Celebrate the matriarch in your life by taking her to one of these new Valley restaurants.
Opened: December 2018
Mother’s Day is nigh, so where to take her for the lunch or brunch or dinner she so richly deserves? If the splendors of South America light up her fancy, this new eastside gem helpfully codes its menus with silhouettes of Peru and Colombia – and Mexico – with dishes for each. Start with the complimentary side of cancha (Andean corn) with a medium green salsa. From Peru, I tried the hearty lomo saltado de carne ($17) – strips of filet with fries, tomatoes and onions in light “mignonette” gravy around an Incan-ruin-shaped mound of rice. Aguadito ($6), a Peruvian chicken-and-rice soup with cilantro, was also splendid. My Colombian choice was bandeja paisa ($13.95), a hunger-vanquishing buffet on a plate: sausage, succulent ground beef, fatty pork belly, rice, red beans, fried plantains, egg and avocado with arepa, a sort of small, thick tortilla. Empanadas ($1.70 each) were all too easily inhaled.
Must try: For postre, consider the Peruvian picarones ($5.95), coarse fried doughnuts with a rich cinnamon-citrus syrup.
Opened: March 2019
If Mom is a Red Sox fan, she might appreciate the names of the brunch menu omelets at this steakhouse in Carefree: The Big Poppy ($13) comes with bacon, sausage, ham, mushrooms and cheddar (but, disappointingly for SNL fans, no mofongo), and the Green Monster ($14) is verdant with spinach and arugula. Meanwhile, the hollandaise on the crabcake Benedict ($17) is delectable to the point of negating the crab (first-rate hash browns, too). This latest project from the people behind Scottsdale’s Liberty Station taverns has a pleasant atmosphere, but there are missteps: The banh mi fish sandwich ($15) was over-grilled, with a side of garlic sauce more funky than flavorful; while the ostensible breakfast burger ($16) was not particularly breakfast-y other than a fried egg and bacon.
Must try: Another boys-of-summer-oriented winner is the Keeler baseball cut ($29), a high-fat, high-flavor sirloin, cut round like a baseball but much juicier.
Opened: April 2018
If Mom’s a fan of Mexican eats, this elegant CenPho eatery should banish burrito boredom. For lunch, consider the taquito platter ($11.95) and choose from a lavish menu of rolled tacos. I went with the arrachera (marinated skirt steak), tinga (spicy shredded chicken) and an impressively smoky but not scorched mole chicken. Also great: caldo tlalpeño ($5.95), a gloriously simple soup of chicken, chickpeas and veggies. The lobster quesadilla ($19) offers big chunks of shellfish in a sea of gooey cheese – one of the more luxurious uses of the lowly quesadilla I’ve come across. Season it all up with selections from the extensive salsa bar. My favorites: the sweetly mischievous pineapple, the creamy jalapeño and a wickedly slow-detonating red salsa with Japonés chiles. This might be the best Mexican restaurant you’ve never heard of in the Valley.
Must try: For dessert, Mom would probably enjoy jericalla ($7), a flan/crème brûlée hybrid from the Guadalajara region, topped with fresh fruit. I sure did.
Opened: September 2018
Of course, if your mom’s the sort who isn’t happy unless she’s doing the cooking, you might brave the bustle of Westgate and try this Korean barbecue outpost (there are also locations in Peoria and Mesa) that features unusually friendly and attentive service for an all-you-can-eat joint. For one price ($25), Mom gets unlimited access to a long list of proteins and a table grill on which to cook them. Start with interesting, nibbly appetizers like odd Japchae (“glass” noodles) and gyoja (dumplings). But save room to get your money’s worth of scrumptiously marinated beef bulgogi, teriyaki chadol (beef brisket), Hawaiian chicken and spicy chicken. I especially loved the thinly sliced, slightly spongy beef tongue.
Must try: Pickings are slim for non-carnivores, but soondubu (spicy tofu stew), one of the few dishes you don’t have to cook yourself, was also one of the best.
6751 W. Westgate Blvd., Glendale, 623-877-5007, westgateaz.com