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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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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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