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”).

Joe’s is a fun place to go, just since it’s so unusual. It’s now part of a planned community called Agritopia, which is basically designed as an “urban farming” experiment: suburb-style houses back directly up to farmland, and the homeowners of Agritopia also can participate in the farming. Then, the Farm Grill itself (which gets a substantial portion of its produce from the farm) was designed to represent the ideal image of a 1960s California hamburger stand; the result is a retro-futuristic burger stand with a fair bit of neon, a lot of glass, and more than a little Googie and Jetsons mixed in.

But with all that, it’s actually a pretty neat place to eat, since most of the seating is outside behind the restaurant, with a dozen or so picnic tables shaded by some of the Phoenix area’s largest shade trees (which have the oddest warning about not climbing them due to “falling and scorpions”). So you can order your burger and enjoy it in the relative cool shade outside.

As far as the menu, it’s basically a burger stand. Their motto is “common food done uncommonly well and served quickly”, and that’s basically the menu. They’ve got a nice variety of burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, and the like. The menu itself isn’t special, but what they try and do is try to make as much of the food themselves. This mean hand-forming burger patties. Breading onion rings on-site by hand. Hand-slicing fries from whole potatoes. Making their own sauces. There’s not really a lot of unexpected items on the menu, but what they do, they do well, and I respect that. Any idiot can make up some sort of new “special sauce”, but to get just a basic burger done exactly right requires some skill, some patience, and some good ingredients.

Along those lines, I ended up ordering a bacon cheeseburger with a side of garlic fries. Let’s start with the burger. This is a classic example of a basic burger done well. They took some quality meat and formed it into a nice patty, and cooked it with a nice sear without overcooking the interior. Add some cheddar cheese, some decent bacon, some lettuce, and fresh tomato.

This wasn’t a fancy burger with any weird special sauces and novelty ingredients, just a basic burger made with some care and attention, and the result is one of the better burgers of the Phoenix area (it won’t supplant my love of the Chuck Box, but it’s no slouch). The garlic fries weren’t bad either, nice crisp and tender fries topped with some olive oil, fresh garlic, and cheese, and these were a most pleasant side dish.

My coworker Jed was also delighted to find out that Joe’s had Sonoran-style hot dogs: Hot dogs wrapped in bacon and fried, served up with beans, salsa, and sour cream. It’s a fairly unique style to the Southwest, but I always love them, and so did Jed.

Overall, all of us were nicely pleased by this trip to Joe’s Farm Grill. It’s an interesting spot, with good food nicely prepared, with a very pleasant outdoor dining area. It’s definitely one of Gilbert’s gems.

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