Good eats in and around Goodyear
I’m no tourism expert and I don’t have the same free time the average snowbird might have when they choose to visit their favorite team’s camp. But for my money (correction, MLB.com’s money that underwrites my journey), the best Spring Training destination is Arizona. No question.
Arizona has its collection of 15 teams closer together with trips between sites that are no more than 45 minutes. A majority of the road trips are 15-30 minutes. The Reds take batting practice at their own place and can hop on a bus and be ready to go at 1:05.
The weather is consistently better here than in Florida. While it starts out chilly, the days are usually dry, sunny and pleasant. Obviously, there is no beach here and that is the one thing I miss from the Sarasota/Siesta Key days on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Goodyear Ballpark is a very pleasant place to watch a game, but there certainly needs to be some development around the facility to make it more attractive for visitors.
I certainly know the economy, airline tickets and gasoline prices make coming out here tough for most families. But if you’re able to make a trip this year, or whenever, I have a few suggestions about where to eat, drink and be merry. Many of the items are back from the first annual version of the list last year but there are some new ones.
It’s not hard to get around out here and the roads are easy to figure out…but you definitely will need a car to get around greater Phoenix.
Culinary Dropout – Scottsdale: I didn’t eat here during Spring Training last year but it was highly recommended. I got to try it in April during the Reds’ road trip out here. It was extraordinary. I rarely eat fried chicken but since I was told it was the way to go — I ordered it and it was the best fried chicken I ever ate (came with mashed potatoes and a biscuit). The menu has a nice culinary twist on some basic comfort foods and the ambiance is great. There was an acoustic band playing on the small stage there as well. Not an easy place to get a table though and it can be a little pricey.
Raul and Theresa’s: One of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to and it’s not a chain, but they have opened a second location since last spring. Both are about 10 minutes from Goodyear Ballpark. The prices are very reasonable too.
In-N-Out Burger: A west coast hamburger mecca with multiple locations. It’s basically only burgers — no chicken nuggets, fish filets etc. However, they do have a secret menu you can likely find online. Things like animal style fries, and grilled cheese can be ordered.
NYPD Pizza: Many places pay lip service to the notion of being New York style. Most places outside of New York get it wrong. Not this one. This is thin crust and legitimate New York style pizza.
Rokerij, Phoenix: A very nice, but not kid friendly, restaurant. It is a great “date night” kind of place but be prepared for a wait. It’s a unique combination of Dutch-Southwestern smokehouse food. It’s sister restaurant, Richardson’s, that burned down a few years ago has re-opened next door I’ve heard.
Don and Charlies, Scottsdale: An iconic local eatery that will remind Cincinnatians of Montgomery Inn. It has tons of sports memorabilia (mostly from Chicago) and specialize in steaks and ribs. The food isn’t the greatest quite honestly and I discourage you greatly from ordering the Ned Colleti chicken schnitzel. He should sue to have his name removed from that item in fact. You’ll definitely need a reservation for this place because the waits are long.
Frasher’s, Scottsdale: another steak place but it’s main thing is St. Louis style meals and pizza.
Majerle’s Sports Grill: There are a few locations including one in Goodyear. It is my favorite sports bar around here. It has good food and it’s a great spot during NCAA Tournament time.
Oregano’s — multiple locations: They do thin crust pizza and thick crust Chicago-style pizza. It’s pretty good and they have sizeable hoagies. Their meatball sandwich could last one a couple of days. I’ve only been to the Old Scottdale location, which I read is moving down the street to an old farm house.
Pizzeria Bianco, downtown Phoenix: I got to try this with some other writers during the All-Star game. It’s very strong with wood-fired individual pizzas. Caution — the place is tiny and it can be hard to get a table. They do have service at the bar.
The Tee Pee — two locations: Very good Mexican food and funky atmosphere with kitschy items spread around. There is one in downtown Phoenix but I went to the one on 42nd Ave and Indian School Rd.
Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert: This one is a major hike but if you like seeing places featured on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives, you might think it’s worth the trip. It’s super kid friendly and has good burgers, fries, chicken fingers, shakes, etc. It’s in a neat old-school looking building and part of a working farm with fresh ingredients. It will take a good hour-plus to get there from Goodyear though. Make sure you get the onion rings.
Senor Taco: down the road from Goodyear Ballpark and they have very large burritos. It’s quasi fast food though, unlike Raul and Theresa’s.
Pei Wei, multiple locations: Same food and owners as PF Chang’s but you order at the counter and they bring it out.
Taste of Italy: A one-minute drive from the Reds’ complex, they do pizza by the slice and it’s good. And cheap. Two slices and a soda for $5.
Corleone’s, Tempe: Right off campus from Arizona State University…they know how to do a decent cheesesteak. It’s fast food though, but cheap.
America’s Taco Shop, three locations: I went to the one near Chase Field with my friend and colleague, Jesse Sanchez, last season. Great carne asada tacos and a neat little restaurant. The owner’s name is America, it’s not proclamaming itself as the country’s official taco place.
Yogurtland, multiple locations: Great dessert spot with about 15-20 different yogurt flavors. It’s all self-serve and there’s around 30 toppings to choose from. You do it all yourself and pay according to the weight of your cup on the scale.
From Nick, the Reds’ Goodyear intern that hails from here…a couple of added suggestions:
Dillon’s BBQ, Peoria: This one is about 15-20 minutes from Goodyear. It’s on my list to try in the coming days. From what I hear from someone else, it’s very good.
Bison Witches Bar & Deli, Tempe, — A small neighborhood hangout that features gourmet deli sandwiches, bread bowl soups, salads, appetizers, and a full service bar with tableside service.
You will notice that I did not include seafood or sushi type places. I’m sure there are good ones, but I absolutely hate seafood so I can be of no help. Sorry…
Some things to do in the area:
Camelback Mountain: I tried this hike in 2010 and only made it about three-quarters of the way. The views are stunning, even if you don’t reach the top.
Piestewa Peak: It’s the area’s second highest mountain peak in the area behind Camelback. It’s a little shorter and less steep of a climb than Camelback as well. Last year I did reach the top and it was great view of the valley.
Phoenix Zoo: I’ve took my family there last year we all came away quite impressed. The animals were perky and actually do more than lay around. There’s a cool wide open area called the Sanctuary where you see a bunch of animals roaming and you can feed the giraffes. It’s right near the Papago Park area where the A’s spring ballpark is located.
Westgate — Glendale: It’s like Newport on the Levee, times 100. Lots of restaurants and bars and the Jobing.com Arena is also on site for Phoenix Coyotes NHL games and concerts. Free parking, even for the hockey games. The Arizona Cardinals football stadium is next door and you’ll see it from miles away.
Estrella Mountain Regional Park — Goodyear: Only about 10 minutes from the complex. They have good playsets for the kids but also a bunch of hiking trails. It’s a pretty remote place and definitely desert terrain.
Goodyear Community Park: Also a good kids spot to let them run around and play.
Sedona: It’s two hours away but certainly worth the drive. Don’t forget to bring a camera. The mountain peak views and red rocks are simply spectacular. The town itself is a little touristy for me but the surroundings are a living postcard.
The Grand Canyon: It’s a four-hour drive from here. I’ve never been but it’s on my bucket list. From what I hear and saw in the 1991 movie “Grand Canyon,” it should be on everyone’s bucket list.
And of course, there is baseball and lots of it. If you can’t see the Reds in Goodyear for some reason, there are plenty of ways to see them at the other ballparks. Be sure to check the schedule.