Know where to find the East Valley’s best pizza? Have a favorite place for Happy Hour? See your picks below.
Similar to the mystery of the Lost Dutchman legend itself, a well-kept secret nestled at the foot of the Superstition Mountains has received the nod for the best dining deal in the East Valley.
And it’s worth its weight in the gold believed to be hidden in those hills.
The Mining Camp Restaurant and Trading Post provides regular diners and even those just passing through a smokin’ deal: All-you-can-eat baked chicken, barbecued ribs, honey-baked ham, cole slaw, baked beans and stuffing with homemade bread accompanied by pitchers of lemonade, tea and coffee to wash it all down with as well as a live cowboy band you can tap your foot to.
The cost? $16 — and it’s delicious.
But the meal is not complete until you get the famous Mining Camp cookies for desert.
If you’re wondering if this is a new place, it’s not. This rustic dining getaway has been there for 51 years. The Mining Camp’s owner, Vinton Fugate, has been there for 50 of them.
The restaurant, which provides other meals, is open Nov. 1 through June 30 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays and holidays.
So, Best of East Valley says head on over there, loosen up your belt and try it out. Reservations are required for the all-you-can-eat meal.
6100 E. Mining Camp St. (off Route 88), Apache Junction
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The egg may be the thing — of course — with no fewer than 21 egg-centric specialties on this Mesa staple’s vast breakfast menu. But it’s the unique way the Coker family, founders and owners since 1985, approach the rest of its menu — such as warm, fresh English-style “streetcake” muffins and French-inspired “English” toast, made with custard-dipped cinnamon bread — that makes this egg tough to beat.
1660 S. Alma School Road, Mesa
“Portions are generous, food is fresh and phenomenal!”
“Unique breakfast choices, great ambiance.”
Nutella-drizzled deep-fried bacon. Sold. But seriously, as if the Bacon Fritters — Super Farm Super Truck’s side-dish-o’-the-century — weren’t enough, the only thing better than a fresh, hot, custom lunch for under $7, is when it rolls right to you. Food trucks have become all the rage of late, and this Superstition Farm must-eat-on-wheels is a winner too, with sandwiches, salads, custom burgers and veggie options.
all over (it’s a truck, people!) (homebase: Superstition Farm, 3440 S. Hawes Road, Mesa)
“The entire family eats for under $25.”
“Local farm fresh ingredients.”
An ambiance like few others could be the lone reason to celebrate at this area staple. But it’s not. The contemporary American menu stays fresh with the seasons, and twice it’s been honored with Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence.” But, then again, there’s something adept about taking a pair of connected downtown Tempe bungalows and livening them up with fountains and ponds, foliage and candlelight that translates into the ultimate outdoor dining set.
114 E. 7th St., Tempe
“Unique experience with daily menu (changes), and ask for a wine pairing.”
“Wonderful food and their outdoor dining can’t be beat.”
A favorite of locals and Valley visitors alike, this one takes its name to heart. Officially called “The Seafood Market and Restaurant,” it’s treated the East Valley since 1989 to more than 10 varieties of market-fresh fish to take home, along with an extensive menu of seafood staples to dine on in-house. The fish is never frozen and the chowder continues to impress.
3406 E. Baseline Road, Mesa
“The best New England clam chowder and cold, crisp green garden salad.”
Self-proclaimed as America’s No. 1 buffet and grill, East Valley voters agreed for the second year in a row. A good fit for families or groups with varying flavor palates, choose from no fewer than 85 everyday items — including soups, salads, seafood, grilled entrees and more — in addition to plenty of everyday specialty items and tons of desserts. Take it from us: You won’t go home hungry.
1318 N. Cooper Road, Gilbert; 1868 N. Power Road, Mesa
(480) 507-3331 (Gilbert); (480) 985-6793 (Mesa)
“All you can eat steak or seafood.”
“Selection, price, and great breakfast.”
