111 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
With its brick walls, soaring rafters and roll-up garage doors, Chef-owner Aaron Chamberlin’s revamped 1955-style restaurant typifies modernist urban chic. But his secret weapon is pure old-school: A custom-built, brick-framed oven that uses mesquite wood for smokiness and almond wood for heat, adding a sizzling succulence to meat and vegetable dishes alike. Thanks to that wood oven, the pork in the chile verde emerges tooth-tender and deeply savory. The juicy stew is served bubbling hot in an iron skillet with hefty chunks of sweet cornbread alongside for dipping. The delight is in the details: Chamberlin finishes the chile-spiked dish with gooey Jack cheese, a squeeze of lime and a tuft of fresh cilantro. For an even more decadent dive into the ultimate comfort food, the kitchen will happily add two sunny-side up eggs as a yolky crown. Be sure to ask for more cornbread to mop up all that extra goodness.
5114 N. Seventh St., Phoenix
Chile verde and mac ‘n’ cheese are each delicious on their own, but marry the two, and yowza: You have belly-filling, soul-warming heaven. Owners Mark Dillon and Tom Jetland consecrate this holy culinary union at their sleek, chile-pepper-red and mustard-yellow bistro. It arrives at your table as an enchanting casserole of macaroni, creamy Jack cheese sauce, pork chile verde, tomato and cilantro. If you’re not in the mood for mac, you can get the chile verde ladled as a stew over two plump cheese enchiladas, as a hearty dip for the house-made corn chips, drenched atop crunchy black bean nachos, or as a decadent sauce on overstuffed burritos and chimichangas. Have one dish for lunch or dinner, then start all over again, with a breakfast of huevos rancheros, layered with enchiladas, three eggs, pork chile verde and queso fresco alongside roasted potatoes.
New Mexican Grill
3140 S. Gilbert Rd., Chandler
(also 3107 S. Lindsay Rd., Gilbert, 480-899-0773)
Rank-and-file chile verde enthusiasts typically use hot, pliant tortillas to scoop up their stew. That’s all well and good, but purists – i.e. those who trace the dish back to its Mexican and Native American roots – know that the best intake vehicle is fry bread. The pillowy, steamy dough (deep-fried in oil or lard) is a sumptuous foil to the chunky pork and chiles, soaking up the spices and juices to every last drop, yet is sturdy enough to handle the hefty meat. Owner Ralph Aranda learned his recipes from his parents and grandparents and puts them to good use at his cozy East Valley eatery. He makes everything from scratch, including the mouthwatering chile verde made with lean, slow-stewed, highly seasoned pork, Hatch green chiles, potatoes, tomatoes and green onions. His Navajo fry bread is hand-kneaded daily, then cooked fresh to order.
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