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Beaver Choice (Mesa, AZ)

As I begin to close out my reviews for 2013, I’ve got a review of possibly one of the most interesting (and most interestingly named) places I visited during the year: Beaver Choice in Mesa, AZ. Beaver Choice had been on my radar for a while—while visiting Arizona in August of 2012 for some “extreme climate testing”, I had checked out various review sites for something new and interesting, and Beaver Choice came up near the top of several East Valley listings, so I drove by to check them out (at the time, they were located on Broadway in Tempe behind Ted’s Hot Dogs. But they were closed, since they were in the middle of moving to a new location.

Well, that new location turned out to be Baseline and Extension in Mesa, in a spot I’m well familiar with, since growing up it contained the Ripe Tomato Cafe (now long closed). Especially since my parents had been there several times, we decided it was worth giving it a visit.

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Joe’s Farm Grill (Gilbert, AZ)

Well, after two days of testing in the Superstition Mountains, we were again hungry. This time, we decided to head back into Gilbert for a visit to Joe’s Farm Grill. Joe’s Farm Grill is the sister restaurant to the previous night’s Joe’s Real BBQ.

Located just west of the corner of Ray and Higley in Gilbert, if you are in the area, Joe’s Farm Grill is hard to miss, since it has a rather large neon sign, and is basically a large “retro-futuristic” building nestled in amongst the citrus trees at the edge of a working farm. The farm isn’t a new thing, it’s been there since the 1920s, with the Johnston family being there since the 1960s. The restaurant is actually constructed around what’s left of the 1960s ranch house, although the renovation is so significant that you have to look carefully to actually find evidence of the original house (you can see some of this in the “fireplace room”).

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Joe’s Real BBQ (Gilbert, AZ)

As I mentioned in the last post, my coworkers and I were based out of Gold Canyon, AZ for several days of desert testing. Gold Canyon isn’t exactly known for its wide variety of dining establishments, so we drove into downtown Gilbert most evenings for dinner. When I was growing up in the Phoenix area, the phrase “Downtown Gilbert” would always result in a little bit of snickering, since until the early 90s, Gilbert was a fairly sleepy suburb, and Gilbert Road (“Downtown”) doubly so. At the time, one of the main eating establishments was “Sideburns: Durn Good Vittles” which closed a few years ago (a shame, since I actually once got a damn fine chicken fried steak there).

But the area is changed. Gilbert is now a major suburb, and the downtown area has had a lot of modest development, with a few nice parks, and, most importantly, restaurants. Liberty Market, Oregano’s Pizza Bistro, the Farmhouse, and Joe’s Real BBQ. The last of these was our destination, as regular readers know, I’ve been on a bit of a BBQ kick recently, and wanted to revisit Joe’s (I went there a few years ago, but didn’t blog it) and see how it stacked up against some of my more recent experiences.

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Los Dos Molinos (Mesa, AZ)

Shortly after the trip to Pane Bianco, my coworkers started to arrive at Phoenix, so pretty soon we were all packed up with our gear and heading out to Gold Canyon, AZ. Except Gold Canyon isn’t exactly known for having a lot of restaurants, so we decided to grab dinner on the way out of town. Wanting to give them a taste of something that my VT and NH coworkers weren’t likely to experience back at home, I decided to take them out for New Mexican cuisine. And for that, I took them to the nearby branch of Los Dos Molinos in Mesa.

Los Dos Molinos is a small Phoenix-based chain of New Mexican restaurants, with about a half dozen locations spread throughout the metro area. The focus at Los Dos Molinos is on New Mexican cuisine, with a particular emphasis on using Hatch chiles, and on New Mexican specialties like carne adovada (marinated pork). And they definite like to apply the chiles liberally, with the result that Los Dos Molinos is a particularly good antidote to the moderately bland Mexican food that I usually get up in New England.

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Pane Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

The summer of crazy travel continues… One of my projects at work had a requirement to test it in a severe desert environment, during the summer. So I found myself packing up and heading out with two crazy coworkers to…. Gold Canyon, Arizona (actually, to a private ranch east of there) to bask in the daytime highs of 116°F highs and 93°F lows. But it’s also where I grew up (and my parents still live there), so I decided to head out a day early to do a few errands for the project and have dinner with my parents before heading out into the desert. However, I ended up having a few hours free, so I met up with my friend Allyson for lunch.