First conceptualized as a part of a business school project, loyal followers of this haunt’s tradition-rich Indian cuisine named it the best for the second year in a row. A quaint setting with an extensive menu including Dhaba Chicken Curry, Lamb Boti Kabob, Sikandri Jhinga Saag (fresh spinach cooked with shrimp). A ‘The Dhaba’ book of recipes is also in the works to enjoy your Punjab favorites at home.
1872 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe
“legitimate Indian food. Coming from New York City, this was an absolute gem to find!”
“Best Indian food anywhere in the Valley!”
“You just have to try it to understand.” That’s how one voter explained Joe’s Real BBQ last year, when the downtown Gilbert staple took the top prize in this same category. That voter isn’t alone. Pecan-wood smoked meats, homestyle side dishes, house-made root beer and killer catering options make this older sibling to the acclaimed Joe’s Farm Grill a favorite yesterday, today and tomorrow.
301 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
“Pecan smoked meats... need I say more?”
“Great food, and the pickup window is on the outside.”
We double-dog dare you: Just try to find a seat at Blue 32 Sports Grill that doesn’t have a clear view of, like, a dozen HD sets showcasing every sporting event known to man. And with Tempe-based Four Peaks brews on tap, come on down for the sports programming, but stay for the menu. Specialties include Black and Blue 32 Burger, Philly Cheesesteak, deep-fried Monte Cristo (wowza), or a house cut Angus Ribeye.
1524 E. Williams Field Road, Gilbert
“Tons of TVs and good food.”
“Excellent food, price and service.”
Dubbed the official “tastery” of Mesa dairy Superstition Farm, this shop serves ice cream made in small batches with few ingredients and a wide variety of flavors, from plain ol’ vanilla and chocolate to birthday cake, sweet potato, blue berry MOOfin and avocado. Using dairy products from the Mesa herd, they also do ice cream cakes, cupcakes, brownies and savory handmade cheeses and butters.
3440 S. Hawes Road, Mesa
“Fresh and local. Handchurned and unique flavors.”
“It’s the real deal!”
Pizza is still king, but today’s great pizzerias are much more than just a good round disc. Diners consistently rave about the massive wings and carnival-esque fried desserts (Twinkies, Oreos and more) at this still new Gilbert spot, in addition to creative pies like the Ma’Halo — with barbecued pork, pineapple, cilantro. But it’s the atmosphere that may top the list here. Area teens are welcome to perform their own music (Thursday is open mic night), catch the game, or just hang out in this safe, family-friendly spot operated by an area non-profit devoted to at-risk teens.
894 E. Warner Road, Suite B-101, Gilbert
“Best pizza and wings! Great prices and they have fried TWINKIES!”
“Pizza with a purpose.”
“You get the most bang for your buck.”
A double-winner just six months into operation, this joint — created as a place for families and teens to enjoy good food and music in a wholesome environment — has drawn repeat customers hand over fist. Owners hope ULPW becomes the “Al’s Diner” (from Happy Days) of Gilbert, paying respects to Gilbert High School “legends” along the way. And at the heart: ULPW is operated as part of a local non-profit — Paradigm Ministries — with proceeds serving at-risk teenagers, local food banks and shelters.
“Amazing attitude and food... the size of the wings are insane!”
“A great concept as a non-profit.”
“Different flavors that you don’t typically find at a pizza place.”
There’s something about a Mexican restaurant taking chances beyond the typical rice and beans offering that’s exciting. Steeped in the colonial Mexico tradition of owner/chef Dennis Sirrine’s grandmother — Sirrine picked up Rosa’s recipes during family visits and trips down the Baja coast — this two-location favorite ventures from eat-all-day street fare to 30-plus ingredient chicken mole. A take-out taqueria is on-site at the Mesa location as well.
