Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Joe's Diner: A Little Piece of Mayberry in Melrose

Joe and Cinta

Small town, local, and making friends with customers is common where I am from, but here in Phoenix, it seems rare. Leave it to another hard working, creative, small town transplant to show Phoenix how it can still be done.

Joe’s Diner on 7th Avenue and Indian School Road exemplifies the classic diner experience. The food is standard American comfort foods and diner fare, but this where so many “home style” diners in Phoenix, end the experience. A diner is not just a title on a business. It’s not just the classic eggs and bacon breakfasts, and burger and fries lunch menu. Diner means friendly, local and home. It means coming out to greet your customers as the neighbors they are. It means supporting neighborhood farms, suppliers and other businesses.

Joe has been the prime example of the little Mayberry like town in Southern Arizona that he was raised in. Bringing the small town attitude is no easy task in a big city, but Joe was willing to take on the task. With jams and jellies, croissants, and biscuits made in house, and nearly everything else including; the eggs, sausage, and vegetables locally collected, this diner means the business for living local. Built on love, respect, and with his own sweat and blood, the diner itself is a labor of love. From the dividing walls of each booth, to the paint on  the walls, Joe and his family had their hands in making this dream a reality.

So, where did it all start really? After nearly 25 years as a professional chef, Joe knows food. Even when camping, Joe couldn’t keep out of the kitchen. Spending time to make some of his favorite dishes during vacations with his wife and young children, Joe puts to shame those of us who are content with an unevenly charred hot dog or burger. Inviting another family along on one excursion lit the fire for a new adventure in his cooking career. So in awe of the feasts laid by Joe, his friend’s praise spread to several more families. It wasn’t long before Joe was catering for the entire campsite and reviews of his food made it clear.

Requests for Joe to open a restaurant would not be silenced. And the rest is hometown history.

Joe’s Diner
4515 N. 7th Ave.
Phoenix, 85013
(602) 535-4999
Monday - Sunday 7:00 am - 3:00 pm

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lalibela and Happy Birthday Frank!

Happy Birthday Frank (Cyrus/ Slash)! 

Max and I took one of our DREAD Pirate friends out to a very special dinner this week. Lalibela is one of the top Ethiopian restaurants in Tempe, Arizona. Ethiopian food is interesting and rather fun to eat in a group. I recommend ordering the variety plate on your first visit. This will let you try a spectrum of foods and flavors, and there is a wide spectrum indeed! From the very bland to the super spicy, vegetarian to differing meats, there is certain to be something even the finicky eater will enjoy.

One warning, this is not utensil friendly venue. The curry-like, dollops of each fare might be lifted with a small spoon but in place of such a Western mode of consumption diners are offered a basket of pancake-esque bread. Tearing off a square of pancake and pinching a bit of food is the way it is done here at Lalibela. 

Café Lalibela
849 West University Drive
Tempe, Arizona
(480) 829-1939

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pirates, Trolls and Books at Lo-Fi Cafe, Mesa

This outing really did become an adventure! On Sunday mornings Brick Cave Books hosts a local authors book browse at downtown Mesa’s Lo-Fi Café. Max and I were not just there to browse however, we were part of the action! I will get to that after the thrill of the pastry!

Lo-Fi is very much the trendy coffee shop of the new millennia, with everything from hot and cool Chai Lattes to the hi-tech brewing methods for some very earthy teas, there is something for anyone. Oh and the pastries, of course! They are to die for of course, and vegans need not feel left out. Try the vegan chocolate chip scones!

So, what about the books? Lo-Fi Café caters to pirates, fairies, rogues, and trolls as well as the casual hipster and hometown coffee seeker. Stop by on a Sunday morning to be a part of the story, or any day to make your own. 

Lo-Fi Café
105 West Main Street
Mesa, Arizona
(602) 769-3689

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thai Hut/ Sambo's

Thai one on! 

Okay, that was completely uncalled for, I know it. Thai Hut in downtown Phoenix is a really great place though! I am always more of a fan than Max of Asian and exotic foods, but he didn’t seem to mind this venue. Tons of food, great potstickers, and oodles of noodles can make anyone happy. I loved the décor as well, and really wanted to take home some of the metal lotus blossoms.
Don’t let the rather plain website fool you. What Thai Hut lacks in web presence they make up for in kitchen skills and great service. The food was out super fast! Be warned: if you like spicy food you are in for a treat but there are limits and the spice pots offered here are at that limit! So good! So hot!
An interesting tidbit about the history of this location; according to Max the building used to house a venue called Sambo’s. If anyone is familiar with this place it would be great to hear your stories.

Thai Hut
101 East McDowell Road
Phoenix, Arizona

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Great lunch! Great sandwiches! Strange atmosphere for local musicians.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop isn’t really a local venue but it is very tasty and they do cater to the local entertainment community. During lunch rush is really not the best time to experience the full flavor of this location but at least they are fast and friendly and the food is well made and reasonably priced.
We couldn’t hear the musician in the corner of the store because it was so loud. I really felt bad for the guy because I am sure he was doing a great job, but people are just too hustle and bustle during the week. We will try to get back to this venue on a weekend or later evening to try the entertainment ambiance again.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop
534 West McDowell Road
Phoenix, Arizona

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bill Johnson's Big Apple

I have been severely slacking off on these postings and there are just too many great local places to let that continue. So, this week Max and I adventured to the original Bill Johnson’s Big Apple in Phoenix.
I have to say my initial reaction to the BBQ eatery with the larger than life diorama looming from the second story was not exactly open to walking in. The giant, long horned cow painted on the double doors didn’t help really. Once I accepted that this was an incredibly cheesy western style venue complete with gingham clad staff I eased up and allowed myself to enjoy the quaint cuteness of the place. 

Bill Johnson, a radio star in Arizona, once broadcast his shows from the now afore mentioned cowboy diorama. There is some rather interesting information on Bill and even a few of his show recordings can be found on the restaurant website.

So, beyond the kitschy western theme this place was pretty good. The staff was sweet and attentive without being totally pushy for a tip. The food was classic American fare and well done. Even picky eater, Max was happy with the Spanish Omelet and noted how perfect the bacon was. I will be eating French Toast for days and that is a great thing!

Bill Johnson’s Big Apple
3101 West Indian School Road, Phoenix