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Fate Brewing Company (Tempe, AZ)

As my regular readers know, for the last few years one of our major hobbies here at Offbeat Eats has been backpacking, usually with Fitpacking (review here), with us doing periodic 50 mile hikes through various wilderness areas. This year’s first Fitpacking trip back in March took me back to an old favorite, the Superstition Wilderness Area (you can see a nice photo album over on Flickr) for 50 miles of hiking through some of my favorite canyons. As you could read over on the Fitpacking review, the food on Fitpacking is actually quite good, but I’d be kidding you if said that you don’t have the occasional cravings, and at some point on Day 4 of our hike, someone brought up “Cheeseburgers” as a topic, and I immediately found myself craving a specific item: a green chile cheeseburger (and, once the topic of “green chile” came up, I also found myself craving a green chile beer as well to go with it). While the southern Superstitions are generally no place to score a cheeseburger (although they’ve got a decent chile cheesburger up at Tortilla Flat if you’re by Canyon Lake), I knew just the place we needed to go when we got back into town. It was Fate. Fate Brewing Company, to be specific.

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Golden Gate Chinese Restaurant (Mesa, AZ)

We’ve talked more than a little about “Pizza Cognition Theory” here at Offbeat Eats: the theory that the first pizza you are exposed to sets your expectations and preferences for pizza, and it’s something I definitely believe in. But it also applies to other cuisines, in particular, Americanized Chinese food. As I discussed a fair bit in some other reviews, like Rhode Island’s House of Wu, Chinese food’s more than a century-long experience in America morphed it into it’s own sort of cuisine; it’s definitely not “authentic” Chinese anymore, but it’s got it’s own particular culinary multicultural heritage, and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it in its own right. And when it comes to Americanize Chinese cuisine, Cognitition theory comes into play here as well, since the general flavor and textural profiles I expect if I’m going out for generic “Chinese” food is mostly sculpted by the spot where I got most of my Chinese food as a child, Golden Gate Chinese Restaurant in Mesa, AZ.

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Tacos Chiwas (Mesa, AZ)

About halfway through my visit to the family in Arizona, my parents noted that almost every food outing my brother and I did was Mexican food (the one notable exception was the obligatory trip for chicken shwarma at Haji Baba). This wasn’t by accident; of the many, many global cuisines that one can easily get in London, Mexican food is distinctly not well-represented, so Dan is pretty much always craving Mexican and Mexican-adjacent food on his trips to the United States. And, while the situation is distinctly less dire, while New England doesn’t suffer as badly as “Old England” does, you’ve still got to go our of your way to find good, authentic Mexican food. So yes, a trip to Arizona usually involves more than few trips for breakfast burritos, usually a trip to one of the area’s old-school Mexican places (this time, we did Los Dos Molinos, which I’ve reviewed back in 2012), and a smattering of other local places. This time, we ended up meeting with our old Social Studies teacher for tacos and cocktails at Tacos Chiwas.

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Salazar Bros. Mexican Food (Tempe, AZ)

My next stop after our trip to Mount Rainier was a much-overdue trip to visit my parents in Arizona, and this trip was the first time in several years that my brother and I were able to visit at the same time. While the primary goal is just spending time helping out my parents, Arizona is also a great opportunity to experience one of my other great loves: a proper breakfast burrito. In particular, a machaca burrito, which are extremely rare in New England. While I normally go just a short drive to

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Amada’s Mexican Food (Mesa, AZ)

While it’s pretty quiet here at Offbeat Eats due to us being in month 8 of the general pandemic shutdown, I’ve still had the occasional travel. In this case, I had to take a trip to visit my parents in Arizona and help take care of some issues around the house. A long tradition of mine when I’m visiting my parents is to indulge in something that’s pretty rare around VT and NH: a really good breakfast burrito. Well, the Phoenix metro area has, seriously, probably a thousand places where one can get a good breakfast burrito, and during these Covid pandemic times, getting some takeout burritos is still a viable strategy. Most trips, I would head over to Amado’s Mexican Food about a half mile away and get a righteous machaca and chorizo breakfast burrito. I just ran into a small glitch this time: Amado‘s Mexican Food isn’t there any more. It’s now, after a sale to a new owner (one of Amado’s co-owners took full ownership), in a triumph of sign updating minimalism, now known as Amada‘s Mexican Food.

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Barrio Cafe (Phoenix Airport)

If there’s one place in Phoenix that friends are consistently telling me I should visit, it’s Barrio Cafe. Opened back in 2002, Barrio showcases the work of chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, who has gotten quite a following for doing upscale Mexican-American cuisine. Well, I still haven’t made it to Barrio, but I have made it to a close cousin: there’s an offshoot of Barrio Cafe in Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A combination of weather and equipment issues had me with first a very-delayed, and then a canceled, flight, so I had more than a few hours to wander over to Barrio Cafe in Concourse D (the newest one at PHX, which has substantially more space dedicated to food than the other concourses), so I sit back and had a nice dinner at Barrio Cafe, Airport Edition.

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FnB (Scottsdale, AZ)

On my second night in Arizona, I met up with my old friend Allyson. She wanted to try out a place in Scottsdale recommended by her friends, FnB. Opening back in 2009, FnB has gotten quite a bit of press in recent years, up to and including the head chef Charleen Badman winning the 2019 James Beard award for Best Chef of the Southwest. FnB is primarily known for doing farm-to-table cuisine with local ingredients (including the wine list; FnB has quite the list of Arizona winemakers in their cellar), serving up gastropub food in a modest restaurant space located off of Craftsman Court in Old Town Scottsdale.

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Health Check: Haji Baba Middle Eastern Market (Tempe, AZ)

Despite doing most of my growing up in Arizona, once I graduated from high school I pretty much immediately moved across the country for school, and haven’t lived there in almost 30 years. However, I still have a small stable of favorite restaurants from my years living there that I like to revisit on occasion. Many of those places I used to love are now gone (like Apache Junction’s The Mining Camp, which closed after a fire back in 2015), or some of even sadly morphed into poorer versions of themselves, but there’s a good number of places like The Chuck Box that manage to soldier on, even as the neighborhood around them changes (the Box, for example, is now dwarfed by high rise buildings built by ASU). Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. With that in mind, when I was passing through town on a recent business trip, meeting up with my friend Karla for another trip to Haji Baba was in order.

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Beaver Choice (Mesa, AZ)

(Closed) 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

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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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