3129 E. McKellips Road, Mesa; 891 N. Higley Road, Gilbert
(480) 659-8787 (Mesa); (480) 659-8790 (Mesa Taqueria); (480) 396-8787 (Gilbert)
“Food is always great, good variety; separate site for quick/carry-outs.”
“Great atmosphere. Large portions and the best carne asada in Arizona.”
A repeat winner, the Arizona-based family of restaurants had spots in Mesa and downtown Tempe when it won last year. But with two new EV stores opened in 2011, south Chandler and south Tempe residents are also enjoying such favorites as the all-you-can-scarf Bollo Pasta (“Bowl ‘O Pasta”), square-cut thin pizza, or the Original Pizza Cookie (a hot, pizza-pan baked cookie with vanilla bean ice cream on top).
5 East Valley locations (Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler, two in Tempe)
(480) 962-0036 (Mesa location)
“Consistently great, time after time — and the wait staff is the best anywhere!”
“Excellent pasta dishes and sauces priced right...”
This sushi, sake, and happy hour favorite might have greater than 25 locations (in nine states and three time zones), but the origins of this second-time “best sushi” winner date back 15 years to nearby Scottsdale. Sushi “must haves” include the Viva Las Vegas Roll or “Ra”llipop, but the happy hour and reverse happy hour specialties (more than 15 sushi items between $3 and $7) are a can’t-lose.
1652 S. Val Vista Drive, Mesa; 411 S. Mill Ave., Tempe; 4921 E. Ray Road, Ahwatukee Foothills
(480) 632-9500 (Mesa); (480) 303-9800 (Tempe); (480) 940-1111 (Ahwatukee)
“Bargain sushi and alcohol during happy hour! Must try the Vegas Roll!”
“Fresh sushi, creative flavors.”
Those in charge at this unique Chandler gathering spot have proven good at least two things: making great coffee and loose leaf tea, and coming up with clever — but impactful — marketing angles. “Coffee with a cause” and “Drinking coffee never felt so good” are just two of the catchphrases that fittingly describe this new spot. In addition to hosting community meetings, open mic nights, and live music weekends, money from every purchase is set aside and donated to a local or international cause or organization. “Beyond fair trade.” Yep, they said that too.
1982 N. Alma School Road, Chandler
“Awesome coffee, live music, and they give back to the community.”
“Kids room for parents, amazing drinks.”
“Iced toddy, Turkish coffee and fresh pour over... ‘nuf said!”
An unconventional choice, but you voters may be on to something. Many of the “local” restaurants in this dine-in or delivery family of restaurants — chartered by Chandler’s own Barro family — often take on the “vibe” of their own community, and thus the state. Case in point: All of Arizona cheered as Chandler National Little League reached the Little League World Series twice in recent years. Barro’s south Chandler location, as one example, has served as the de facto museum, housing trophies, photos, jerseys and more in honor of those local youths. And with pizza, televisions and arcade games, it’s a no-brainer for families.
12 East Valley Locations (two in Chandler, two in Gilbert, five in Mesa, one in Queen Creek, two in Tempe — plus another nearby in Ahwatukee Foothills)
“Been here as long as I remember... gives back to the community!”
“Casual atmosphere; kids love the pizza and games.”
“Big tables offer lots of room for the whole family.”
The top-end steakhouse has taken off in recent years across the Valley, but many are primed to feature high-priced a la carte cuts with a stuffy atmosphere. Not so at The Keg. While priced for a special night out, this Canadian import’s flavorful “classic dinner” choices include salads and vegetables alongside aged, well-marbled cuts of beef in a comfortable but lively setting. Plenty of seafood, chicken, and upscale sandwich options also line this back-to-back winner’s balanced menu.
3065 W. Chandler Blvd., Chandler; 2240 East Williams Field Road, Gilbert; 23 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe
(480) 899-7500 (Chandler); (480) 821-1500 (Gilbert); (480) 557-5552 (Tempe)
“Love the atmosphere.”
“Great happy hour, good food... reasonable prices.”
