play area with a ping-pong table and cornhole boards, a school-bus art installation, a bar with swings instead of stools and an edible garden. There’s also a live-music stage and DJ booth made from a shipping container mounted above the patio in the back of the restaurant.

“Recreo is bringing a fresh, youthful atmosphere to Chandler’s downtown area,” Henry Malachowski, general manager of the establishment, said in a written statement. “We are thrilled to provide fresh local ingredients, an inviting indoor/outdoor garden hangout vibe and unique cocktails.”

On a temperate evening, the patio is the place to be at Recreo.

On a recent Friday-evening, the music was bumping as the bar filled with end-of-the-week-celebrating patrons and wait staff scurried around a full-house dining room, serving what the restaurant calls “foodventurous” fare.

Recreo’s approximately 9,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor dining, with a capacity of 242, once was home to El Zocalo Mexican Grill, a locally-owned restaurant that operated for more than 20 years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close permanently in May 2020.

“From the moment we discovered the site, we were instantly dedicated to recreating the space to honor our great state, its melting-pot culture, and to also create new experiences as a community,” said Chris Field, founder of Allium Hospitality, Recreo’s development company.

“Recreo celebrates the history of Chandler, while simultaneously looking forward to its vibrant, bustling future.”

The menu carries a travel theme with sections titled Boarding for sharable charcuterie boards, Destinations for main dishes, Layovers for salads, Carry-Ons for sides and The Landing for desserts. There’s an affordable kid’s menu with tasty food to keep little diners happy at the table until they’re full and run outside to the patio to hang out or play while you finish eating and sipping your favorite cocktail.

Signature menu items include, the Buddha Bowl, a compilation of grains, roasted root vegetables and yogurt; fresh ceviche, sugar crusted ahi and The Amazing Mushroom, which features portobello mushroom, burrata, zucchini, roasted bell pepper and arugula. Desserts include Crepes Foster with butter-rum bananas, cinnamon crepes and pecan caramel, and That’ll Do, Fig with white figs, lemon marscapone and fresh mint.

The cocktail menu lists Elementary Cocktails, including That Mean Dog On The Other Side Of The Fence, which is a Greyhound; The Faculty Breakroom, an Irish Coffee;, and That Little Redheaded Kid Wasn’t Bothering Anybody, a Moscow Mule. There’s also a wine and beer selection and soft drinks for those who prefer not to imbibe.

Recreo, 28 S. San Marcos Place, is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday through Sunday.

More information:




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest e-Edition


Follow Us


Weekly Email Newsletter


Join Our Family...

Wrangler Newsletter

One email

Once a week

Unsubscribe anytime

Welcome to The Wrangler Community!