The brown-bag staple goes a little bit gourmet and a little bit crazy.
3375 E. Shea Blvd., Phoenix
Rick Phillips, the owner of this funky new gastropub, is known for irreverent takes on the food scene through his EaterAZ blog, and for judging Valley chefs in his popular Arizona Taco Festival and Arizona BBQ Festival each year. Now, he’s proven he can dish it out with his own food. Consider the humble chicken wing. Here, the meaty nubbins are gently smoked for just a hint of earthiness, then grilled for a bit of crusty char. Next, they’re slathered in a choice of sauces, including a traditional buffalo recipe, Asian sweet and spicy glaze, perky Dijon barbecue, or the bomb – a concoction called “PB&J.” This is a sweet treat fashioned from spiced-up Concord grape jelly finished with a coat of crushed peanuts. Think Asian satay meets a French red wine braise. The drumettes are addictive, particularly when paired with a side of slow-braised kale, cooked with country ham, peanuts, brown butter and raisins.
110 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix,
It’s called a Bear Dog, or a 7th Inning Stretch. And we’ll be honest – until we tried the funky frankfurter, we imagined it to be a 7th Inning Retch. Let’s line up the ingredients, shall we? Melted creamy peanut butter, sweet and spicy barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda, bacon, and Cracker Jacks. All piled atop a spicy wiener. But those wacky kids at this little eatery somehow make it all work. Brad and Kat Moore have been winning so many weenie fans with their food truck since 2010, they opened a brick-and-mortar eatery Downtown on July 23 (National Hot Dog Day), cleverly called Sit... Stay. The Indian-fusion nosh starts with homemade toasty naan, and the franks are grilled to caramelized skin for extra yum factor. The crispy bacon lends texture to the peanut butter, the barbecue sauce adds a little zing, the cheese brings the gooey quotient, and the Cracker Jacks bring buttery-candy crunch.
7217 E. First St., Scottsdale
When chef Aaron May opened Praying Monk last year in downtown Scottsdale, he garnered quick attention for his “F” This PB & J Foie Gras Torchon, not just for its cheeky name but for its bizarreness. But then people tried it, and a signature favorite was born. The sugars in the topping help tame the richness of the foie, which is seasoned liberally with salt and pepper, then gently cooked sous-vide, pressed and whipped with milk and a splash of Grand Marnier. The “PB” is made with homemade, unsweetened peanut butter, golden brown sugar, kosher salt, heavy whipping cream, a bit of granulated sugar and vanilla extract all whipped into a mousse, while the “J” features ripe blackberries, sugar, and lemon juice and zest made into sticky jelly. The final presentation is quite elegant, layered in a Mason jar and served with toast points for scooping.
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