Some advice: If planning a first trek at lunchtime, head online and take a gander at the menu first. The sandwiches, salads and other items at this repeat “Best Of” winner are so expansive — and chances are you’re hardly the only one who knew Jason’s would be a good choice — it’s best to have some idea of what to order. Don’t worry: The line moves fast, and dessert is covered, too (free soft serve)!
3491 Frye Road, Chandler; 7230 W. Ray Road, Chandler; 1065 E. Baseline Road, Suite 101, Gilbert
Phone: (480) 812-2892 (Frye Road), (480) 705-9266 (Ray Road), (480) 813-1358 (Gilbert)
“Great prices, big selection, large portions, and catering.”
“Large variety, free ice cream, excellent pastrami.”
With 11 East Valley locations, chances are there is an Applebee’s in your neighborhood. And with an ever-evolving menu and happy hour specials, the chain is sure to keep people coming back.
“Awesome prices & service”
“Half price appetizers”
Best bar food? Calling this ASU Tempe campus-area hotspot a “bar” in the first place is an understatement, and calling the food “bar food” is blasphemy. Perfectly complementing Peaks’ eight everyday brews and host of seasonal beers, a jam-packed four-page menu — including favorites like the grilled chicken beer bread, pizza with dough made with house ale, perfectly soft fresh-baked Bavarian pretzels and more — will satisfy even the most discerning tastes.
1340 E. Eighth St., No. 104, Tempe
“Food beyond typical bar fare. Chicken enchiladas are to die for.”
“Their beer is amazing but the food could stand on its own.”
Celebrating its fifth year and located in a lively, still up-and-coming setting in historic downtown Chandler, locals and non-locals alike come for the craft brew — seven everyday varieties like the ever-popular Devil’s Ale and SunSpot Gold, to plenty of seasonal varieties — but stay for the top-notch menu. And when they do leave, growlers to go and canned craft brews (available at local grocers, too) remind them that another fun night is just around the corner.
8 S. San Marcos Place, Chandler
“Beer is great, there’s always room to sit, the service is friendly, and they have weekly movie night for customers.”
“Great beer... and the north side opens up to give you the al fresco feeling.”
For the second year in a row, D’Vine can add “Best Place to Sip Wine” to its impressive list of awards, which also includes Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” in 2008, 2009 and 2010. But with the motto of “Make wine approachable,” D’Vine’s knowledgeable staff makes every patron comfortable. Both East Valley locations feature wine tastings, live music, happy hour and a menu that doesn’t disappoint.
3990 S. Alma School Road, Chandler; 2837-101 N. Power Road, Mesa
(480) 782-5550 (Chandler); (480) 654-4171 (Mesa)
“A very sophisticated restaurant. Large wine selection. Comfy couches.”
“Awesome atmosphere with live music!”
Baking is something that Sandra Achor loves to do and those that try her delightful products love that she does it. You can find her products at Queen Creek Olive Mill and Superstition Ranch Markets, but don’t expect her to remain your little secret for long.
4815 East Main Street No. 10, Mesa
“Baked goods are made from nothing but natural ingredients. No additives.”
“The bread and the cinnamon rolls are the best; they melt in your mouth.”
Soon after the first Five Guys opened in 1986 as a carry-out burger joint in the D.C. area, it developed a cult-like local following for being the place to get a fresh, juicy burger with all the toppings you could stuff in a bun. That die-hard fan base expanded in 2003 when the business, named for the five brothers in the owning Murrell family, began offering franchises. Now with 900 locations nationwide, Five Guys uses only fresh ground beef (the restaurants don’t even have freezers), and you can choose as many of 15 free toppings as you’d like, from grilled onions to A1 Steak Sauce. Fries are cooked in peanut oil.
“BEST burgers EVER!!!!”
“Great bunch of people working there, crafting your burger to perfection.”
“The meat tastes like hamburger.”