Most anyone that has ever discussed pizza with me knows that I’m a fanatic about quality pizza, and very few places make the cut for what I consider “good pizza”. And the Phoenix area is blessed with one of them, Pizzeria Bianco, which I’ve reviewed here before (twice, in fact). And while I adore Pizzeria Bianco, it’s not the only Phoenix endeavor of owner Chris Bianco… he also runs an Italian sandwich shop in the midtown section of Phoenix called Pane Bianco (as well as an Italian restaurants named “Italian Restaurant”, which I still haven’t gotten to). And since it’s right off of the Central Avenue light rail line, it made for a handy place to meet up with Allyson. And it’s been on my to-be-reviewed list for a while, since my last visit here circa 2010 was without my trusty camera…

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La Frontera Taco Truck (Phoenix, AZ)

After a morning spent looking at the most excellent native art collections at the Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix, as well as having a quick trip over to Wes Bolin Plaza to look at the various memorials, we decided that we needed a quick lunch.

Luckily, Phoenix has the same, healthy taco truck economy that I’ve come to expect from any major Southwestern city.

Easy to miss the place, since you can’t directly see the truck from the street without eagle eyes, since they’ve ensconced it in several blue tarps to make a seating area of a few rickety tables and chairs (as well as a place to get out of the sun). The truck itself makes one wall of the dining area, so you wander up to the window and place your order, and then hang out and relax as they assemble it…

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Amado’s Mexican Food (Mesa, AZ)

One of the biggest things I miss living in rural New England is that Mexican breakfasts are almost non-existent. Good Mexican places are few and far between, those that serve breakfast doubly so.

But my parents live in Mesa, AZ, which always has had a reasonably good selection of Mexican restaurants, with even more showing up in recent years. And, luckily for me, most of them serve breakfast.

So when we had a free morning while visiting my parents, Carol and I were craving breakfast burritos, so I decided to check out Amado’s Mexican Food…

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Pho Nhat (Mesa, AZ)

On Christmas Eve, we did one of our usual hikes in the Phoenix area (South Mountain’s National Trail), and afterward, we decided to grab a late lunch.

Of course, this isn’t always the easiest thing to do on Christmas Eve, since most businesses aren’t open (in the past, we’ve ended up at TGI Friday’s for similar reasons). Of course, Southwest Mesa (and the adjoining area in Chandler) have developed a substantial Asian population, and now the area between Dobson and Alma School from roughly Main Street in the North, down to Ray Road in the South, has gotten quite the selection of Vietnamese Pho shops.

Several of these were open on Christmas Eve, including Pho Nhat on Southern…

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Lee’s Cream Liqueur (Scottsdale, AZ)

Wandering about Scottsdale, we noticed a little shop on Stetson Drive called “Lee’s Cream Liqueurs” which featured a variety of ice cream flavors, many of which were made with real liqueurs. While all sorts of little ice cream stores seem to be popping up everywhere, and some of them (like Humphrey Slocombe in San Francisco, whose cornflake and bourbon ice cream I reviewed last May) have the occasional liqueur-infused flavor on the menu, most places don’t feature it outright. There’s actually a good reason for that, in that the much lower melting point of alcohol makes it hard to make a good ice cream without sacrificing a little bit of firmness. That said, Lee of Lee’s Cream Liqueur seems to have figured it out, since about half of her flavors are either outright liqueur-flavored, or have liqueur-flavored swirls in them. But Lee’s Cream Liqueur looked to be relatively popular, and the ice cream looked enticing, so we decided to give it a try…

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Pizzeria Bianco revisited (Phoenix, AZ)

The Phoenix area is one of those areas that I visit often enough that I’ve started to have a “hit list” of places that I like to visit every time I’m in town. Sure, it cuts into my exploration of new places, but since I’ve enjoyed these so much in the past, I like to go back for another visit. The list is rather varied, but includes places such as The Chuckbox, Ted’s Hot Dogs, Haji-Baba’s, and Pizzeria Bianco. Indeed, I actually visited all of those places this visit (oddly, Carol hadn’t been to the Chuckbox or Bianco yet!), and they are all still going strong.

But it’s worth talking about Pizzeria Bianco a bit more, since several changes have happened since I last reviewed them…

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