We went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving and the big holiday meal was the least exciting of the entire trip. So, what follows are some places you should try if you go to the Valley of the Sun.
1. Los Compadres. The one on 7th. This is where Archie and his family ate every week when he was growing up. It's in a little house and it's kind of dive-y and lacks atmosphere. But, the food is to die for. When we lived downtown, I would stop off and get takeout at least once a week. Right before we moved to California, a snowbird crashed into the building while coming off the curve. The fire department showed up and decided they needed to close down the restaurant since there was a car which had crashed through the front. The fire chief showed up and said, "No way. Put up a tarp! We can't have Los closed down -- where would we all eat?" If it's an essential for the fire department, you know it's good.
2. Casa Reynoso. This is in Tempe, in a strip mall and it's perfection. They cook with lard. So run! Run in and have pan-fried tacos and burritos and experience the divine refried beans. If you love the hot, ask them to bring you the family hot sauce from the back. I do not have the heat-tuned palate, but my husband does and he always sighs when he eats the hot sauce. My children recommend the fried ice cream. I recommend the strong margaritas. And the delicious cheese crisps. Did I mention the lard? Mmmm.
3. Matt's Big Breakfast. We saw this place on a Food Network show a few months ago and decided we had to eat there. It's downtown. Try to hit the sweet spot of a late morning meal or you will be waiting for ages. We had a party of six, but we got there around 10am and only had to wait about 20 minutes. The people who were seated before us said they had been there for three hours! I don't know that I would recommend it for a three hour wait, but it was a good, hearty breakfast -- good coffee, fresh-squeezed juice, chocolate milk where they'd just squirted in the chocolate and had a spoon to stir it up. (The girls loved that. They also loved that it was whole milk since we drink 1% at home.) I had the pancakes which were wonderfully fluffy and huge -- Cha and I shared an order. And the bacon was thick-cut and peppery. Filling and tasty.
4. Lolo's. Also downtown; soul food. Chicken and waffles. Fried catfish. Sides of macaroni and cheese and grits (which came with a stick of butter melting on top). I knew I was going to love this place when my husband said, "I'll have the red Kool-Aid." And then they brought the Kool-Aid in super-large Mason jars which made me say to our waitress, "Oh, my. Do they come with a complimentary catheter?" She smiled and said, "Well, since you asked, I'll bring one out. Ha! Just teasing!" The sweet tea was also wonderful and came in the same super-extra-ginormous size. We all became diabetics and then died of heart attacks, but it was totally worth it. Frankly, it's good that we don't live in Phoenix anymore because we'd want to eat there all the time.
See why the Thanksgiving meal itself was kind of a low-light?