Soldier fearlessly into the heart of summer with a dining excursion to one of these new neighborhood restaurants.
Trapp Haus BBQ
Opened: March 2018
Despite the Teutonic-sounding name, this new nook isn’t a purveyor of sauerbraten and spaetzle, but of very American barbecue. The Reuben-style New York hot pastrami ($11) bursts with thick-sliced meat in a messy profusion of slaw and Russian dressing that overflows the marble rye and turns it flimsy. The lean part of the meat is as delicious as any pastrami I can remember, while the fat part is all but inedible (albeit easily trimmed), so the sandwich was best enjoyed open-face to facilitate this surgery. No such disassembly is required for the Pork Heaven ($11), nestling pulled pork and honey jalapeño slaw onto a sub roll, or the two hot link platter ($11), which teams the simmering, craveable sausages with jalapeño-cheddar cornbread and two sides. My choice: the sweet, rich PTG baked beans ($3 small/$5 large).
Must try: The brisket mac roll ($8), with mac and cheese and velvety brisket fried in an egg roll crust, may just be the best candidate for a Nobel Prize in comfort eats I’ve come across this year.
511 E. Roosevelt St., 602-466-5462, trapphausbbq.com
Opened: April 2018
My visit to this Italian eatery, formerly an outpost of pizza chain Crust, began with a tasty spinach salad ($10), with sweet strawberries nicely offsetting the house Italian dressing and blue cheese. (Really, the meal began with being informed that the place was out of iced tea. Really. Out of iced tea. In Arizona. Across the street from a supermarket. But I prefer to start on a positive note.) Another positive note was the tortellini with shrimp special ($18), pairing the pasta with shellfish in a fine, warming crema. The meatballs and spaghetti ($16) are well-named – the perfectly packed meatballs clearly outshine the mushy, over-sauced pasta. Maybe best of all, especially in summertime, is the fact that this decent neighborhood joint is next door to a Rita’s. After your Italian dinner, you can enjoy some of the country’s best Italian ice. And iced tea.
Must try: The pasta alla mare ($21), with shrimp and mussels in either a white wine or tomato-garlic broth, is a briny knockout.
4727 E. Bell Rd., 602-494-1000, denorasristorante.com
West Valley (pictured above)
Opened: April 2018
The sole Valley location of a chain by the same Kentucky-based outfit behind Texas Roadhouse, this raucous Peoria sports bar’s focus is “Burgers, Pizza and Beer.” So I started with the classic hamburger ($9.49), opting for the “beef and bacon grind,” well-done on account of the patty’s porcine content. It was beefy, bacony and hearty, pairing well with a side of sweet potato fries. The Aloha Chicken dinner ($10.99), a grilled breast with provolone, Canadian bacon and pineapple, comes with a smoky island glaze, and the Shotgun Shrimp Po’ Boy ($10.49) has a Cajun spice that’s sweet and warming but not overpowering. Overall, Bubba’s was a pleasant surprise – the décor is corporate, but the service is friendly, and the food unexpectedly lively.
Must try: Though they’re neither burger, pizza nor beer, the juicy boneless wings (starting at $6.99), slathered with barbecue or “kickin’ teriyaki” sauce, were the yummiest items I tried at Bubba’s.
16100 N. Arrowhead Fountain Center Dr., Peoria, 623-412-9933, bubbas33.com
Farmboy Market, Meats, Sandwiches
Opened: May 2018
You will be relieved to hear – or maybe some of you will be disappointed to hear – that this is not a market that sells farm boys. Rather, this slickly appointed Chandler hybrid turns locally sourced farm products into a variety of goodies, most served between slices of locally baked bread. Many are given Arizona-icon-inspired names, like the Verde Valley cheesesteak ($12.99), which marries quality slices of steak with pepper jack, peppers and some other, less essential veggies and mayo with a pleasant, slight nip to it, on sourdough; or the Ocotillo Barbecue pulled pork ($9.29), with pickles and tangy, sweet sauce. The “Create Your Own Sandwich” option also works. (I went for the roast beef with white cheddar.) Follow it up with some chèvre cheesecake ($2.49), or some local peaches ($3.50 a quart).
Must try: The Farmboy chili ($3.79/$6.99; various meats can be added for $2.99) is more of a hearty vegetable-bean soup, but it’s delightful. Try it with the cheddar curds.
1075 W. Queen Creek Rd., Chandler, 480-361-2153, farmboyaz.com