3 Best Things We Ate Last Week

Nikki BuchananDecember 6, 2021
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Photo by Nikki Buchanan 


Vegetarian Chili at Welcome Diner
Usually, my chili craving kicks in around the time I break out the first sweater, but this fall has been so balmy that I just couldn’t wait — especially when I saw the descriptor on WD’s menu: house veggie chili topped with pimiento cheese and diced onion. It was the addition of pimiento cheese that sold me on this dish, but as it turned out, this meaty-tasting vegetarian chili was great on its own merit. In fact, what I loved about it most was its old school chili vibe. It was brick red, loaded with kidney beans, chickpeas and tomato plus a raft of chiles: pasilla, guajillo and chile de arbol. The bowl was spicy enough to make my nose run within minutes. The pimiento cheese added a lush, creamy quality I liked (although it’s hard to forego melted, stringy cheddar), and of course, the addition of diced white onion was spot-on. The only thing that could have made this hearty, satisfying bowl even better?  Three or four packets of Saltines.
929 E. Pierce St., Phoenix, 602-495-1111, welcomediner.net

Photo by Nikki Buchanan 


Chicken Lettuce Wraps and California Roll at P.F. Chang’s
I haven’t set foot in a P.F. Chang’s in nearly a decade, and before that, it had been another eight-to-ten years. Why? I don’t know, I guess because most of the time, I give my business to local restaurants, not chains. However, some of us remember when Paul Fleming — the guy best known for bringing NOLA-based Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to Phoenix and later creating his own — started P.F. Chang’s (P.F.? Get it?), and it was such a huge hit. The single thing we universally raved about back in those early days was the lettuce wraps — a signature dish of ground chicken in a ginger-scented, umami-laden sauce of soy and hoisin, the chunky mixture served in a juicy heap, then wrapped at the table in crunchy iceberg lettuce. Basic but really yummy. This is still true, as I was recently reminded on a trip to Chang’s to use a gift card that was moldering in a drawer. I would show you by way of photo, but my friend and I made a serious dent in the chicken before I remembered to snap a pic. Oops. So here’s a picture of the California Roll instead. Why, you may wonder, did we order a California Roll in a Chinese restaurant? Because my weigh-watching pal wasn’t keen on ordering all the carb-loaded dumplings I wanted. I conceded to her good judgment, and this was where we landed. Pretty good with that sweet eel sauce. But really, the lettuce wraps were the bomb.
7135 E. Camelback Rd., Suite 101, Scottsdale, 480-949-2610, pfchangs.com

Photo by Nikki Buchanan 


The Hog & Chick at Matt’s Big Breakfast
How I was able to put this away the morning after Thanksgiving I cannot say, but it’s one of my favorite breakfasts at Matt’s so that may have helped. I swapped out the usual bacon or sausage option for off-the-bone ham ($2 extra), and it was delicious — browned yet still remarkably juicy and flavorful, not the usual thinly sliced, dry stuff often served at breakfast restaurants. As you can see from the photo, the sunny-side-up eggs were a little undercooked, but no matter. I broke the yolks and mopped them up with that glorious ham, a crunchy rectangle of greasy-in-a-good-way hash browns and a side of sourdough toast.
Four Valley locations, mattsbigbreakfast.com


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