From Detroit to Lima to Japan, the new restaurant scene in the Valley is an international affair.
Opened: November 2019
Looking for lunch in the area of Seventh and Roosevelt streets? Skip Jimmy John’s and duck into the taco shop on the other side of the building. If you don’t believe me, roll down your window. The meaty aroma emitting from the charcoal grill inside will pull you into a parking spot fast. And your nose doesn’t lie: The Boy makes some righteous tacos ($2.49 each). Bracing, citrus-tinged carne asada is the house specialty, but don’t miss the sweet and yielding barbacoa, which I had in a quesadilla ($2.99/$7.99). The coal-fired smoky goodness extends to the refried beans ($4.99), and there was nothing wrong with the pollo burrito ($7.99), especially when daubed with fierce red and/or creamy green salsa from the salsa bar.
Must try: Vampiro ($2.49) here refers not to an undead revenant who drinks the blood of the living but to a small, round, open-face taco, grilled till crispy and topped with meat and gooey cheese. I had mine with tripa. Yummy.
620 E. Roosevelt St. , 602-675-3962, aztacoboys.com
Detroit Coney Grill
Opened: December 2019
Many of us pasty, unhealthy-looking expat Rust Belters have been going to David Najor’s original DCG on Broadway Road in Tempe for years, to partake of the Motor City’s contribution to culinary culture: the Coney Dog, a wiener under chili sauce, mustard and chopped onions. This new Scottsdale location is roomier and more modern than the Tempe spot, with a bar, multiple widescreen TVs and a much-expanded menu including breakfast, pitas, sliders and the like. All tempting, but start with the basics, like the standard, splendidly savory Detroit Coney ($4.85), the loose burger ($5.45) with un-pattied hamburger under the chili, or, for the obvious best of both worlds, the heavenly Detroit Coney combo ($5.95), with both meats. Pair them with deep brown, starchy fries, and wash it all down with a bottle of Faygo pop ($2.65). My favorite: Rock & Rye Crème.
Must try: The sloppy Joe sliders ($9.95 for three) in a mild barbecue sauce will take you straight back to Ann Arbor Trail Middle School.
6953 N. Hayden Rd. , 480-597-4300, detroitconeygrill.com
Ugly Tuna Sushi
Opened: October 2019
Despite the cruel and hurtful name, there’s nothing unappealing about this Surprise sushi bar – either in appearance or in the tastes found on its extensive roll menu. Sweet and savory find a delicate balance in such well-executed classics as the eel-topped Dragon roll ($12.95). For the adventurous, there are selections like the spicy-tuna-topped Looney Tuna roll ($11.95) and the Sweet Psycho roll ($13.95), which marries tuna, crab and avocado under a drapery of shrimp. The rolls are filling, but if your appetite is hearty, start off with gyoza ($6.95) in a light, crispy batter with a side of faintly citrus ponzu. And if your appetite is really hearty, consider the Chirashi bowl ($18.95) as your entrée. Named for the Japanese word for “scattering,” it features large slabs of raw fish (silky salmon, yellowfin and albacore tuna) piled on rice, seaweed and tomago (egg). As bowls of fish go, it’s quite beautiful.
Must try: Agedashi tofu ($5.95), cubed curd cakes lightly fried and served in a sauce similar to low-salt ramen broth, edges out the competition among the appetizers.
15459 W. Bell Rd., Surprise, 623-248-1957, uglytunasushi.com
Taste of Peru
Opened: January 2020
When we think of Peru, we tend to think of mountains. But the pinnacle of flavor at this new Peruvian place comes from below sea level: ceviche de pescado ($11.95), cubes of fish luxuriating in a sweet, chile-hot broth redolent of lime. It’s also available with shrimp ($13.95) or mixto ($15.95) with fish, shrimp, mussels and calamari. Not that Taste of Peru doesn’t do landlubber fare well. The anticuchos ($8.95), slices of beef heart on a skewer, are potently beefy if a bit chewy, while the pollo saltado ($10.95) serves up soy-marinated white meat chicken grilled with onions over french-fry-style potatoes and stewed tomatoes. It’s an Andes-size plate of comfort. The arroz Chaufa, Peruvian-style fried rice with egg, comes as either surf or turf: beef ($8.95), chicken ($7.95), shrimp ($9.95) and vegetable ($6.95) are all available.
Must try: Papa a la Huancaína ($7.95), slices of cooked potato blanketed in cheese sauce, is a fancier than usual way to enjoy your spuds.
1245 W. Guadalupe Rd., Mesa, 480-935-0924, mytasteofperu.com