By Heather Hoch
By Lauren Saria
By JK Grence
By Eric Schaefer
By Robrt L. Pela
By Eric Schaefer
By Laura Hahnefeld
By Laura Hahnefeld
I have great hopes for Mike's Grill, just steps away from the stadium, knowing that owner Mike Korvessis used to be a prime player in our dining scene as owner of the lauded Mike's Golden Crust. He trained under another local Italian talent, Tomaso Maggiore (Tomaso's). The place looks terrific, all pretty with endless displays of imported olive oils, marinated veggies, colorful poster-prints and black-and-white-checked tablecloths. The menu is massive, with acres of Italian and Greek specialties. The plates are enormous – even my burly sports fanatic buddy curls into a submissive ball when his lunch arrives as a heaping basket of garlic-herb focaccia, a brimming cup of bean-beef-tomato-bow tie soup, and a linebacker-size platter of Cajun seafood pasta stocked with mussels, calamari and crab.
Yet this food is lousy. With no TV screens to distract him, sports buddy notices how weak his seafood is, the skinny mussels, the tough squid, the ersatz crab bits. Antipasto is horrid, a mound of honest-to-goodness lunch meat and mozzarella logs slopped with wet strips of eggplant and marinated bell pepper, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and the weird inclusion of pine nuts under gluey-thick Italian dressing. More of the same Oscar Mayer meat shows up on the "ultimate submarino," a bulky travesty of salami, mortadella, prosciutto, capicolla, olive loaf, marinated red peppers, mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, onion, green peppers, pepperoncini and a heavy tapenade spread.
I can't stomach the watery excuse for hummus that comes with the focaccia. And don't get me started on the ziti e bisi. I'd rather eat concession-stand nachos than another bite of this greasy, chalky Alfredo goop of quill-shaped pasta, bacon-bit-style pancetta, chopped asparagus and the bizarre addition of whole snow peas. The only worthwhile bites I find here, in fact? Spanakopita, with two huge phyllo triangles plump with fresh spinach and feta over chunky tomato basil sauce; and a passable lasagna al forno, rubbery but layered with lots of ricotta, sausage and meat sauce.
8350 W. Paradise Lane
Peoria, AZ 85382-4744
Spinach-artichoke dip: $6.45
Half-rack St. Louis ribs: $11.95
Mike's Grill, 8215 West Bell, Peoria, 623-979-0900. Hours: Lunch and dinner, Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Antipasto misto: $7.95
Ultimate submarino: $6.75
Ziti e bisi: $7.95
Palo Verde Pizzeria, 8350 West Paradise Lane, Peoria, 623-979-9696. Hours: Lunch and dinner, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
Palo Verde pizza, small: $9.49
Cheese Steak: $6.49
By the time I get to Palo Verde Pizzeria, I'm feeling like clubbing myself over the head with a baseball bat. Sports buddy is cooing happily again, at least; there are two TVs to watch, and a showcase of photos of stadiums across the nation. I'm not so thrilled with the order-at-the-counter service, however, the paper plates and cups, or the embarrassing salad bar lined with iceberg and little else for $3.59 (one trip only). I'm not keen on cooling my heels in the cafeteria-feel dining area for 15 minutes while my pizza is being baked, and my lips curl when the order taker asks me if I'd like – gads! – Velveeta on my cheese steak.
I calm down when the food arrives. Palo Verde does a fine job with its pie, basing it on a clever sourdough crust that's perfectly puffy and chewy. Toppings are topnotch on my signature PV pizza, laden with good mozzarella, pepperoni, red onion, green pepper, Canadian bacon and sausage. And my cheese steak is choice (mozzarella, not Velveeta), with plenty of nice beef, sautéed onion and green pepper. If I had to sit through a four-hour spring training game, this stuff would see me through just fine. But make a special trip for it? Nah.
I can't believe I'm suggesting that people wanting good eats visit a chain, yet I am. There's a Carvers on 81st Avenue and Bell. Go there, and get a nice, juicy prime rib. Or hit Arriba, on 79th Avenue -- it does some tasty things with New Mexican Hatch chiles.
The Peoria Sports Complex will be rocking with 25 games through March 26. With a capacity of 11,000 fans at each outing, that's a lot of mouths to feed. But make that 10,999. This mouth will be staying home, thank you very much.