Upscale Valley restaurants solve the riddle of the griddle.
6960 E. First St., Scottsdale, 480-878-4172, alocafeaz.com
We’re calling it: Waffle mania has arrived. Two new waffle food trucks roam Valley streets; a new sandwich shop in the West Valley substitutes waffles for bread, cradling everything from beef patties to peanut butter and jelly; and chicken and waffles are a menu staple on a sizable flock of high and lowbrow restaurant menus. We get it – what’s not to love about the deep-pocketed, sexy cousin of the pancake? For chefs, it’s a blank canvas ready for ironing out inspired creations. Take the Waffle Cristo (pictured) at the cracker-box-size Alo Café, hidden deep in Old Town Scottsdale. A riff on that most classic of fried sandwiches, the Monte Cristo, it starts with a from-scratch golden Belgian waffle topped with griddled ham and turkey and a thin layer of melted Swiss. The crowning glory is a fried egg and triple berry (blueberry, raspberry and strawberry) jam. ($10.75)
Take the fat out of your fiesta with these south-of-the-border salads.
Joyride Taco House
5202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-8226;
302 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-632-8226, joyridetacohouse.com
Eat your way through our salute to Mexican cuisine (page 84), and somewhere near the halfway point – after countless tacos and tortas – your body will crave something less filling, less starchy. The good news: You don’t have to give up dynamic flavors to get a healthy infusion of greens and vegetables. Joyride’s ensalada fila ($10.50; pictured here) is a riff on the “original” chopped salad – the Cobb. Pretty rows of crisp jicama, orange segments, cherry tomatoes, avocado, fresh corn and crunchy dried peas sit atop chopped kale and creamed pintos. It’s a marvelous mix of textures tied together with a dreamy quince dressing. Filling without being heavy, consider it an earnest counterpoint to the almighty chimichanga.
As a burger topper or all by their lonesomes, fried pickles put the thrill in dill.
1904 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix,
It is no secret Southerners will fry anything: okra, green tomatoes and yes, dill pickles. While frying a pickle sounds like something a pregnant woman might dream up, the crunchy, mouth-puckering treat is trending with modern chefs, too. Armadillo Grill, known to fans as the ‘Dillo, is a favorite haunt of restaurant industry folks, and here’s an insider tip: Though he typically serves them as spears, Chef Azael Becerra is happy to slice the pickle into “chips,” too (pictured). Many places start with a freezer bag of pre-cut pickles, but Becerra starts from scratch. A kosher dill pickle is sliced – into spears or chips as you wish – and dusted with seasoned flour before getting a dunk in an egg wash and a roll in panko bread crumbs. He fries the pickles to dark golden brown and serves them with a tart ranch-style dipping sauce. ($7.99, plain or Cajun-spiced.)
Valley grills display increasingly boar-ish, and buffalo-ish, behavior.
Wild Game Grill
2445 E. Thomas Rd.,
Boasting that the buffalo burger you just polished off is “wild” game might be a stretch – no restaurant is serving game caught in the wild. Regulations stipulate a daunting and costly inspection process. But game meats are going mainstream at Valley restaurants, inviting diners to explore exotic new proteins. The cleverly-named Wild Game Grill is a sports-themed gastropub serving chalkboard specials such as wild boar Bolognese. Even classic bar fare gets a modern – and lean – twist from the addition of game meats like bison, elk, venison and even rabbit. Try the moderately spiced bison tacos ($11, pictured), featuring bison top round roast slowly simmered in house-made red chile sauce.
Corned beef hash get upgraded at these Phoenix restaurants.
Corned beef hash – the humble diner mainstay born of leftovers – doesn’t have to be a greasy-spoon snooze fest. What if it’s made with purpose – and without corned beef? Consider the cowboy hash at Sierra Bonita Grill (pictured, $12, weekend brunch only). If the vibrant green salsa verde – made with tart tomatillos, buttery avocado, cilantro, jalapeños and other green goodies – doesn’t enliven your senses, the kicky, mouth-popping flavor of Schreiner’s spicy chorizo with roasted root vegetables will. Topped with two fried eggs, the final booyah is Schreiner’s linguiça – a firm, juicy sausage link with Portuguese roots.
Eggs be deviled deluxe at these Valley eateries.
10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, 480-513-5085, proofcanteen.com
Deviled eggs aren’t just trendy – they’re ubiquitous. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a restaurant dishing up the classic ‘70s church-social mainstay. Blame it on the comfort food renaissance, or the enduring charm of the humble egg. We gobbled more than a dozen versions to find three not-your-grandma’s deviled eggs, including a lobster-studded specimen at Proof Canteen (four halves for $11, pictured). Chef Jesse Hansen’s whole menu is a riff on American comfort food – elevated to a higher level, of course, since Proof is tucked into the ultra-luxe Four Seasons. “We take chunks of Maine lobster, add some Old Bay seasoning, some celery, some lemon and a dash of Tabasco,” he says. Decadent lobster salad spooned over impeccable egg whites? Mission accomplished.
Outlawed in California, decadent foie gras finds an enthusiastic welcome in Valley kitchens.
5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-7878, hermosainn.com/lons
Happily, foie gras prohibition is one California craze that hasn’t yet migrated east. Supremely rich and buttery, as if a filet mignon and a stick of butter had a baby, the fattened goose liver is a traditional favorite of upscale diners. Chefs can prepare the scandalous lobe in any number of ways, but frequently choose sweet and acidic accompaniments to counter the hauntingly rich fat. James Ducas, Executive Chef of the Southwestern-inspired Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn, is currently pairing a deeply seared slab of Hudson Valley foie gras with a savory cocoa-and-masa tamal, spiced with ancho chile and cumin (pictured, $18). A Mexican chocolate-tinged balsamic syrup reduction provides a balanced counterpoint. Ducas’ interpretation is all at once earthy, spicy, buttery, sweet and tangy – and plenty naughty.
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Upscale Valley restaurants solve the riddle of the griddle. Alo Cafe6960 E. First St., Scottsdale, 480-878-4172, alocafeaz.com We’re calling it: Waffle mania has arrived. Two new waffle food trucks roam Valley streets; a new sandwich shop...
Take the fat out of your fiesta with these south-of-the-border salads. Joyride Taco House5202 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-274-8226; 302 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 480-632-8226, joyridetacohouse.comEat your way through our salute to Mexican cuisine (...
Workin’ the Gherkin
As a burger topper or all by their lonesomes, fried pickles put the thrill in dill. Armadillo Grill1904 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-287-0700, myarmadillogrill.comIt is no secret Southerners will fry anything: okra, green tomatoes and yes, dill pi...
THREE BITESTracy Dempsey Originals602-376-9021, tracydempseyoriginals.com Pastry chef goddess Tracy Dempsey hardly needs help making her magical desserts taste better. Her Tempe-based boutique kitchen didn’t become the sweets-supplier of choice...
It’s cactus season in Arizona, and Valley chefs are finding creative ways to present this desert-to-table staple. Barrio Queen7114 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale480-656-4197, barrioqueen.comMexican cuisine has long celebrated nopales, the firm but...