Arizona food and fun: 2013

Coming out here for Spring Training – for both you and me – is about seeing baseball and the makings of what might be in 2013. But games and workouts only take up only a fraction of the day and we all need something to do while in Arizona.

Why not eat?

I’ve always liked to dine out and while I don’t have a dynamic palate, I appreciate good food and value. For the past two springs, I’ve tried to identify both as a guide for places to go during trips out here. I try to avoid chain restaurants, or at least the chains that can be found in Cincinnati.

This year has presented a new challenge for me. For a couple of months now, I’ve been trying to eat healthier and monitor my calories. Most of the selections below are contrary to that goal. Fortunately, I’ve increased exercising that burns calories and allows me to treat myself on occasion.

Hope you find this helpful.

Culinary Dropout – Scottsdale: This is one of my favorite restaurants in the country – not just greater Phoenix. It offers comfort food with a twist or two and fresh ingredients. My favorite dish is the fried chicken and mashed potatoes (I rarely eat fried chicken), but I’ve also had the meatloaf and beef stroganoff and left happy. The place has a hipster feel to it but anyone is welcomed and there is even a kids menu. It’s not an easy place to get a table though and it can be a little pricey.

**UPDATE: Culinary Dropout just opened its second location north of downtown Phoenix. It’s even better than the original, complete with an outdoor garden that has fire pits, ping pong tables, corn hole and more.

Dillon’s BBQ, Peoria: Located 15-20 minutes from Goodyear, it’s as good as it gets for Kansas City barbeque when not actually in Kansas City. They offer giant plates with several varieties of meats, sauces and side dishes. You won’t leave hungry.

Raul and Theresa’s: One of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to it now has two locations in Greater Goodyear — both are about 10 minutes from the complex. The prices are very reasonable and it’s pretty authentic.

In-N-Out Burger: A tradition like no other on the West Coast. It’s all about fresh burgers and fries, nothing else. Google for the web site’s secret menu and you make things more interesting, aka “animal style.”

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.

Taste of Italy: A one-minute drive from the Reds’ complex, they do pizza by the slice and it’s also good. And cheap. Two slices and a soda for $5.

Majerle’s Sports Grill: There are a few locations including one in Goodyear. The food is solid but the number of flat screens make it a top sports bar, especially when the NCAA Tournament gets going.

Grimaldi’s: Thin crust “gourmet” pizza made in a coal fired oven. It’s a chain but doesn’t feel like it. There are locations in Glendale and Scottsdale.

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.

Yard House, Westgate: There are about 150 taps with nearly every beer imaginable. The food menu is wide ranging. Since there will soon be a location opening near Great American Ball Park, you can get an early preview at the one in Glendale’s entertainment complex.

Saddle Ranch Chop House: Also located in Westgate and Scottsdale, the food is not the main attraction. Instead, it is their mechanical bull which rarely shows mercy to those brave enough to give it a go. I’ve seen a few people last but many times, I’ve seen things I wish I could unsee.

Don and Charlie’s, Scottsdale: Another place where in all honesty, the quality of food isn’t the main attraction. At this iconic place, it’s all about the sports, namely baseball, memorabilia. It’s also a place where you could see players, coaches, broadcasters and writers mingle and eat. You’ll definitely need a reservation.

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’ve been to the one on 42nd Ave and Indian School Rd.

Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert: This one is a major hike and I do not recommend going during rush hour. It’s completely on the other side of the valley. 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, onion rings and more. It’s located adjacent to a working farm and you can walk around the fields to work off what you ate.

piestewaOK – now that you’ve eaten. Here are some other recreational activities in the area:

Piestewa Peak: Also known as Squaw Peak, it’s the area’s second highest mountain peak in the area behind Camelback Mountain. It’s a little shorter and less steep of a climb than Camelback as well. But the views are still very stunning, especially on a clear day.

Camelback Mountain: Unfortunately, the main summit trail and parking area are now closed through the fall because of a renovation project. This will have to wait until next year.

Phoenix Zoo: I’ve taken my family here each of the last two years and it’s been a hit. There’s a cool wide open area called the Sanctuary where the animals are roaming, and you can feed the giraffes. Overall, there is plenty to see and occupy you during a morning or afternoon.

Westgate — Glendale: It’s a lot like Newport on the Levee, with several of restaurants and bars like the two mentioned above. The Jobing.com Arena is also on site for big-time concerts and Phoenix Coyotes NHL games. The parking is free, even for the hockey games. The Arizona Cardinals football stadium is adjacent and hosts various events this time of year. A new outlet mall also opened at the complex this year and has several top-end shops like Nike, Puma, Banana Republic, Gap, Izod, Under Armour and more.

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.

sedonaSedona: 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. Last year, we did an off-road jeep tour that offered absolutely breathtaking views like the one pictured.

And, if you can’t see the Reds in Goodyear for whatever reason, you can catch them on the road in places like Glendale, Surprise, Tempe or Scottsdale. Most the opponent complexes are 10-20 minutes from Goodyear and none are more than 45 minutes away. Keep in mind though the Reds usually take batting practice in Goodyear and bus to the road games to arrive not long before first pitch.

10 Comments

Matt’s Big Breakfast – near downtown Phoenix, but by the expressway. Best breakfast place I’ve ever found. Eggs, meat and potato kind of place. Small menu, small seating area. Must go.

Thanks! Someone told me to go there the other day but I haven’t been yet. It’s hard since I have to be at the complex by 7:45 most mornings.

Oh Mark, No excuses on missing out on a breakfest joint that sounds like Steve describes. I live about 45 minutes outside Chicago and once in a while I’ll make the drive to the city to some of my favorite breakfest spots. If you guys are ever in Chicago, I have a ton of restaurant tips for you, just ask. I’ll start with the best Italian restaurant I’ve ever been to. It’s called Volare and if your ever in town, it’s a must! Great date spot!

Next time I’m in Phoenix, I’m going here! LOL

Nice article. ‘Someone’ also told you about culinary dropout (:

Pizzeria Bianco is the bomb! I was there a couple years ago and fell in love.

Mark – Thanks for posting some travel tips. However, BP would be very disappointed that you left Lola’s Chicken & Waffles in Scottsdale off the list!

Just an fyi that Matt’s moved to a larger location a block away from where it was last spring. I’m pretty sure they used to serve a “Cincinnati chili” too, but it looks like it is now “midwest style chili” in a bowl with no pasta.

2 more unique affordable spots if you head to Phoenix/Scottsdale:
– Oregano’s is an AZ only chain serving Italian/Chicago style pizza and the “original pizza cookie” in a kitschy atmosphere with about 8 locations around Phoenix
– Chino Bandido has 2 locations (1 in Scottsdale) serving very casual Americanized Asian/Mexican fusion and was also featured on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives,

Thanks — I had Oregano’s on the list last two years but took it off. I liked the restaurant but found better pizza.

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