Scare up some fine vittles at these new, October-appropriate dining haunts.
Opened: March 2019
Like a giant mutant from a Halloween sci-fi nightmare, a colossal gopher with glowing eyes and a hat leers over the rooftop of this downtown Gilbert walk-up – an affectionate nod to the traditional nemesis of Gilbert’s early farmers. A side project by the owners of nearby Joe’s Real BBQ, Topo features a short menu of soft-serve ice cream and street food. The burritos are available in pork or chicken, in styles ranging from Topo (meat, beans, cheese and salsa, $7) to the daunting Topo Loco ($8.50) – that is, stuffed with elote and soggy-crunchy Fritos. I went for the Topo Loco chicken, and found it punchy but not overwhelmingly spiced, and just about perfect. The cup of elote ($3.50), roasted, cut from the cob and smothered with lime, chile, cotija and tomatillo crema, is also not to be missed. Wash it down with a bottle of neutral but refreshing Topo Chico Lime ($3) mineral water.
Must try: Topo’s signature taste is the splendid, fruity but not too sweet prickly pear ice cream in a wafer cone ($2.50). I had mine with a lime dip for an extra 50 cents.
301 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, topoarizona.com
Opened: July 2019
October also means Oktoberfest, and Oktoberfest means brats, bountifully available at this new Phoenix location (formerly a Capriotti’s sub shop) of the Scottsdale artisan wienery. There’s even a countdown clock on the wall, eagerly ticking off the seconds until the fall revelry begins. I went for broke and ordered the Big Weenie ($16), 12 inches of sausage roughly the thickness of a transcontinental cable, buried under a drift of tangy sauerkraut, relish and Dijonnaise dressing. The sausage has a fine, mild flavor with herbal notes and a crumbly texture; the soft white bun complements the earthy brat. The kitchen staff’s pro-level baking skills are reflected in the Bavarian pretzel ($7), flawlessly firm on the crust side, soft on the inside, and satisfying even when not adorned with the accompanying beer cheese fondue (but better yet when generously dressed in it).
Must try: The saltwater-brined, flash-fried Belgian fries ($3.75) go great with “Hush Hush” (Thousand Island) sauce.
6025 N. 16th St., 602-975-6419, brathausaz.com
Opened: May 2019
Lebanese comes to Glendale with this spinoff of the longtime Tempe establishment named, as the menu tells us, for the prologues to Lebanese folk ballads. It’s a spacious, full-service place – offering not only food, but for those who partake, a hookah menu. (At least one seemed to be going at almost every table on my visit.) There’s also exciting live music and belly dancing performances. The food was plenty for me, starting with pita and a sesame-seed-and-oil dip, then a “mezza” or appetizer course of fatayer ($8.95) – expertly baked pastry filled with dark, lemon-tinged spinach. I followed it with the Mijana Mixed Grill ($23.95), which included delectable grilled chicken kebobs, filet kebobs and hearty kofta alongside yogurt sauce, garlic-cream sauce, and a nice, cool salad.
Must try: Kenafe ($7), a pie of fibrous pastry dough and cheese soaked in a clear syrup and topped with crushed pistachios, was something like eating a very sweet bird’s nest.
5686 W. Bell Rd., Glendale, 602-354-4002, mijanaonline.com